Tag Archives: Robert Dudley

Sir James Croft – soldier, courtier and inveterate plotter

British (English) School; Sir James Croft (c.1518-1590), Comptroller of the Queen's HouseholdBy 1559 factions had formed in Elizabeth’s court.  Robert Dudley, not unexpectedly, found himself at the head of one of them.  Today though my interest is with Sir James Croft pictured above who is identified by William Cecil in the 1560s as being an adherent of Robert Dudley.  The picture which is housed at Croft Castle shows him with his white staff of office.

This may have been mildly alarming for Cecil because Croft had a tendency to be linked with trouble.  He had initially supported the claim of Lady Jane Grey to the throne and had spent some time in The Tower as a consequence.  Immediately after he was released he became involved with Wyatt’s Rebellion – a plot to depose Mary and place Elizabeth on the throne as well as providing her with a husband in the form of Edward Courteney, Earl of Devon.  Courteney’s grandmother was Katherine Plantagenet the sister of Elizabeth of York – Elizabeth’s grandmother.  They shared a common great-grandfather in Edward IV.

Croft carried a letter from Wyatt to Elizabeth at Ashridge House in Hertfordshire at the onset of the rebellion but she had the good sense to take to her bed and not receive the missive which told her to seek shelter in Castle Donnington.  Croft then carried on to Herefordshire where he was supposed to ferment one of the four uprisings which were planned to catch Queen Mary and her supporters on the hop.

Croft’s position in Herefordshire was that of a member of the most powerful gentry family in the area who had built networks and links during the reign of Henry VIII – not withstanding the fact that his great grandfather had been Richard III’s treasurer.  Henry VII not one to bypass an able financial administrator had retained him and when Croft had shown his loyalty at the Battle of Stoke the Croft transfer to the Tudor Rose was complete.  There were Crofts at Ludlow when Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon were in residence.

James inherited Croft Castle from his father in 1562 but for the time being he was simply in the business of fermenting rebellion – which was rather unsuccessful because whilst the ordinary people weren’t keen on the idea of Mary marrying a foreign prince they were loyal to the memory of Katherine of Aragon, Mary’s mother, and also had a sense of what was right as was laid down in Henry VIII’s will.

Croft was arrested and charged with treason.  He was condemned on 28th April 1554 but was fortunate that Stephen Gardener in his capacity as Chancellor persuaded Queen Mary in the direction of clemency for most of the rebels.

Once again Croft was in hot water but on the accession of Elizabeth I he rose in importance having had his attainder reversed.  He had been part of the Rough Wooing of 1543 to 1548.  He served as the captain of Haddington Castle in 1549 despite the loss of a right arm whilst serving  in Henry VIII’s army at Boulogne. Now he was sent north as governor of Berwick-Upon-Tweed and also Lord Deputy of Ireland but he blotted his copy books in 1560 when he indulged in some more dodgy letter writing – this time with Mary of Guise when he should have been attacking the Scots.  The Siege of Leith did not go as well as expected primarily because Croft wasn’t where  he should have been.  The Duke of Norfolk was not amused and wrote : ‘I assure you I thought a man could not have gone nearer a traitor and have missed, than Sir James’. Even so, after a further stint of imprisonment, he was forgiven in 1570 when he was made a privy councillor and comptroller of Elizabeth’s household.

This re-instatement into royal favour may have been thanks to the offices of Robert Dudley.  Croft combined his role in the royal household with his role as a member of the Herefordshire gentry.  Inevitably his name features on the list of members of Parliament and serving as a justice.  Interestingly it was when he was sitting as a Junior Knight for Herefordshire that he encountered Sir John Dudley the future Earl of Warwick and then Duke of Northumberland.  It was John Dudley who was the first national rather than local patron and it goes some way to explaining how he became involved with the plot to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne.  It also explains how in the early 1560s he regarded himself as part of Robert Dudley’s affinity – Croft simply moved his loyalty from father to son.  It may also account for why he was selected to take the letter from Wyatt to Elizabeth at Ashridge given that popular history makes it very clear that Robert Dudley and Elizabeth had been friends since childhood.

In 1587 he was part of Mary Queen of Scots trial and in 1588 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Duke of Parma.  When he returned he was clapped into the Tower for yet more dodgy dealings – this time with Parma.  He was released in 1589 and died in 1590 having penned his own autobiography in the 1580s – the main point of which was to demonstrate what a good Crown employee he had been, a sterling example of a soldier and how impoverished he was as a result.  Whether any one else thought so is a moot point but Elizabeth seems always to have forgiven him.

Rather unexpectedly given that he is seen on a list as part of Dudley’s crew of supporters it comes as a bit of a surprise to discover that James’ eldest son Edward was charged with witchcraft in 1589 for contriving the death of the Earl of Leicester. The reason for this about-face lies in the fact that Dudley and Croft differed in their views as to how the Spanish threat and the dangers of confrontation in the Low Countries should be dealt with.

Tighe, W. J. “Courtiers and Politics in Elizabethan Herefordshire: Sir James Croft, His Friends and His Foes.” The Historical Journal, vol. 32, no. 2, 1989, pp. 257–279. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2639601.

 

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Elizabeth I’s favourites – Sir Thomas Heneage

thomas-heneage-300x280.jpg1565 was a trying year for Elizabeth I.  She was all to aware of the dangers of having an heir to the throne waiting in the background – after all she had been in that position seven years previously.  Now as queen she was determined not to name her successor despite the fact that there had already been a succession crisis during the seven days when her privy councillors had feared for her life in 1561 when she had small pox.  At that time Cecil had favoured Henry VIII’s will which would have seen the crown handed to Lady Katherine Grey the sister of Lady Jane Grey.  There had been a couple of voices in favour of Margaret, Lady Lennox who was the grand-daughter of Henry VII by Margaret Tudor’s second marriage to Archibald Douglas, the earl of Angus. Other men mentioned Henry Hastings the Earl of Huntingdon.  He was descended from the Duke of Clarence – so Plantagenet but most important of all he was male! Elizabeth herself had unexpectedly regained consciousness and given the regency into the hands of Robert Dudley.

Now in 1565 Elizabeth was still fending prospective suitors off or dangling her kingdom and her royal personage like a carrot on the political stage but there was also the matter of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots who remained a potential threat to Elizabeth’s security if she married Don Carlos the mentally unstable son of Philip II.  There was also the underlying factor that whilst Elizabeth had no children her dynasty was insecure and that Mary was a potential claimant to the throne – albeit a Catholic one.

From 1563 onwards Elizabeth had sought to control Anglo-Scottish relations by offering Robert Dudley as a potential husband to Mary with the carefully worded caveat that if Mary took Dudley as her husband that she would be named as Elizabeth’s heir.  There was still the difficulty of the fact that Elizabeth was expected to marry and produce children at this time in her reign but it appears to have been a gamble that Mary was prepared to take so long as Elizabeth was prepared to put in writing without any equivocation that Mary was her heir.  On March 16th 1565 it finally became clear that Elizabeth would not do this.  Mary immediately abandoned Dudley’s proposal even though he’d been given a title, Kenilworth Castle and many lands.

Elizabeth, perhaps eager to remind Dudley that he wasn’t as important as all that started to pay a great deal of attention to  married courtier -Thomas Heneage – so no possible thoughts of matrimony there. In fact unlike Dudley or her next favourite Sir Christopher Hatton there were never any rumours of romance between the two of them.  At the same time as Thomas became a gentleman of the Privy Chamber Elizabeth began to flirt with him. Perhaps it helped that Thomas’s first wife had been a friend of Elizabeth’s. It had the effect of making Robert Dudley jealous.

Dudley challenged the queen and she was apparently “much annoyed.” Dudley took himself off in high dudgeon, locked himself in his room for four days and then quarrelled with the queen further who was “cold with him.”

