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Dr Richard Layton

Visitation_monasteries.jpgI’m still perusing Henry VIII’s letters and papers. One of today’s letters to Cromwell is an eyebrow raiser so I couldn’t resist it. The letter  containing scandalous information about a nun from Syon was written by Richard Layton who has been mentioned many times in this blog but has never had his own post – so I thought that today’s metaphorical advent could be Dr Richard Layton.  This image shows the monastic visitors arriving at a monastery with their cavalcade of out runners or “rufflers” and much fanfare.

Here’s the letter:

Bishop this day preached, and declared the King’s title, to a church full of people. One of the “focares” openly called him false knave: “it was that foolish fellow with the curled head that kneeled in your way when ye came forth of the confessor’s chamber.” Must set him in prison, to deter others. Learnt yesterday many enormous things against Bishop in examining the lay brethren, —that he had persuaded two of them to have gone away by night along with him, but that they lacked money to buy the secular apparel, —that he tried to induce one of them, a smith, to make a key for the door to receive wenches at night, especially a wife of Uxbridge, dwelling not far from the old lady Derby. He also persuaded a nun, to whom he was confessor, ad libidinem corporum perimplendam, and that she would be forgiven if she confessed immediately after each occasion, and was absolved by him. She wrote him many foolish letters, and would have got his brother, the smith, to have pulled a bar of iron out of that window where Cromwell examined the Lady Abbess, and at which they used to commune by night. He got the sexton also to assist him. Intends to make further search this afternoon both of the brethren and of the sisters, and will certify Cromwell tomorrow morning. Most of the brethren are weary of their habit. Such religion and feigned sanctity God save me from!

 

To all intents and purposes Layton presents himself as a loyal subject of the king and a religious reformer.The letter sums up his rather tabloid writing style; his approach to the visitation of the monasteries and his strategy of looking for gossip amongst the lay members of a community. The letter even contains an example of the rather delightful habit of referring to anything carnal in latin in order that messengers carrying his communications to Cromwell might not be tainted with the knowledge of a letter’s contents. In this case the literal translation is “the passion of their bodies fulfilment.”

So who was he? Layton was a Cumbrian descended from the Layton who owned Dalemain at that time.  Dalemain had been in the hands of the Layton family since 1272. It would leave the family in the seventeenth century due to the fact that there were six daughters and no sons.  If you go far enough back up the family tree its possible to find Nevilles  but the Laytons weren’t nobility they would be more correctly defined as gentry. Layton’s mother was a Tunstall – Cuthbert Tunstall, the Bishop of Durham, was his uncle.   He was  born somewhere near the turn of the century. Moorhouse notes that he was supposed to have thirty-two siblings (Moorhouse:27), another one of them became an MP.  It is clear however that with such a large extended family Layton had to look to his own skills for advance.  He was also, somewhat ironically, related to Robert Aske one of the leaders of the Pilgrimage of Grace who rebelled against the dissolution of the monasteries and I think that there’s a priest hole at Dalemain demonstrating that the family weren’t all as keen on reform as Richard.

It would appear that Layton, having finished his education and been received into the priesthood, entered Wolsey’s service.  This was a conventional enough progression in the   Tudor civil  service which still drew on the Church for its clerks at this time.  He appears to have had a number of livings in London including on at the Tower of London but as it required his presence he resigned from it fairly swiftly when better opportunities arose.

He came to the forefront of the changes that were occurring in the 1530s because of his acquaintance with Cromwell.   As the King’s Great Matter became ever more pressing he found himself interrogating the likes of Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher – his education and ordination giving his  questions legitimacy.  Cromwell must have found his old colleague efficient and effective because he sent him along with Thomas Ap Rice to the University of Oxford to undertake an investigation there as well.

The following year, August 1535, he found himself heading up the team of visitors rootling through the monastic houses of England and Wales with a list of pre-prepared questions in hand but always reporting back to Cromwell who arranged their findings into two groups: firstly, the Valor Ecclesiasticus which contained the accounts and lists of relics; secondly, the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which contained all the monastic misdeeds. Layton had a hand in the construction of the questions and also in the injunctions which were issued at each visit.  An example of the latter would be the prohibition on leaving the monastic enclosure.  This prompted many letters to Cromwell complaining about the unreasonableness of the strictures involved.  It should be noted that  Layton was the only ordained cleric on the team of visitors.  Initially there seems from Cromwell’s letters to have been some jockeying for position between Layton and Legh, another visitor.  Both told tales and complained about one another but generally speaking Layton emerges in history as Cromwell’s chief visitor.

