Tag Archives: The Tower of London

Thomas Beccon – reformer, propagandist and barometer of England’s Reformation.

Thomas_Becon.jpgBeccon or Becon was born in Norfolk around 1510-12, so during the first eighteen months of Henry VIII ascending the throne. He was educated in Cambridge where he studied under the tutelage of Hugh Latimer. He was ordained in 1533 – just as Henry VIII’s marital disputes were hotting up in more ways than one.  Despite the fact that Henry VIII passed a series of laws that changed the management and government of the Church making Hal the Supreme Head of the Church of England, religion and belief itself didn’t change very much.  Essentially Henry VIII remained a Catholic throughout his life. This was rather unfortunate for Beccon who  travelled along the road towards Protestantism  preaching his views to anyone who might care to hear. He was arrested in 1540 for preaching Protestantism and was forced to recant his beliefs.  To avoid further problems he stopped preaching and took to writing tracts under the assumed name of Theodore Basille.  Between 1541-43 at least eight works were published.  Sadly for him the pseudonym ploy was not entirely successful as Bishop Gardiner wasn’t without employees who knew how to wheedle the truth out of people.  Beccon found himself recanting for a second time whilst chopping up three of his books in public to show how very sorry he was for having written them in the first place.  In 1546 thirteen of his books were on a list of prohibited texts that were burned as an example to the populace.

Beccon seems to have spent these difficult years until the death of Henry VIII wandering around the Midlands doing a spot of tutoring and generally trying to avoid having to recant for a third time as that presumably would have meant burning him as well as his books.

However, in 1547 when Edward VI ascended the throne he became the chaplain of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour where he could write openly about his beliefs, acquire a decent living and begin to aspire to making social as well as religious changes.  

In 1553 things took a turn for the worse for Beccon when Mary I ascended the throne and promptly tried to turn the clock back.  This was the third stage of the English Reformation (broadly speaking).  Aside from Beccon’s Protestant inclinations there was the small fact that as an ordained member of the clergy he really shouldn’t have had a wife according to Mary I’s beliefs. In August 1553 he found himself ensconced within the Tower of London and removed from his living.  In March 1554 he was released and promptly left the country going to Germany where he was certain of a more friendly welcome. He actually became a tutor in the household of the Landgrave of Hesse.

He returned to England from Marburg where he taught at the university when Elizabeth I ascended the throne ushering in the fourth phase of the English Reformation (broadly speaking). He became a canon of Canterbury Cathedral and secured a number of benefices in Kent including that of Sturry.  He wasn’t entirely popular with Elizabeth I as although he’d welcomed Elizabeth I as the “English Deborah” (i.e. the saviour of her nation) he’d also subscribed to John Knox’s view about the “monstrous regiment of women” – which didn’t necessarily go down terribly well with Elizabeth.  He died in June 1567.

Beccon is credited with writing more than sixty texts however the book I’m interested in today is entitled The Jewel of Joy which was aimed at ordinary people and their beliefs as I’m giving a talk on the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Derbyshire in July. It includes an insight into Derbyshire at the time of his wanderings in the 1540s – I might add that he saw the county as “barren” in a spiritual sense claiming that because of the ignorance of many of its inhabitants they found themselves clinging to catholicism and lacked the “spark of godliness.”  The text is partially autobiographical.  He explains that having recanted for the second time at the foot of St Paul’s Cross he decamped from London to “avoid the ravening paws of these greedy wolves.” First he went to Thetford to visit his family and from there he set off to the Peak District intent on earning his living as a tutor. He didn’t known anyone and he didn’t expect a welcome.  Apparently he didn’t get one either as he described the locals as “rude and uncivilised:”

But all the religion of the people consisted of ‘hearing matins and masses, in superstitious worshipping of saints, in hiring soul’s carriers to ring trintals, in pattering upon beads, and such other Popish pedlar’. Yet the people where I have travelled, for the most part, are reasonable and quiet enough, yea, and very conformable to God’s truth. If any be stubbornly obstinate, it is for want of knowledge and because they have been seduced by blind guides.

