Sunday, 30 October 2011

Tudor Travellers

Brebiette fortune teller
I watched Panorama a few days ago about the Irish Travellers on Dale Farm and felt my sympathies torn between a marginalised, outcast group struggling to survive in a hostile environment, and  the logic and rationality of an argument which asserts that we can't have one law for some and another for others.
Described as the largest illegal traveller site in Europe, Dale Farm in Basildon is on designated Greenbelt land, and the local council said the travellers had broken the law by building on it. As the legal battle raged through the High Court and beyond, activists from across Britain converged on the site ready to defend the travellers' right to remain. For the council, this was the culmination of a legal fight which has cost them millions. For the travellers, it was the last stand to keep their homes.
The fact of the matter is that the Travellers had broken the law. However, it was evident from some of their neighbours' reactions and the reactions of those who sought their eviction that some element of racism and prejudice played a large part in the antipathy and desire for their removal. The story sparked in me an interest in the history of Travellers/Gypsies in England.

Throughout the late medieval and early modern period Gypsies were subject to profound legal oppression across Europe. In England and Wales they were treated under the brutal sixteenth-century vagrancy laws, and were specifically included in the 1597 Vagrants Act.

The English term Gypsy (or Gipsy) originates from the Greek word for "Egyptian", Αιγύπτιοι (Aigyptioi, whence modern Greek γύφτοι gifti)From the fact of their formerly common occupation as tinkers, it has been conjectured by some that they have inhabited these islands from medieval times. "Tinkler" and "Tinker," as proper names, can be traced to the thirteenth century at least; but in those days there seem to have been two classes of tinkers, the one sedentary, and perhaps equivalent to our modern ironmongers, and the other styled "wandering tinkers," who were the itinerant menders of our pots and pans. Bataillard has suggested that Gypsies may have come over to England so early as 1440. Certainly the party which visited Paris in August 1427 took a northward direction on leaving, and as the English were then ruling in the French capital, it is very probable that the Gypsies would hear of these more northerly happy hunting-grounds, and feel inclined to pay them a visit of inspection. Borrow  says they first came to England "about the year 1480," which is just half a century before the English Parliament began a series of repressive efforts. Sir George M'Kenzie, who died in 1691, has recorded a tradition that between 1452 and 1460 a company of Saracens or Gypsies from Ireland infested the country of Galloway, in Scotland, and the King promised the barony of Bombie to whomsoever should disperse them and bring in their captain dead or alive. The laird of Bombie's son, a Maclellan, killed the captain, and took his head on a sword to the king. Thereafter Maclellan took for his crest a Moor's head, and for a motto "Think on". Simpson adds: "In the reign of James II [of Scotland], away putting of soruers [forcible obtruders], fancied fools, vagabonds, out-liers, masterful beggars, bairds [strolling rhymers], and such like runners about, is more than once enforced by Acts of Parliament" . In 1449 an Act was passed in which "overliers and masterful beggars" are described as going about the country with "horses, hunds, and other goods" a fact which acquires a further value when compared with the statement of Krantz, that on the Continent the first Gypsies kept hunting-dogs like the nobility.
As yet no positive mention of Gypsies in England earlier than 1505 has been discovered, but in 1492 the Gypsies were expelled from Spain, which would drive some at least into France, if not into England, while in 1500 they were expelled from the German Empire, and on 27th July 1504 they were expelled from France. The first undoubted record referring to Gypsies in Great Britain is: "1505, Apr. 22. Item to the Egyptianis be the Kingis command,vij lib."
A few months later, in July 1505, we find the Scottish King, James IV, writing to the King of Denmark to commend Anthony Gagino, a lord of Little Egypt, who, with his retinue, had a few months previously reached Scotland during a pilgrimage through the Christian world, undertaken at the command of the Apostolic See. The draft of this curious letter is preserved in Scotland, and the original is in Denmark. In 1514, at an inquest respecting the death of Hunne in the Lollards' Tower, one of the witnesses mentioned an Egyptian woman who had been lodging at Lambeth, but had gone overseas a month before, and who could tell "marvellous things" by looking into one's hand .
Under the date 1517, Edward Hall, in his Chronicles (published in 1548), describes two ladies at a Court mummery as having their heads rolled in a kind of "gauze, and tippers" like the Egyptians "embroidered with gold"; and under the date 1520, he says that at a state banquet eight ladies came in attired "like to the Egyptians," very richly. Between 1513 and 1523 some "Gypsions" were entertained by the Earl of Surrey at Tendring Hall, in Suffolk. About 1517 Skelton wrote his "Elynoure Eumminge," in which occurs her description.
" Her kirtell Bristowe red,
With clothes upon her heade,
That they way a sowe of leade,
Wrythen iu a wonder wise
After the Sarazin's gise,
With a whim-wham
Knit with a trim-tram
Upon her brayne panne,
Liice an Egyptian
Capped about
When she goeth oute."