Layton gathered confidence with each foundation he visited.  His task was to inspect the accounts, uncover any poor practice from failure to obey the rule of St Benedict to encouraging superstitious practices as well as administering the oath of supremacy.  He seems particularly good at sniffing out scandal amongst the monks and nuns of the places he visited – much of it with a tabloid quality!  The letter above is a case in point – it reads like a particularly bad bodice ripper; although interestingly he did sometimes note a blameless monastic foundation.  Bristol and Durham received a clean bill of health from Layton. Having said that it is worth remembering  that Layton  was related to Cuthbert Tunstall who as bishop was also the titular abbot. Having finished visiting the southern monasteries, narrowly avoiding being burned in his bed whilst visiting Canterbury, he volunteered to visit the northern monasteries – it was after all a lucrative task. He set off just before Christmas 1535. As a consequence of his dependence on Cromwell for advancement his letters are often toadying and nearly always full of tales of naughty nuns and monks.

Layton managed to make himself so disliked that he together with Thomas Cromwell and  Legh are identified in the list of the pilgrims grievances in 1536 with a request that these “wicked” advisers be punished.  Not that this had any effect! As the monasteries closed it was Layton who journeyed around the country accepting the surrender of many of the monasteries that he’d inspected earlier.  It is impossible to know how many bribes he took for recommending former monks to new posts.

Layton became rector of Harrow-on-the-Hill and rather lucratively in the north he was appointed Dean in York on 23 July 1539.  He helped himself to rather a lot of York’s plate and pawned it for his own benefit. This only surfaced after his death when the deanery were forced to redeem the items in question.

By now he had a reputation as a ‘can do’ man so he found himself on the team  investigating the validity of Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves. He’d already had a role at Anne Boleyn’s trial.  In short his career follows the path of many Tudor administrators but it was through his work on the monasteries that he attained notoriety.

His career as a diplomat began to extend in the period that followed. He became English Ambassador in the Court of the Netherlands. He was with the Queen of Hungary in March 1544 dealing with safe conduct passes.   We know this because he receives a mention in one of her letters to Chapuys. It is from the Spanish archives that we can learn about his illness and his death. He died in June 1544 in Brussels.

For those of you who are a little Henried out I will try to find something less Tudor tomorrow.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 318-340. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol9/pp318-340 [accessed 6 December 2016].

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/layton-william-1514-5152

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Henry VIII’s middle way for the Church of England

henryharpHenry VIII was nothing if not even minded.  He executed fifty people for not renouncing the pope – thereby becoming traitors to the king and he executed another forty for their heretical leanings between 1533 when he assumed control of the Church in England and his death in 1547.

On the 30 July 1540, just two days after Thomas Cromwell was executed, Smithfield witnessed Henry’s bizarre not to mention gruesome relies tightrope act.  Six people were executed.  Three of them, Richard Fetherstone, Thomas Abel and Edward Powell, were condemned as papists. Their crime was their failure to deny the pope. They were hanged drawn and quartered as traitors whilst the other three to die that day were burned as heretics.

Robert Barnes, a Norfolk man, was educated at Cambridge and like Lambert began life as a Catholic.  But like Lambert he was drawn to protestantism very early in his career. He was imprisoned by Wolsey but undeterred he used his incarceration as an opportunity to give out Bibles written in English.  Very sensibly he decamped to Antwerp as soon as possible where he made the acquaintance of one of Cromwell’s agents.  Interestingly he returned to England in 1531 where he became an agent employed by the Crown liaising with Lutheran Germany.  He had, after all, met Luther during his travels.  He was part of the delegation which went to Germany in 1535 to find out how the Lutherans viewed Henry VIII’s intended divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  He returned as part of Cromwell’s team negotiating for the match between Henry and Anne of Cleves.

This disastrous union would hasten Thomas Cromwell’s demise but the lines were already drawn up for a contest between Cromwell who was seen as leaning towards reform and the old guard of catholicism in the persons of the duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner. One of the early signs of this conflict was when Barnes preached against Gardiner from the cross at St Paul’s. He was made to apologise and briefly stopped being Lutheran but then Cromwell was made earl of Essex and it looked to Barnes to be service as usual so he reverted to beliefs that exceeded the dictates of the Ten Articles.