The only exception to this appears to have been  in Alsop-En-La-Dale because of  John Alsop (yes the name is a clue as to that particular gentleman’s authority within the place).  Alsop En La Dale is about five miles north of the market town of Ashbourne.  And it was here that Beccon discovered a kindred spirit. Not only did John Alsop show Beccon his prized Coverdale Bible, written by Miles Coverdale in 1535 being a translation of the Bible into English, but he also showed him his library which contained many reforming treatises including some of Beccon’ own works (obviously Beccon didn’t look like an arch-conservative in the pay of Gardiner):

In a little village called AIsop En Le Dale, I chanced upon a certain gentleman called Alsop, lord of that village, a man not only ancient in years, but also ripe in the knowledge of Christ’s doctrine. When we had saluted each other, and I had taken a sufficient repast, he showed me certain books, which he called his jewels and treasures. To repeat them all by name, I am not able, but of this I am sure, that there was the New Testament after the translation of that godly learned man. Miles Coverdale, which seemed to be as well worn by the diligent reading thereof as ever was any mass book among the Papists. In these godly books – I remember right well that he had many other godly books, as the Obedience of Christian Man, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Revelation of Anti- Christ, The Sun of Holy Scripture, The Book of John Frith against Purgatory, &c. – this ancient gentleman, among the mountains and rocks, occupied himself both diligently and virtuously.

And on that cheerful note I’m off to occupy myself both diligently and virtuously cooking dinner!

 

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Duke of Exeter -was he murdered or did he slip?

holland-armsHenry Holland, Third Duke of Exeter was yet another descendent of John of Gaunt. His grandmother Elizabeth was John’s daughter. He had a claim to the throne after the death of Henry VI, something which Edward IV may have been all too aware of being the aforementioned earl’s brother-in-law.

Henry had been Richard of York’s ward.  Richard married his eldest daughter off to Holland in order to secure the dynastic links and power base.  Unfortunately for both Holland and the Duke of York it would appear that the Exeter lands weren’t terribly productive.  Consequentially Holland was always in finical difficulties which didn’t help his disposition overly.

He developed an unsavoury reputation early in his career when he seized Lord Cromwell’s estate at Ampthill and had him falsely accused of treason.  He also extended his land holding through the convenient method of fraud. This was all dragged through the law courts and resulted in no one wanting to be sheriff of Bedfordshire on account of Holland’s bullying tactics. In the end he aligned himself to one of Cromwell’s enemies in order to further his cause – thus demonstrating beautifully the fact that the Wars of the Roses could be said to be a bunch of local disputes that got seriously out of hand.

There wasn’t any great love between the Yorks and Holland so it probably didn’t unduly bother Holland that his alliance with Lord Egremont was one of the causal factors in him being in the Lancastrian army chasing Richard of York around the countryside in December 1460.  Henry Holland was a commander at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30 1460.  Presumably he hadn’t enjoyed being imprisoned in Wallingford Castle in 1455 after Richard assumed the title of Protector when Henry VI was incapacitated on his father-in-law’s orders.  In reality, Richard’s descent from two sons of Edward III gave him a better claim to be protector than Holland who thought he ought to have the job. He was descended from John of Gaunt and the First Duke of Exeter had been Richard II’s half-brother.  York’s claim came from the fact that he was descended from the second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp via the Mortimer line.  The Mortimers had been Richard II’s heirs.  As if that wasn’t bad enough Holland wasn’t given a role of any importance. Holland threw his toys out of his pram, fermented rebellion in the north and consorted with the Scots – he was lucky that a year in Wallingford was all that he got.

He was, at least, consistent in his support for the Lancastrian cause being present not only at Wakefield but also at the Second Battle of St Albans and Towton.  He scarpered from the latter and managed to escape to France where he joined Margaret of Anjou.

Unsurprisingly family relations were at an all time low by this point. Not only was his attainted of treason but his wife Anne who had been married off to him when she was eight-years-old sought a legal separation from a man who’d gained a reputation for being deeply unpleasant one way or another. They had one child, Anne Holland who would be married off to one of Elizabeth Woodville’s sons from her first marriage, and pre-decease her unfortunate father.

