Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Viscount Lisle – the Last Plantagenet III

Catherine of Aragon
A Case of Conscience

In northern Europe the influence of Martin Luther was spreading fast. Following his nailing his Ninety Five Theses to the door of All Saint’s church in Wittemburg in 1517 the Protestant Reformation had grown on the back of dissatisfaction with the corruption within the Catholic church. And now an unconsummated affair between Henry and one of his wife’s ladies-in-waiting was to kick off a series of events that was to see the throwing off of the Catholic Church’s mantle in England.

Henry fell in love with Anne Boleyn and when she failed to jump into his bed, he became obsessed with her. Queen Katherine was clearly at fault for failing to produce a male heir and now Wolsey was put under pressure to get Katherine off Henry’s hands so he could marry Anne. Katherine’s marriage to Henry’s brother Arthur now worried Henry’s conscience so that he was unable to remain married to his queen.

Thomas Cranmer
In 1527 Wolsey was commissioned to get the marriage annulled on the grounds that Katherine had slept with Arthur and therefore the marriage between Henry and Katherine should never have taken place. On 18th May 1527 the new Spanish ambassador reported that Henry had;

‘Secretly assembled certain bishops and lawyers that they may sign a declaration to the effect that his marriage with the Queen is null and void on account of her having been his brother’s wife…..[the King] was bent on this divorce.’[i]

Unfortunately for Henry the pope was a prisoner of Katherine’s nephew Emperor Charles, who was not prepared to see his aunt humiliated. The annulment was not granted and now, with the support of Thomas Cranmer,, Henry decided that the only answer was to divorce himself and his country from the religious overlordship of Rome.

With his failure to ensure a divorce from Queen Catherine Wolsey fell out of favour and by the end of 1530 Wolsey was dead and his secretary Thomas Cromwell was chosen to take a seat on the Privy Council.

A Trip to Calais

Anne Boleyn
In October 1532 Henry set out on a journey to Calais; his objective was to meet with François again. In Henry’s train came Anne Boleyn, now a peer in her own right as Marchioness of Pembroke, in place of Queen Katherine who had been set aside and was living at Enfield. Honor was one of six ladies chosen to accompany Anne Boleyn along with Anne’s sister Mary, Lady Rochford[ii], Lady Mary Howard[iii], Dorothea Howard[iv] Countess of Derby and Elizabeth, Lady Fitzwalter[v].

Henry set up in residence at the Exchequer Palace and he and Anne had interconnecting rooms. In discussions with Henry François showed himself sympathetic to the nullity suit. On 27th, Anne and her six ladies took part in a masque to entertain the kings; Anne was dressed in cloth of gold slashed with crimson satin, puffed with cloth of silver and laced with gold cords. Her ladies wore loose gowns of cloth of gold slashed with crimson tinsel laced in gold and all of them wore masks.

When the dance was finished Anne led François out to dance. Mary Boleyn asked Henry to dance while the other ladies invited other gentlemen present to join them. The following day the two kings joined a chapter meeting of the Order of the Garter, which Arthur would have attended if he was part of Henry’s entourage.

On 29th October Henry escorted François to the French border where they made their farewells and went their separate ways. For Henry that was back to Calais and Anne where they dallied for a further fortnight.

It was not until January 1533 that Anne Boleyn finally got her way and was secretly married to the king of her choice. But it was probably in Calais that she first allowed Henry into her bed and by December she was pregnant. In February Anne had, according to Thomas Wyatt,

‘An inestimable wild desire to eat apples, such as she had never had in her life before, and the king told her it was a sign she was with child, but she said it was nothing of the sort.’[vi]

Arthur acted as Chief Panter[vii] at the banquet celebrating the marriage.

Although Henry and Anne were married, Henry was well aware that he was not married in the eyes of Rome and Elizabeth, born on 7th September 1533, was viewed as a bastard. By November 1534, infuriated by the Catholic church’s refusal to give him what he wanted, under the Act of Supremacy, Henry separated from Rome, creating the Church of England with himself as its supreme governor and Cranmer as head prelate and Archbishop of Canterbury.


Pale of Calais
On 16 March 1533 Arthur was named as deputy of Calais, after the death of John Bourchier, 2nd Baron Berners. Frances accompanied her father, Honor and her Basset stepsisters to Calais where, when they first arrived, they moved into Baron Berners’ old home. In 1536 the Lisles moved to the Staple Inn[viii].