Except of course Cromwell was on his way out and without the Vicar General’s protection it wasn’t long before Barnes was turned into a rather dreadful example.

William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard were executed on the same heresy charges. Jerome, another one of Cromwell’s proteges, had also preached at St Paul’s but the subject of his sermon had been that magistrates had the power to make make what was indifferent not indifferent – make of that what you will!  Gardiner added it up to identify the fact that Jerome was advising people to adhere to the king through their outward behaviour only and think what they want in private – which probably didn’t go down terribly well with Henry.  Even worse Jerome preached justification through faith alone which essentially chopped out the need for the priesthood and the Church.  Bernard considers whether this was the sort of behaviour that hastened Cromwell’s end due to his men spouting heresy pointing towards dodgy radical leanings of the master who protected them.  Certainly it may have been one of the  threads which broke Cromwell’s increasingly tenuous hold on power.

Equally it should be pointed out that whilst this interpretation is fine if you subscribe to the theory that catholicism was on the rise thanks to the duke of Norfolk dangling his pretty little niece Katherine Howard under Henry’s nose. It fails to take account of the fact that while the protestants burned, three catholics were hanged.

 

Foxe noted that confused and ignorant people wouldn’t know what to make of the opposing sides suffering equally on the same day.  The french ambassador expressed similar bewilderment.  They have a point but Bernard states that academics have missed the key issue ever since – that Henry was doing what Henry wanted. After all, Henry saw himself as an Old Testament kind of king with a hotline to The Almighty. It was Henry’s Church and his was the only way…if you didn’t want to end up in Smithfield.

 

Bernard, G.W. (2007) The King’s Reformation. London and Harvard: Yale University Press

Wilson, Derek. (2012) The English Reformation. London: Running Press

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Reginald Pole – White Rose and Cardinal

reginald pole.jpgThe Pole family descended from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (the daughter of the duke of Clarence who was allegedly executed in a vat of malmsey and Isobel Neville – elder daughter of the earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker). She had four sons; Henry (Lord Montagu), Arthur, Reginald and Geoffrey.    There was also a daughter called Ursula. Had Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth and remained childless and Margaret’s brother the young earl of Warwick been deemed unfit to rule then his heirs would have been the Poles.

 

Young Reginald was born in about 1500.  He was educated by the Carthusians in Sheen and from there studied at the universities of Oxford and Padua and from there to Paris; all at the expense of his royal cousin King Henry VIII.  There is a note in Henry’s accounts describing him as “Mr Pole, the king’s scholar.”

In the summer of 1530 he became caught up in the King’s Great Matter.  In addition to using the Leviticus 20:21 and checking with Jewish communities in Europe as to their interpretation of the Old Testament in order to undermine Catherine of Aragon’s countering Deuteronomy argument, Henry also sent messengers  to the great university to elicit their opinions on the matter.  On May 1 Henry asked the University of Paris for an opinion and made Reginald his “dearest relative” the chief correspondent on the matter.

Reginald seems initially to have backed his cousin.  His letters record that Paris found in Henry’s favour but that the other faction were looking for a counter-opinion. (Bernard: 214).  By the end of the year, however, Reginald appears to have been having second thoughts. It was perhaps his concern over the divorce that led him to turn down Henry’s offer of the archbishopric of York following Wolsey’s demise.  Henry must have thought that Reginald would be in favour of the divorce to offer him the post.  He needed as many bishops on his side as possible. Henry offered the post to Reginald for a second time and saw him in person to discuss the matter.  Apparently the sight of Henry was enough to convince Pole that he couldn’t go agains this own heart on the matter.  He even sent a lengthy apology on the subject which no longer exists.  In it he warned of the dispute that might arise if Princess Mary was disinherited and reminded Henry of the Wars of the Roses – which was perhaps not an entirely sensible thing to do as it reminded Henry about who had the Plantagenet blood flowing through their veins and who might have been monarchs in other circumstances.