In 1471 he returned to England with the Earl of Warwick who had stopped being Yorkist and become a Lancastrian in what can only be described as a giant strop when Edward IV stopped listening to his advice.  Warwick died at Barnet. Henry Holland though badly wounded managed to reach sanctuary in London. Edward had him rounded up and sent to the Tower.  He had for a time been the Constable of the Tower so at least he was familiar with his accommodation.

By the following year Anne was able to have the marriage annulled, she went on to marry Thomas St Leger but Edward IV seems to have welcomed Henry back into the fold as he was part of the military expedition that set off to make war on the French. It wasn’t a roaring success from the wider population’s point of view as they’d been heavily taxed and expected a decent battle at the very least. What they got was a treaty whilst Edward IV received money to go away and an annual pension.

As for Henry Holland?  He had an unfortunate accident on the way home.  Apparently he fell overboard.  The Milanese Ambassador suggested that the accident was caused by a couple of burly nautical  types picking him up and throwing him…

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

 

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Lord Roos, the Lakes and a Jacobean scandal

frances cecil.jpgLady Anne Clifford recorded her thoughts about this particular scandal in her diaries.  She wasn’t impressed.  These days the story is little known, paling as it does beside the case of Frances  Carr nee HowardLady Somerset and the murder of Thomas Overbury.

Anne Lake, daughter of Secretary of State Sir Thomas Lake married William Cecil, Lord Roos or de Ros in February 1616. William Cecil was the grandson of Thomas Cecil who was the son of William Cecil (Lord Burghley – Queen Elizabeth’s advisor). It wasn’t a happy marriage from the outset not least because of William’s belief that Anne had been turned against him by her mother Mary Lake.

 

It wasn’t long before William’s wife and mother-in-law were blackmailing William about his alleged impotence in an attempt to get him to sign his land over to the Lakes. By August 1616 Cecil had become sufficiently fed up with his new family to flee to foreign parts – Italy if you want to be precise. The couple were separated.  Sir Thomas now demanded a settlement for his daughter suggesting lands at Walhamstow that were already mortgaged to him.  It wasn’t happy and worse was to come.

 

Frances Cecil (born Brydges)  pictured at the state of the post at a later time and from the National Portrait Gallery collection was William’s step-grandmother. She and William were virtually the same age. Mary Lake accused Frances of an incestuous and adulterous affair with William (even though they weren’t related by blood they were related by marriage). Then just for good measure said that she had tried to poison Anne because she knew about the relationship.

 

The matter ended up in front of James I who passed it on to the Star Chamber to deal with. The earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil – husband of Frances, grandfather of William accused the Lakes of slander.

 

If that wasn’t enough Anne’s brother Arthur had become involved in the fracas. He apparently attacked Cecil due to Anne’s wounded honour and there was a plan for the two men to fight a duel but it never happened. Instead, Arthur nearly had to fight a duel with a couple of other nobles on account of hearing them joking about sister Anne. And no wonder they were the ballad mongers and poetry makers of the period had a field day with the scandal. Follow the link to find out more about five scurrilous poems of the period featuring the Lake ladies http://www.earlystuartlibels.net/htdocs/lake_roos_section/J0.html .

The case was ultimately judged in 1619 after Lord Roos had died in the aforementioned foreign parts.   It turned out that the Lakes had done a spot of letter forging  to ‘prove’ the incestuous relationship and a had been leaning on people to get them to support their claims. The Lakes were flung into the Tower,  Anne Lake’s parents fined  £5000 each and required to ask pardon of the king and Frances Cecil. Anne did what was required in 1619 but it was May 1621 before Mary Lake fulfilled the need to ask pardon.

Perhaps Sir Thomas wasn’t overjoyed when his wife was released.  His biography on the History of Parliament website imparts the fact that there were rumours that he was the victim of husband battering.

And just when you think it can’t get any more scandalous Arthur found himself being accused on incest with Anne – presumably on ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ basis. Arthur’s wife Lettuce died just after this juicy little piece of gossip came to the forefront of public scandal. It should be noted that Lady Anne Clifford was very sympathetic to Lettuce’s plight. She’d died as countless other women did at that time of complications in giving birth however gossip declared that she’d died of syphilis.

