Friday, 23 August 2013

The illegitimate Plantagenet granddaughters

King Edward IV of England had several illegitimate children, including Arthur Plantagenet (1461-1542), future Lord Lisle, by Lady Elizabeth Lucy/Wayte. His royal blood meant that he was the last Plantagenet male of direct male descent.

Arthur Plantagenet
Being the recognised son of King Edward, Arthur spent his childhood at the royal court until his father's death. In 1501 he returned to court in the household of his half-sister Queen Elizabeth, and then the household of her husband King Henry VII in 1503 when she died.
Arthur was then the uncle of the new king Henry VIII and the two shared a close relationship, and as a result he held several important positions; Arthur was made an Esquire of the King's Bodyguard in 1509, High Sheriff of Hampshire in 1514 and later Vice-Admiral of England. In 1520 Arthur attended his uncle at the Field of Cloth of Gold. In 1523 Arthur was made Viscount Lisle on account of his wife inheriting the title, as well being elected as a Privy Councillor, Governor of Calais and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
In 1540 several members of the Plantagenet household were arrested on suspicion of treason; Arthur was sent to the Tower despite no evidence against him and was held there for two years. Upon hearing the news of his release, Arthur suffered a heart attack and died two days later.

Arthur Plantagenet married as his first wife Elizabeth Grey (d.1529) on the 12th November 1511. She was the widow of Edmund Dudley. Arthur and Elizabeth had three daughters:

1) Frances Plantagenet b. 1513
    m.(1) John Bassett (her stepbrother), Sheriff of Cornwall (1518-41) 1538
Children of Frances and John;
         + Honor Bassett 1539
         + Arthur Bassett 1541-86 m. Eleanor Chichester
Frances was named in honour of her father's new position in France.
Frances and John's son Arthur had a son Robert (1573-1641) who used his Plantagenet ancestry to make his claim for the throne of England upon the death of Queen Elizabeth; for this action he was forced to pay a heavy fine which meant selling over thirty family properties.
In 1540 when many of the Lisle family were arrested, Frances and John Basset went to England.
    m. (2) Sir Thomas Monk (1515-83)
Thomas Monk was a Devonshire man descended from a family which had existed since the 12th century.
Children of Frances and Thomas;
         + Anthony Monk m. Mary Arscott
         + Francis Monk
         + John Monk m. Miss Bold
         + Mary Monk 1548 m. John Arscott
         + Catherine Monk m. Jerome Mee
         + Margaret Monk m. Hugh Ackland

2) Elizabeth Plantagenet b.1516 d.1569
    m. Francis Jobson (1509-73) 1536
Francis had been secretary to John Dudley and tutor to his children, and it was Dudley who had arranged the marriage between Jobson and his sister Elizabeth;
"I was married to my wife at the request of the duke, he promising that he would help me to a manor that my Lord Windsor had in Staffordshire; being disappointed of the said manor he borrowed a good part of my money". 
Jobson received several large land grants from the Dudley family. In 1553 he was elected as Member of Parliament for Colchester, however later in the year during the succession crisis, due to his Dudley connection he was comitted to the Tower between the 8th August and 22nd December. In 1564 he was chosen to become Lieutenant of the Tower.
Children of Elizabeth and Francis:
         + John Jobson  1548 m.Elizabeth Pexall
         + Edward Jobson m1. Mary Markaunt m2. Mary Bode
         + Thomas Jobson (d.1606) m. Mary Witham
         + Henry Jobson
         + Mary Jobson m. Tony Bald
         + Matthew Jobson
Elizabeth was named by her parents after her father's half sister, Elizabeth the Queen.
From 1533 Elizabeth went to live in the Dudley household of her half brother John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. In 1534 there were negotiations for her to marry Thomas Lovell (d.1567) but these came to nothing. In 1569 Elizabeth was living with her husband in apartments in the Tower of London where he worked, when she fell so ill that her nephew Robert Dudley and the Queen herself sent a physician to Elizabeth who said that she would not live longer than four days more. Displeased with this diagnosis, Queen Elizabeth sent another physician, Burchard Kranich, to examine her; he could not cure her illness but treated her so that she lived 'nine or ten days beyond the physician's resolution, and she was in as good reason and memory to read or write or speak her mind in anything as ever she could do in her life...died, her book in her hands, and was reading.'