Dudley retaliated by flirting with Elizabeth’s cousin Lettice Knollys who was pregnant with her son Robert at the time.  Cecil noted in his diary that the queen was “offended.”  Pregnant or not, Lettice was one of the most beautiful women in Elizabeth’s court and it was clear at this stage of the game of courtly love that whilst Elizabeth could have many favourites, they in their turn should look only to Elizabeth.

Philip II took it as evidence that the queen loved Robert Dudley. She had revealed as much when she thought she was dying of small pox.

By Christmas 1565 Dudley was back at court but he couldn’t resist sniping at Heneage or threatening to beat him with a stick.  Elizabeth was not amused and told Dudley that just as she had raised him, she could equally as well lower him.

But by 1571 the two men had set their differences aside.  They forwarded one another’s suits and somewhat bizarrely under the circumstances it was Thomas who acted as a go between with Elizabeth when Christopher Hatton and then later Sir Walter Raleigh fell out of favour with their demanding monarch.

As with her other favourites Heneage’s personal relationship with the queen led to his appointment to office.  In his case he was the queen’s treasurer for many years ands extended family benefited from his patronage.

Gender politics was well and truly on the map and would stay there through the rest of Elizabeth’s reign both at home and abroad.

 

Whitelock, Anna (2013) Elizabeth’s Bedfellows. London: Bloomsbury

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Amy Robsart’s death

Amy Robsart exhibited 1877 by William Frederick Yeames 1835-1918

Amy Robsart exhibited 1877 William Frederick Yeames 1835-1918 Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1877 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N01609

On the afternoon of Sunday 8th December 1560 Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley was found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Cumnor Place – the home of Sir Anthony Forster. It could, have course, been a tragic accident.  At the time there was some suggestion that Amy committed suicide; it has also been suggested that she was suffering from advanced breast cancer and the final and most appealing for lovers of the conspiracy theory is that she was murdered by one of the following – Robert Dudley Elizabeth I or William Cecil.

Mrs Picto, Amy’s maid, when questioned by Sir Thomas Blount said that she believed that Amy’s death was “chance.”  She went on to explain that Amy was a virtuous soul who prayed every day on her knees to be delivered from desperation but was adamant that her mistress would not have taken her own life.  Blount questioned the locals to find out what they thought and half of them thought it was an accident whilst the other half thought that something suspicious had happened. Blount himself noted that he thought that Amy “had a strange mind in her.”  His letter states that he will tell more when he next sees Dudley – rather frustratingly we don’t know what other information he had to tell his master. We know that Amy was unhappy, after all her husband was the subject of gossip in relation to the queen whilst she didn’t even have a home to call her own.  Yet, would a woman contemplating suicide order a new dress? She had ordered a new velvet dress and a collar for a rose coloured gown?

The problem is that people can act irrationally  when distressed or in pain and she had ordered her entire household to go to the fair in Abingdon that day.  She had become cross when Mrs Odingsells, one of her household, had sought to disagree with her.  Did she want to be alone simply because she was fed up of being surrounded by her household, was she feeling unwell, was she contemplating ending it all or – was she going to meet with someone who isn’t part of the historical record?  The answer is that we can’t know for sure. The inquest found that her death was accidental but Robert Dudley’s reputation was tarnished.  It was now impossible for him to marry Elizabeth, even if he did withdraw to Kew and hope that the rumours would go away.

If it wasn’t suicide – could it have been an accident.  This was what the coroner’s jury decided:

Inquisition as indenture held at Cumnor in the aforesaid county [Oxfordshire] on 9 September in the second year of the reign of the most dread Lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God queen of England, France, and Ireland, defend of the faith, etc., before John Pudsey, gent, a coroner of the said lady queen in the aforesaid county, on inspection of the body of Lady Amy Dudley, late wife of Robert Dudley, knight of the most noble order of the garter, there lying dead: by oath of Richard Smith, gent., Humphrey Lewis, gent., Thomas Moulder, gent., Richard Knight, Thomas Spyre, Edward Stevenson, John Stevenson, Richard Hughes, William Cantrell, William Noble, John Buck, John Keene, Henry Lanlgey, Stephen Ruffyn, and John Sire: which certain jurors, sworn to tell the truth at our request, were adjourned from the aforesaid ninth day onwards day by day very often; and finally various several days were given to them by the selfsame coroner to appear both before the justices of the aforesaid lady queen at the assizes assigned to be held in the aforesaid county and before the same coroner in order there to return their verdict truthfully and speedily, until 1 August in the third year of the reign of the said lady queen; on which day the same jurors say under oath that the aforesaid Lady Amy on 8 September in the aforesaid second year of the reign of the said lady queen, being alone in a certain chamber within the home of a certain Anthony Forster, esq., in the aforesaid Cumnor, and intending to descend the aforesaid chamber by way of certain steps (in English called ‘steyres’) of the aforesaid chamber there and then accidentally fell precipitously down the aforesaid steps to the very bottom of the same steps, through which the same Lady Amy there and then sustained not only two injuries to her head (in English called ‘dyntes’) – one of which was a quarter of an inch deep and the other two inches deep – but truly also, by reason of the accidental injury or of that fall and of Lady Amy’s own body weight falling down the aforesaid stairs, the same Lady Amy there and then broke her own neck, on account of which certain fracture of the neck the same Lady Amy there and then died instantly; and the aforesaid Lady Amy was found there and then without any other mark or wound on her body; and thus the jurors say on their oath that the aforesaid Lady Amy in the manner and form aforesaid by misfortune came to her death and not otherwise, as they are able to agree at present; in testimony of which fact for this inquest both the aforesaid coroner and also the aforesaid jurors have in turn affixed their seals on the day.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/coroners-report/

Questions  are often asked about the nature of the steps – which appear to have been shallow and few in number causing conspiracy theorists to raise their eyebrows. Another source mentions a pair of steps suggesting a turn – which might account for the head wounds.  Cumnor Place was demolished during the Victorian period so we cannot know for sure.  It has even been hypothesised that Amy had become disorientated about her location and taken a tumble not realising that there were steps.

It doesn’t help that Dudley anxious to quell rumour asked for “discreet men,” that one of his own men was on the jury and that in later years he paid the foreman of the jury in lengths of taffeta and velvet which smacks of nobbling the jury – which doesn’t look good, if we’re honest.   Weighed against that was the fact that Dudley insisted that the jury was composed of local men and that it didn’t matter if they were hostile to him or not.  He also wrote asking that Amy’s half brother go to Cumnor to oversee things – at most he could be accused of being guilty of trying to look after his reputation. Amy’s brother, Appleyard, came forward in 1567 saying that he knew who killed Amy and he didn’t blame Dudley – he also ended up retracting his statement when he found himself locked up in the Fleet Prison by William Cecil.

In 1956 Dr Ian Aird published a medical paper explaining how untreated breast cancer can cause skeletal collapse which would explain how an accidental tumble could have caused a broken neck.  As the previous post in this series noted assorted ambassadors commented on Amy’s poor health – in particular the malady of her breast.  The Venetian ambassador stated that she had been ailing for some time. Poor health or not, falling the wrong way can cause a broken neck.  Of course poor health or an accident is not nearly as marketable or dramatic as being murdered.

Amy did believe she was being poisoned – it was why she left Throcking in the spring of 1559.  It could have cause have been her illness which she mistook for poisoning or maybe she was being slowly poisoned by her husband’s retainers who thought they were doing Dudley a favour.  Chris Skidmore leans towards this explanation – think Thomas Becket and apply to an inconvenient wife. Skidmore isn’t convinced either that the two head wounds mentioned in the coroner’s report could have been caused by a tumble.