Happy days…

 

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/lake-sir-thomas-i-1561-1630

Love, Lust, and License in Early Modern England: Illicit Sex and the Nobility

By Johanna Rickman

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The Constable brothers and The Pilgrimage of Grace

pilgrimage-of-grace-banner2My last post on Katherine Parr got me thinking about the fate of the gentry involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the way in which events are often more complicated than we first suppose.  Take the Constable brothers, though some texts identify them as an assortment of brothers and cousins.  They weren’t young men.  Two of them were veterans of Flodden. Sir John Constable of Burton Constable and Sir William Constable of Great Hatfield, one of the brothers at Flodden, lived some of the time in the wapentake of Holderness. Both of them were in residence in October 1536.

That month Anthony Curtis arrived in the area with the news that had spread through Lincolnshire and was now making its way through Yorkshire. The King, it was said, was going to limit the number of churches to one every five, or seven miles depending on the source, and was about to raise fees for marriages, christenings and funerals.  Bad enough that the new articles of faith denied there was any such place as Purgatory. Soon the area was up in arms as the Commons answered the call to join the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who were less than enthusiastic either fled or were ‘persuaded.’

John and William Constable took themselves off to Hull and remained behind the town’s walls. They, together with the two Sir Ralph Ellerkers (which must have been uncomfortable as there was something of a feud going on between the two families) were the leading gentry of the area and it wasn’t long before the pilgrims arrived at Hull’s gates demanding the town and the gentry to lead them. Burton reveals that their brother Sir Robert Constable who’d been knighted by Henry VII after the Battle of Blackheath in 1487 was already in Pontefract Castle and that their other brother Sir Marmaduke, another veteran of the Scottish wars, went into hiding where he remained a loyal man of the king…always easier to achieve when you haven’t got a mob threatening to do very nasty things to you or your family.

On the 19th of October Hull capitulated when it started to run out of food.  The rebels forced the men behind its walls to take their oath.  Sir John Constable after initially refusing to submit to the rebels found himself in charge of Hull whilst Sir William, together with the pilgrims, headed in the direction of Pontefract.

Pontefract Castle fell to the rebels on the 21st and the Constable family found another of their number sworn to the pilgrim oath. Sir Robert now began working with Aske to organise the host of men who’d answered the call to arms or had been forced into rebellion. Later Sir Robert would negotiate with the various captains and commons for negotiation with the Duke of Norfolk rather than battle although it is evident there was a time when he wanted to continue beyond Doncaster towards London.  This did not endear him to Henry VIII.  Moorhouse reveals that Henry had a little list of men he wished to make an example of including Robert Aske and Lord Darcy.  Sir Robert Constable’s name also featured on the list.

In the aftermath of the rebellion Sir John managed to talk his way out of the situation. In 1537 he oversaw the trials and executions of Hull’s pilgrims. Sir William also sat on the trial commission.

King Henry VIII did not forget his little list of men who did not deserve pardon in his opinion.  Sir Robert was at Templehurst (Temple Newsam) , home of Lord Darcy, when Robert Aske arrived there on January 10, 1537.  He’d been wined and dined over Christmas by the king so had no idea that Henry was after vengeance as he was now trying to damp down renewed calls for rebellion.  Notices had been stuck on church doors across the area demanding a return to the old format of service. The three men decided the best thing to do was to try and keep the north calm until the Duke of Norfolk arrived.  The problem was that all three of them would soon be summoned to London.  Sir Robert received his politely worded note on the 19th February.  By Easter  he was in the Tower. The men went voluntarily believing that the king would treat them fairly.    They didn’t understand that Sir Francis Bigod’s rebellion in January 1537 nullified the agreement that Henry had reached with them…in Henry’s mind.  It didn’t matter that Robert Aske even had a letter of recommendation from the Duke of Norfolk.