In October 1521 William Cholmeley gave certain "Egyptions" at Thornbury the large sum of forty shillings, which would be equivalent to about twenty pounds. In 1522 the churchwardens of Stratton, in Cornwall, received twenty-pence from the "Egypcions" for the use of the Church House. In 1526 Skelton published his Garland of Laurel, of which line 1455 reads as follows: "By Mary Gipcy, quod scrips! scrips!" the allusion being to Sancta Maria 'gyptiaca,' showing the early abbreviation of "Egyptian" into "Gypsy," which is also found in Shakespeare. Samuel Eeid, in his Art of Juggling, assigns 1528 as the year when the Gypsies 'invaded' England, stating that it was then (in 1612) about an hundred years ago, about the twentieth year of King Henry the Eighth, when the "Egyptians collected in the south of England, having been banished from their own country, and excelled in quaint tricks and devices. They spoke the right Egyptian language, and got much by palmistry and telling of fortunes, and cheated poor country-girls of money, silver spoons, and the best of their apparel. Their leader was Giles Hather, whom they called King, and Kit Calot was their Queen. They rode on horseback and in Stransje attire." Thornbury says their chief in Henry VIII time was Cock Lorel. Harrison, in his Description of England, which is prefixed to Holinshed's Chronicle, says it is not yet full threescore years since this trade began, and after describing various sorts of cheats, adds : "They are now supposed, of one sex and another, to amount unto above ten thousand persons; as I have heard reported. Moreover, in counterfeiting the Egyptian roges, they have devised a language among themselves, which they name Canting, but others pedlars' French, a speech compact thirty yeares since of English, and a great number of odd words of their owne devising, without all order or reason; and yet such is it as none but themselves are able to understand. The first deviser thereof was hanged by the neck, a just reward no doubt for his deserts, and a common end to ail of that profession."
In 1530, a quarter of a century after their expulsion from France, they had become an intolerable nuisance in England ; and the Act concerniug Egipcions was passed in 1530. It recites that:
"Afore this tynie dyverse and many outlandysshe [foreign] People callynge themselfes Egyptians, usyng no Craftc nor faicte of Mercbanndyce had conien into this Realme and gone from Shire to Shire and Place to Place in greate Company, and used greate subtyll and crafty meanes to deceyve the People, beryng them in Hande [persuading them] that they by Palmestre coulde telle IMIenne and Womeus Fortunes and so many tymes by crafte and subtyltie had deceyved the People of theyr IMIoney and also had comytted many and haynous Felonycs and Kobberies to the greate Hurte and Deceyte of the People that they had comyn amonge."
In order to stop further immigration, it was enacted that: "From hensforth no suche Psone be suffred to come within this the Kynge's Realme." If they did, they were to forfeit all their goods, and to be ordered to quit the realm within fifteen days, and to be imprisoned in default. Further, if "any such straunger" thereafter committed any murder, robbery, or other felony, and, upon being arraigned, he pleaded not guilty, the jury was to be "alltogether of Englysshemen" instead of half Englishmen and half foreigners (medietatis linguw), which they were otherwise entitled to claim under Henry VI. All Egyptians then in England were to quit it within sixteen days after the Act was proclaimed, or to be imprisoned and to forfeit their goods; but if any of those goods were claimed as stolen, then they were upon proper proof to be forthwith restored to the owner; and, as an inducement to execute the Act zealously, all Justices of the Peace, Sheriffs, or Escheators, who seized the goods of any Egyptians,were to retain half of them as their own, and to account in the Court of Exchequer for the other moiety, and they were not to pay any fees or other charges upon rendering the account. This Act is duly noticed in L' office et audorytc des Justices de Peas, London, 1538.
In 1530 the "Egyptianis that dansit before the king [James V of Scotland] in Halyrudhous" received forty shillings. No trace exists of another Act of Parliament which Hoyland alleges was passed in 1535. He states that, after a recital similar to that of the Act passed in 1530, it was enacted that they should quit the realm within a month, or be prosecuted as thieves and rascals, and any one importing them was to be fined £40. It is probable that Mr. Hoyland has made a mistake in the date, and meant 1555. 
In 1531 John Popham was born at Huntworth or Wellington, in Somersetshire. He afterwards rose to be Lord Chief-Justice of England, and tried Guy Fawkes. While still a child he was stolen by a band of Gypsies, and "for some months," according to Campbell, or "for several years," according to Eoberts, was detained by them. They disfigured him, and burnt on his left arm a cabalistic mark; but their wandering life strengthened his previously weak constitution. About December 1536 "a company of lewd persons, calling themselves Gipcyans," were convicted of "a most shamefull and detestable murder commytted amonges them," but received the king's pardon, in which was " a speciall proviso, inserted by their owne consentes, that, onles they shuld avoyde this his grace's realme by a certeyn daye, . . . yt shuld be lawful to all his graces offycers to hang them . . . without any further . . . tryal." This pardon was filed in Chancery ; but the Gypsies, having recovered their liberty, were in no hurry to leave the country. Thomas Crumwell (Lord Privy Seal) wrote on December 5, 1537, to my lorde of Chestre, president of the Counsaile of the Marches of Wales," to "Laye diligent espiall throigliowte all the partes there aboutes you and the shires next adjoynyng whether any of the sayd personnes callin themiselfes Egipcyans or that hathe heretofore called themiselfes Egipsyans shall fortune to enter or travayle in the same. And in cace youe shall here or knowe of any suche, be they men or women, that ye shall compell them to repair to the next porte of the see to the place where they shall be taken and eyther wythout delayeuppon the first wyaide that may conveye them into any parte of beyond the sees to take shipping and to passe to outward partyes, or if they shall in any wise breke that coniniaundement without any tract to see them executed . . . without siwring uppon any commyssiou licence or placarde that they may shewe or aledge for themselfes."
In 1542, twelve years after the first Act was passed. Dr. Andrew Borde, described the Gypsies of those days as: "swarte and disgisyd in theyr apparel contrary to other nacyons"; he adds, "They be lyght fyngerd and vse pyking; they have little maner and euyl loggyng, and yet they be pleasnt daunsers . . . there money is brasse and golde ... If there be any man that wyl learn parte of theyr speche, Euglyshe and Egipt speche foloweth." He gives thirteen sentences.
