Tag Archives: Ravenspur

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – Sir Henry Vernon.

sir henry vernon.jpgI’ve posted before about Henry Vernon being a canny politician.  He was ordered to attend Richard III prior to the Battle of Bosworth but there is no evidence for him on the battlefield – on either side. Having been in good odour with Edward IV, the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick if the letters in the Rutland Archive are anything to go by it is a little surprising that Sir Henry did so well under the Tudors – In fact a study of a range of Vernon’s letters gives helpful insight into the changing politics of the period – which is exactly what I intend to do in a couple of weeks with my Wars of the Roses group, along with a peek at Sir Henry’s will.

Sir Henry was from a notable Derbyshire family. The Vernons had been part of the Lancaster Affinity in the fourteenth century. His grandfather, Sir Richard, had fought in the Hundred Years War and been made Treasurer of Calais.  He was also an MP for Derbyshire as was Henry’s father Sir William Vernon who died in 1467 when his son was about twenty-six.

The Battle of Towton took place at Easter 1461.  This event saw  Yorkist Edward taking the throne.  The power behind the throne was Edward’s cousin, Richard Neville, the earl of Warwick – a.k.a -the Kingmaker. Unfortunately the two Yorkist cousins had a falling out when Edward IV married the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby in secret. Elizabeth Woodville was not who the earl of Warwick envisaged as queen of England.  He had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess so felt a bit foolish.  Nor did it help that Elizabeth Woodville had a large family all of whom had to be found excellent positions within the establishment not to mention wealthy and titled spouses: let’s just say noses were put out of joint. The political situation became more tense. Ultimately in 1470 Edward IV was forced to flee and his wife and their daughters seek sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. In March 1471 Edward returned via Ravenspur and marched on London where he was greeted with popular acclaim. There then followed the battle of Barnet and the demise of the earl of Warwick and his brother Lord Montagu.  Clearly this is a rather brief outline but you get the gist!

So where was Sir Henry Vernon in all of this? He was the recipient of rather a lot of letters from various people who want this support.  He on the other hand appears to have taken a rather measured approach to the royal cousins charging around the countryside trying to slaughter one another.

Duke of Clarence to Henry Vernon, squire. (This was written when Warwick was in charge of the kingdom and Clarence had deserted his brother Edward’s cause thinking that Warwick was a better proposition! He’d married Warwick’s eldest daughter only to have Warwick marry off his other daughter to the Lancastrian Prince Edward – meaning that Clarence was no better off than he had been before and was regarded as a bit of a swine for doing the dirty on his brother.)

1470, Oct. 4, Tewkesbury.

Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele, lating you wite that wee bee fully purposed with the grace of our Lord to bee at Lichefield on Twysday now commyng, on Monday at our toun of Asthebourne and on Thursday next ensuying at our town oI Chestrefield. Wherefore we woll and desire you to mete with us at our commyng at the said parties, and to com- mande on our behelf our offrcers and tenanntes within your ofhces to doo in like wyse. Geven under our signet at Teukesbury the iiii day of October.

 

This letter is swiftly followed up by a second letter which asks Vernon to find out how the rest of the gentry in Derbyshire feel about Clarence.  It should be noted that Clarence did own some manors in Derbyshire and his cousin was married into the Talbot family. A third letter sounds a note of panic with the news that Edward is on his way back to England. By the time Vernon received it, Edward had already landed at Ravenspur and was making his way south.

Yet another letter, this time from the earl of Warwick describes Edward as a “gret enemy rebelle and traitour is now late arrived in the North partes of this land and commyng fast on Southward accompanyed with Flemminge, Esterlands and Danes.” The letter is a commission of array.  Essentially it orders Sir Henry to gather men and join Warwick’s army immediately in order to maintain the rule of Henry VI (or rather the earl of Warwick who preferred the idea of being a puppet master to that of loyal subject.)

Sir Henry is then in receipt of several more letters from the duke of Clarence.  Clarence is marching from Malmsbury, at the end of March ostensibly to intercept his brother Edward. By the 2nd of April he is in Burford and from there he went to Coventry and  instead of fighting his brother joined with him against the earl of Warwick.

Sir Henry’s next letter is from King Edward IV who wrote from Tewkesbury:

Margaret late called Queene is in our handes, her son Edward slayn Edmund called Duc of Somerset, John Erl of Devonshire with all the other lords knightes and noblemen that were in their company taken or slayn, yet we now understand that commones of divers partes of this our royaume make murmurs and commocions entending the distruccion of the churche, of us our lords and all noblemen, and to subvert the public of our said royome which we in our persone with Goddes helpe and assistance of you and other trewe subgettes shall mightly defend the same and we woll that ye be with us.