Due process of the law now kicked into play.  The Duke of Norfolk put together a jury to hear the accusations against the men.  This was held in York.  Moorhouse notes that the jury was composed of a large number of relatives of the three men.  This effectively ensured that there would be an indictment, or as Moorhouse observes, the three men would have been joined in the Tower by some of their nearest and dearest. There were three men prepared to turn evidence against Constable.  Moorhouse details it (p298-99) and the fact that it was undoubtedly a fix – not least because one of the prosecution witnesses was a certain Sir Ralph Ellerker (you’ll remember him from Hull where he also signed the pilgrim oath).  Ellerker was either buying his own safety or taking the opportunity to take out a member of the Constable family with whom the Ellerkers were feuding.

Lord Darcy was executed in London but Sir Robert Constable, Robert Aske and Lord Hussey, another leader of the pilgrimage, were sent back to the places where they’d rebelled against the king.  It must have been an unhappy convoy that set off from London.  Lord Hussey was dropped off at Lincoln where Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk awaited him with an executioner.  The convoy continued north.  Aske would die in chains in York but Sir Robert was destined for Hull.  When he arrived there was time to spare as his execution was set for market day (plenty of spectators).  He was executed on the 6th of July 1537 and his body was hung in chains.

As for Sir Marmaduke – he purchased Drax Priory from the Crown because of it’s links to his wife’s family.

To find out more about the history of the Pilgrimage of Grace double click on the image to open up a new webpage.  Rather alarmingly I have added to my list of posts for this week – there’re Sir Nicholas Tempest who was hanged at Tyburn for his part in the pilgrimage as well as Sir John Bulmer and his wife Margaret Stafford.  She was burned at Smithfield for her treason.  It’s not that I’m turning this blog into a series of posts about who Henry VIII executed – although there’s enough material for it- it’s more that I’ve become curious about who escaped and who paid the ultimate penalty and why.

 

Bush, M.L. (1996) The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 Manchester: Manchester University Press

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2006) 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII Oxford: Lion Hudson

Moorhouse, Geoffrey. (2002). The Pilgrimage of Grace. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

 

 

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Sir Henry Norris – wrong place, wrong time.

Queen Anne BoleynHenry Norris was one of Henry VIII’s friends. And so far as I can tell in my various readings the poor man had done nothing wrong other than serve his royal master for some twenty years when his chum had his head lopped off on trumped up charges of naughtiness with Anne Boleyn.

 

Like many others in Henry’s court Norris’s was an interesting family history. His father Sir Edward Norris was knighted after the Battle of Stoke in 1487 which must have caused his wife, Frideswide, a little bit of distress as she was the daughter of Francis, Lord Lovell mentioned in other posts as the friend of Richard III who refused to accept Yorkist defeat and who was last seen on his horse fording the River Trent in full armour in the aftermath of the battle.

 

Family tensions aside, Henry’s older brother John was an esquire of the body to Henry VIII but he seems to have remained firmly Catholic and was part of Queen Mary’s household in later years. Henry Norris on the other hand was also at court but hanging on to the Tudor coat tails and twisting in the wind like the proverbial weather-vane (forgive the mixing of the metaphors). He managed to survive Wolsey’s purge on the young men of the court in 1519. He was one of the twelve grooms of the Stool (yes, that’s right he had the honor of wiping the royal bottom but during those moments had the opportunity to chat with the king in the way that even Wolsey and Cromwell didn’t.) He was given grants, titles and lands as well as the very lucrative post of weigher of the common beam at Southampton which meant Italian merchants using the port paid their taxes to him. He was the keeper of the king’s privy purse. He was with Henry at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 and he wasn’t overly keen on Cardinal Wolsey.

 

He appears to have sided with Anne Boleyn and benefited from this when the Cardinal fell in 1529. He went with Henry and Anne to Hampton Court to inspect the Cardinal’s haul of belongings and went to see Wolsey at Putney. It has been argued that he was of a reforming tendency because of his links with Anne’s faction. He was probably one of the witnesses to Anne’s marriage to Henry.

 

By 1535 he was in receipt of various of Sir Thomas More’s manors and was also constable of Beaumaris Castle and Wallingford Castle. Interestingly he seems to have also acted on behalf of the king in the matter of Jane Seymour suggesting that if his friend Henry wanted a new woman then Henry Norris was going to be helpful in the matter.