 

In January 1532 Pole went off to Europe to continue with his academic studies and to keep a low profile which he did until 1535 when Henry demanded that he wanted Reginald’s opinion on the subject of Henry’s supremacy, the divorce and the break with Rome.  Henry  helpfully sent him some books on the subject. By the time Henry had his answer Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher were dead as were the Carthusian monks of the Charter House in Sheen who’d taught him as a boy.  Reginald described Henry as a ‘wild beast’; being like a dirty barrel and incestuous (perhaps a reaction to the fact that Henry had an affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary).  It was perhaps not a response designed to win friends and influence people nor was it a very private response as it was soon published all over Europe; later Reginald would claim that it was without his consent.

Henry politely suggested that Reginald return home for a face to face discussion.

By now Pope Paul III was in charge and he suggested that perhaps Reginald’s welcome would be rather too warm if he set foot on English shores.  It can’t have helped that the Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, had suggested that perhaps Reginald might be able to marry the Princess Mary and take the crown from Henry in 1534. The small matter of Pole’s religious orders seems not to have worried the ambassador unduly (though Pole didn’t celebrate his first mass until Queen Mary was on the throne). Chapuys had already told the Pole family to keep Reginald in Europe rather than at home where he’d most likely have ended up in the Tower at the very least.

On 22nd of December 1536 Reginald was made a cardinal having made a name for himself in Rome where his humanist education leant itself to the reform of the Catholic Church from within.  To add insult to Henry VIII’s injury Reginald was made papal legate of England in February 1537.

Reginald’s actions reminded Henry that there was such a thing as a ‘white rose faction’.  The Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 was ultimately used to round up Reginald’s mother and brothers following the Exeter Conspiracy.  It hadn’t helped Lord Montagu that he’d sent a letter to Reginald berating him for the contents of his book on the subject of Henry’s supremacy and the break from Rome. The poor man must have squirmed horribly when Thomas Cromwell turned up to visit him especially to read chunks of his brother’s rebuttal of Henry’s actions.  Even the Countess of Salisbury had written to Reginald demanding that he come home and face the music.  Both these letters had been seen by the King’s council before they were sent to Reginald (Seward: 295).  By 1539 Geoffrey was in the Tower and he in his turned implicated the rest of his family. He, his brother and his mother would be executed.

Reginald, in Europe, found himself facing assassination attempts that would continue throughout Henry’s life was increasingly disturbed by the extent to which the Church in England faced destruction.  Ultimately he sought the help of Francis I of France and also Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, arguing that Henry was worse than the Turkish threat.  Charles chose not to invade England and Reginald’s name found its way onto a bill of attainder in 1539. Henry VIII had come to hate his Plantagenet cousin. For Englishmen who didn’t want to lose their catholicism he became an alternative to the Tudors.

 

It was only when Henry VIII’s daughter Mary took the throne after the brief reigns of her half brother Edward VI and the nine days queen Lady Jane Grey that Pole returned to England after a long career as a papal diplomat.  He’d even been suggested as pope.  Mary wrote to her cousin asking for spiritual guidance, his attainder was reversed and despite a lack of concord with Mary’s spouse Philip II of Spain he stepped foot on English soil once more at Dover in 1554.  The country was Catholic once more.  He sought now to heal the breach with Rome – notable amongst the victims of Mary’s determination to wipe Protestantism from English thoughts included the burning of Thomas Cranmer who Pole replaced as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Reginald Pole died on the 17th November 1558 on the same day as Queen Mary.  Their plan to return England and Wales to Catholicism bound to fail as Protestant Princess Elizabeth was now hailed Queen Elizabeth I.

The portrait of Pole pictured at the start of this post may be found at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, in Derbyshire.

Bernard, G.W. (2005) The King’s Reformation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

Seward, Desmond. (2010)  The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors. London: Constable

 

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Sir Henry Savile V Sir Richard Tempest

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

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

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

 

However, things were about to get even nastier.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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George Cavendish – eyewitness account of Anne Boleyn’s romance and wrath

00cavenish.jpgGeorge Cavendish was born in Suffolk in about 1497 and yes, he was related to the Cavendish family who became the Dukes of Devonshire and Newcastle. His brother, William, was the Cavendish who married Bess of Hardwick. And if you want further proof that everyone was related to everyone else in Tudor times then bear in mind that George’s wife was Sir Thomas More’s niece.

