Saturday, 26 October 2013

A scandalous Carey nun

William Carey, who married into the Boleyn family, had a family which wasn't short on its own scandal. The Carey family were descended from Edmund Beaufort, and therefore were cousins to King Henry VIII, through his grandmother Margaret Beaufort.

Thomas Carey and Margaret Spencer (1472-1536) had seven children;
+ William Carey (1495-1528) m. Mary Boleyn
+ John Carey (1491-1552) m. Joyce Denny
+ Edward Carey (1498-1560)
+ Eleanor Carey (1499-1528)
+ Anne Carey (1493-1550)
+ Mary Carey (1501-60) m. John de Laval
+ Margaret Carey (1496-1560)

Eleanor and Anne Carey both became Benedictine nuns at Wilton Abbey. Wilton Abbey had gained a reputation for housing scandalous nuns who had had affairs with men and even born children.
On the 24th April 1528 the Abbess of Wilton Abbey, Cecily Willoughby, died and a new Abbess needed to be appointed.

Wilton Abbey
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was at this time high in the king's favour, chose as candidate for the position Isabel Jourdain as she was "ancient, wise and discreet" and he hoped she would have a good influence on the nuns there. Isabella Jourdain was the sister of Agnes, the Abbess of Syon Abbey. In 1528 Isabella was the Prioress at Wilton Abbey. The nuns had delegated Cardinal Wolsey to elect the new Abbess and he concluded that Isabella should be Abbess and Eleanor Carey should be the new Prioress. The nuns who objected to this appointment were imprisoned under the orders of Cardinal Wolsey and it was by doing this that he got the convent to accept his choices.

William Carey
However, Anne Boleyn became involved in the matter and put forward Eleanor Carey for the position. This probably came about due to suggestions from William and John Carey and Mary Boleyn to Anne that she ask the king for this. This was the last royal favour that William Carey sought out as he died in the June of that year. On the 23rd June 1528 Thomas Heanage wrote a letter to Wolsey about the Abbess situation;

 “Mr Carey begs you to be gracious to his sister, a nun at Wilton Abbey …”

However by the time Wolsey received this letter, William Carey had died of the sweating sickness.
King Henry decided to look into the matter and choose between the two candidates by having Cardinal Wolsey interview the two women to reveal any impediments to them becoming Abbess.
However, this examination of Eleanor by Cardinal Wolsey soon revealed things which quite abruptly put an end to her aspirations of being made abbess. Henry wrote to Anne of what had been confessed by Eleanor;

 'As touching the matter of Wilton, my lord cardinal has had the nuns before him and examined them, Master Bell being present, who has certified to me that for a truth she has confessed herself  to have had two children by sundry priests, and further since has been kept by a servant of Lord Broke that was, and not long ago; wherefore I would not for all the world clog your conscience nor mine to make her ruler of a house who is of such ungodly demeanour, nor I trust, you would not that neither for brother nor sister I should so stain mine honour and conscience. And as touching the prioress or Dame Eleanor's eldest sister though there is not any evident cause proved against them, and that the prioress is so old that of many years she could not be as she was named: yet notwithstanding to do you pleasure I have done that neither of them shall have it, but some other good and well disposed woman shall have it, whereby the house shall be the better reformed and God much the better served.'

Once it was clear that Eleanor was unfit for the position of Abbess, her elder sister Anne Carey who was also a nun at Wilton was put forward for the position. The Carey family pointed out that Isabella was not fit for the position either, they claimed she had led an unchaste life in her younger years and had two illegitimate children, and was now 'spotted with incontinence'.