 

Unfortunately it was suggested in April 1536 that Norris loved Anne. Anne jokingly said that Norris was waiting to fill dead men’s shoes which was why he hadn’t yet married Margaret Shelton. Norris objected strenuously “if he should have any such thought, he would his head were off.” And hey presto Norris was on the receiving end of a visit to the Tower.

 

On May 1 Norris was at the jousting tournament that the king suddenly left with only a handful of retainers leaving Anne to close the celebrations. Henry told Norris that he believed there was a plot before he left. Norris must have been puzzled. Henry had leant Norris his own horse and now the king was saying that all Norris had to do was to confess and his life would be spared. Norris was arrested and taken to York Place where he was interrogated by the Privy Council.

 

May 2nd Norris was taken to the Tower having said something to the imaginatively named Sir William FitzWilliam that was taken as a confession of guilt but which was not used in evidence at the trial. Warnocke and Weir suggest that he may have admitted homosexuality. The only real thing that this information is proof of is that FitzWilliam was determined to get a confession – any confession. Norris remained adamant that he was innocent of the charges. Whilst Norris was being admitted to the Tower Anne was watching a game of tennis and possibly feeling somewhat nervous.

 

11 May 1536 the Abbot of Cirencester (a man whose own world was about to be turned upside down) wrote to Cromwell to say that he’d already promised Norris’s stewardship of the abbey elsewhere.

 

Norris was tried on May 12 1536. The offences were, as you might expect when Cromwell was involved, thorough and detailed. Henry was humiliated so that he could be rid of his unwanted spouse. Princess Elizabeth would ultimately be illegitimised and have to suffer speculation over which of the men tried with Anne was her father. From the dates provided by Cromwell many people thought that it might have been Sir Henry Norris.

 

The Lisle Letters record the events of the trial and at court before the executions. There was confusion, accusation and some sympathy for Norris who appears to have been well-liked

Norris got his wish to lose his head when he was executed on May 17. Lord Rochford, Anne’s brother, died first. Norris had to watch, then it was his turn. Unsurprisingly he said very little compared to Rochford.

 

Cromwell suggested, according to Weir, that rather than being a loyal servant Norris was overcome by ambition. Weir presents some interesting arguments as to why Norris had to go. The most logical of them being that he had the king’s ear and could, perhaps, have interceded on Anne’s behalf. Warnicke on the other hand argued that all the men caught up in Cromwell’s net were promiscuous possibly with men as well as women which would have made them vulnerable to the accusations that Cromwell flourished in front of the king. They all admitted on the block that they had led sinful lives but then Norris had children from his first marriage who he would have wished to save so far as possible from Henry’s wrath.

 

Just to confuse things even more Margaret Shelton was Anne Boleyn’s cousin and possibly Henry VIII’s mistress. It would also transpire that Sir Francis Weston, another of the accused, had tried to inveigle himself into Madge’s affections.

Warnicke, Retha. (1989) The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Weir, Alison. (2009) The Lady in the Tower. London: Jonathan Cape

 

 

 

 

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Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland

museumbossThis particular Earl of Northumberland is an unusual one in that he was the only one of his family to appear on the Yorkist side of the battle listings during the Wars of the Roses which of course means that a bit of back story is required for his actions to make sense.

Essentially the two great northern families were the Percys and the Nevilles (think Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick a.k.a. the Kingmaker). Had Henry VI been a little bit more effective it is possible that the two families wouldn’t have reached such a state of animosity that when Henry VI broke down in 1453 that the two sides came to blows.  A force of more than seven hundred Percys and their retainers, led by Lord Egremont (the Earl of Northumberland’s second son), attacked a wedding party of Nevilles on Heworth Moor near York.  Quite clearly this did not bode well for wide political implications as it was almost inevitable that if the Percys were favoured by Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou that the Nevilles would look to the other side for support.

