Wednesday, 26 November 2014

No one ever bought her husband more dearly

Mary Shelton

Mary Shelton (1550-1603) was a maternal cousin of Queen Elizabeth I, she became a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber to the queen in November 1568, and later in January 1571 a Chamberer of the Privy Chamber. Mary's grandparents, John and Anne (nee Boleyn) Shelton had been governors of Hatfield when Queen Elizabeth was an infant.

Queen Elizabeth had a reputation for her dislike of marriage and her refusal of permission to many of her ladies in waiting for their proposed marriages. This attitude of the queen often led to her ladies, often relatives of the queen, marrying in secret. When the queen discovered these secret marriages and pregnancies of her ladies, they could be punished by having their titles removed, banishment from court and even imprisonment in the Tower. 

John Scudamore

In January 1574 Mary Shelton married in secret to John Scudamore (1542-1623). It is likely that the couple were married by a Catholic priest, due to John's faith. Mary became his second wife after his first wife Eleanor Croft had died in 1569, leaving him to raise their five children; Henry (b.1561), John (b.1567), James (b.1568), Ursula (b.1568) and Alice (b.1569). 
John was a Catholic, which may have contributed to the fact that Queen Elizabeth disapproved of the match between John and Mary. In 1573 John had asked his father-in-law James Croft to speak to the queen and question whether she would permit him to marry Mary Shelton. The queen refused. It was essential that the queen give permission for Mary's marriage as not only was Queen Elizabeth the head of the Boleyn family, but also Mary was her ward due to both of her parents dying within two weeks of each other in 1558. 

It was impossible to hide their marriage from the queen for long, and she found out about it soon after. When the queen found out about their marriage, she was furious and flew into a rage; she hit Mary with a hairbrush which broke one of her fingers. The reason for Mary's broken finger was later blamed on a falling candlestick. Mary was sent away from court, however by October 1574 she was back at court and had been promoted to Lady of the Privy Chamber. 

A maid of honour to the queen, Eleanor Brydges, wrote a letter to Edward Manners, Earl of Rutland which mentioned the aftermath of Mary Shelton's marriage.
"the Queen hath used Mary Shelton very ill for her marriage: she hath dealt liberal both with blows and evil words, and hath not yet granted her consent...no one ever bought her husband more dearly"

Mary remained with Queen Elizabeth until the end of her reign, becoming one of her closest friends and favourite sleeping companions. As a result of this, Mary was hardly away from court and very infrequently managed to visit her husbands estates of Holme Lacy in Hertfordshire. However, due to this position Mary became one of the most influential ladies of Queen Elizabeth's court. Mary outlived her queen by only a few months, dying on the 15th August 1603. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Catherine Willoughby, Queen of Poland

In June 1545 Elisabeth of Austria (b.1526), the first wife of Sigismund Augustus (1520-72), King of Poland, died, and therefore the Polish king was searching for a second bride. King Sigismund sent an ambassador to the English royal court of King Henry VIII a year later in 1546.


Catherine, Duchess of Suffolk by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg
Catherine Willoughby

The Polish ambassador had come to the English court to offer a proposal of marriage to King Henry's eldest daughter Princess Mary. However, King Henry refused this match. The Polish ambassador then turned to the second choice of English bride for King Sigismund, Catherine Willoughby, the Duchess of Suffolk. Catherine's husband Charles Brandon had died in August 1545 and as a woman of only twenty seven years old and having had two sons already, she could be considered an ideal bride for a king needing an heir. 

The match between the King of Poland and Catherine Willoughby did not proceed, whether Catherine refused the idea or the Polish king did not find her to be of high enough status, is unknown. 
King Sigismund married in 1547 in secret to his mistress Barbara Radziwill (1520-51). And later in 1553 he married for a third time to Catherine (1533-72), the younger sister of his first wife Elisabeth.

In 1555 Catherine Willoughby was forced to flee England due to the Catholic rule of Queen Mary I. Catherine and her second husband Richard Bertie (1516-82) were of the Protestant faith and therefore faced persecution if they remained in England. Taking their daughter Susan with them, as well as Catherine being pregnant at that time with their son Peregrine, the couple fled to Protestant mainland Europe. The Berties fled to Germany, however there were warrants for their arrest for heresy from Queen Mary which followed them wherever they went.