Elizabeth didn’t marry Robert, perhaps she never had any intention of marrying her favourite, having Henry VIII for a parent would put any sensible woman off matrimony and then there was the unfortunate episode with Admiral Seymour not to mention the experience of her half-sister’s unhappy marriage.  The scandal was a sufficient reason for her not to marry Robert. Her reputation as a virtuous monarch was damaged but it wouldn’t be long before in Scotland Mary Queen of Scots ended up with an all too obviously murdered spouse and then went on to marry the man implicated in Darnley’s untimely demise. Mary would lose her kingdom – Elizabeth raised in more dangerous circumstances was much too canny to make that sort of mistake despite what William Cecil and most of the Privy Council seemed to have feared as Elizabeth spent the first year of her reign hunting and hawking with her childhood friend. Yes, she was a Tudor and the Tudors like most medieval and early modern monarchs may have done the odd deeply unpleasant thing or two but let’s not go down the avenue of the Game of Thrones style killer queen – that’s not history that’s speculation.

The person who gained from Amy’s untimely demise was William Cecil who certainly spread rumours about his political opponent – but rumours are not the same as giving an order to topple a young woman down the stairs!  There is absolutely no evidence that he was involved. But there again he was good at what he did so would hardly have left a lengthy paper trail for hapless historians. He was also a man of strong religious leanings. Accusation and counter-claim turn into a metaphorical game of ping pong which all come back to the same thing – these is no evidence.

And there you have it – did Amy fall, was she pushed or was it an accident – the Historical truth is that no one knows and to say otherwise without further evidence is opinion not fact.

 

http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/external/cumnor/articles/inman-robsart.htm

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On the trail of Amy Robsart

amy-robsart-by-t-f-dicksee.jpg!Large.jpegThis is episode two of my three part look at Amy Robsart’s life and death – as with any other historical death involving persons of political significance where there isn’t a clear cause there are always conspiracy theories – not that Amy was of political significance but her husband was.  So, this episode looks at what history does know without making any attempt to identify the probable cause of Lady Dudley’s demise – aside of course from her being found at the bottom of a staircase…and even the size and shape stairs are a matter of conjecture as we shall discover next time.

In the Summer of 1558 Amy and Robert settled into Norfolk. Amy had inherited money from her father and the pair began searching for a suitable home of their own. Remember at this stage of the story Robert was part of the Norfolk gentry thanks to his father-in-law’s links in the area. Elizabeth was still effectively a prisoner of her increasingly unwell sister Queen Mary.  Amy was not able to move into her childhood home because her half-brother inherited Stanfield Hall.

Everything changed for Robert, and thus for Amy, on the 17th November 1558 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth at Hatfield.  Dudley was by Elizabeth’s side the following day when the Great Seal was handed over to her.  One of her first acts was to make him her Master of Horse, in addition to a salary and four horses the post also gave him rooms at court and the right to touch the queen, helping her on and off her horse – no other man in England had that honour.  Cecil tried to dissuade Elizabeth by suggesting that Dudley could perhaps be a special ambassador to Spain but the queen overruled Cecil.   Dudley was now in constant attendance on the queen, helping with the preparations for the coronation and going hunting with her.  The following year he would accompany the queen on what would become an annual progress around part of her realm.

For Amy a time of homelessness followed.  She seems to have lived in the homes of men who owed their allegiance to her husband.  At first she stayed at Throcking in Hertfordshire.  This was the home of William Hyde.

By spring of the following year it was being reported by the Spanish ambassador as well as the Holy Roman ambassador that Amy Robsart was unwell and that Robert was waiting for her to die so that he could marry Elizabeth.  The queen did not disguise the fact that she disliked the idea of Amy’s existence or Robert being close to her in any way but in April 1590 Robert went to Throcking in Hertfordshire whilst parliament was in recess to spend Easter with his wife. His accounts reveal that he played cards with his host William Hyde and lost.

It may have been an uncomfortable visit.  Amy was unwell. She believed that she was being poisoned. William Hyde described Leicester as “My singular good Lord.” He even had one of his daughters baptised “Dudley.”  None the less, no one wants to be accused of poisoning their lord’s wife. It probably didn’t help that at a later date Amy was described as “sore troubled” at this time – and given the rumours about her spouse carrying on with the queen it is perhaps not surprising.  For some historians this is evidence of illness, an unsound mind or that Amy was being poisoned either with or without the knowledge of her husband.  So far as I am concerned from the point of view of this post it explains why Amy moved on from Throcking.

 

Robert Dudley’s account books reveal that he visited Amy in 1558 and 1559 when she stayed in Denchworth near Wantage.  It is also clear form his accounts and her correspondence that income from the land that she’d inherited was being paid directly to her and that she was writing to the steward of Syderstone – Mr John Flowerdew- about the sale of wool.

 

It seems that in May 1559 Amy made a brief visit to London by then Elizabeth had made Dudley a Knight of the Garter and the Venetian ambassador was noting the fact that Dudley was in “great favour.”  Amy saw a doctor, was described as eating well and feeling better.  It was the last time that she and Robert would meet one another before her death. From London she travelled to Suffolk whilst in London the gossips started to report that the queen was pregnant and that the father was Sir Robert Dudley.

During the early part of the Autumn Amy spent a few weeks at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.  Compton Verney was the home of another of Dudley’s followers.  Sir Richard Verney would be painted by Sir Walter Scott as Amy Robsart’s murderer in his novel entitled Kennilworth. He doesn’t come out of the story very well, for that matter, in Philippa Gregory’s novel entitled The Virgin’s Lover.

In November the Spanish Ambassador, Bishop de la Quadra wrote that there was a rumour that Robert Dudley was trying to kill his wife so that he could marry the queen.  The Holy Roman ambassador was sending similar information to his master Ferdinand I. Yet the French, with whom Dudley was closely associated at this time make no mention of it at all.

In December 1559 Amy was at Cumnor Place, some three miles from Oxford. It was the home of another member of Dudley’s affinity – Sir Anthony Forster and his wife.  He’d leased Cumnor Place from Dr George Owen, one of the physicians responsible for the care of Henry VIII.  The household included some of his relations – Mrs Owen is a key witness to Amy’s death (or rather key non-witness).  Amy’s room was the best chamber accessed from a staircase to the south of the great hall.  In addition to Amy, Cumnor Place was also home to her retinue of ten servants.  One of them a man named Bowes would carry news of her death and another, her maid, Mrs Picto would testify that Amy was in low spirits on the day of her death.  In August a gift arrived at Cumnor from Robert Dudley – his account books reveal he sent her gifts that ranged from horses to spices- and Amy ordered a new dress.

On Sunday September 8 1560 Amy ordered that all her household should go to the Fair of Our Lady at Abingdon which was about five miles from Cumnor.  Mrs Oddingsells, who may have been Sir Anthony Forster’s sister-in-law or possibly an impoverished member of the Hyde family cared for by Dudley, was shocked by the suggestion and later said that Sunday was a day reserved for servants and common folk to go to the fair and that she would have rather gone on a different day.  She also said that she didn’t want to leave Amy on her own.  Amy responded that Mrs Owen would join her for dinner – which she did.

Mrs Oddingsells did not go to the fair.  She and Mrs Owens played cards that afternoon.  Both women recalled hearing a crash but continued to play their game.

Later that day Amy was found at the foot of a pair of  steps or a shallow stair depending upon the source you read.  Her neck was broken and her head dress – according to the later anti-Leicester text entitled Leicester’s Commonwealth stated that her headdress was barely out of place. She was only 28 years old.

Amy’s man Bowes set off to give the news to Dudley but en route he encountered Dudley’s man Sir Richard Verney who happened to be in the area (let’s leave the co-incidence to one side for the time being).

News of Amy’s death reached Dudley on the 9th September at Windsor where he was staying with the queen. Dudley charged another of his men, his steward, – Thomas Blount- referred to as “Cousin Blount” in Dudley’s letters to investigate and to keep Amy’s half brother John Appleyard (from Amy’s mother’s first marriage) informed of his findings. Blount needed to find to whether death was by “chance or villainy.”