The mayor Sir Richard Whetwill, of an old Calais family, was to prove particularly troublesome to Arthur. Another troublemaker was Sir Robert Wingfield, a member of the Calais council. Whetwill insisted that his son Richard should have priority, something which Arthur, for all his easy going ways, resisted and the resultant quarrel saw all Calais take sides.

On his side Arthur had his man of business, John Husee, a merchant who managed Arthur’s affairs in England while he was absent in France. Husee became Arthur’s agent in August 1533; He carried letters from Calais to England, and kept Lord Lisle informed of political events at court.

Much of Husee’s time was spent in England following Lord Lisle's suits at law. Husee was particularly adept at relations with those in the upper echelons of power, and even at times offered Arthur advice on dealing with King Henry VIII. Husee performed more mundane tasks for the Lord Deputy and his family as well, seeing to the care of Honor's children by her first marriage;

‘By Swift I sent a cap with a white feather in a cap case for Mr [John] Bassett, which I trust is there ere this time….Mr Popley lent me XX nobles, whereof I think he doth owe the best part for his rent., which I paid for the furring of Mr Basset’s gown.’[ix]

Husee was compensated for his services with a post in the Calais garrison which by 1535 provided him with a daily wage of 8d[x]. In October 1536 he received a grant for life from the Crown as 'searcher of the lordships of Marke and Oye within the Calais pale', which brought him an additional 8d a day.

An Unimportant Spearman

Mary Boleyn
When Arthur arrived in Calais one William Stafford joined the garrison as a spearman. Stafford was soon being used by the Lisles as a courier between Calais and England and running commissions for the family. In December 1533 Husee met with Stafford in Dover; Stafford had been in England to purchase a gorget, ribbon and lawns for Honor. In August 1534 a correspondent of Honor’s wrote to her;

‘Since my coming from London from Hampshire, I hear that Stafford your servant, to whom I gave the letter, was in London long after, so I wish to know whether it has been received.’[xi]

Stafford, a relatively unimportant manservant probably met up with Mary Boleyn, to further his romance with the Queen’s sister, a woman who was not prone to thinking of the consequences of her actions. Stafford and Mary probably married in the summer of 1534. Mary had been living under her father’s displeasure[xii] since the death of her first husband. This marriage to Stafford was seen as a great mésalliance, making the king brother-in-law to a common spearman. Certainly the couple were never received at court again.

There is evidence to show that Stafford retained his place with the Lisles, as mention is made in letters to Honor and Arthur of their man Stafford running errands for themselves and their friends. It is assumed that Mary joined him in Calais, though not with the children of her previous marriage; her son was taken by Anne as a ward. Thomas Boleyn was every bit as disapproving as his younger daughter and it is unlikely that they were ever reconciled.


The Lisle Letters – Muriel St Clare Byrne, Penguin Books 1985

The Royal Bastards of Medieval England – Chris Given-Wilson and Alice Curteis, Barnes and Noble Inc. 1984

The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune – David M Head, University of Georgia Press 2009

Thomas Cromwell – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2008

Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, Weidenfeld & Nicholson and Book Club Associates 1972

The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992

Thomas More – Richard Marius, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1993

Six Wives – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2003

The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992

Mary Boleyn – Alison Weir, Vintage 2012


[i] Six Wives - Starkey
[ii] Anne’s sister-in-law
[iii] The Duke of Norfolk’s daughter, Anne’s cousin and later Duchess of Richmond
[iv] Mary’s sister
[vi] The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[vii] An honorary positon as head of the royal pantry
[viii] Formerly the Inn of the Staplers’ Company
[ix] The Lisle Letters – Byrne
[x] Per annum in 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £6,603.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £216,700.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £2,936,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[xi] Mary Boleyn - Weir
[xii] Henry had forced Thomas to pay for Mary’s upkeep and house her

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Viscount Lisle – the Last Plantagenet II

Arthur Plantagenet (C)

Back Home

In 1514 Arthur was appointed High Sheriff of Hampshire[i] and made captain of the Vice-Admiral's[ii] ship Trinity Sovereign[iii]. At some point Henry made his uncle keeper of the royal forests of Clarendon and Bere.