A portrait of Sigismund II Augustus, in a black hat with a white feather, a white ruff on his neck, and an ornate gold chain around his neck.
King Sigismund Augustus of Poland

King Sigismund was highly tolerant of religious differences, and managed to maintain a successful balance between the Catholics and Protestants in his kingdom throughout his reign. His second wife Barbara was a Calvinist. 
In 1557 King Sigismund heard about the Berties' situation through Jan Laski, the reformer, and gave the family refuge in his kingdom. In addition to this, he named Catherine regent of the province of Samogitia - modern day Lithuania - which gave the couple rank and status during their exile. Samogitia was a largely Protestant area at this time, and the Berties were given a castle in the county of Crozan to live in. He also granted Richard Bertie the Earldom of Crolan as well as the position of Governor of Samogitia. The Bertie family lived quite contentedly in Samogitia, and the education of Catherine and Richard meant that their rule of the province was successful. The Berties returned to England in 1559 after the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1624 playwright Thomas Drue (1586-1627) wrote a play called 'The Duchess of Suffolk', which incorporated the story of the King of Poland courting Duchess Catherine. The play was a heavily biased and emphasised Catherine's Protestant beliefs as well as her second marriage to Richard Bertie, who had previously been a servant in her household, after being sought out by many noblemen for her hand in marriage. By describing the perils which Catherine survived due to Protestant persecution, having to flee her country, travel through storms and be hunted down across Europe, only served to criticise Catholics and their actions. 

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Barlow Brides of Bishops

William Barlow (1500-68) was the Bishop of Winchester under Queen Elizabeth I.
William was Bishop of St Asaph and St David's in 1536, then in 1548 he became Bishop of Bath and Wells. William Barlow and his family can be seen as key players in promoting the religious changes in England during the Tudor period.

William Barlow was the first Protestant Bishop in England. His elder brother Thomas had been chaplain to Queen Anne Boleyn. A third Barlow brother, John, who was also a chaplain, was also a friend to Queen Anne Boleyn. John was involved in the Great Matter, the divorce of King Henry VIII from his first wife Queen Catharine of Aragon. In 1528, it was John Barlow who discovered evidence that Cardinal Wolsey had betrayed the king whilst in Rome discussing the matter with the Pope. This only strengthened Anne Boleyn's hatred of the Cardinal and aided in his downfall in the following year.

William Barlow was the first English Bishop to marry, before marriage was an option for clergymen in England. By 1553 William had married Agatha Wellesbourne (1505-95), and due to clerical celibacy being a requirement for Catholic bishops, William resigned his bishopric when Queen Mary I succeeded the throne in 1553. He and his family were forced to flee to Germany and Poland for the duration of Queen Mary's reign, and only returned to England after her death in 1558.

Children of William and Agatha's marriage include;

+William Barlow (1544-1625) After attending Oxford University, William took Holy Orders and eventually became Treasurer of Lichfield Cathedral in 1588. In the reign of King James I he became chaplain to the king's son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and later in 1615 he was made Archdeacon of Salisbury. He married a woman called Julia and the couple had six children together. William left university with a keen interest in mathematics, and developed key theories about magnetism.

+John Barlow (d.1634)
+Arthur Barlow (1550-1620)
+Hugh Barlow
+Marmaduke Barlow
+Thomas Barlow (d.1558)

William and Agatha also had five daughters, all of whom went on to marry bishops.

+ Anne (d.1597) m1. Augustin Bradbridge (d.1567)
                           m2. Herbert Westfaling (1531-1602), Bishop of Hereford (1586)
                            + Herbert Westfaling
                            + Anne Westfaling m. William Jeffries
                            + Margaret Westfaling m. Richard Edes, Dean of Worcester
                            + Elizabeth Westfaling m. Robert Walwyn

Herbert Westfaling

+ Elizabeth (1538-75) m. William Day (1529-96), Bishop of Winchester (Nov 1595- Sept 1596)
Children of Elizabeth and William were;
                                      + William Day
                                      + Richard Day
                                      + Thomas Day
                                      + Susan Day m. Mr Cox
                                      + Rachel Day m. Mr Barker
                                      + Alice Day m. Thomas Ridley
                                      + Elizabeth Day

+ Margaret (1533-1601) m. William Overton (1525-1609), Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry (1580)
                                         + Susan Overton m. Thomas Playsted
                                         + Valentine Overton (1565-1646) m. Isabel Higgenson