3) Bridget Plantagenet b. 1525
    m. Sir William Carden (1524-59)
William was a gentleman knight with lands in the county of Kent and stood as a Member of Parliament for Hythe in Kent in April 1554. William represented the town of Hythe at the Brotherhood of Cinque Ports several times from 1547. William and his brother Thomas were at one time put into Canterbury gaol under suspicion of the murder of their cousin, another William Carden, who was later found alive and the two were released.
The couple were married before October 1550 as in this month they leased a brewhouse together from Bridget's step-brother John Dudley. There were no known children of this marriage.
Bridget was named by her parents after her father's half-sister Bridget of York.
Despite her increasing age, Bridget was continuously referred to as 'Little Mistress Bridget'.
In July 1533 Bridget was placed in the care of Dame Elizabeth Shelley, the Abbess of St Mary's in Winchester, and stayed there to receive an education until at least 1538 as she was recorded as being one of the twenty six children present during the 1536 visitations as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. She was the first child listed as she was their most important pupil;
"Bridget Plantagenet, daughter unto the Lord Viscount Lisle".
However, in September of 1538 the Abbess wrote to Bridget's stepmother that;
"I allowed your daughter Mistress Bryggett to Sir Antony Windsor's to sport her for a week. And because she was out of apparel, that Master Windsor might see her, I was the better content to let her go; and since that time she came no more at Winchester, wherein I beseech your ladyship think no unkindness in me for my light sending of her; for if I had not esteemed her to have come again, she should not have comen there at that time".
It appears that Bridget was outwardly neglected by her family members as well as by delegated guardians, as in 1538 Bridget went to stay with Sir Anthony Windsor, where he took her into his own house to feed her and give her new clothes to wear.
In a letter dated November 28th 1538 from Arthur to his wife Honor, a postscript was added by Arthur which reads;
"No man would gladlier have his wife's company. I am sorry that ye will bring my danghter Bridget with you." 
A month later in December, she was returned to Calais with her step mother Lady Lisle. Instead of being placed into another household for her education and introduction into the nobility, Bridget was sent away to a convent and saw little of her parents and other family members during her childhood, it would seem that she was conveniently disposed of instead of being educated during these years. It is possible that the family hoped she would become a nun in the convent she was educated and so would be taken care of.
In 1540 when many member of the Lisle family and household were arrested, as there was 'no matter laid' against Bridget, she remained in Calais 'until we know the king's pleasure what shall be done for the keeping of her'; indicating she was still unmarried and of an age that required a guardian.
In March 1559 a licence relating to alienating land was granted to Bridget and her sister Elizabeth, in this document Bridget is described as a widow and therefore we can assume that William Carden has died by this time. In November 1560 there was another, similar document made dealing with the same properties, and in this Bridget's name does not appear and therefore she can be assumed to have already died.

After his wife Elizabeth's death, Arthur Plantagenet married a second time in 1529 to Honor Grenville (1493-1566). The couple had no children of their own, however Honor had children from her previous marriage to John Bassett (d.1528); John, Katherine, Anne, Phillipa, George, James and Mary Bassett. It is his step-children from this marriage that are more widely known and recognised, despite his biological children being of royal blood.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Narford heiress abduction

Margery de Narford was a young heiress whose attempt to divorce her husband resulted in her abduction.

She was born in 1358 as the only child and heir of John de Narford (1295-1363) and his wife Agnes de Bereford (1300-60). Thomas was the son of Thomas de Narford (d.1344) and his wife Alice (d.1394), who married secondly John de Neville in June 1345. Thomas was the son of William de Narford and his wife Petronilla de Vaux, who was the daughter and co-heiress of her father John de Vaux (d.1288).

Narford Hall,, Norfolk
Margery de Narford was an incredibly wealthy woman; she had inherited through the descent of her great-grandmother Petronilla; Narford Manor, which had been in John de Vaux's holdings since at least 1275, as well as Shottesham in Henstead, the moieties of Holt and Cley, the whole advowson of Holt, with diverse knights fees in Thorpe, Winch, Beechamwell, Thurneton and Mourningthorpe. However in 1394 Narford Manor was given by Margery to the descendants of her sister and co-heir Maud, who had married Lord Roos. Margery also inherited the Narford family home of Panworth Hall.