King Henry refused to give the position to either Carey girls nor Isabella Jourdain. However, Cardinal Wolsey went ahead and gave the Abbess position to Isabella. By doing this Wolsey was showing a disregard for the king's wishes in terms of the spiritual life in England and therefore challenging the king's authority. This event was the first major dispute between the King and Wolsey, and was the beginning of the breakdown of their relationship and eventually, Wolsey's downfall. 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Boleyn vs Wolsey in the case of Cheney

Sir John Russell, Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to King Henry VIII, had two step-daughters from his first wife Anne Broughton (nee Sapcote); Katherine (d.1535) and Anne Broughton (d.1562). When their father died in 1518, and then also their brother John dying in 1528, the two girls became great heiresses.
In 1528, the two girls were still underage and were the wards of Cardinal Wolsey.
Sir Thomas Cheney wished to marry Anne, while Sir John Wallop wished to marry Katherine, however both Cardinal Wolsey and John Russell objected to these marriages.

Signature of Thomas Cheney
Sir Thomas Cheney was a relative of Anne Boleyn's; Anne's great-aunt Isabella Boleyn (d.1485) had been the first wife of Thomas Cheney's father William - Thomas being his son by his second wife Margaret Young.
Due to this familial connection, Anne Boleyn became Thomas' champion at court; she had previously gotten involved with a dispute he had gotten into with Cardinal Wolsey.

Isabella Boleyn
However, this time, King Henry sided with Russell and Wolsey;
"proud and full of opprobrious words, and endeavoured to dishonour those who were most glad to serve him"
Thomas was banned from the Privy Chamber and the royal presence until he had made peace with Russell, however he did not do this and the dispute continued for several months until Wolsey banished Thomas from court.
Despite Wolsey's command, Anne soon after recalled Thomas to court;
"In spite of the Cardinal, without using rude words to Cardinal Wolsey".
Cardinal Wolsey then gave way and Thomas Cheney was contracted into marriage with Anne Broughton, and the couple officially married in May 1539 when Anne became of age. However, John Wallop did not marry the other sister Katherine, as he had no influential support to his claim; Katherine went on to marry before 1531, William Howard, a brother of Elizabeth Boleyn (nee Howard), Anne Boleyn's mother. 

Katherine Broughton
The end result of the matter is a good representation of Anne Boleyn's growing power and influence at court and over the king, however it also shows a building of enemies at court - people who in the process of consolidating her power and allies, she also alienated people and turned people against her.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Margaret Beaufort's illegitimate sister

Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), mother to King Henry VII, was the only daughter and child from the marriage of John Beaufort (1403-44) to Margaret Beauchamp (1405-82), she was also John Beaufort's only legitimate child. However, her mother Margaret had several children from her other two marriages, and her father John had two illegitimate children born before Margaret.

Margaret Beaufort
John Beaufort was held captive in France from 1421, when he was captured at the Battle of Bauge, until he was ransomed in 1438 and it was during this time that he fathered two illegitimate children by unknown French women. The son was called John and the daughter was called Tacine or Thomasine. 

Margaret Beauchamp courtesy of Duncan and Mandy Ball
Margaret Beauchamp
Tacine was born in about 1434 in France, this date is the one most commly attributed to her, however it seems that she would then be only about twelve or thirteen when she married which seems very young. Due to the age of her husband, a date of 1425 seems more likely for a birth date.
Tacine received denization from the Privy Council to become a citizen of England on the 20th June 1443. 

“Also the Kyng graunted at the same time and place that Tacyn doughter bastard to my said Lord of Somerset and her heires of her body lawfully begotten deniszeins …”

This act indicates that she must have been living in England before this date and probably returned to England with her father in 1438. It appears that her father John accepted her as his daughter and welcomed her into his family.
Tacine had made a good marriage by the end of 1446 to Reginald Grey, Lord of Wilton (b.1421).
The couple had one son; John Grey. 