In the summer of 1544 Eobert Ap Kice, Esq., the Sheriff of Huntington, caused a large band of Gypsies, owning seventeen horses, to be apprehended under the Act passed in 1530. They were tried at a special assizes, a fact which probably indicates that the capture was one of unusual size and importance. They were convicted and sentenced to be taken in the custody of William Wever to Calais, the nearest English port on the Continent. A ship belonging to John Bowles was hired by the Admiralty for the purpose, the freight being £6, 5s., and the cost of victualing £2, 18s. The total expense was £36, 5s. 7d., but was reduced by the sale of the seventeen horses for live shillings each. The accounts were set out by Mr. Hoyland from the Book of Receipts and Payments of 35 Henry VIII. About Christmas 1544, a number of Gypsies, who had been imprisoned at Boston, in Lincolnshire, were by the king's command shipped from there and landed in Norway. Shortly afterwards four Gypsies came " from Lenn, thinkinge to have had shippinge here at Bostone as their company had," but '•' the Constables of the same towne immediatly not onely sett them in the stockes as vagaboundes,
but also serched them to their shertes, but nothing cowde be found upon them, not so moche as wolde paie for their mete and drynke, nor none other bagge or baggage but one horse not worthe iiij s.," and "here beynge no shipping for them, the forseide constables of Bostone did avoyde them owte of the towne as vagaboundes towardes the nexte portes, which be Hull and Xewcastell" These facts are gathered from a letter of Nicholas Eobertson, of Boston, to Thomas, Earl of Essex, Lord Privy Seal, preserved amongst the Kecords of the Kolls' House. On January 21, 1545, at Hampton Court, a passport was granted for a party of Gypsies under Phillipe Lazer, their Governor, to embark at London, according to an order of the Admiralty. 
The King of France, in 1545, entertained the notion of embodying four thousand Gypsies as pioneers to act against Boulogne, then held by the English. This is mentioned in a letter from the Council of Boulogne to the Privy Council of England, under date February 21, 1545, preserved in the State Paper Office, French Correspondence, vol. vi., No. 7 7, and printed in The Works of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, vol. i. p. 209, Letter XX., as follows : 
"It may like your good Lordships to be advertised that this day arrived here a
spy for us that hath been long upon the frontier for that purpose."
The news he had gathered was "That their army shall assemble about th' end of March, and that the Rhinecroft shall bring out of Almain twenty four ensigns for th' renforce of th' old bands, and six thousand Gascons to be new levied, and six thousand pioneers, besides four thousand Egyptians that shall serve for pioneers, whom it is thought the French King minding to avoid out of his realm, determineth before their departure to employ this year in that kind of service, and that by their help, before their dispatch he hopeth with a tumbling trench to fill the dykes of this town."
On December 5, 1545 (37 Henry VIII.), a Bill was introduced into the House of Lords "pro animadversione in Egyptios." It was read on December 7 and 10, and referred to the Chief- Justice of the Common Bench. It was read the third time next day, and then sent to the Commons under the title "pro expulsione et supphcio Egyptorum". The printed Journal of the House of Commons only begins with 1547 (the year of King Henry's death), and, as the Statute Book does not include this edict, it probably failed to pass the Commons, who, in the first year of Edward VI, on November 17 and 23, and December 19, 1547, revived the subject by a Bill "for punishing vagrants and Egyptians." On December 20, it was taken to the Lords, and committed to the Lord Chancellor, and read on the following day; but this Bill likewise proved abortive, and is not found in the Statute Book. 
In 1547 certain garments were made for two Egyptians. On January 19, 1549, the Justices of Durham wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury, then Lord President of the Council in the North, a letter stating that "John Koland oon of that sorte of people callinge themselffes Egiptians "had" accused "Baptist Favjc, Amy Faiue, and George Faive, Egiptians," of having "counterfeate the Create Scale", that the accused persons had been apprehended, and amongst their things had been found "one wryting with a greate Seall moche like to the Kings Seall, which we bothe by the wrytinge and and also by the Seall do suppose to be counterfeate and feanyd." They sent the seal for examination, and informed his Lordship that the accused persons, with great execrations, denied allknowledge of the seal, and alleged that Eoland was "their mortall enemy and haithe oftentymes accused the said Baptist before this and is moche in his debte," and that they supposed he" or some of his complices haithe put the counterfeate Seall amongst their wrytyngs". 
On June 22, 1549, the young king, Edward vi., writes in his jourual, "There was a privy search made through Sussex for all vagabonds, gipsies, conspirators, prophesiers, all players, and such like". On the 20th, 21st, and 30th November, and 1st December, 1554, a Bill was before the Commons "for making the coming of Egyptians into the Realm Felony!' It was taken to the Lords on the 1st, and read on the 3d, 5th, and 10th of December, and passed as "An Act against certain Persons calling themselves Egyptians". It recites the Act of 1530, but omits all mention of Mr. Hoyland's Act of 1535, and states that "divers of the said Company and such other like Persons had enterprised to come over again, using their old accustomed devilish and naughty Practices and Devices with such abominable Living as is not in any Christian Ptealm to be permitted, named, or known ; and that they were not duly punished." It was therefore enacted that after 31st January 1555, any one importing Gypsies should forfeit forty pounds; that any Gypsy so imported who remained in England one month should be deemed a felon, and forfeit his life, lands, and goods, being also deprived of the privileges of a mixed jury, of sanctuary, and of "benefit of clergy," that is to say, ability to read was to be no bar to the proceedings. 
All Gypsies then in England or Wales were to depart within twenty days after proclamation of the Act, and any who stayed longer were to forfeit their goods, half to the crown and half to the person who should seize them. If they remained forty days after the proclamation the punishment was the same as for newly-imported Gypsies who stayed a month. From the next section of the Act it would appear that the penalties had been evaded by obtaining "licenses, letters, or passports"; but now, after 1st January 1555, any applicant for such protection was to forfeit forty pounds, and all such licences were to become void.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mind your head.