Clearly Sir Henry had avoided the various battlefields and kept his head down, though it would appear that he had made a list of his valuables which he pledged to Edward’s support.

Once Edward had won the Battle of Tewksbury and Prince Edward was killed the end of Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower, was inevitable. Sir Henry Vernon along with the rest of the country would reasonably have expected Edward to reign for a good long while and then to have been succeeded by his sons – Elizabeth Woodville having produced the first male heir, another Prince Edward, whilst she was in sanctuary in Westminster. Vernon’s loyalty to the house of York is made apparent in a letter from Edward IV of 1481:

we bee enformed that ye have taken distresse for us and in oure name for thomage due unto us in that behalve for the which we thanke vou.

He was also appointed Bailiff of the High Peak by the York regime.

Then, in 1483, it was all change again.  Edward IV died unexpectedly whilst his eldest son Edward was still too young to inherit in his own right. Enter Richard III and yet another commission of array for Sir Henry Vernon to meet the king on the field against Henry Tudor.  Vernon appears to have avoided Bosworth.

It is thus somewhat surprising that Sir Henry thrived under the rule of Henry Tudor.  Having said that Vernon married Anne Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury in 1466 so the Talbot Lancastrian links and the fact that the earl of Shrewsbury joined with Henry Tudor prior to the Battle of Bosworth may go rather a long way to explaining how Sir Henry Vernon survived the change from white rose to red. He became Governor and Treasurer to Prince Arthur and was also made a Knight of the Bath. He was in attendance when Arthur married Katherine of Aragon.  Local legend states that Arthur stayed at Vernon’s home in Derbyshire – Haddon Hall- on more than one occasion.

There is a letter from Henry VII dated 1485.  It describes Vernon as “trusty and well beloved” and it describes in some detail the problem of a Yorkist insurrection led by the anonymous Robin of Redesdale requesting that Vernon place himself at Henry’s disposal.  In fact the first attempt on Henry VII’s life was made in York when he first visited it. A later letter identifies the trust that Henry placed in Vernon in the care of his eldest son:

 

Henry VII to Sir Henry Vernon.
1492, Aug 31. Windsor. Trusti and welbeloved we grete you wele. And inasmoche as we have appointed you tobe Comptroller of household with our derrest son the Prince and that we depart in all hast on our voyage over the see, we therefor desire and praye you that ye will give your personell attendaunce upon our said derrest son for the tyme we shalbe out of this our realme, and that ye faile not hereof as we truste you’ Geven under our signet at our Castel of Windesor the last day of August viii of our reyne. Sign Manual

Later still Vernon would go with Margaret Tudor to Scotland and pay a forced loan of £100 to the notoriously parsimonious Tudor monarch.

Sir Henry survived into the reign of Henry VII which ended in 1509.  He would now serve the second Tudor monarch.  In 1512/13 Henry VIII wrote to Sir Henry Vernon ordering him to send “a hundred tal men hable for the warre sufficiently harnessed to Greenwich.” This must have been for Henry’s war against the french.  The letter also advises Vernon that money would be expected for the men’s upkeep.

Sir Henry Vernon, who had lived through so many tumultuous events died on April 15th 1515 and was buried in Tong Church where his wife Anne Talbot is also buried.  His effigy wears the double ss livery collar of the House of Lancaster and there is a Tudor rose to be seen – just so that everyone is quite clear about where his loyalties lay…

Kirke, H. (1920) ‘Sir Henry Vernon of Haddon.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal:42. (pp. 001-017).

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Sir John Curson of Kedleston (d.1406)

john cursonJohn of Gaunt’s estates were huge, including much of Derbyshire. It should not be surprising that Sir John Curson of Kedleston was one of his retainers nor should we be surprised that there was more than one John Curson in the area at the time – one of whom was found guilty of poaching deer from Gaunt’s Duffield’s estate – history is unclear whether it was Curson of Kedleston who went on to redeem the theft of Gaunt’s deer by his good service or another, possibly shadier Curson!

John Curson of Kedleston, unsurprisingly given his position within Derbyshire society, was a justice of the peace and one of the Lancaster Affinity in Parliament. In fact his name turns up rather a lot on legal documents of the period as a trustee for land holdings (more on that at the end of the post) and as a litigant for land claims arising from estates for which he was an executor. Perhaps one of the reasons he was so widely trusted with other men’s property was that he appears not to have extended his own landholdings as much as he might have done given the opportunities that arose.