The Nevilles affiliated themselves with the Richard of York. The Earl of Salisbury (the Kingmaker’s father) also called Richard Neville was Richard of York’s uncle.  His sister, Cicely Neville a.k.a. ‘The Rose of Raby’ was married to Richard of York.

So far so good. The Earls of Northumberland then proceeded to drop like flies and of course they all rejoiced in the name Henry thus making remembering them easy or difficult depending on what you’re trying to remember. The Second Earl of Northumberland didn’t make it beyond the first official battle of the Wars of the Roses.  He was killed at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455.  He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry Percy (just to confuse matters he’s also known as Lord Poynings on account of gaining the title when he married his wife) who became the Third Earl of Northumberland. The third earl was definitely Lancastrian.  The feud was in full swing now as the noble families of England merrily took turns slaughtering on another. He died in his turn on 29 March 1461 at the Battle of Towton.  This battle was won by Richard of York’s son Edward who was now Edward IV of England, his father having fallen victim to a sharp weapon at the Battle of Wakefield the previous year.

The death of earl number three finally brings us to our Henry Percy.  He did not automatically become the Earl of Northumberland. His father’s earldom was forfeited at the Battle of Towton by the victorious Yorkists who naturally declared everyone fighting on the wrong side of the battle field traitors and promptly confiscated anything of value as well as lopping off a few heads.  In that sense Henry Percy was lucky.  He was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464.  During this time John Neville, the Kingmaker’s brother  was created Earl of Northumberland – I don’t even want to imagine how that went down with the locals.

In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV  Henry Percy was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.  For various reasons including his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV began to find his Neville cousins rather wearing and ultimately Henry Percy gained Edward IV’s support.  John Neville found himself kicked out of his newly acquired earldom whilst Henry Percy regained the family title.  Ta dah! Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland and Ta dah! John Neville, Marquess of Montagu.

Unsurprisingly John Neville wasn’t best pleased and promptly changed sides along with his brother the Earl of Warwick who was displeased with having been made to look a fool whilst negotiating for Edward IV’s marriage to a french princess only to discover that he’d married Elizabeth Woodville. After that the Nevilles found that dominating court became rather tricky with the best perks going to a huge extended Woodville clan.  Both brothers were killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough  he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.

And now for the twist.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl  as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.

It was at first reported that he had gone out unarmed to parley with the rebels. It rapidly became clear that another reason for the earl’s death was that the good men of Thirsk who had been loyal to Richard III held the earl partly responsible for their king’s death.  The rebellion was  ultimately suppressed by the Earl of Surrey (the son of the Duke of Norfolk and yet another noble who’d been on the wrong side at Bosworth).  Surrey  took on Northumberland’s lands whilst the newest Henry Percy  was a minor.

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Who was Perkin Warbeck?

 

ch23_WarbekOfficial record, complete with supporting evidence, states that Warbeck was a pretender to the English throne, the son of a customs‘ officer from Tournai in Belgium who was taken up by Yorkists when his resemblance to the younger of the missing princes in the Tower, Richard Duke of York, was noticed during a visit to Ireland.

 

He was the apprentice of Pregent Meno, a Breton merchant and when he arrived in Cork in 1491 his princely looks and manners were spotted whilst modeling the silks that his master was selling.

Perkin’s first stop in Europe in 1491 was at the court of Margaret of Burgundy where the aunt of the princes in the Tower recognized Perkin as her younger nephew. She claimed to recognize him from his knowledge of life in the Royal Household and from birthmarks. Perkin said that he should have been murdered but that the would be killer took pity on him.  Whether she believed that Perkin was Richard is another matter entirely. The ‘diabolic duchess’ as the Tudor chroniclers labeled her offered sanctuary to erstwhile Yorkists and funded a variety of pretenders to the crown. So depending on the version of history you wish to believe she was either an aunt grateful for the return of her lost nephew or a hater of Henry VII grooming young Perkin for the role of a lifetime.

 

Perkin became a royal pain in Henry VII’s neck with a grand tour of Europe including a visit to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor and King James IV of Scotland touting for support.  All of Henry VII’s treaties include a clause whereby the other country agrees not to support Yorkist claimants to the throne.  Perkin’s journey around Europe culminated in a disastrous invasion of England via Ireland when he’d worn out his welcome at the court of James IV of Scotland in 1497.