While researching my current chapter, I pondered on the idea that it was common practice for noblemen/women to be decapitated when out of favour with the reigning monarch for whatever reason. I thought about the notion that even when you are being killed as a punishment, the laws of the land dictated that how you die depended on who you are.

Decapitation by sword or axe was considered the "honourable" way to die for a noble, who, being a warrior, could often expect to die by the sword in any event. In England it was considered a privilege of noblemen and noblewomen to be beheaded. Others suffered a dishonourable death on the gallows or through burning at the stake. In medieval England the penalty for treason by men was to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The penalty for women traitors was to be burned at the stake. In practice sentences of nobles were almost always commuted to beheading. In legends of Christian martyrdom the fictitious saints withstood all attempts to execute them, until the wicked heathens finally beheaded them.
If the headsman's axe or sword was sharp and his aim true, decapitation was quick and presumed to be a painless form of death. If the instrument was blunt or the executioner clumsy, multiple strokes might be required. The person to be executed was therefore advised to give a gold coin to the headsman to ensure that he did his job with care. Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, and Mary, Queen of Scots, both required three strikes at their executions. Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury, required ten strokes before being dispatched by a fatal blow.
To ensure that the blow would be fatal, executioners' swords were usually blade-heavy two-handed swords. If an axe was used, it almost invariably would be wielded with both hands. In England a special form of axe was used for beheadings, with the blade's edge extending downwards from the tip of the shaft.
Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, first cousins and the second and fifth wives of King Henry VIII were both condemned to be burnt alive for adultery, but on Henry's orders they were both beheaded. Lady Jane Grey was also condemned to burn as a traitoress but again the sentence was commuted to beheading by Mary I.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

First to the Stake

Portrait Rev. John Rogers
John Rogers.

In January 1555, Stephen Gardiner summoned a group of Edwardine diviners to his house for examination, and on February 4 the first Protestant martyr went to the stake. The spectacle of notorious traitors like Sir James Croft (one of the leaders in the Wyatt rebellion) gaining freedom while preachers like John Rogers were wending their way to Smithfield was one which troubled many. Mary's imperial ambassador, Renard, was against this move and did his utmost to stop the religious persecutions. Judging by the demonstrations of popular sympathy at Roger's execution, Renard felt that England would soon be in the throes of rebellion unless the bishops were told that there were more politic ways of dealing with heretics. 
Philip of Spain, Mary's recently wedded husband, agreed that this was not a wise move. Ten of the King's Spanish monks inveighed against the use of force in dealing with heretics in a vigorous sermon at court, and a few weeks after the executions ceased. But within a month the fires were lighted once more, to continue sporadically during the rest of the spring in spite of repeated objections from the Imperial ambassador, Renard. However, Renard's fears were put to rest and no rebellion broke out in the name of the martyrs. Nevertheless, secular members of Mary's council were not in favour of the persecutions, and Philip kept his distance from them. It was the religious wing of Mary's council, under the leadership of Gardiner and his friends who pushed for these measures.

Who was John Rogers?