Meanwhile, having discovered the perfidy of his allies, Henry had come to peace terms with Louis XII and an agreement was made whereby Louis would marry Henry’s sister Mary[iv]. The marriage took place on 9th October 1514 in Abbeville; Mary had Anne and Mary Boleyn among her attendants; their father Thomas was one of Henry’s favourite courtiers.

Within three months Mary’s elderly husband was dead and Henry was not best pleased when his sister returned home after a secret betrothal to his best friend Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk who had distinguished himself at the sieges of Thérouanne and Tournai. Henry had agreed to Mary remarrying the man of her choice once Louis was dead, if Mary agreed to marry the French king.

"If she survived him [Louis], she should marry whom she liked."[v]

He was now most upset that his sister had taken him at his word.

Brandon had been betrothed to marry his ward Elizabeth Grey[vi], Viscountess Lisle, Elizabeth Plantagenet’s niece. In anticipation of the marriage Brandon had been made Viscount Lisle; now Henry made him surrender his ward and the title in favour of Katherine Plantagenet, Countess of Devon and Arthur’s half-sister. Katherine married Elizabeth Lisle to her son Henry Courtenay but Elizabeth died before the marriage could be consummated. In 1519 Arthur and his wife Elizabeth Grey, took possession of the lands that had belonged to her father and Elizabeth became Baroness Lisle in her own right.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Francois I
On 31st May 1520 Arthur was among those gentlemen attending the king[vii] to on a visit meet François I. The two kings met at Balinghem at what became known as the Field of Cloth of Gold. Both François and Henry attempted to outdo each other in splendour, not only in raiment and palaces[viii], but also on the jousting field. Henry’s minister Cardinal Wolsey stage managed the whole event, even the food was brought over from England, including

‘700 conger eels, 2,014 sheep, 26 dozen heron and 4 bushels of mustard.…[and] £1.0.10d[ix] worth of cream for the King’s cakes.’[x]

Wolsey was busy on the diplomatic front trying to arrange a marriage between François and Princess Mary[xi]. He was also attempting to confront the vexed question of arrears of monies due under the terms of the Treaty of Étaples and trying to reconcile François and the emperor Charles[xii], who was hovering just over the border.

The attempt failed and Charles had to wait until François had departed before Henry invited Charles to visit him in Calais on 10th July. Despite the previous weeks’ jollification French worries were not alleviated by the obvious amity between the English and the Holy Roman Emperor. Charles gave Wolsey a pension of 7,000 ducats[xiii] and promised his aid when the papal throne became vacant.

On 25 April 1523 Arthur was created Viscount Lisle and in 1524 was made a Knight of the Garter. He was also to be selected to be a Privy Councillor. In 1525 Arthur was made Vice-Admiral of England and he remained Vice-Admiral until 1533 when he was appointed to a new post in Calais.

Marriage Number Two

Honor Grenville
Some time after Elizabeth died (date unknown), in 1529 the 67 year old Arthur[xiv] married Honor Grenville, widow of Sir John Basset, thirty years his junior. It was claimed that Honour was ‘of cold complexion’. She had a delicate skin and colouring. Her friend Sister Antoinette de Saveuses, a nun at a convent in Dunkirk, mentioned Honor’s ‘tender and delicate person’. Sir John Wallop, Lieutenant of Calais Castle was an admirer of Honor’s charms.

Arthur and Honor had a close and loving relationship. On one of the few occasions they were apart the uxorious Arthur wrote to his wife;

‘I had never better health, but I think so much on you I cannot sleep i’ the night.When I think on you, in two hours after there was never child who thought so long for his nurse as I do for you.’[xv]

Honor was loving towards Arthur; on an occasion in 1538 when she travelled to England she wrote;

‘Mine own sweet heart, This shall be to advertise to you that I have had a goodly and fair passage….I thank God that I was once sick in all the way; and after that I was merry and well, and should have been merrier if I had been coming towards you, or if you had been with me.’[xvi]

Like Arthur, Honor enjoyed ‘pastime with good company,’ good food, entertainment and was at ease with people of all social rank. She was an energetic correspondent, keeping in touch with her children and the Lisle’s man of business, along with friends and anyone who might assist the Lisle’s at court. Honor was also claimed to be sharp and hasty.