 

I’m looking at George today because he wrote about Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry Percy. Both he, William and Percy were part of Cardinal Wolsey’s household, so you could say that Cavendish had a ringside seat as events unfolded. Cavendish stayed with Wolsey until his death, in disgrace, in 1530. It was he who served Wolsey his last meal of baked pears in Leicester. He then had an uncomfortable conversation with Henry VIII about Wolsey’s last words – uncomfortable in more ways than one as Harry kept Cavendish on his knees for more than an hour.

 

George retired to Suffolk following Wolsey’s death despite being offered a job as one of Henry’s ushers. He went home to his wife and family from whom even Wolsey conceded he’d been separated for too long on account of loyal service.  He took the opportunity to write a biography of the Cardinal having made notes of events and anecdotes down the years of his service to Henry’s right hand man so it is not surprising that the ‘gorgeous young lady’ who turned Wolsey’s power on its head should feature between the pages. Cavendish claims that Anne was motivated by hatred for Wolsey and a desire for revenge when the prelate scuppered her plans to marry Henry Percy in 1522 on the orders of Henry VIII.

 

Cavendish writes of the romance;

Lord Percy would then resort for his pastime into the Queen’s maidens, being at the last more conversant with Mistress Anne Boleyn than with any other; so that there grew such a secret love between them that at length they were insured together, intending to marry.

 

Cavendish went on to describe the couple being separated and clearly believed that Henry had his eye on Anne from an early time but more modern writers think that Wolsey didn’t think that Anne Boleyn was a suitable match for the earl of Northumberland. Percy’s marriage needed to be about land, power and money not love. It can’t have helped that Anne was packed off home in disgrace and that Percy rarely came to court after that nor was his marriage to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter a very happy one. Cavendish also reports that Wolsey believed that it was Anne who turned Henry against him. He called her a ‘night crow.’

 

Clearly it would have not been wise to make any criticisms of Henry VIII during the monarch’s life time so Cavendish only made his writing available during the reign of Queen Mary. The text wasn’t published until 1641 but it is thought that Shakespeare had access to the manuscript.

Cavendish’s biography of Wolsey is still in print and is also available on the Internet at https://archive.org/stream/TheLifeAndDeathOfCardinalWosley/cavendish_george_1500_1561_life_and_death_of_cardinal_wolsey#page/n3/mode/2up.  Click on the link to open up a new page to find out about the ‘honest poor man’s son’ who became a cardinal, the day that Thomas Cromwell shed tears, the duke of Norfolk threatening to rend Wolsey with his teeth and the prophecy of the dun cow.

george cavendish.jpg

An illustration from Cavendish’s manuscript showing part of the cardinal;’s procession.

 

 

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The Dissolution of the Monasteries – a timeline

adamlandscape

1526-1529

Cardinal Wolsey suppressed 29 monasteries with the permission of the Pope to fund Ipswich College and Cardinal College in Oxford which became King Henry VIII college and then Christchurch College. It was founded in the grounds of one of the suppressed monasteries (St Frideswide’s). The monastic foundations Wolsey suppressed totaled an income of £1800 and were generally very small.

1529

October 9: Cardinal Wolsey falls from power due to his failure to secure a divorce for his master from Katherine of Aragon. He is arrested on a charge of praemunire.  Praemunire involves taking orders from foreign powers rather than the king.  Being a cardinal means that it was inevitable that Wolsey could face this charge.

1530

January: Wolsey falls ill and is attended by Henry’s doctor.  Wolsey does not give up hope of being reinstated to Henry’s favour.

November 4: Wolsey is arrested.  He cannot help dabbling in politics and has sent some injudicious letters to Rome.  Thomas Cromwell speaks on Wolsey’s behalf in Parliament.

November 29: Cardinal Wolsey dies in Leicester on his way back to London from York. Edward Hall hints at suicide in his account of Wolsey’s last days but it was most likely a bowel infection. He was certainly on his way back to the Tower and execution.

1532

January 15: Commons Supplication Against the Ordinaries also known as the Submission of the Clergy.

What this means is that the king and his ministers are now able to review all Church, or canon, law. They could prevent the enforcement of any canon law they wished and they could veto the passage of any new Church law if they were so disposed.   Sir Thomas More resigns from the Chancellorship as a consequence of the passage of this act.