He was the first leading English Reformer as a martyr in Mary's reign. He was a London Minister, Vicar of St. Sepulchre's, and Prebendary and Reader of Divinity at St. Paul's. He was burned in Smithfield on Monday, the 4th of February 1555. Rogers was born at Deritend, in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham. He was a man who, in one respect, had done more for the cause of Protestantism than any of his fellow-sufferers. In saying this I refer to the fact that he had assisted Tyndale and Coverdale in bringing out a most important version of the English Bible, a version commonly known as Matthew's Bible. Indeed, he was condemned as "Rogers, alias Matthew." This circumstance, in all human probability, made him a marked man, and was one cause why he was the first who was brought to the stake.  
Rogers' examination before Gardiner gives us the idea of his being a thorough Protestant, who had fully made up his mind on all points of the sectarian controversy, and was able to give a reason for his opinions. At any rate, he seems to have silenced and abashed his examiners even more than most of the martyrs did. 
On the morning of his martyrdom he was roused hastily in his cell in Newgate, and hardly allowed time to dress himself. He was then led forth to Smithfield on foot, within sight of the Church of St. Sepulchre, where he had preached, and through the streets of the parish where he had done the work of a pastor. By the wayside stood his wife and ten children (one a baby) whom Bishop Bonner, had flatly refused him leave to see in prison. 
This is an account taken from John Foxe's Book of Martyrs (written during the reign of Elizabeth published in 1563, 8 years later.)

"After Mr. Rogers had been long and straitly imprisoned, and lodged in Newgate among thieves, often examined, and very uncharitably entreated, and at length unjustly and most cruelly condemned by Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord 1555, being Monday in the morning, he was suddenly warned by the keeper of Newgate's wife, to prepare himself for the fire; who, being then sound asleep, could scarce be awaked. At length being raised and awaked, and bid to make haste, then said he, "If it be so, I need not tie my points." And so was had down, first to bishop Bonner to be degraded: which being done, he craved of Bonner but one petition; and Bonner asked what that should be. Mr. Rogers replied that he might speak a few words with his wife before his burning, but that could not be obtained of him.
When the time came that he should be brought out of Newgate to Smithfield, the place of his execution, Mr. Woodroofe, one of the sheriffs, first came to Mr. Rogers, and asked him if he would revoke his abominable doctrine, and the evil opinion of the Sacrament of the altar. Mr. Rogers answered, "That which I have preached I will seal with my blood." Then Mr. Woodroofe said, "Thou art an heretic." "That shall be known," quoth Mr. Rogers, "at the Day of Judgment." "Well," said Mr. Woodroofe, "I will never pray for thee." "But I will pray for you," said Mr. Rogers; and so was brought the same day, the fourth of February, by the sheriffs, towards Smithfield, saying the Psalm Miserere by the way, all the people wonderfully rejoicing at his constancy; with great praises and thanks to God for the same. And there in the presence of Mr. Rochester, comptroller of the queen's household, Sir Richard Southwell, both the sheriffs, and a great number of people, he was burnt to ashes, washing his hands in the flame as he was burning. A little before his burning, his pardon was brought, if he would have recanted; but he utterly refused it. He was the first martyr of all the blessed company that suffered in Queen Mary's time that gave the first adventure upon the fire. His wife and children, being eleven in number, ten able to go, and one sucking at her breast, met him by the way, as he went towards Smithfield. This sorrowful sight of his own flesh and blood could nothing move him, but that he constantly and cheerfully took his death with wonderful patience, in the defence and quarrel of the Gospel of Christ."

Monday, 24 October 2011

'Bloody' Mary.

The town of Lewes has a charming annual tradition of holding bonfires and burning effigies in commemoration of The Gunpowder Plot under James I of England, but also in remembrance of the seventeen Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake for their faith during the reign of Mary Tudor. It's a fun-packed occasion for families and people of all ages, and many come from near and far to watch. However, I wanted to pause and reflect on the queen and her notorious reputation as a persecutor. 