Reading Abbey
Honor had seven children, who were to claim much attention from their stepfather. By 1532 Arthur had purchased John Basset's[xvii] wardship from John Worth of Compton Pole[xviii], Devon, Sewer to the King’s Chamber. John was educated at Reading Abbey, where the Abbot was Hugh Cook, a friend of Arthur’s. Arthur married John to his daughter Frances on 19th February 1538 (all the bridal finery being procured on credit, due to Arthur’s perennial financial problems), providing her with a wealthy husband.

The middle son George was placed at Hyde Abbey where the Abbot, John Salcot kept an eye on him. George was then sent to St Omer before being sent to live with Sir Francis Bryan[xix], a very close friend of Arthur’s[xx].

A Precocious Little Horror

College of Sorbonne 1550
Honor’s third son James was apparently ‘a precocious little horror’ who wrapped his mother around his little finger. In the summer of 1533 James was sent to Reading Abbey and in August 1535 after a stay in Calais with his mother, James went to the Collège de Calvi[xxi] in Paris.

Once in Paris James fell in with a group of English scholars, including James Bekynsaw, studying at the College of Sorbonne and determined that he would do better at the Collège de Navarre where he would meet the sons of the nobility. In this, as in most matters, James got his way.

Bishop Gardiner
As the youngest son James was destined for holy orders and was ordained as a minor cleric and given the income from a prebend’s living in Cornwall. James was sent to live in the household of Bishop Gardiner, but he was viewed as;

‘Meeter to serve the temporal powers than the spiritual dignities[xxii][xxiii]

Honor’s daughters were Philippa, Katherine[xxiv], Anne who attracted the king’s attention and Mary, acclaimed as a beauty. All children of the various marriages were regarded as one family; Lisle was addressed as ‘my lord my father’ by Basset and Plantagenet children alike. Honor looked out for advancement for all the extended family. Anne and Mary Basset were placed in noble French households once the family had moved to France.
The Lisle Letters – Muriel St Clare Byrne, Penguin Books 1985
Cardinal Wolsey – Mandell Creighton, MacMillan & Co 1891
The Royal Bastards of Medieval England – Chris Given-Wilson and Alice Curteis, Barnes and Noble Inc. 1984
The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune – David M Head, University of Georgia Press 2009
Thomas Cromwell – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2008
Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, Weidenfeld & Nicholson and Book Club Associates 1972
The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992
Thomas More – Richard Marius, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1993
The Tudor Navy – Arthur Nelson, Conway Maritime Press 2001
Six Wives – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2003
The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992

[i] Possibly because of his close connections to the area
[iii] A Great Ship of 800 tonnes, built in 1488 and rebuilt in 1510
[iv] Her previous betrothal to Maximilian’s grandson Charles, arranged in 1507, was called off
[vi] Daughter of John Grey 2nd Viscount Lisle and cousin of Arthur’s wife, daughter of Edward Grey 1st Viscount Lisle
[vii] Arthur was one of the gentlemen representing Hampshire
[viii] Temporary but extremely luxurious pavilions were erected for both monarchs
[ix] In 2014 the relative: real price of that commodity is £596.60 labour value of that commodity is £5,597.00 income value of that commodity is £19,360.00 www.measuringworth.com
[x] Henry VIII - Lacey
[xi] Four years old
[xii] Maximilian died in 1519
[xiii] In 2014 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £4,008,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £130,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £1,981,000,000.00 www.measuringworth.com
[xiv] By Byrne’s calculations
[xv] The Lyle Letters – Byrne
[xvi] Ibid
[xvii] The oldest of Honor’s sons
[xviii] A cousin of the Bassett family
[xix] One of Anne Boleyn’s cousins; Bryan was Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and Lord Chief Justice of Ireland
[xx] George eventually married and went to live in Cornwall and became an MP
[xxi] At this time used for primary education of children, teaching them the rudiments of grammar
[xxii] James was a strong proponent of the Catholic faith and eventually moved into Mary Tudor’s household when she was queen. He married Thomas More’s granddaughter Mary Roper and was allegedly involved in an assassination attempt on Princess Elizabeth
[xxiii] The Lisle Letters - Byrne
[xxiv] Who later went to work in Anne of Cleves’ household