 

Act Restraining Payments of Annates – An annate was a tax levied on newly appointed clergy and payable to the pope (usually half or a whole year’s income – annates are also known as first fruits).  Parliament withholds the payments of annates from Rome but gives Henry the option of allowing them to continue.  This is effectively a form of blackmail in an attempt to get Henry his divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  The act also states that the Pope cannot delay consecration of bishops or excommunicate Englishmen in retaliation for the withholding of the annates.

 

Augustinan Canons of Holy Trinity, Christchurch in London surrender to the king because they are overwhelmed by debt. An Act of Parliament recognises the Crown as Holy Trinity’s founder which means that no one else has any claim to the land or property that has been surrendered to the king.

1533

March: Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532. This act was somewhat confusingly passed in 1533.It means that the highest authority legally speaking in England is the King because Parliament doesn’t recognise any higher authority. “This realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same.” Katherine of Aragon can no longer make an appeal to Rome against an English court’s decision.

1534

This year is a busy year for Parliament.

  • The Act of Dispensations –  All payments to Rome are now stopped. Licenses and dispensations previously attainable through the Church are now being administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • An act is passed which Monks forbidden to travel outside the country on official business
  • Act for the Submission of the Clergy, 1534
  • Act in Absolute Restraint of Annates. Payment of all annates to Rome are now forbidden and Engishmen are forbidden to obtain papal bulls for the consecration of bishops. Instead, the King nominates and Archbishop consecrates bishops. In some respects England has always been an anomaly in this regard. The Crowns right to nominate archbishops was one of the reasons Henry II fell out with Thomas Becket.
  • The Act of First Fruits and Tenths. First fruits is another name for the first year’s income from a benefice.  Every year thereafter the tax was a tenth of the incumbent’s income.  This is still collected but now it makes its way into the King’s coffers rather than to Rome.
  • The First Succession Act – Succession is vested in heirs of Henry and Anne (Princess Elizabeth and hopefully a male heir).  This is the act which bastardises Princess Mary.
  • Act of Supremacy King Henry VIII is declared to be Supreme Head of the English Church.
  • Treason Act
  • Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome – which deals with a loop hole that the other acts haven’t covered.

1535

January: Cromwell is made Viceregerant.  He orders a national visitation of all monastic houses.  This leads to the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which lists all monastic transgressions.  Monastic transgressions are also enumerated in the letters that Cromwell’s visitors sent to him and in the various acts of parliament that followed.  The other text, the Valor Ecclesiasticus  identifies the worth of the monastic houses– 80% of monastic houses are registered in the Valor. Half the monasteries had less than £200 p.a. The net annual income of the Church is valued at £320,000. The king only receives £40,000.

 

September 18: In Yorkshire in 1534 and 1535 Archbishop Lee of York, who signed the Act of Supremacy and who is keen on the Bible in English begins to make a visitation of the monasteries in his diocese. His visitation is eventually halted on this day on the orders of Cromwell. He visited 8 Yorkshire foundations of which 5 were nunneries.

1536

March: Act of Suppression of the Smaller Monasteries – All monastic houses with fewer than 12 monks or nuns or less than £200 p.a. are suppressed on the grounds that these establishments were centres of “manifest sin, vicious, carnal and abominable living.”

Many abbeys had already been coerced into surrendering during the visitation of 1535 but now the smaller abbeys of England were forced to close. Their number includes:

Abbey Dore- Hereford and Worcester;  Beeliegh, St Botolph (Colchester), Little Dunmow, Prittlewell and Tilty in Essex; Birkenhead, Jarrow and Monkwearmouth; Bisham and Hurley in Berkshire; Blyth and Rufford in Nottinghamshire; Bourne and Tupholme in Lincolnshire; Boxgrove, Easebourne, Michelham and Shulbred in Sussex; Brinkburn in Northumberland; Broomholm, Horsham, Ingham and Langley in Norfolk; Bungay and Sibton in Suffolk; Bushmead in Bedford, Canons Ashby in Northampton; Cartmel in modern Cumbria but I think Tudor Lancashire; Chirbury in Shropshire; Coverham and Nun Monkton in Yorkshire; Dorchester in Oxfordshire; St Radegund’s in Dover, Minster-in-Sheppey and Monks Horton in Kent; Upholland in Lancashire; Exeter St Nicholas and Frithelstock in Devon; St Oswald’s in Gloucester; Maxstoke, Pinley and Stoneleigh in Warwick; Mottisfont in Hampshire; Norton in Cheshire; Owston in Leicestershire; Quarr on the Isle of Wight; Waverley in Surrey.