John Brewes
John de Braose
Margery had been the ward of John de Braose's father Peter de Braose/de Brewes since 1363 when she was five years old as both of her parents had died, leaving her an orphaned heiress. As Peter's ward she was then betrothed to his son and heir John in 1364. 
Margery was not pleased by this contract of marriage and wanted it broken off. Margery left de Braose family home of Wiston Manor in Sussex and went to the London home of her grandmother Alice, Lady Neville. In 1378 Margery de Narford made an appeal to the Papal courts to grant her a divorce from her husband, John de Braose.
John would not agree to the annulment; it would mean that he would lose the property and wealth that Margery brought to the marriage as well possibly some of his own inherited wealth. 
John enlisted the help of his maternal cousins Sir Robert Howard and Thomas Howard to abduct the young Margery from her grandmother's house; in order to stop the appeal for divorce by objecting to the proceedings while his wife would be unable to make her case in person, and therefore the case would be dismissed. 
Robert Howard took Margery firstly along the Thames to the Bishop of Norwich's house in Chelsea, where Howard hid with her, and later she was moved to several different houses in multiple counties to avoid capture.  
Alice, Lady Neville was outraged at the kidnapping of her granddaughter and she petitioned the King and Parliament to find Margery and punish those who had had a hand in her abduction. Fortunately action was taken and warrants for the arrests of the participants in the crime were made. Parliament also recognised that John de Braose would probably continue to force Margery to remain as his wife and that her life was at possible risk; court protection orders were made for Margery throughout the following two years to protect her from her husband. 

Robert Howard was arrested by Sir John Le Strange on his first royal commission after recently being knighted. Howard was sent to the Tower of London for several months. He was bound under recognizances to do no harm to Lady Neville of his captor Sir Le Strange. This case was brought to the attention of Parliament, however it does not seem that there was much punishment inflicted onto Howard as by the following year he is back integrated into court life. In fact, soon after Richard the Earl of Arundel has both Robert Howard and John Le Strange act as witnesses to a transaction of his.
Robert Howard became involved in this affair as it is possible he was the cousin or uncle of John de Braose through John's mother Joan Howard. Robert (1336-88) was the son of Sir John Howard, Admiral of the Navy, and his wife Alice De Bois and therefore was a direct descendant of King John of England. He married Margery Scales (1339-1416) and had five children.

Margery was successful in obtaining her divorce from John, as records show that by 1383 Margery was alone in dealing with her financial affairs.
John de Braose married a second time to Margaret Poyntz.
In 1394 when Alice, Lady Neville died she bequeathed to her granddaughter Margery; the furniture of her chapel, several silver utensils and all her goods and chattels living and dead in her manor of Panworth in Norfolk.
Perhaps due to this ordeal at such a young age, Margery took a vow of chastity and never married. She died in 1417 and her cousin Lord Cobham was her heir. 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