Robert arranged for Amy’s body to be buried at St Mary’s in Oxford – the bill for the funeral came to an astonishing £2,000 but he did not attend – custom said that he should not.  Instead he retired to his home at Kew and wore black for six months. Elizabeth ordered her court into mourning for a month or more.  Gristwood makes the point that Elizabeth probably ordered his withdrawal from the court in the hope that the scandal of  Amy’s tragic death would die down, except of course it didn’t and Dudley lost his chance to marry a queen …assuming that Elizabeth really would have married him.

Amy-Robsart-Unknown_lady_by_Levina_Teerlinc_c1550_Yale_University.jpg

There is no certain contemporary portrait of Amy Robsart although there is a miniature of an anonymous lady- shown above- which might be Amy in happier times.  The picture at the start of this post is by the Victorian artist Thomas Francis Dicksee.  Yeames depicted her in 1877 at the bottom of the staircase at Cumnor – he has left room as to whether the shadowy figures on the stairs are hurrying to her aid or are quietly departing having assassinated Mrs Dudley, which is of course what part three of this little series is going to be about.

amy robsart.jpg

 

Adams, Simon.ed. (1996) Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester:

Gristwood. Sarah (2007) Elizabeth and Leicester. London:Bantom Books

Skidmore. Christopher. (2010) Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

 

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Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

margaret-douglas-countess-2Margaret Douglas is an important link in the Tudor family tree and its later prospective claimants to the English throne.  Unsurprisingly given that the Tudors are involved there are some dodgy family trees involved and not a little tragedy.

 

Margaret’s mother was the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York.  She was born in November 1489 and at the time when she married James IV of Scotland she was just thirteen.  In 1512 she gave birth to a son James (other children died in infancy) but then the following year her husband died at the Battle of Flodden.

archiboldouglas.jpgJames V was king but an infant.  There followed the usual power struggle.  The key families were the Stewarts, Douglases and Hamiltons. on 6 August 1514 without consulting her council or her brother Margaret married the pro-English Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.   This effectively caused the Douglas faction to advance up a large ladder in the courtly game of snakes and ladders.  A civil war resulted and Margaret was replaced as regent by John Stewart Earl of Albany – who was anti-English.  Margaret having been queen and regent now slid down several rungs of importance and life became very difficult not least when Margaret lost custody of the young king and of his brother called Alexander who had been born after the Battle of Flodden. Margaret, fearing for her safety and the safety of her unborn child by the earl of Angus made plans to escape Scotland.

Her first step was to go to Linlithgow from there she escaped into England and little Margaret Douglas made her way into the world on 8 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland by the end of January news arrived from Scotland that the infant Alexander was dead.  Margaret Douglas born of an English mother in an English castle was treated as English rather than Scottish throughout her life and in terms of the English succession. Margaret Tudor’s husband the earl of Angus now deserted his wife and made his peace with the earl of Albany…and his other wife.

Angus had been married to Mary Hepburn but he had been widowed.  What Margaret Tudor didn’t know was that he had entered into a relationship with Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair before marrying her. They were ether engaged or married.  In either event Angus was contracted to another woman making his marriage to Margaret Tudor effectively bigamous. Angus wanted the return of his family lands which Albany had confiscated and in the meantime he took up residence with Lady Janet in one of Margaret’s properties.  As with Mary and Elizabeth Tudor the small fact of her father’s complicated love life must bring into question the legitimacy of Margaret Douglas and therefore her claim to the English throne by right of descent from Margaret Tudor.

Henry VIII did not send for his sister until 1516 and ultimately Margaret Tudor did return to Scotland when Albany went to France in 1517.  This meant that Margaret Douglas also went to Scotland and became the centre of a struggle between her parents when he also returned.  The earl of Angus snatched the infant Margaret from her mother’s arms.  Her existence gave the earl of Angus power.  She was in line to the English throne after all.  Ultimately Margaret Douglas found some degree of sanctuary in the care of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey who arranged for her to be housed in Berwick.

If that weren’t complicated enough Margaret Tudor divorced the earl of Angus and married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.  It was a match that didn’t work particularly well.  Methven ultimately moved in with a mistress and Margaret Tudor tried to move back in with the earl of Angus.  James V regarded Methven as a trusted advisor and refused to permit the divorce. Margaret Tudor bowed to her son’s wishes but died in 1541.

But back to Margaret Douglas’s story. After Wolsey’s fall from power and death in 1530 she found home in the household of Princess Mary at Beaulieu where she had been living since 1528.   When she reached adulthood she was appointed as Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn which must have been difficult as she was a lifelong friend of her cousin Princess Mary.  During Mary’s reign she was considered as a possible heir to the throne.  It helped not only that she was close to Mary but that she was Catholic in her sympathies.

Meanwhile, back in the early 1530s at court Margaret  had grown into a beautiful and creative woman who wrote poetry.  She met and fell in love with Lord Thomas Howard.  He was one of Anne Boleyn’s uncles (a young brother of the duke of Norfolk).  The pair became engaged.  They had not sought royal approval. In July 1536 Henry VIII discovered the engagement and was not a happy man.  By that time Anne Boleyn had fallen from favour and both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor had been declared illegitimate.  This meant that Margaret Douglas was quite high up on the list of possible heirs to the throne.  She was a very marriageable commodity. Margaret broke off the engagement but by then both she and Lord Thomas had been thrown into the Tower and charged with treason.  He died of natural causes on 31 October 1537. Margaret had been released from custody a few days previously.

Unsurprisingly given her mother’s complicated love life and Henry’s eye popping disapproval of his sister Margaret Douglas now found herself declared illegitimate by Act of Parliament.

In 1539 Margaret is on the list of Anne of Cleve’s ladies in waiting.

In 1540 she was back in hot water when she had an affair with Sir Charles Howard.  It probably didn’t help that he was closely related to Katherine Howard.  She was sent to Syon House but moved from there when Katherine Howard was also sent to Syon in disgrace.  She might have remained in obscurity if the earl of Angus hadn’t popped back up to cause trouble in Scotland.

In 1543 Margaret Douglas was one of Katherine Parr’s bridesmaids.

matthew stuart.jpgMargaret finally married in 1544. He was a Scottish exile and his name was Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The pair lived at Temple Newsam near Leeds, a gift from Henry VIII to his niece upon her wedding.  They had two sons – Henry Stuart Lord Darnley who would marry Mary Queen of Scots and end up murdered in an orchard in Kirk o Fields in 1567 and Charles Stuart who would fall in love with and marry Elizabeth Cavendish – Margaret Douglas’s grand-daughter was Lady Arbella Stuart.  Neither Henry Stewart nor Charles nor even Arbella would have been considered a legitimate claimant to the throne by Henry VIII who excluded Margaret Lennox from the succession through his will because she made no secret of her Catholicism.

 

 

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Margaret Douglas  even lost her claim to the earldom of Angus because of her husband’s part in the Rough Wooing. Margaret was Angus’s only legitimate child but he left everything to his nephew. Margaret never stopped contesting the fact that her father had broken the entail that should have seen her inherit an earldom.

Matthew Stewart, Lord Lennox  was shot in the back and died in 1571 whilst fighting in Stirling. The marriage between the pair had probably been political but if the Lennox Jewel is anything to go by Margaret and her husband had fallen in love with one another.

lennox jewel.jpg

 

Whilst Mary Tudor was on the throne Margaret Douglas was at the centre of the royal court but once Protestant Elizabeth ascended the throne Margaret’s life became difficult not only because she insisted that Mary Tudor had said she ought to be queen but because of her Catholicism. Mathew Stuart found himself in the Tower and Margaret spent time under house arrest at Sheen.

margaret douglas hilliardHaving lost her own claims to the English crown Margaret then worked on her eldest son’s claims.  Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was she claimed a contender for both the English and the Scottish crowns. Margaret was careful to send Henry to visit Mary Queen of Scots in France on several occasions.  Her scheming would ultimately result in Darnley becoming Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband and effectively doubling their claim to the English throne.