  The memory of no English sovereign has been so execrated as that of Mary Tudor. For generations after her death her name, with its horrid epithet ('bloody Mary') was a bugbear in thousands of Protestant homes. It is true that nearly 300 persons were burnt at the stake in her short reign. But she herself was more inclined to mercy than almost any of her predecessors on the throne. Stubbs speaks of her father's "holocausts" of victims. The persecution of Papists under Edward was not less rigorous than that of Protestants under Mary. When her record is compared with that of Philip of Spain, with his Council of Blood in the Netherlands, or of Charles IX. in France, she appears as an apostle of toleration. Why, then, has her memory been covered through centuries with scorn and obloquy?
  Froude will have it that it was due to a national detestation of the crimes which were committed in the name of religion. Those who take a more detached view of history can find little evidence to support the assumption. The nation as a whole seemed to acquiesce in the persecution. The government was weak, there was no standing army, and Mary, like all the Tudors, rested her authority on popular sanction. Plots against her were many, but they were all suppressed. Parliament met regularly. It was not the submissive parliament of Henry VIII. Plagued by faction and external pressure from French and Imperial ambassadors it thwarted some of Mary's dearest projects. For some time it offered opposition to, if it did not actively resist, the Spanish marriage. It was inexorably opposed to the restitution of church property. It refused to alter the succession to the Crown as Mary wished. But it never remonstrated against the persecution of Protestants. It cheerfully revived the old acts for the burning of Lollard heretics. Froude suggests that Englishmen were aghast at the use to which they were afterwards put. But though parliament after parliament was summoned after the Smithfield fires had been lit, there was no sign of disapproval or of condemnation. The Wyatt rebellion, which almost saw her deposed, had hardened Mary's resolve against heretics. When Edward died, there was an instantaneous return to Catholicism. When Mary died, Elizabeth had to walk warily in bringing about innovations in religion. Mary was crowned with the ceremonies of the Catholic Church. When Elizabeth was crowned, nearly all the bishops, including the "bloody" Bonner, attended, and the service of the mass was used. Harpsfield, the notorious Archdeacon of Canterbury, the last man to condemn heretics to the stake in England, publicly stated, weeks after the accession of Elizabeth, that there should be no change in religion. Later generations, judging events and characters by their own standard, have pitilessly condemned the Marian persecutions. The Englishmen of those days were not so squeamish.
  It cannot be denied that Mary became unpopular after her intention to marry Phillip of Spain. Foreigners might sit on the throne of England, but they had to rule as English sovereigns and rest their power on the support of the English people. This intense national jealousy was unhappily aroused by Mary. The strict limitations which were placed on her husband's powers should have warned her of her danger. Philip was allowed the empty title of king, but from the realities of power he was studiously excluded. Philip was careful to maintain the spirit as well as the letter of his obligations. He made no attempt to encroach upon the sovereignty of Mary. He advised her, as it was his duty to do, but he did not interfere with the government of the country. No Spanish troops were landed in England, even when war had broken out with France, and the coasts of England were unguarded. Yet the morbid suspicions of the people were not allayed. The Dudley plot and the Stafford invasion were justified by their authors, not on the ground of Mary's bloody persecutions, but because it was feared that Philip was planning a coup d'état. Mary's popularity began to wane with her marriage; it sunk lower and lower till it almost disappeared when England was dragged into a war with France in the interests of Spain. St. Quintin and Gravelines for a time roused a feeble enthusiasm for the war, but the loss of Calais finally extinguished the Queens popularity. Mary is reported to have said that if her body were opened Calais would be found written on her heart. Froude disbelieves the report. But whether the story be apocryphal or not, there is no doubt that the loss of Calais was accountable, if not for the death of the Queen, for the permanent destruction of her fame.
The odium in which Mary's memory was held was turned to account by the friends of the new religion. Early in the next reign there appeared one of the most remarkable books ever written—Foxe's Book of Martyrs. The authenticity of its narrative has been impugned by Lingard and other Catholic historians; Froude bears testimony to its trustworthiness wherever it can be tested, except when it deals with purely hearsay evidence. When Foxe's narrative of the horrible Guernsey case was challenged by a Catholic controversialist in the reign of Elizabeth, the matter was inquired into, and the account was found to be absolutely true. No one will be found, however, in these days to assert that a book, written by an avowed partisan, in an uncritical age, recording transactions of which from the very nature of things he could have had no personal knowledge, was not too highly coloured in parts and in others absolutely untrustworthy. Few books, nevertheless, have exercised a more abiding influence on the course of our national life. Its simplicity, its directness, its poignant style, and its dramatic power combined to make it an English classic. If it loaded Bonner and Gardiner with shame and hatred, it fixed for three centuries the popular estimate of Mary Tudor. Froude used it with extraordinary skill. His relation of the death of a young Protestant martyr, an apprentice from Essex, taken as it is almost bodily from Foxe, must thrill even yet the least emotional of his readers. The permanence of Mary's hideous title and her abiding unpopularity are more due to the compelling power of a work of genius than to any outstanding demerits, as judged by contemporary standards, in the Catholic Queen.
Instead of being condemned to eternal infamy, poor Mary Tudor might well have expected a more just as well as a more charitable verdict from posterity. From her girlhood to her grave her story was tragic in its sadness. When she was in the first bloom of maidenhood, she was taken by her father to hold her Court of the Welsh Marches at Ludlow in 1525. The title of Princess of Wales was not conferred upon her, but she was surrounded by all the pomps and emblems of sovereignty. The Court was the Princess's Court, as it had been Prince Henry's Court in her father's youth. Three years later she was degraded from her high estate, and deprived of her Court. Henceforth, throughout her father's reign, she was known as the Lady, not the Princess, Mary. She was old enough to feel all the bitterness of her mother's tragedy. She remembered to her dying day the humiliation of the Boleyn marriage. She never ceased to resent the birth of her sister Elizabeth. Her brother Edward was born in lawful wedlock after Queen Catherine's death, and Mary was always perfectly loyal and obedient to him as she was to her father. But she looked with cold disfavour, mingled with morbid jealousy, on the budding promise of Elizabeth. Her very existence was an insult to Mary's mother and a menace to Mary's religion. If Elizabeth was legitimate, Catherine of Arragon was rightly divorced, and Mary herself had no claim to the throne other than by her father's will. Elizabeth could never be reconciled to Rome without casting an aspersion on Anne Boleyn's honour.
No woman was ever more lonely or loveless than the ill-starred and ill-favoured Queen Mary. She had no near relatives in England except Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, by the irony of fate, was worse than a stranger to her. The awful solitude of a throne excluded her, even more than her own ill-health and brooding temper, from the joys of friendship. Philip of Spain was at once her nearest relation on her mother's side, and the only man she ever confided in except Cardinal Pole. She lavished all the pent-up affection of an unloved existence on her husband. She was repaid by cold neglect, studied indifference, and open and vulgar infidelity. Philip made no pretence to care for his wife. She was older in years, she was ungainly in person, she possessed no charm of manner or grace of speech, her very voice was the deep bass of a man. In the days of her joyous entrance into London, amid the acclamations of the populace, her high spirit, her kind heart, and the excitement of adventure lent a passing glow to her sallow cheeks. But ill-health and disillusion followed. She became morbid and sullen, sometimes remaining for days in a dull stupor, at other times giving way to gusts of hysterical passion. But beneath her forbidding exterior there beat a warm, tender, womanly heart, which yearned for some one to love and to cherish. Her mother had died when she was yet young, her father never encouraged her to display her affection for him, and she was verging on middle age before she saw Philip. He became her hero, her master. Wifely obedience became to her the greatest of virtues; she held herself and England at his service. She longed for a son who would bind her husband more closely to herself and who would save England from the hated Elizabeth, and still more from Elizabeth's hated religion. When old and ill, and on the brink of the grave, she still cherished the vain dream of giving birth to the saviour of England and the champion of the faith.
But her historian detractors dwell with malicious irony on the frustration of the poor woman's hopes. They cover the incident with a ridicule which must jar on all sensitive minds. No purer soul ever set himself to right the world than Reginald Pole; no one failed more completely in his cherished plans. He and Mary died on the same day; the bells that tolled their knell rang out the order for which they stood. But the utter failure of their hopes roused no emotion save that of bitter contempt in some historians. They saw no merit in the "hysterical dreamer" who had sacrificed his all for his religion; they saw no pathos in the life of that lone woman who was condemned, almost from her cradle, to a loveless existence and a forlorn death.  Froude's final epitaph on her is that "she had reigned little more than five years, and she descended into the grave amidst curses deeper than the acclamations which had welcomed her accession." The only excuse they can find for her is that she was suffering from "hysterical derangement" akin to insanity, which placed her absolutely under the domination of Gardiner and Pole. When we remember her magnanimity towards Lady Jane Grey at her accession, when we contrast her conduct towards the formidable Elizabeth with Elizabeth's subsequent conduct towards Mary Queen of Scots, her generosity to the causes she had at heart with Elizabeth's unfailing parsimony, and her open and straightforward dealings both in matters of Church and of State with her sister's mean and tortuous subterfuges, we may well extend not only our pity to the woman, but some tribute of admiration to the Queen. At least we may agree with Froude that "few men or women have lived less capable of doing knowingly a wrong thing."