From Sweden to Somerset; Helena Snakenborg and Thomas Gorges

The life of Helena Snakenborg was unique and certainly unusual even by Tudor standards.
Helena Snakenborg
Helena was born Elin Ulfsdotter Snakenborg in 1548 in Sweden to aristocratic parents - an heiress and a senator - with royal ancestry.
Due to her noble position, Helena was chosen in 1564 to travel to England with Princess Cecilia of Sweden as a celebration of her recent marriage, the journey took nearly a year and the party did not arrive in England until September 1565.
The royal party was met at Dover by Sir William Parr (1513-1571), the brother of Henry VIII's last queen Katherine Parr. William Parr took an immediate liking to young Helena and courted her with expensive gifts; his long time beloved mistress Elizabeth Brooke had recently died and Helena was reported to remind him of her.
Princess Cecilia spent a year in England, living lavishly and running up great debts before fleeing her creditors and the country, in April 1566. However Helena did not accompany her; she had grown to love England, William Parr and Queen Elizabeth. In a rare occurance Queen Elizabeth officially requested that Helena stay in England and join her household - it was rare that a lady in waiting was 'stolen' from one monarch by another, however Helena was fiercly loyal in temperament, something which Elizabeth admired and she was of high rank and yet not a threat to Elizabeth's throne. Helena was known for her inability to be bribed or to have information on the queen wrangled out of her.
William Parr, Marquis of Northampton
Her life in England was furthur strengthened in 1571. William Parr was long divorced from his first wife Anne Bourchier, but the Church of England did not recognise the legitimacy of subsequent marriages, therefore William Parr did not marry Helena until after the death of his previous wife in January 1571. Helena was married to William Parr in May 1571 at Whitehall Palace with the queen in attendance. Sadly, their happiness was short lived as William Parr died on the 28th of October that same year. Helena was now a wealthy young widow, with a title, and came to be known by the name 'Good Lady Marquess'. Helena was now a Maid of Honour at the English court, and would later be promoted to Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber, she was also given her own lodgings at Hampton Court Palace which were paid for by the queen.
Thomas Gorges
Helena, now widowed and the third senior woman at court, then found herself another love interest; Thomas Gorges. The Gorges family were related to Queen Elizabeth through her mother Anne Boleyn's Howard family; Anne Boleyn was the great-granddaughter of John Howard Duke of Norfolk through his son Thomas, who was the father of Elizabeth Boleyn (nee Howard), while it was John Howard's daughter Anne who married into the Gorges family.
The Gorges family were an ancient family in England descended from the Russell family whose son adopted the name and arms of his Gorges mother instead of his Russell father, and were originally from Gorges, a town in France.
Wraxall Church, gorges monument
Edmund Gorges and Anne Howard, Wraxall Church
However despite this familial connection, Thomas Gorges held no title and was simply a groom of the Privy Chamber who had been born a fifth son in Wraxall, Somerset. The queen had at first supported the two as a couple, however when they requested permission to marry they were denied, perhaps due to Thomas' much lower status. In the face of the queen's refusal to let them marry, they did so anyway in secret in 1576. When the queen discovered this, Helena was exiled and Thomas was sent to the Tower of London. After being sent from court Helena wrote to the queen begging for forgiveness for herself 'a poure, desolat, and banished creture'. These punishments lasted only a short time and the couple were both soon back enjoying royal favour, with the queen becoming godmother to their eldest child and also sent a gift of a silver gilt bowl at the christening.
The couple had eight children together;
1) Elizabeth Gorges (1578-1659) m. (1) Hugh Smythe (2) Ferdinando Gorges
2) Francis Gorges (1579-1599)
3) Edward Gorges (1582-1652) m. Catherine Osborne
4) Theobald Gorges (1583-1648) m. Anne Pole
5) Bridget Gorges (1584-1634) m. Robert Phillips
6) Robert Gorges (1588-1648) m. Mary Harding
7) Frances Gorges (1589-1649) m. Thomas Tyringham
8) Thomas Gorges (1589-1637) m. Margaret Mogge

In 1582 Thomas traveled to Sweden as an envoy, where he met his wife's family for the first time. Helena maintained written correspondence with her family and friends back in Sweden for the rest of her life.
In 1584 the queen granted them an estate at Sheen, which was a former monastery and very close to the queen's residence at Richmond, which enabled the couple to be present at court to serve her majesty but also live with their children.
Thomas was knighted in 1586, as was four of his sons; his son Edward was also made Baron of Dundalk however this title became extinct in 1712.

Thomas Gorges had been the owner of Longford Castle since 1573, however it was in a terrible condition and needed a complete rebuild - which Helena convinced him to do in 1591. This castle and its grounds became one of a kind ever seen in England, due to Helena and her influence. The estate became built as a triangular Swedish pattern castle; triangular in shape with a round tower in each corner. The cost of the building was so extensive that the couple had to ask for help; Thomas was the governor of Hurst Castle where one of the ships from the Spanish Armada had been driven aground, the asked the queen if they could be granted the wreck and the request was granted. Fortunately, this ship contained Spanish silver and gold which the couple then used to complete the estate.
click for a full screen image
Longford Castle, Wiltshire
Helena was the chief mourner at Queen Elizabeth's funeral in 1603. And later both of the Gorges were present at the coronation of the new King James. After Queen Elizabeth died the couple moved out of London to their estates, however Helena would be at court several times when relations with Sweden were necessary, such as the marriage negotiations for James' daughter with a prince of Sweden. The couple were also named Keeper of the Palace at Sheen, where their London house was, as well as Keeper of the Wardrobe at Richmond, Keeper of the Gardens at Richmond Park, as well as being given an allowance of £245 per year.