 

His loyalty to the Lancaster affinity isn’t only seen in the Lancaster livery collar he wears on his funeral monument, it can also be read in his actions. In July 1399 there was a party from Derbyshire at Ravenspur to meet Henry of Bolingbroke who arrived in England breaking the terms of his banishment to claim in the first instant his title as duke of Lancaster. Curson was rewarded by being made an esquire of the chamber.

 

Curson’s actions not only speak of loyalty to the house of Lancaster but of a canny political move. It wasn’t long before Henry of Bolingbroke had turned into King Henry IV. That November Parliament awarded John £20 for his services to John of Gaunt and Henry IV; he became a privy councilor at a time when most of its members were related to the Crown and he escaped the censure which later attached itself to Henry’s council by attending meetings and being very busy on the king’s behalf not only in Derbyshire but in Wales and also in the north.  He became treasurer of Henry V’s army in Scotland, oversaw the so-called “love-days” between the English and the Scots which saw sworn enemies attend church arm in arm and generally made himself very useful on the Scottish borders – an office which extended in 1401 to arbitrating between the Douglas and Percy families (rather him than me). That particular role probably made settling Derbyshire trade disputes seem rather like a walk in the park.

 

Helen Castor makes the point that Curson is an example of how the Lancaster Affinity worked in Duchy counties like Derbyshire. Curson’s allegiance was to Lancaster and he was from one of the county’s leading families – it was almost inevitable that with a Lancastrian king on the throne he would came to hold many important posts within the county – it was almost a chicken and egg situation ie was the status because of his rank within local society or was it because of his loyalty to Lancaster (Castor:205)? In any event Castor says that the loyalty of men like Curson gave Henry IV more power than might have usually been expected by a monarch in the regions as not only did he wield the power of king also but the private power of a mighty magnate (the duchy of Lancaster). It meant that Henry could safely afford to “devolve” power to his men so that he personally did not have to traipse around the countryside dispensing justice and keeping an eye on what was happening because he had men whose loyalty he could rely upon to do that for him – which was fine in the first instance but wasn’t such a great strategy two generations down the line.

 

Curson died in 1405 and demonstrated that he had learned rather a lot about the law over the years. His eldest son was only twelve – so by rights Kedleston should have found itself in the chancy hands of the Crown with young John as its ward. However, Curson had ensured that his lands were in the hands of trustees before his death. Kedleston  did not offer rich pickings. The trustees administered the estate for John Junior until he came of age without recourse to the Crown – so that there was no sale of John’s wardship to the highest bidder and no creaming of the profits to recoup the expenditure.

In addition to John there was another son Thomas and a daughter Margaret all of whom married into Derbyshire families tightening the links that bound the ruling families together. John’s widow married into another local family.

 

And just in case you’re thinking that I’ve made a spelling mistake and the name should be Curzon – that came later.

 

Castor, Helen (2000) The King, the Crown, and the Duchy of Lancaster: Public Authority and the Crown.  Public Authority and Private Power, 1399-1461. Oxford: Oxford University Press

image accessed from https://dorysworld.wordpress.com/tag/all-saints-church-kedleston/ which is an informative (not to mention amusing) look at Kedleston Church.

 

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Henry Bolingbroke

Henry IVYoung Henry Bolingbroke was just eleven years old when he carried the ceremonial sword at his cousin Richard II’s coronation. The king was a year younger than Henry.

Henry, named after one of his father’s (John of Gaunt) Lincolnshire castles was also known as Henry of Lancaster. His mother was Blanche of Lancaster and as his father’s heir the title is one that makes sense. However, just to confused things he was also created the Earl of Derby and upon his marriage to Mary Bohun he was created Earl of Hereford – oh yes, then he deposed his cousin and became known as King Henry IV.

 

Henry’s variety of names is confusing enough but his familial relations look like spaghetti rather than a tree. Henry’s grandfather was King Edward III, his father John of Gaunt and his mother Blanche of Lancaster. So, far so good. However, when Henry married Mary Bohun, who was just eleven at the time and remained at home with her widowed mother after the wedding, Henry’s aunt became his sister-in-law! Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock was already married to Mary’s older sister Eleanor. They were the co-heiresses of the Earl of Hereford. Henry’s mother-in-law was the widow of the earl and the daughter of Richard FitzAlan third Earl of Arundel.