Inevitably the match between Margaret’s second son (Charles) with his claim to the throne and Elizabeth Cavendish in November 1574 en route between London and Temple Newsam did not go down very well with Elizabeth I who suspected her cousin of Catholic plotting in Yorkshire.  Lady Arbella Stuart would pay a heavy price for her royal blood.

Arbella Stuart

Margaret was summoned back to London and sent to the Tower for her part in arranging the match between her son and Elizabeth Cavendish.  Elizabeth Cavendish’s mother escaped the Tower but Bess of Hardwick gave Elizabeth a blue satin cloak lined with velvet that Christmas suggesting that she knew that she was on a bit of a sticky wicket!

After the death of Margaret’s son Charles she concentrated her efforts on Arbella to whom she left her casket of jewellery when she died:

All the rest of my jewels goods chattels movable and unmovable, my funerals and legacies performed and my due debts paid I give and bequeath to the Lady Arbell Daughter of my son Charles deceased. Provided always and I will that where the one of my said Executors Thomas Fowler hath for sundry and divers bargains made for me and to my use by my appointment, authority and request entered into sundry bonds and covenants of warranties in sundry sorts and kinds that by law he may be challenged and constrained to answer and make good the same he the said Thomas Fowler my said executors shall out of my said goods, chattels movables plate and jewels whatsoever be answered allowed satisfied recompensed and kept harmless from any loss recovery forfeiture actions suits demands whatsoever may be and shall be of and from him my said executor lawfully recovered and obtained by any person or persons at any time or times after my decease. And provided also and I will that the rest and portion of my jewels, goods or movables whatsoever shall fall out to be shall remain in the hands, custody and keeping of my said executor Thomas Fowler until the said Lady Arbell be married or come to the age of fourteen years, to be then safely delivered to her if God shall send her then and so long to be living.

After her death on 9th March 1578 Elizabeth paid for her cousin to be buried in Westminster Abbey.  It is perhaps not surprising given the tumultuous life that she led that there is even a conspiracy theory around her death.  She dined with the earl of Leicester a few days before she died and that gave rise to the rumour that she was poisoned.

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Weir, Alison.(2015) The Lost Tudor Princess. London:Vintage

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John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland – traitor part two…or a game of queens

john_dudley_knole_kentThe correct title for this post should be the  succession crisis and it all occurs in 1553.  Edward VI’s health was an important affair.  These are the some of the key facts that we know:

  • Oct 1541 Edward had quartan fever (malaria) which was treated by Henry VIII’s doctor – Butts.
  • Oct 1550 – No diary entries suggest that Edward was too unwell to write.
  • 1552 – Edward caught smallpox or measles.  It is generally accepted, though not universally, that the suppression of immune system as a result of the measles or possibly smallpox that incipient TB flourished. .
  • Oct 1552- Hieronymus Cardano notes Edward short sighted and a little deaf which would suggest the measles as deafness is one of the possible side effects.
  • Dec 1552 TB evident?
  • Feb 15 1553 – Edward had a feverish cold and a violent cough

The one thing that we can be sure of is that the teenage king was not a well bunny despite having started his reign as a healthy enough nine-year-old but that by March 1553 he was forced to open Parliament in a very low key ceremony rather than with the usual pageantry. The Imperial Ambassador,  Jehan Scheyfve,  took an ever greater interest in the king’s health and it for ambassadorial reports that historians get much of their evidence for Edward’s symptoms.

Scheyfve had a rather tenuous contact at court in the form of  John Banister, a 21 year old medical student, whose father was a minor court official.  Both Scheyfve and and Italian visitor to Edward’s court report that Northumberland became so concerned about the king’s health that an elderly and unknown woman was allowed to administer unspecified potions to the king.  Unsurprisingly there were also rumours of poison, not least because in the immediate aftermath of the old woman’s visit Edward’s body, particularly his head and feet, began to swell.

Yet, when all is said and done it was not in Northumberland’s best interests to see the king off this mortal coil.  It would have been rather bad for his power base. Instead Northumberland began to look at ways of maintaining his power over a future monarchy. It can’t have been a particularly difficult job to plant some ideas in Edward’s head because Edward as a staunch Protestant wasn’t terribly keen on his catholic half-sister reversing all the changes that he and Cranmer had made by this time.  He also had a thing about legitimacy and in his family it wasn’t too difficult to cast aspersions.

Initially Edward had suggested in his will any future, as yet unborn, sons of Lady Frances Grey or even sons of her daughters: Ladies Jane, Katherine and Mary Grey.  Edward clearly did not approve of the idea of women on the throne.  Aside from being temperamentally unsuited as he pointed out when his will was ratified with Letters Patent they could run off and marry strange foreign types at which point England would be at the mercy of the whims of the aforementioned foreign types. There was also the problem of a possible civil war.  No one wanted another round of the Wars of the Roses.

At some point when Edward’s mortality became all to obvious his will was amended through a ‘devise’ which was then passed through council and by the lawyers.  All that was required was an act of Parliament to make the whole thing completely legal. Aside from cutting out his sisters on grounds of their dubious legitimacy, and dodgy faith in the case of Mary, Frances Grey had also been bypassed.  The heir to the throne was Lady Jane Grey.

lady-jane-grey

Conveniently for Dudley the lady in question was his young daughter-in-law having been married off to his son Guildford with the king’s blessing in the form of a grant for clothing and jewels for Jane.  It cannot be said that Jane was so enthusiastic.

 

Edward died on the 6th of July.  His death was kept a secret.  Jane was moved from Syon House to the Tower in preparation for her coronation. Northumberland had secured the treasury and the capitol.  What could possibly go wrong?

There was the question of running up and isolating the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was at Hatfield – where she stayed watching events unfold from a safe distance- hardly sisterly unity but definitely demonstrating a strong sense of self-preservation.

marytudorMary had been on her way from her Suffolk estates to visit her sick brother but forewarned she turned back and avoided capture by Robert Dudley and a force of armed men.  Once she’d regained the safety of Framlingham Castle she declared herself queen and sent Thomas Hungate to London with a letter to present to the Privy Council to that effect. She fled deeper into East Anglia – to Kenninghall in Norfolk.

Meanwhile, Hungate was bundled off to the Tower for his troubles and the Privy Council tried to threaten Mary by suggesting they’d execute the likes of Gardiner if she continued to be stroppy about Edward’s wishes.  But at Kenninghall men flocked flocked to her cause, both Catholic and Protestant.

Northumberland had underestimated an English sense of fair play that had nothing to do with religion.  Mary was King Henry’s oldest daughter.  She should be queen – as a certain commercial meercat might say – simples.  There was also the fact that Northumberland wasn’t widely liked and admired by anyone very much.  The Commons resented him for the death of Somerset who was known as the ‘Good Duke’  and the regional gentry liked the conservatism represented by Mary.  The Protestants who you might have expected to rally to Northumberland distrusted him.

Undeterred by the fact that Privy Councillors started to feel unwell and make their excuses to leave London, Northumberland set out with a body of men to take on Mary.  He got to Bury St Edmunds where his men waved him good bye and went to join their lawful sovereign – Mary. Following this blow, Northumberland sent a letter to Henri II inviting him to invade England.  He promised the French that they could have Calais and Guines if only they would assist.  The letter was intercepted. It was the final straw for the Privy Council who defected as fast as they could scurry. Jane’s own father tore the canopy of state from over her head.

On July 23 1553 Northumberland surrendered in Cambridge by then it was all over.

On the 3rd August 1553 Queen Mary  entered London. Lady Jane Grey was in the Tower.  Northumberland and all his sons shared a similar view.