Thomas Gorges died in 1610, after which Helena retired from court life completely, spending all of her time with her children and her ever growing number of grandchildren who were mostly living in Somerset; at the time of her death she had no fewer than ninety two descendants - including the poet Arthur Gorges and Ferdinando Gorges the founder of Maine, USA.
Helena died on the 10th of April 1635 in Somerset at her son Robert's home. She was then buried with her husband at Salisbury Cathedral. Helena's life story could not have been predicted - that she would remain in England, that she would fall in love with Thomas Gorges or that she would be the plunderer of Spanish treasure - yet she achieved a great deal in her lifetime and left her mark on the world.

Tomb of Thomas and Helena Gorges, Salisbury Cathedral

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Joan Vaux, the governess who impressed Erasmus

Joan Vaux was born in 1463 to Sir William Vaux (d.1471) and his French wife Katherine Penyston (1440-1509). Joan was a life long courtier and would be present to see all of the great events that took place during her lifetime under Tudor rule, also she was beloved by the royal family despite her being only the daughter of a knight.
Joan's mother Katherine had been an ever faithful lady in waiting to the former queen Margaret of Anjou and travelled with her, Katherine's life was to span the reign of six different kings of England. Joan and her brother Nicholas (b.1460) spent their childhood in the household of Margaret Beaufort. Joan then came to court as a lady in waiting to Margaret Beaufort after the Battle of Bosworth, and then was later to serve Queen Elizabeth.
At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1487 all three surviving members of the Vaux family are present; Nicholas being part of the celebrations in that he held the Queen's canopy over her litter during her journey to Westminster.
In 1489 Joan became the second wife of Sir Richard Guildford (1455-1506), a wedding which the King and Queen both attended which would have been a rare honour to have both monarchs present at the marriage of a knight.
The couple had one son; Sir Henry Guildford (1489-1532) who became Master of the Horse and married twice but had no children by either wife. Sir Henry was knighted twice, once by King Henry VIII but firstly he was knighted in 1511 by the King of Aragon for his military involvement - this honour led to his life long loyalty to Queen Catherine of Aragon. He attended upon the king at the 1520 Field of the Cloth of Gold and was later an ambassador in 1529 when he accompanied Cardinal Wolsey in his journey through France. His loyalty to Queen Catherine meant that he was outspoken in his disapproval of the Royal divorce and of Anne Boleyn; Anne demanded he be deprived of his post as comptroller yet instead he declared he would resign instead, however he remained in his post until his death as King Henry valued his loyalty and refused to accept his resignation. During the divorce proceedings he was called as a witness along with his mother however he refused to testify as he was only a child at the time and could be of no help - his real reason may have been that he would remain loyal to Queen Catherine and her position as the king's lawful wife. Sir Henry died in 1532.
Sir Henry Guildford, by Hans Holbein, 1526
By 1499, Joan was installed as the Lady Governess to the royal children; Princesses Margaret and Mary in particular. Princess Mary became very close to Joan and relied upon her a great deal.
Erasmus visiting the royal children at Greenwich 1499 (Margaret, Henry, Mary and Edmund in the arms of a nanny)
The philosopher Erasmus visited England in the summer of 1599, and during this time paid a visit to the royal children (Margaret, Henry, Mary, Edmund) with his friend and fellow humanist Thomas More where he met and conversed with Joan. He was so impressed with her that even many years later on the 15th May 1519, Erasmus wrote a letter to Joan's son Henry addressing her as 'the noble lady your mother' and wishing her well in life. For such a great man, who had met so many people during his travels, for him to remember this governess so many years later is a credit to her and an honour as she must have made quite an impression upon him.
"My warmest good wishes to the noble lady, your mother, whose acquaintance I owe to several conversations." Letter from Erasmus to Henry Guildford, 15 May 1519, Antwerp.*