The chameleon Lord.

The resilience of mid-Tudor statesmen, their chameleon-like loyalties and their survival skills are a credit to any 'realpolitik' or Machiavellian prophet. William Paget, Ist Baron Paget of Beaudesert (1506-1563), was a statesman and accountant, who held prominent positions during the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I.

Under Henry, Paget was friends with the man who was to become his arch-rival under Mary's reign, Stephen Gardiner.  Paget rose very fast to occupy several important positions culminating in his appointment of secretary of state. This lead to his appointment as a member of the council under the Protectorate of Somerset during the minority reign of Edward. Paget showed characteristic allegiance  to the man in power, and supported Somerset, while benefiting tremendously from the dissolution of the monasteries and all the advantages gained from conversion to the new religion under a Protestant monarch. His priorities of survival and self-advancement meant that he could not be the progressive reformer that was Somerset. This did not stop his advancement and promotion. These are all the benefits gained after England's divorce from the papal see:

In 1547 he was made comptroller of the king's household, Chancellor of the Dutchy of Lancaster, elected knight of the shire (MP) for Staffordshire and made a knight of the Garter; and in 1549 he was summoned by writ to the House of Lords as Baron Paget de Beaudesert. About the same time he obtained extensive grants of lands, including Cannock Chace and Burton Abbey in Staffordshire [the Abbey was dissolved in 1545 and granted to Lord Paget], and in London the residence of the bishops of Exeter, afterwards known successively as Lincoln House and Essex House, on the site now occupied by the Outer Temple in the London. He obtained Beaudesert in Staffordshire [ this was probably a Cistercian monestery from 1135-1154 until it became the hunting lodge of the Bishops of Lichfield and Coventry; Henry gave this to Paget as reward for his services to the crown] which remained the chief seat of the Paget family.

By Paget's example and many others like him, it is quite clear that being Protestant and a member of the aristocracy was an advantageous position to be in after the dissolution of monasteries, initially dissolved under the pretext of using their revenues to fund education and help the poor. However, when Somerset was overthrown in a coup d'etat by Northumberland, Paget suffered disgrace and was committed to the Tower for his allegiance  to Somerset. This experience taught him a valuable lesson. When the Catholic queen, Mary, ascended the throne, Paget did his utmost to gain her favour by supporting her and ensuring a smooth course to her marriage to the Spanish king Phillip; leading the forces that ended Wyatt's rebellion and, when he did fall out of her favour, he begged and pleaded on his hands and knees for her forgiveness. On the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 Paget retired from public life.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tudor images.