Inevitably Northumberland was tried for treason.  He argued that he had only done Edward VI’s bidding.  Sadly for him, Edward’s will wasn’t legal.  There had been no act of Parliament.  It was no good arguing that more than two hundred men had signed up to the Letters Patent that validated the will nor that the Privy Council had all sworn allegiance to Queen Jane.

The writing was on the wall.  Dudley promptly became a Catholic – he’d been associated with the reforming party since the rise of Anne Boleyn, his role in the investigation into Katherine Howard’s behaviour had confirmed it.  He was a leading player in a government that had done away with many of the rites of Catholicism.  Lady Jane Grey was not amused – she declared that Northumberland was afraid to die.

It didn’t make any difference.  Dudley, like his father before him, was executed on 22 August 1553. Two of his sons would follow him to the block.  His oldest son, John Dudley, was spared in 1553 because like his father he turned to catholicism. Unfortunately Wyatt’s rebellion saw an end to that and he was executed in 1554. Guildford Dudley, Lady Jane’s unwanted husband suffered a similar fate along with his wife.

Ambrose, who became the third earl of Warwick following his brother’s demise was condemned to death as well but he got out a of tight fix  thanks to his mother and brother-in-law who asked virtually anyone who would listen to them at court for their release. He went off to fight for Philip of Spain when Mary relented enough to release him from custody. Robert Dudley famously became Queen Elizabeth I’s favourite. Henry Dudley was the youngest of the Dudley sons.  Like his brothers he was condemned as a traitor but like Ambrose he became a soldier for Philip of Spain.  He was killed at the Battle of St Quentin in 1557.

It is tempting to think that perhaps the Duke of Northumberland, who is known to have had a close and loving relationship with all his children, turned to catholicism not just because he wanted to live but because he wanted to save his sons. Of course, that is speculation and speculation is not history.

History has not been terribly kind to Dudley.  If Somerset is the ‘Good Duke’ then Northumberland is the nasty one. If Somerset was autocratically virtuous then Northumberland is just plain conniving. His last minute change of faith didn’t help matters – was it genuine or was it a ploy?  Did he do Edward VI’s bidding – a loyal servant of the crown?  Or was he determined to keep the power that he wielded? Was he yet another wicked uncle?  People tend not to be motivated by one thing or the other perhaps it was a mixture of factors that caused him to try and put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. The only thing that we can be sure of is that he miscalculated very badly in July 1553.

 

 

 

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Sir Nicholas Throckmorton – ambassador

thoclkmortonInevitably whilst looking at Raleigh my attention has drifted to Bess Throckmorton; Raleigh’s wife and the love of his life. From there my mind has wondered to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Bess’s father. A man who seems to have been as outspoken as Raleigh himself and regarded by the Spanish as ‘dangerously clever’ – though that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from getting into some unpleasant scrapes which ultimately ended with his disgrace.

 

Sir Nicholas served four Tudor monarchs as well as the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fizroy. Nicholas was related to Sir William Parr and at the time he was Fitzroy’s chamberlain which explains Throckmorton’s entry into such a prestigious household. Throckmorton’s mother was Catherine Vaux of Harrowden and it was through her that the relationship to the Parr family came – meaning that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife was Throckmorton’s cousin. Throckmorton was a younger son so he needed every family connection he could find if he was to make his way in the world.

 

Sir Nicholas’s fortunes remained linked to those of the Parr family. He turned up on the Scottish Borders in the service of the Parr family just in time for the so-called Rough Wooing. He turned up in Scotland again in 1547. It was Nicholas Throckmorton who was sent south with the news that Protector Somerset had won the Battle of Pinkie.

 

Despite having gained his foothold in the rungs of the Tudor social and political ladder through his links to the Parrs and to Somerset he seems to have been unaffected by Admiral Seymour’s goings on or indeed the fall of Somerset. In short Throckmorton was one of Edward VI’s men and a good protestant to boot.

 

His name appears on the device naming Lady Jane Grey queen but equally it is supposed to have been Throckmorton who sent word of Edward VI’s death to Mary – perhaps a case of having his cake and eating it. It was only when Throckmorton began agitating about the restoration of Catholicism that he got himself into trouble with Mary suggesting that she didn’t hold his affirmation of Lady Jane Grey against him. The trouble was he wasn’t that keen on Mary’s chosen husband, Philip of Spain and became involved with the Wyatt Plot.

 

In April 1555 he was charged with treason for his part in the plot. However, when he came to trial the jury acquitted him despite the judges hostility: a fact which didn’t go down well with Mary who promptly had the jury incarcerated for nine months and heavily fined when they were eventually released.

 

Throckmorton took himself off to France rather than face the possibility of any more of Mary’s hospitality. He left his wife at home (she refused to live in France) but ultimately was allowed to return and take up government post. But by this point he was in correspondence with William Cecil and Princess Elizabeth, no doubt lining himself up to serve his fourth Tudor.  When Elizabeth came to the throne Throckmorton wrote suggesting who would be her best advisors and in 1560 when Cecil and Elizabeth were out of sorts with one another Cecil said he would depart from his role as Elizabeth’s minister if Throckmorton replaced him.

 

Nicholas returned to France as ambassador from 1559-1562. It was his job to try and dissuade Mary, Queen of Scots, from displaying the arms of England. Throckmorton was also in France when the scandal of Elizabeth I’s love for her Master of Horse Robert Dudley became laden with overtones of murder. Amy Robsart’s death at Cumnor near Abingdon caused tongues to wag (Throckmorton wrote of “her neck” being broken “with other appurtenances” and Throckmorton didn’t hesitate to describe what people were saying. He also announced that “Every hair of my head stareth!” His letters to Cecil at this time are so distinctly undiplomatic that his friends warned him to write no further on the subject. Ironically it was the same Robert Dudley now Earl of Leicester who offered a final home to Throckmorton when he was disgraced for his part in trying to marry Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk but more of that shortly.

 

Throckmorton was ultimately undone by his regard for Mary Queen of Scots who he’d known since she was a child in France. He was sent to Scotland to prevent Mary from marrying Lord Darnley – not one of his greatest successes, though at least Elizabeth didn’t have to send anyone to rescue him as had been the case when he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Catherine de Medici. He was also sent to negotiate for Mary’s release when she was deposed but the Scottish nobles knew he was sympathetic to Mary so weren’t terribly pleased to see him. Once Mary was imprisoned in England he plotted for her to marry the Duke of Norfolk. It appears that Throckmorton thought that if she was married and ‘respectable’ then she could be released from captivity. He regarded a marriage to Norfolk as a safe marriage. He also thought that the Duke of Norfolk’s proposal was in line with what the queen wished.

 

Unsurprisingly Throckmorton soon found himself incarcerated; this time in Windsor Castle. His actions were deemed foolish but not treasonous. He was released possibly because in the years since he’d objected to Elizabeth’s marriage to Robert Dudley he’d become one of Dudley’s political advisors. However, he’d also managed to remain on reasonably good terms with William Cecil because he wrote to Cecil begging for him to intercede with the queen.  It should be added that it is quite possible that Cecil who was fiercely anti-Mary may well have shown Elizabeth the inflammatory letters which Throckmorton wrote when he was the English Ambassador in France.

 

Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;

We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.

He died in London on 12 Feb 1571 and was buried in the church of St. Catherine Cree, Aldgate. His daughter Elizabeth known as Bess was one of Elizabeth’s maids of honour and ultimately Bess would be banished from court having done her own stint in the Tower for daring to fall in love, something which her father had castigated the queen about many years earlier.

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George Gascoigne – First of the Elizabethans

georgegascoigne.jpgI’m encountering all manner of person as my exploration of Raleigh continues. George Gascoigne was one of Raleigh’s role models.  His ‘mind was a very opal’ Irwin,p.17.  His career reflects the career of many Elizabethans.  Education at Cambridge, followed by a stint at Gray’s Inn in 1555, minor posts at court and elected MP for Bedfordshire.  Thus far we have an example of Tudor respectability of the kind promoted during the reign of Henry VII.  Unfortunately he  got himself into all manner of trouble, got himself disinherited and didn’t do too well at court.  He managed to get himself into debt, not of itself unusual but he was unable to escape imprisonment for his inability to pay. In 1572 he was even accused of manslaughter and being a ‘common rhymer’.