Tobie (or Tobias) Matthew from NPG.jpg
Tobias Matthew

+ Frances (1551-1629) m1. Matthew Parker (1551-74), son of Archbishop Parker
                                       + Matthew Parker (1575-6)
                                      m2. Tobias Matthew (1546-1628), Bishop of Durham (1595), Archbishop of York (1606)
                                       + Tobie Matthew (1577-1655) MP
                                       + John Matthew (b.1580)
                                       + Samuel (d.1601)
When Tobias was given the post of Dean of Durham in 1583, the couple moved to the north of England so that he could take up the posting, this move did not please Frances and she wished to return to the south as soon as possible. Frances and Tobias fell out with, and later disinherited, their eldest son Tobie due to his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Tobias eventually forgave his son in 1623, however Frances never did. Frances also fell out with her son John, however she raised John's two daughters Frances and Dorcas. Frances had a reputation in Durham for the education of young girls. Frances' pride in her family was reflected in her memorial which read in part that 'a bishop was her father, an archbishop her father-in-law; she had four bishops her brethren and an archbishop her husband'. 

+ Antonia (1552-98) m. William Wickham (1539-95), Bishop of Lincoln (1584), Bishop of Winchester (1595)
William Wickham preached at the funeral of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587.
Children of Antonia and William were;
                                  + Henry Wickham (d.1641), Archdeacon of York
                                  + Thomas Wickham
                                  + Barlow Wickham (d.1617)
                                  + William Wickham (b.1598)
                                  + Frances Wickham m. Thomas Wolriche
                                  + Susan Wickham
                                  + Anne Wickham
                                  + Elizabeth Wickham

Agatha Barlow, nee Wellesbourne, died in 1595. She was extremely proud of her achievement of marrying all of her daughters to bishops. This was reflected in her memorial.

"Barlow's wife, Agatha, doth here remain Bishop, then exile, Bishop again. So long she lived, so well her children sped. She saw five bishops her five daughters wed". - St Mary's, Eaton, Hampshire

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Execution of a Prince

On the 19th March 1330, Edmund, Duke of Kent (b.1301), the youngest son of King Edward I of England was executed for treason.

The crime which Edmund accused of was that he believed his brother King Edward II, who had died in 1327, was in fact still alive. He was described as being part of a plot to rescue Edward II from Corfe Castle in Dorset. It would appear that Edmund had been convinced by someone that his brother was alive and well, and his wife wrote letters to Edward which were intercepted and used as evidence against Edmund. By writing to his brother, Edmund had performed a treasonous act against the current king, his nephew Edward III, through his disloyalty to him in his offer to help his brother to regain his throne.

The Earl and Countess of Kent, Prince Edmund of Woodstock and Margaret Wake, Baroness Wake of Liddel
Edmund and Margaret

On the 14th March the arrest warrant for Edmund's wife Margaret Wake and their children was issued. Margaret and their three children - Edmund (1326-31), Margaret (1327-52) and Joan (1328-85) - were imprisoned at Salisbury Castle with only two maids to attend on them. It was there that Margaret gave birth to the couple's fourth child, John (d.1352), on the 7th April.

On 16th March, Edmund's confession was read out in Parliament. Edmund offered to walk barefoot from Winchester to London with a rope around his neck as punishment for his actions, however this request was denied.

"The will of this court is that you shall lose both life and limb, and that your heirs shall be disinherited for evermore, save the grace of our lord the king".

On the morning of the 19th of March, Edmund was taken to the scaffold wearing only his shirt. The executioner who had been employed for that day had fled and could not be found. The search to find a replacement executioner took several hours as it was proving impossible to find someone willing to execute a royal prince, especially considering the charges brought against him were viewed by many as nothing more than trumped up charges to rid Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer of a political enemy. The offer was made to all prisoners who had been sentenced to death themselves, that if they were to step forward and perform the execution, they would be granted a royal pardon. A latrine cleaner who was awaiting execution stepped forward and offered to execute the prince in exchange for his own life.

It was this execution which led to King Edward III seizing power from his mother Queen Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, a few weeks shy of his coming of age in October 1330. In the Parliament of November 1330 King Edward passed a Bill posthumously pardoning Prince Edmund of all charges. Which indicates that the truth was that the charges had been fabricated and exaggerated to suit Isabella and Roger's aims. King Edward took on the responsibility of the family that Edmund had left behind; the children were raised at the royal court and Edmund's daughter Joan became a favourite of Edward's queen, Philippa of Hainault.

Through his daughter Joan, Edmund was the grandfather to King Richard II, as well as the ancestor to King Henry VII and all subsequent monarchs of England.