 

As Richard II grew to manhood he became convinced about the authority of kings. It was this king who introduced the terms ‘Majesty’ and ‘Highness’. It was this king who demanded that anyone entering his presence should bow three times before they approached him. This high handed attitude, not to mention failure to go to war with France, didn’t win him friends within his family. Nor did his preference for ‘new men’ such as his chancellor Michael de La Pole help matters very much.

 

Inevitably there were plots. Eventually in 1387 the Lords Appellant, as they became known, forced Richard to tow the line. He spent some time in the Tower – possibly on the naughty step. Amongst the Lords Appellant were Thomas of Woodstock (Henry’s uncle and brother-in-law) and Richard Fitzalan, the fourth Earl of Arundel (Henry’s uncle-in-law), Thomas Beauchamp (Earl of Warwick), Thomas Mowbray (Earl of Nottingham) and Henry himself.

 

Of course, Richard didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by the nobility even if he was related to most of them. Eventually he regained his power and had Thomas of Woodstock sent to Calais where he ordered his royal uncle to be murdered. The man who organized this was another of Thomas’s nephews ….it’s always nice to see a happy extended family, isn’t it?

Henry’s uncle-in-law, Arundel, was given a show trial and executed. The Earl of Warwick must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when he found himself on a slow boat to the Isle of Man with instructions not to come back. The king seized the estates of all three of these Lords Appellent. Henry and Mowbray seemed, at least for the time being, to have escaped Richard’s wrath.

 

However, Mowbray suggested that the king would do to him and Henry what he’d done to the other three lords. The conversation was not a particularly private one and inevitably word got back to the king that Mowbray was plotting again. Henry denounced Mowbray before he could be accused of being involved.  He went on to challenge Mowbray to trial by combat. The two men were to have met at Coventry on the 16th September 1398. They were just about to attack one another when Richard banned the combat and exiled its combatants: Mowbray for life, Henry for ten years – demonstrating that Mowbray had been right all along.

 

Then John of Gaunt died. Richard changed Henry’s exile to life and claimed Lancaster’s estates as his own.

 

Henry landed at Ravenspur in July 1399. Men flocked to his banner. Richard, who was in Ireland at the time, hurried to meet his cousin but by the time he reached Conway Castle it was evident that Richard had lost his kingdom to his cousin.

 

Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV by popular acclaim. If Richard’s abdication was real rather than forced – and the deposed king was to die very soon afterwards in Pontefract Castle.  The next rightful heir was eight-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March- and no one wanted another child on the throne.   Henry however, did not claim his right to rule exclusively from his grandfather. He claimed his right to rule through his mother Blanche of Lancaster. Blanche was descended from Edmund Crouchback, the second surviving son of Henry III. Henry IV allowed it to be known that rather than being the second born, Edmund Crouchback was actually the first born child but had been set aside in favour of his brother Edward (King Edward I) on account of his ‘crouchback’.   Given that crouchback meant cross-back it was probably a reference to his crusading zeal rather than any physical deformity.

 

Henry did not have a peaceful reign. Owen Glendower rose with the Welsh in rebellion and the Earl of Northumberland joined in with his son ‘Hotspur’. Hotspur was the husband of Ann Mortimer and therefore uncle to Edmund Mortimer (the child with a better claim to the throne than Henry). It would be nice to think that he was outraged that his nephews Edmund and Roger Mortimer were being imprisoned simply because of their ancestry but it is much more likely that he, together with his father Northumberland, was furious that they hadn’t received what they perceived to be their dues for supporting Henry when he arrived at Ravenspur. They were also expected to guard the border with Scotland more efficiently now that Henry was on the throne.

 

In any event, Henry had to quell rebellions, assassination attempts, deal with financial difficulties, his own heir’s apparent waywardness and his poor health. It was widely reported that he became a leper- he certainly suffered from an unpleasant skin disease of some description. He had difficulty walking and had a fit whilst praying in Westminster Abbey before dying on the 20 March 1413.

 

He left a warrior son to become King Henry V. Unfortunately for England, King Henry died when his own son by Katherine of Valois was an infant.

The Mortimers had not forgotten their claim to the throne (though Edmund and Roger died without children- their sister Ann had married and had children).  Their claim to the throne was  better than baby Henry VI’s. The stage was set for The Cousins War or as we know it, thanks to Sir Walter Scott, the Wars of the Roses – which strange though it may seem given that I’ve cantered through the reigns of both Richard II and his cousin Henry IV,  is what I’m warming up for with this post.

 

 

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