There was little in the way of a popular uprising.  Warbeck was forced to take sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey and then to surrender.  For a year Henry VII treated Warbeck almost like a guest, although he did have to sleep in Henry’s wardrobe ( a whole room rather than a cupboard)  when the court was travelling and nearly burned to death on one occasion in an accidental fire.

Then in June 1498 Warbeck attempted to escape to claim sanctuary in Sheen.  His freedom didn’t last long.  He was put in the stocks at Westminster and Cheapside.  From there he was sent to the Tower.  Early in 1499 another pretender sprouted and the Spanish refused to send Catherine of Aragon to England until all Yorkist would-be kings were removed from the equation.

Edward, earl of Warwick (son of George duke of Clarence- the one who drowned in a vat of Malmsey) and Warbeck were placed in adjoining rooms.  Their gaoler was an ex-rebel.  Before long both Warbeck and Warwick were plotting to burn down the Tower, to escape abroad and to set Warwick up as a Yorkist king.  Unsurprisingly, they were both found guilty of treason and executed.  Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn whilst Warwick had his head chopped off – a reminder that Warbeck was a common man rather than a prince.

 

So who was Perkin?

There are a number of theories:

  1. Richard, Duke of York Given the existing primary evidence it is unlikely that Perkin was Richard, Duke of York. Ian Arthurson’s text looks at Perkin’s impact upon Henry VII as well as evaluating the evidence.  Having said that there’s sufficient circumstantial evidence not to entirely dismiss the idea out of hand.
  • Elizabeth of York never met with Perkin Warbeck in public. If he was an imposter surely there would have been no risk in this?
  • Warbeck demonstrated such musicality that Henry VII’s court musician was jealous. The real Richard of York was noted for his musical skills as a child.
  • Even Polydore Vergil, Henry VII’s official historian acknowledged that popular rumour said that the princes had been spirited away to a ‘secret land.’
  • Would King James IV of Scotland really have allowed his cousin Katherine Gordon to marry someone he believed to be a pretender or unknown provenance?

 

2.    Perkin Warbeck was the son of a Tournai Customs official

Perkin’s confession of 5th October 1497 confirmed that he was the son of John de Werbecque and his wife, Katherine de Faro. Henry spent rather a lot of time and money finding out every last dreg of information about Warbeck. The existence of the Werbecques can be confirmed in the Tournai archives.

  • Henry himself was never satisfied with the evidence. He kept picking at the information as recorded by the sums of money paid out and recorded in his accounts books.
  • One of the difficulties was that Henry could never find out anything about Perkin’s childhood below the age of nine.
  • Warbeck’s confession was made and recorded with Henry VII in a position of power over Warbeck’s life. Henry needed a ‘feigned lad’ not the rightful heir to the throne.

3.    Historians have hypothesised that Warbeck was the illegitimate son of Edward IV. There is no evidence for this other than the fact that Edward IV had many mistresses and one night stands as well as several illegitimate children including Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle who served as a cupbearer in Elizabeth of York’s household.  This would account for Warbeck’s looks and musical skills.

4.   Other historians have suggested that Warbeck was actually the illegitimate son of Margaret of Burgundy.

A final twist in Perkin’s tale

Warbeck spent time in Portugal in the service of Edward Brampton. Brampton was not an Englishman as the name would suggest but a Portugese Jew called Duarte Brandão who converted to Christianity. He was also a suspected murderer and a loyal supporter of his nominal godfather King Edward IV and then of Richard III. Did Brampton groom him for the role of prince? Or did Brampton secure a safe hiding place for the youngest son of the English king who’d elevated him from fugitive to wealthy man?

Evidence for Warbeck having Plantagenet blood of any description in his veins is lacking.  It is entirely based upon speculation.  Speculation is not history but it is a good story.

Arthurson, Ian. (2009) The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy 1491-1499  Stroud:The History Press

Wroe, Ann. (2003). Perkin A Story of Deception London: Jonathan Cape

 

 

 

 

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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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