To be an Elizabethan gentleman you needed a couple more ingredients even though a stint in prison seems positively de rigeur.  You needed to be a poet.  Gascoigne was not only a poet but also a translator of plays.  One of them was used as a source by Shakespeare for The Taming of the Shrew. Gascoigne also advertised his skills.  He wrote memoirs of his experiences as well.  Spencer admired his works and it was Gascoigne who started the trend towards seeing Elizabeth as a goddess.

The next and most important ingredient has to be a bit of swashbuckle. Once again, Gascoigne has the necessary stuff.  He fought for William of Orange in the Low Countries and was even held prisoner for some of that time. At home, together with Raleigh, Martin Frobisher (to whom he was related) and Raleigh’s half-bother Sir Humphrey Gilbert he planned daring voyages of exploration and conquest…not that he went on them because he died unexpectedly but he was part of the planning. And he did invest all his money in the Raleigh/Gilbert boys venture to discover the North West Passage.

Perhaps fortunately for Gascoigne  he had acquired a patron so did have some funds – another Tudor essential- the earl of Leicester.  In 1575 it was Gascoigne who penned the verses for the event that Leicester held at Kennilworth to impress Elizabeth.

 

He was born in 1535  and died in October 1577 after a rather varied career but, somehow, a typically Elizabethan one which inspired Sir Walter Raleigh. If you want to find out more about Gascoigne double click on the image to open a new window.

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Sir John Perrot – illegitimate son of Henry VIII?

johnperrot.jpgI’ve been reading Margaret Irwin’s book about Sir Walter Raleigh entitled The Great Lucifer. It was first published in 1960. One of the first things that made me sit up and take notice was the reference to Sir John Perrot as Elizabeth I’s illegitimate half-brother (p17) which of course has nothing to do with Raleigh but is too good a diversion to miss.

 

The Perrot family, it turns out, are Welsh and based in Pembrokeshire. Perrot’s mother Mary Berkeley married into the family. She had been a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon although the evidence is sketchy. There are two slightly different versions of events. In one Mary married Thomas Perrot and it was only when the king came visiting that he noticed Mary. This version is mentioned by Phillipa Jones. In another version, mentioned by the Royal Library of Wales, Perrot was knighted when he married Mary – make of it what you will. In any event John, when he grew up, ultimately got into a squabble with a couple of the Yeomen of the Guard and Henry gave him a promise of preferment but died before he could honour it.

 

Perrot was educated in St David’s and from there entered the household of the marquis of Winchester. He was a companion to Edward VI who seems to have paid a fair few of Perrot’s debts. Perrot, himself a stout protestant, initially suffered little when Edward’s catholic sister Mary came to the throne but then he was accused of sheltering Protestants in his home in Wales. Mary Tudor sent him to the Fleet prison for harbouring heretics. When he was let out, in itself odd given his strong protestant sympathies, he decided to travel and spent the rest of Mary’s reign in foreign climates.

 

When Elizabeth ascended the throne he carried a corner of the canopy of state at her coronation. He very swiftly became very important in South Wales and from there he was shipped to Ireland to try to establish the kind of order that Elizabeth might approve of. He was the first president of Munster for two years from 1571 to 1573; he suppressed the rebellion of the nephew of the earl of Desmond – James Fitzmaurice. He did this by hanging approximately eight hundred rebels.  He also made himself very unpopular with Elizabeth’s other representatives and gained a reputation for being rash, combative and rude.

 

The whole experience, and the suppression of the rebellion was brutal, doesn’t seem to have suited him because he returned home to Wales and busied himself with trying to extend his estates. Elizabeth gave him Carew Castle as a reward for his work in Ireland. In 1574 he became a member of the Council of the Marches of Wales and the following year was charged with stopping piracy in Pembrokeshire. He must have done a good job, although there is a suggestion that far from stamping out piracy he was involved in the whole affair. When Glamorgan and Monmouthshire required similar services to rid themselves of their pirated, as he had done in Ireland, he claimed ill-health and turned the job down. Possibly he was too busy financing piracy in New Foundland’s waters. There were also the law suits and counter accusations of piracy that seem to have been flung back and forth by those in power in Wales. Perrot does not come across as a man who won friends and influenced people.  He certainly seems to have been rather litigious.

 

In 1579 he was handed five ships and told to stop any Spanish shipping from landing off the west coast of Ireland. Not a lot happened and he managed to ground his ship which caused mirth at Court. It can’t have put him too badly out of face with the queen because she made him lord deputy of Ireland in 1584. He held the post for four years. He didn’t get on particularly well with other members of court, the Irish or even his own neighbours. It was, in short, not a very happy tenure of office but when he came home he was made a member of the Privy Council.

 

Unfortunately he’d made enemies in Ireland. Principally Adam Loftus, Bishop of Dublin. He also had enemies at home including Sir Christopher Hatton. Perrot had seduced Sir Christopher’s daughter and claimed that the only skills Hatton had was the ability to dance.

The Perrot family had also been marrying the wrong people. In 1583, Thomas, John’s son, married Dorothy Devereux who was the daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex. More importantly she was the step-daughter of Elizabeth’s favourite Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester and the sister of Robert Devereux also to be marked as the queen’s favourite. Politically then it should have been a good match but unfortunately Elizabeth was not terribly amused by the nuptials because a) no one had asked for her opinion on the matter; b) it looked to her as though Perrot was getting a bit above himself and c) it meant that Perrot had conspired with Leicester’s wife Lettice Knollys who also happened to be Elizabeth’s cousin and a woman that the queen absolutely hated.

 

In March 1591 he was charged with treason. He was accused of having consorted with the Spanish and offered to betray his country in return for being given Wales. Unsurprisingly, he was carted off to the Tower and tried for treason. The letters which purported to show his guilt were found to be forgeries and the forger was duly strung up. Perrot was, unexpectedly to me at any rate, found guilty of treason but died before he could be executed. Historians are of the opinion that he wasn’t guilty of treason but had said some unfortunate things about the queen in the hearing of people who wanted to discredit him. Certainly Perrot was just as surprised. He is said to have exclaimed, “God’s death! Will the Queen suffer her brother to be offered up a sacrifice to the envy of his frisking adversary.” The reference originally came from Naunton’s biography of his grandfather-in-law but the facts don’t necessarily match to what he wrote.  In any event, Sir John Perrot died in the Tower, perhaps at the point when Elizabeth was considering pardoning him. As a consequence there are dark rumours of poison, as mentioned in the Dictionary of National Biography. Whatever the truth Elizabeth returned the attainted estates to Sir John’s son.

 

So what was Perrot who seems a slightly larger than life character doing in a book about Raleigh? It turns out that Perrot’s son Thomas was once imprisoned to prevent him fighting a duel with Raleigh. As for Sir Walter, he was also sent to the Fleet to consider the error of his ways – something he apparently failed to do as Irwin goes on to list other brawls. And that appears to be the sum total of Perrot’s link with Raleigh.

 

Sir John Perrot was an interesting aside. He certainly seems to have had Henry VIII’s dodgy temper and apparently he resembled the king physically as well- in which case I’m not sure if the portrait is a very good likeness. Sir John seems to have believed the rumours especially if he really did say what he’s supposed to have said after his trial.

 

Jones, Philippa. (2011) The Other Tudors: Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards. London: New Holland Publishers

Irwin, Margaret. (1960) The Great Lucifer: a portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh. London:Penguin

 

 

 

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Arthur Plantagenet -not quite royal and not a traitor.