In Wales the following abbeys were suppressed:  Cwmhir,Beddgelert, Caldy, Chepstow,Haverfordwest,Llantarnam,Margam,Penmon, Pill, Talley and Usk.

 

The Court of Augmentations is set up to take control of the confiscated property and monastic loot. This covers the sale of everything from the lead on the roof to the floor tiles as well as the collection of holy relics and sale of all the plate and any other valuables.

October 3: Pilgrimage of Grace begins in Lincolnshire. It is led by Robert Aske. The Pilgrims march under the banner of the five wounds of Christ.  They wish for a return of the monasteries and of Catholicism.  They’re not terribly impressed by the rent hikes made by some of the new landowners who have taken over the suppressed monasteries.  Cromwell and other ‘bad advisors’ are blamed for Henry’s policies.

October 9: The Pilgrimage spreads to the East Riding of Yorkshire and by the end of the week it has crossed the Pennines. Unrest sprouts in Westmorland and Cumberland.

October 12: Sawley Abbey  which was suppressed in the spring of 1536 is restored.

December: Duke of Norfolk partially accepted the demands of the rebels including the promise of a parliament in York – pardon given providing there was no more rebellion.

1537

January 16 Sir Francis Bigod leads new uprising which effectively nullifies the terms of Norfolk’s December agreement. In total about 200 men executed including Robert Aske who has taken no part in the 1537 uprising.

March: Abbot Paslew and two of his monks are executed at the gates of Wally Abbey for their part in the Pilgrimage of Grace following trial at Lancaster.  The remaining 13 monks are kicked out of their home with no pension as Walley is forcibly suppressed.

April 9: Furness Abbey surrenders.

Easby Abbey near Richmond is suppressed.  It had 18 monks including the abbot. Jervaulx is also suppressed.  Their abbot, having been involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace, is hauled off to London where he is executed at Tyburn.  In Cumberland, Lanercost Priory surrenders.

1538

Jan-Sept: 38 large monasteries voluntarily surrender.

Visitation of the friaries now begins but it is discovered that many friars have already taken themselves abroad.

November 21: Monk Bretton Priory  in South Yorkshire surrenders. Some of the monks band together, buy 148 books from the library and continue to live a communal life at Worsborough.  They were still a community in 1558.

November 30: Byland Abbey surrenders.

1539

An act of Parliament hands all the monastic land already surrendered or suppressed into the hands of the Crown.

November 22: Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds surrenders. There are 31 monks.

December 14: Whitby Abbey surrenders.

December 24: Guisborough Priory signs the deed of surrender. Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire surrenders on the same day.

Fountains Abbey also surrenders in 1539.  It is pictured at the start of this post. Double click on it for an outline history of Fountains Abbey.

1540

January 5: Egglestone Abbey near Barnard Castle is dissolved.

January 6: Henry marries Anne of Cleves

January 9: Carlisle Priory surrenders.  The cathedral will be reconstituted in May 1541 along with Chester Cathedral.

January 29: Bolton Abbey surrenders.  In addition to the prior there are 14 canons.  The church becomes the parish church.

March 23: Waltham Abbey surrenders.  It is the last monastery in England.

April 3: Guisborough Priory is formally dissolved.

June 10: Thomas Cromwell arrested at a council meeting.

July 28: Cromwell executed.

 

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Archbishop Wareham

Hans_Holbein_d._J._066William Wareham left Oxford in 1488 to follow a career in the ecclesiastical courts. His reputation was such that he was soon being sent abroad on diplomatic missions. In 1502 he became Bishop of London, then in 1503 he became Archbishop of Canterbury. The following year Henry VII made Wareham his chancellor.

 

In his capacity of Archbishop of Canterbury he crown Henry VIII and his new bride Katherine of Aragon. Initially he maintained his role of king’s advisor but Henry became increasingly reliant upon Wolsey who received his cardinal’s hat from Wareham in 1515. That same year Wareham resigned in part because he disagreed with Henry VIII’s anti-French policy but in 1520 he was part of the Field of Cloth of Gold where Henry and Francis I of France declared undying friendship.