The funeral of William Grey, Lord Wilton on 22nd December 1562 lists his family as; 

the greate-graundfather and greate-graundmother to the defuncte...Reygnolde lorde Grey and Thomasyn or Thasyna base daughter to John duke of Somerset"

In October 1447 Reginald and Tacine gave the manors of Yelling, Acresfleet, Snoreham and Weldbarnes and Shirland and a moity of Vaches Manor to Thomas Grey and his wife Margaret - Reginald's step-mother - for the remainder of their life.
On 24th May 1469 Reginald and Tacine, with the agreement of their son John, sent a message called Stabullers along with various areas of land to William Danyell and Eleanor his wife and their heirs. This is the last written record containing Tacine.
Reginald Grey died on the 22nd February 1493 and was buried at Bletchley.
The Beaufort Tomb - parents of Margaret Beaufort and grandparents of Henry VII
Beaufort Tomb - the parents of Margaret Beaufort

Friday, 4 October 2013

A Coffin incident

Sir William Coffin (1495-1538) was a Devonshire courtier under King Henry VIII having joined the royal household in 1515 as a gentleman of the Privy Chamber.

Sir William Coffyn

That which Coffin became known for was an incident that occurred while he was traveling northwards to Derbyshire, and came by Bideford church and cemetery. In the cemetery there was a group of people standing around, not part of a ceremony of any kind so William Coffin stopped to find out what was happening. The situation was that a corpse had been brought to the church to be buried, along with the people who had come to gather for the ceremony, however the priest was refusing to perform the funeral. In payment for the priest to perform the burial rites they required payment from the deceased's estate, and in this case it was the cow that belonged to the deceased man as he was poor, but the dead man's friends would not give the cow up. After being told this William found the priest and ordered him to perform the funeral service as it was his job, but the priest still refused to do it without payment. At this, William ordered the people who were gathered there to grab the priest and put him into the hole that had been dug for the corpse and that dirt be thrown in on top of him. The priest continued in his refusal until the man was nearly fully buried in the earth when at last he conceded.

Such treatment of priests was not acceptable, even during the period of the Dissolution, and William would have expected to receive punishment for this incident, and even perhaps have been executed for such a crime against a man of God. King Henry VIII was informed of the incident and as a result William was summoned before Parliament. For anyone else this would not have ended well, anyone else would have ended up in the Tower or executed. However, Sir William had a number of friends in the House as well as at court and they were loyal to him and he avoided punishment. In fact, he turned it around and brought to Parliament's attention the negative consequences of priests demanding payment (mortuaries) for church services. He drew the attention of the matter away from his personal actions onto the wider situation of the bad behaviour of clergymen. As a result of this, an Act was passed soon after which stopped practices including mortuaries.

Tomb of Margaret Coffin
His presence at court is first recorded when William attended the King in Guisnes in 1519 and took part in the tournament, and later at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520.
In 1529 he became a Member of Parliament for Derbyshire, despite him being born in Devonshire, due to his wife Margaret Dymoke, daughter of the Hereditary Royal Champion Sir Robert Dymoke, having connections to that county; her first husband was Derbyshire man Sir Richard Vernon of Haddon Hall.
In 1533 William Coffin was the Master of the Horse at the coronation of Anne Boleyn and throughout her reign as queen, as well as that of Jane Seymour. He also became the steward of Queen Jane's manors of Standon and Hitchin in Hertfordshire. In this office, on the 17th October 1357 William received the official surrender to the Crown of the Hitchin Priory from the Prior, as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
On the 18th October 1357 William Coffin was knighted, however he did not get to enjoy this position for long as on the 8th December 1538 Sir William had died of the plague.
William and his wife had no surviving children, therefore his heirs were his wife Margaret and his nephews William Coffin the elder, William Coffin the younger and Richard Coffin. Margaret remarried again shortly after to Richard Manners in 1539. 

Sir William Coffyn
St Mary's Church, Standon
Sir William is buried in the church in Standon, commemorated by this inscription;
"Here lies William Coffin, Knight, sometime of the privy chamber with his sovereign Lord King Henry the eighth, Master of the Horse unto queen Jane the most lawful wife unto the aforesaid King Henry the eighth, and high steward of all the liberty [and] manor of Standon in the county of Hertford, which William deceased the eighth day of december Anno domini 1538, [in] the thirtieth year of the reign of King Henry the eighth"