200px-ArmsOfArthurPlantagenet_ViscountLisle.jpgWho would have thought that Henry VIII had a maternal uncle  whom he loved very much. He once said that Arthur had the kindest heart of anyone he knew.

Arthur Plantagenet was Elizabeth of York’s illegitimate half-brother. His mother was Elizabeth Lucie or Lucy or possibly Wayte. Thomas More describes her as a naïve girl who believed Edward IV’s blandishments. There were other mistresses and other children. History has not provided a clear list of which children belong to which mother or how long Edward’s various relationships lasted or indeed whether he was pre-contracted to any of them before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.

In any event, young Arthur was born in Calais and is mentioned in an exchequer account of 1477 – assuming that Edward didn’t have any other natural male sons kicking around Calais at that time, and then vanishes into historical mist and fog  for a time or, depending upon which source you read, is brought up in Edward IV’s court. He emerges after the difficulties of 1483-1485 in Elizabeth of York’s household. On her death he moved into Henry VII’s household. He then appears to have been inherited by his half-nephew in 1509. He became an ‘esquire of the king’s bodyguard,’ and was apparently much loved by Henry – a dangerous position to hold as poor Arthur came to recognize.

 

In 1511 he married Elizabeth Dudley the widow of Henry VII’s tax collector. The position of husband having fallen vacant because young Henry VIII had executed his father’s two foremost tax collectors in a move guaranteed to win friends and influence people. Elizabeth also happened to be the daughter of Edward Grey, Viscount Lisle (who just happened to be the younger brother of John Grey of Groby who was married to Elizabeth Woodville prior to his death at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461- making for a very complicated family tree.)   Now would probably also be a good time to mention the fact that Elizabeth Grey is Robert Dudley’s granny – which just makes things even more incestuous when you consider Elizabeth I’s interest in that young man.

 

Back to Arthur:
 he turns up in the records on 8 February 1513 having obtained protection from his creditors- he seems to have been frequently troubled by there being too much month for his money- on the proviso of going to sea with an expedition to Brittany. The ship in which he sailed had a nasty accident with a rock and he was saved from death by something close to a miracle. Understandably he took himself off on a holy pilgrimage to Walsingham to give thanks for his safe return from the sea.

His experience didn’t stop him from returning to Europe where he joined his nephew on his European military adventure culminating in the Battle of the Spurs  which was more of a skirmish than a battle whilst the real action was taking place at home on the English Scottish Border – the Battle of Flodden.

By the following year Arthur, who was in Henry’s good books, was Sheriff of Hampshire and a captain on the vice-admiral’s vessel, the Trinity Sovereign. He turns up at the Field of the Cloth of Gold and was one of the king’s carvers. He also seems to have played an important role in the life of young Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s natural son by Bessie Blount. In 1524 he became a Knight of the Garter.   As is the way of these things he became a widower and remarried in 1528 to Honor Basset nee Grenville.

 

On March 24 1538 he was made Deputy of Calais and then things started to go very wrong. In addition to personal debt; there were the shifting sands of the king’s religious preferences and the faith of the locals; keeping Calais’s garrison fed and watered; keeping the local elite happy- and they frequently weren’t very happy and spent a lot of time trying to stab him in the back; keeping Cromwell informed as well as providing him with a new pet dog (no I’m not making that up – it’s all there in Arthur’s letters) and then there was keeping his wife happy and ensuring his children received an appropriate education. Ultimately things did not go well – there were simply too many plates to keep spinning. Arthur was summoned back to London in 1540 and sent to the Tower whilst his wife and daughters were kept under house arrest in Calais.

Rumour had it that it was Honor who was the traitor rather than her unfortunate spouse – whatever the case it seems to be agreed by Bishop Foxe (who didn’t like her- suspecting that she was a closet Catholic) and another chronicler that she lost her senses and never fully recovered them as a consequence of  Arthur’s arrest and imprisonment.

 

Unfortunately for Arthur  there was a plot. His chaplain, Gregory Botolph had come up with the idea of handing Calais over to the Pope in the person of Cardinal Pole, who was of course, a Plantagenet and Arthur’s cousin.  Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury styled Arthur ‘cousin’ in her correspondence a fact which Henry VIII must have been aware.  By now the Tudor monarch was ageing and vicious.  Being a Plantagenet had become exceedingly dangerous to one’s health as Margaret Pole was to discover.  Botolph managed to evade capture even though an act of attainder was passed against him. He evaded the king’s wrath, unlike his fellow conspirators – Edmund Brindholme, Clement Philpot and Adam Damplip- who presumably paid the full price for their treason – though I need to find confirmation of that.

 

There was no direct evidence against Arthur. So naturally he was released? Er, actually – no, he wasn’t. Arthur remained a prisoner in the Tower until 1542. It seems unfair that Arthur should have been rounded up as a consequence of Botolph’s misdemeanours as Arthur had spent considerable time and effort trying to get his chaplain a living, first in Lowestoft and then in Kettlebarston in Suffolk as demonstrated in his various letters.  It seems even more unfair that Arthur who had served the Tudors most loyally should have been so poorly treated. At the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign a family member could be looked upon with warmth, especially one who could never make a claim on the throne because of his illegitimacy but by 1540 Henry VIII had contemplated forwarding the claims of his own illegitimate son so the bar-sinister wasn’t the protection it had once been.  Arthur languished in the  Tower – Cromwell fell, Katherine Howard was married and discarded, her various lovers executed along with the erstwhile queen.

In March 1541 Honor Plantagenet, Lady Lisle and her daughters were released. Their jewels were returned to them and £900 made available to cover their debts and transport them wherever they wanted.  Honor ultimately returned to her home county of Cornwall where she died in 1566.

Arthur remained in the Tower, although he was allowed to walk upon the ramparts.  According to one story Arthur saw his nephew sailing along the Thames in the royal barge, shouted and waved at him reminding henry that he’d locked his uncle up and left him there.  As you might expect, this is anecdotal and not back by any concrete evidence.  Arthur must have thought that things were looking up when his collar of the Garter was restored to him. Two months later Henry VIII sent him a diamond ring via the person of his secretary Sir Thomas Wriothesley– Arthur was possibly so overwhelmed by relief “immoderate joy” was the way that Holinshed phrased it that he had a heart attack. He died in the Tower, of old age rather than a sharp pain in the neck, and was buried there, leaving his wife distraught with grief whilst he himself became a footnote in Ambassador Marillac’s letter to Francis I. “Lord Lisle, formerly deputy of Calais, being out of trouble and his Order, honour and goods restored, died a few days afterwards.” (4 March 1542)

 

Papers were seized in Lisle’s house at the time of his arrest – 3,000 of them. They were mainly letters to him and his wife, ranging in date between 1533 and 1540, from ambassadors, princes, governors of French and Flemish frontier towns: he knew them through his role of courtier, politician and Deputy of Calais. There were letters to and from friends and agents in England; including one which suggests that sending Anne Boleyn a pet monkey wasn’t one of Arthur’s better ideas. There was also letters between him and his wife during visits of one or the other to England.  Thomas Cromwell complained about Arthur’s letter writing. He said that Arthur wrote trivia that was of no political interest what-so-ever and to please get a grip on his meanderings.  Of course, so far as historians are concerned they couldn’t disagree more. The Lisle Letters are one of the most important collection of Tudor documents that we have available to us.  They can be purchased in six volumes or one abridged selection.

 

As an aside it is worth noting that Arthur’s daughter Frances was an ancestress of George Monck who famously, or infamously depending on your viewpoint, fought on both sides of the English Civil War

 

 

‘Henry VIII: March 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. 62-71 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp62-71 [accessed 18 January 2016].

Notes and Queries (1926) CLI (aug21): 129-130. doi: 10.1093/nq/CLI.aug21.129.

Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Sixteenth Century, The Plantagenets, The Tudors