 

Wareham was loyal to Henry even though he didn’t always agree with him. At the time of the King’s Great Matter in 1527 it was Wareham who was appointed to represent Katherine, which was not particularly helpful to the queen as he refused to give her any advice based on the principal that the king’s wishes should not be opposed. In fact he signed a petition to the Pope Clement VII requesting that the divorce should be granted. It was even suggested that as Archbishop of Canterbury he should try the case but fortunately for him this idea fizzled out. He was doing his best to maintain the Church in the face of Henry’s growing hostility towards it and the Pope.

 

In 1531 he was in charge of the Convocation that handed £100,000 over to Henry in order to avoid the charge of praemunire (obeying a foreign authority). He also accepted Henry VIII as the supreme head of the church with the caveat that allowed most men to accept the oath “so far as the law of Christ allows.” Perhaps he realised that Henry would never be satisfied and tried to pursue the rights of the Church but it was too late – he was old and tired. He died on 22 August 1532.

 

The painting of Wareham is after the style of Hans Holbein – a sketch of Wareham’s head by Holbein is in the Royal Collection which was executed (okay perhaps not a good word to use in the context of anyone alive during the reign of Henry VIII) during Holbein’s first visit to England in 1526-28.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The last abbot

Glastonbury AbbeyGlastonbury Abbey was the richest abbey in Somerset. Pilgrims came to see the graves of King Arthur and Guinevere and to hear the story of the Holy Grail, Joseph of Arimathea and the Glastonbury thorn. So, the Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, didn’t initially have anything to fear when Cromwell started the process of dissolving the minor monasteries. Gradually the reformation gathered pace and the elderly abbot must have prayed for guidance.  In 1537 monks, implicated in the Pilgrimage of Grace, were executed – amongst their number the Abbots of Sawley, Jervaulx and of Fountains.

Two years later on 15 November 1539 the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, an old man in his seventies, followed his brothers when he lost his life on Tor Hill following two trials and having spent some time in the Tower of London.

 

Richard Whiting had been a young man when the Tudors came to power.  He’d been a student in Cambridge at the time of the Battle of Bosworth and was ordained at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Wolsey nominated him when the position of abbot fell vacant noting his upright character. John Leland, Whiting’s friend, described him as “truly upright”.

His life might have passed peacefully had it not been for Henry VIII’s desire for a son and his determination to divorce Catherine of Aragon. Unlike Sir Thomas More, Whiting signed the 1534 Act of Supremacy along with the monks of Glastonbury. The following year Cromwell sent his commissioners around every monastic house in the country. The Valor Ecclesiasticus was an inventory of monastic wealth as well as a monastic fault-finding tour. At Glastonbury the monks were kept upon the straight and narrow by their abbot – the commissioner Richard Layton found nothing to fault (he apologised to Cromwell for his error in a later letter.)

 

In 1539 the act was passed suppressing all the remaining monasteries in the country by then Glastonbury was the last remaining abbey in Somerset.  The National Archives houses a positive flurry of letters sent from the abbot and his supporters to Cromwell.  Ink, paper, fair words – none of them mattered a jot.  Cromwell had plans for Glastonbury.   The commissioners returned. They found a copy of the life of Thomas Becket and a book in support of Catherine of Aragon in the abbot’s quarters. It was enough to send him to the Tower.

 

While the elderly abbot languished in a dungeon, Cromwell’s men got to work. They uncovered financial irregularities and further evidence of Whiting’s treasonable opinions – which have conveniently been lost in the following centuries. Letters to Cromwell quoted in the Victoria County History of Somerset reported that three hundred pounds of cash was uncovered along with a gold chalice and parcels of plate which the “we think he ought to make his hand by this untruth to his King’s Majesty.” Their discovery would see the abbey’s treasurer share his abbot’s fate.

Whiting was tried in London, on evidence that was never made public, and found guilty. Then he was shipped back to Wells where he was tried for a second time in the Palace of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. His judges included men who had, in former times, written on his behalf to Cromwell. It was a show trial with a catalogue of people coming forward to testify against him. The abbot was not permitted to defend himself or question his accusers.

 

It was a show execution as well. The elderly man, nearly eighty by some reckoning, was forced to walk barefoot from Wells to Glastonbury – a distance of some seven miles. He was then tied to a hurdle and dragged through the town, by the gateway of his abbey and up onto the tor where a gibbet awaited him and two other of his brothers. They each faced a traitor’s death. Whiting’s head ended on a spike looking out over his own gateway.

 

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