These are mainly some portraits of Henry and his children. Their facial features are beautifully illuminated here and despite different mothers, I can see the family resemblance. Mary was the only child with a mother who was not English - the Spanish Catherine of Aragon. Elizabeth's mother was Anne Boleyn and Edward's was Jane Seymour.

Portrait of Henry VIII by an unknown artist. Anglo-Netherlandish School, c. 1548
This is a revealing close-up of Henry's face. At the end of his life, Henry grew grossly overweight and was in terrible pain from his swollen legs. You can almost see the pain in his face. Henry reigned in England from April 1509 – January 1547.
  (his signature)
Portrait of Henry VIII, c.1548


Mary Tudor - late sixteenth century

A posthumous portrait of Mary Tudor made sometime in the late sixteenth century by an unknown artist. French school. Housed at the Musee Conde, Chantilly, France.

Entry of Queen Mary I into London

Entry of Queen Mary I with Princess Elizabeth into London in 1553 by Frank Cadogan Cowper, 1910. Painting held at Palace of Westminster, London. Mary had the shortest Tudor reign, from July 1553 until      November 1558, when she died of cancer.
  (her signature)


This is a lovely portrait of Elizabeth.


Queen Elizabeth I, c.1560

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by an unknown artist. Painted in the early years of her reign. Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was the last Tudor monarch and succeeded her sister Mary I in November 1558. There does not appear to be a determined portrait of Elizabeth during her sister’s reign but this slightly later image reflects well Elizabeth’s appearance around the time of her sister’s last years. Elizabeth had the longest Tudor reign lasting  till her death in March 1603, which saw the end of Tudor reign and the beginning of Stuart  rule in England.
   (her signature)


King Edward VI of England

This portrait of Edward VI was almost certainly painted during his reign. Dendrochonological analysis of the panel on which the portrait is painted has shown that the oak used was felled in the first half of the sixteenth century. Furthermore, the emphatic “ER”, for Edwardus Rex, suggests that the picture was intended as a portrayal of the current monarch, rather than as part of a later sixteenth century set of ‘corridor’ portraits. 
Edward only reigned in England for 6 years from January 1547 to July 1553, when he died at the age of 15 from, what is believed, tuberculosis.
 (his signature)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

A Greek Traveller in Tudor England

Tonight I'll be watching Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey, and it occurred to me that some Greeks must have visited England during the mid-Tudor period for either business or curiosity. I finally discovered one traveler by the name of Nicander, and found this account of his travels in Britain. I have selected extracts that I found amusing and revealing of his point of view.   
In 1545, nearly two years before the death of Henry VIII, there came to England Nicander Nucius of Corfu. He stayed some months, and later wrote an account of his visit in classical Greek. 
Nicander came to England with his patron Gerard, whom the Emperor Charles V had dispatched as an emissary to Henry. We know little about Nicander himself, but there are hints that he had recently left his home owing to some personal tragedy. Corfu was then a part of the Venetian Republic and it was to Venice that he made his way, there to meet Gerard, who was travelling to the court of Sultan Suleiman. Nicander accompanied him to Constantinople. His knowledge of local conditions would make him a useful travelling-companion, and it is probable that he also proved helpful as a diplomatic assistant. At any rate, he remained a member of Gerard's suite and followed him faithfully on the long journey through Germany and Belgium which finally brought them both to Calais. Here they received a travel-permit (xs1F10υλóσιμον), and after a false start crossed to Dover.
It  is  clear  that  much  of  Nicander's Report is based on intelligent observation. It is also clear, however, that the influence of his classical background obtrudes with great frequency. This is particularly noticeable in his general description of Britain. 'The whole island is an intricate pattern of fertile hills and plain, and abounds in marshes and fine oak-forests. Then again, we find Britain lacks asses and mules, for these creatures do not occur in the colder region', and that the cold is responsible for the absence of horns on the sheep and cattle. He speaks with enthusiasm of the horses, cattle and sheep and particularly of the sheep [he must have been in Wales]. 
His description of people is amusing: 'the race is white skinned and rather fair, tall and upright in posture. The hair of their beards and heads is golden [did he overlook the dark Celtic Welsh?] their eyes for the most part blue, and their cheeks ruddy. They are pugnacious and brave, and generally well built, carnivorous, with an insatiable appetite for meat, simple-minded, unrestrained in their impulses, and full of suspicion. But they are extraordinarily loyal to their king and non of them will tolerate hearing anything distasteful of him because of their deep respect for him. So that their most momentous oath is that which is sworn in the name of the king, God save him!'
The behaviour of the women, both in public and at the home, shocked Nicander deeply. 'Trade' he writes, 'is open not only to men, but in high degree also to women, who have an extraordinary enthusiasm for it. In the market-place and streets of the city, one could see married women and young girls engaging without disguise in handiwork, barter, and business affairs. The behaviour of men towards women is traditionally regulated by a natural simplicity and absence of jealously. For not only do relatives and intimate friends kiss women and greet and embrace them but even those who have never seen them before.  And this is not considered in any way improper.'

 D. E. Eichholz