In 1501 Joan waited upon Queen Elizabeth during the arrival of Infanta Catalina de Aragon (the future Queen Catherine of Aragon). Before the marriage of Catalina and Prince Arthur took place, Joan was reported to have partnered Prince Arthur in a traditional Spanish dance performed in the English style, which she danced 'right pleasurably and honourably'.
Joan's husband Sir Richard died in 1506 whilst on pilgrimage in Jerusalem. At the time of his death Sir Richard was heavily in debt as a result of his dismissal as comptroller of the king's household due to his poor management of money, after which he spent six months in the Fleet before being released by the king's order; his pardon came just before he left England on his pilgrimage. Joan later remarried to a man named Anthony Poyntz (1480-1533).
In 1506 Joan joined the household of Margaret Beaufort once again until the lady's death in 1509, at this time Joan herself retired from court life. Joan moved to a house in Blackfriars, London where she was living on a small pension.In 1510 she inherited a life interest in a house from Sir Thomas Brandon, however she later leased the house back to Sir Thomas' heir, Charles Brandon.

In 1514 Joan was reunited with her former charge when she accompanied Princess Mary to France as the mistress to her maids of honour, for her wedding to the king of France. After the wedding, King Louis sent most of Mary's English attendants back home to England, and Joan was among these. However, Mary was upset at the loss of her 'Mother Guildford' and demanded her return. On the 12th October 1514 Mary wrote to Cardinal Wolsey that 'I have not yet seen in France any lady or gentleman so necessary for me as she is'. Cardinal Wolsey then proceeded to write to the King of France asking him to permit Joan to be returned to Mary's service; 'I have no doubt, Sire, that when you know her well,  you will find her a wise, honourable, and discreet lady'. However neither Mary nor Wolsey could change the French King's mind; Louis had taken a particular dislike to Joan as he felt she was ruling Mary and that her constant presence with Mary was preventing the king from being alone with his wife and creating a relationship between them. King Louis told the English ambassador that he did not wish that "when he would be merry with his wife to have any strange woman with her". Therefore, Joan returned to England.

It can be surmised that upon her return from France, Joan rejoined the court in the service of Queen Catherine. In 1515 and 1516 King Henry granted Joan two pensions which gave her a yearly income of £60. Furthur in 1519 she was granted an annual gift of a tun of duty free Gascon wine.
'Hen. VIII. on 23 Nov. in his sixth year, grants an annuity of 20l. during her life, for her services to his father, mother, the Queens of France and Scotland, his sisters, and to himself; and 7 Hen. VIII. she had an aditional annuity of 40l. payable for her life, out of the issues of the county and honour of Richmond'.**

When King Henry VIII was divorcing his wife Catherine of Aragon, he called into question the validity of the marriage between her and his brother Prince Arthur, to do this he recalled several of the former royal attendants who were witnesses at that time including Joan. Joan gave had to give a deposition on the issue of their marriage being consummated, to which she said that the young couple had spent their wedding night 'in together in the same bed', and that Queen Elizabeth had personally told Joan that Arthur and Catherine had lain together 'as man and wife all alone five or six nights after said marriage'. Joan's testimony played a key role in King Henry's ability ti be granted a divorce.

During these later years Joan received several New Years gifts from King Henry, including a garter with a gold buckle and pendant in 1532; this gift suggests that Joan was indeed back at the royal court in the service of Queen Catherine, how active she was in court life is hard to tell as there is little mention of her at court festivities perhaps due to her age.
In 1533 Joan's second husband Anthony died, and Joan retired to a prayer house in Bristol until this was closed down in 1536, when she returned to Blackfriars until her death on the 4th of September 1538. She was one of the last people to be buried at the Blackfriars convent before it's dissolution later that year. In her will, written only four days before her death, she left bequests to her cousin Sir William Penyston, her niece Bridget Walsh, her nephew Lord Vaux - to whom she left her book of French and a tapestry - and to Maud her fool. At her death, her money, jewels and all other possessions came to a total value of 12,000 marks.
Joan's nephew, Lord Thomas Vaux

*The Correspondence of Erasmus: Letters 842 to 992, 1518 to 1519, Volume 6
**The English Baronetage, Arthur Collins, 1741