Barking Abbey, part 1

In the late 1530´s an era of over 1 000 years of monasticism in England went to its grave. Forbarking_abbey_curfew_tower_london many of those who had spent their lives as monks, or as I will write about here, nuns, this was a surely earth shattering ending to a way of life one surely thought would last for the remainder of one´s life.

For a long time throughout history, the life choices of women were basically restricted to either marriage, or if her family belonged to the nobility – or increasingly towards the end of monasticism – the upper gentry, or to the joining of a convent.

In those convents, women could achieve something similar to freedom, but a freedom within restraints, the restraints of the order they had join itself.

I have chosen to write about Barking Abbey, focusing on the women of living there during the last years before the surrendering of the abbey to the crown.

220px-st_margarets_barking_-_dsc06985Barking Abbey, founded around 666 in Essex by St. Erkenwald for his sister St. Ethelburga who was the first abbess there, was a royal monastery which originally housed both nuns and monks, but this would change during the Middle ages. As a royal monastery, the king originally had the right to choose the abbess, but after pressure from the pope, this changed during the reign of King John, and the nuns got the right to elect their abbess themselves. What remained was that at his accession, each king had the right to appoint a nun to the monastery.

During the centuries prominent women had been holding the position as abbess, among whom can be mentioned three Maudes, the wife of Henry I, the wife of King Stephen and the daughter of Henry II.

Henry II also used the position as a prioress at Barking Abbey for the reparation of the murder of Thomas Becket by appointing his sister Mary Becket. Here Edward II kept the wife of Robert the Bruce, Elizabeth, for a year before she was traded for English prisoners held in Scotland, and years later his grandson, John of Gaunt would pay the admission dowry to Barking Abbey for Elizabeth Chaucer, the daughter of his friend, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

 

During the centuries, Barking Abbey remained one of the most powerful and rich abbey inbarking the country, and the abbess here had precedence over all other abbesses in England. Had she been a man, she automatically would have had a place among the Lords in parliament and she was one of only four abbesses in the country who had baronial status, the others being the abbesses of Shaftsbury, Wilton and St Mary´s at Winchester.

After a decision made by St. Dunstan, archbishop of Canterbury in the 10th century, Barking Abbey followed the Rule of St. Benedict. Out of the around 138 nunneries that existed in England between 1270 and 1536, more than half belonged to the Benedictine order.

Tbenedicthe Benedictine order was, and is, an order which is more moderate than many other monastic orders and St. Benedict himself said in the prologue of his Rules, which the Benedictine nuns (and monks) follow that he intended to prescribe “nothing harsh, nothing burdensome” for his followers and instead his approach to seeking God has been seen as both sensible and humane.

He also prescribed a balance between prayer and work, the Benedictines shouldn´t be so consumed by work that they forgot their spiritual responsibilities nor should they send so much time in prayer that their work was neglected.

All things – eating, drinking, sleeping, reading, working and praying – should be done in moderation; “All things must be given its due, but only its due. There should be something of everything and not too much of anything”.

The vows a Benedictine nun made when being professed was that of stability, fidelity (to the monastic way of life) and obedience. While “chastity” and “poverty” is mentioned in the Benedictine Rules, they are not the most important vows.

At the time of the dissolution, Barking Abbey was the third wealthiest in England, with an barkingabbey-1500income of around £1 084 per year, superseded only by Shaftsbury Abbey and Sion Abbey.

The 31 women who at the time of the surrender of Barking Abbey had chosen to take the vows and to live according to the Rules were Dorothy Barley abbess and professed around 1507, Thomasina Jenney, Margaret Scrope, Dorothy Fitzlewes, Agnes Townesend who had been professed in or shortly before 1499, at which time Margaret Cotton had been a novice.

At the time of the election of Dorothy Barley for abbess in 1527, Gabriel Shelton, Margery Paston and Elizabeth Badock had been novices, to become professed nuns in 1534 together with Anne Snowe, Agnes Bukham, Margaret Bramstone, Elizabeth Bainbridge and Katherine Pollard, in a time when they no doubt they had thought they would survive the bath of steel and fire which would firstly would affect the smaller and poorer convents.

The other nuns, with no information of when they had been professed to be found, was Joan Fynchham, Margery Ballard, Martha Fabyan, Ursula Wentworth, Joan Drurye, Elizabeth Wyatt, Agnes Horsey, Susanna Suliarde, Elizabeth Banbrik, Mary Tyrell, with Margaret Kempe, Elizabeth Prist, Audrey and Winifred Mordant, Alice Hyde, Lucy Long, Matilda Gravell and Margaret Grenehyll being the youngest.

It is sometimes suggested that the option of joining the monastic life was something that was open to anyone, but this was not quite the case. Just as in arranging a marriage, a dowry would need to be provided, even though it was not officially allowed. This is illustrated not least in the earlier history of Barking Abbey, which seems to have been the nunnery of choice the upper classes. It is also demonstrated by the fact that the women at Barking Abbey whom it is possible to trace all belonged to nobility or upper gentry. Those women whom it is possible to trace among the last nuns of Barking Abbey also demonstrates that it was the daughters of the upper layers of society who either chose or was made to join the monastery.

Also during the last years, the names of the nuns where they too can be traced, confirm the assumption; Margery Paston was the daughter of Sir William Paston of Norfolk, Gabrielle Shelton daughter of Sir John and Lady Anne Shelton, the latter aunt of Anne Boleyn, to mention but two examples.

 

Sources:

House of Benedictine Nuns: Barking Abbey in “A history of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London 1907) British History Online

A nun´s life: Barking Abbey in the late-medieval and early modern periods – Theresa L. Barnes, Portland State University, 2004.

Barking Abbey: A study in its external and internal administration from the conquest to the dissolution – Winifred K. Sturman, University of London, 1961.

Dugdale Monasticon, Vol 1, part 15: Charthe longynge to the Office of the Celeresse of the Monasterye of Barkinge. 1655.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII, August-December 1539.

Barking Abbey, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Museum and Heritage, Local History Resources.

Essex Record Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Henry II

I will elaborate more on Henry II at a later time, here just a sketchy portrait on the jindra_eleonora862nd anniversary of his coronation, and a way to get back to blogging again. It´s been a long time off now!

Today it´s 862 years since Henry Plantagnet – the first king to use that name which had been adopted by his father Geoffrey of Anjou – in 1154 was crowned at Westminster Abbey alongside his wife, the quite feisty Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Henry was the son om Empress Matilda – or Lady of the English as she was also known during her own struggle for the English crown which unleashed the civil war known as The Anarchy on the English people, with her cousin Stephen of Blois on the opposite side of the battlefield – and Geoffrey ”the Fair”, count of Anjou.

Just as his mother, daughter of Henry I and granddaughter of William the Conqueror, had a strong sense of birth right, and had a vast kingdom at the end of his reign, all of which he is said to have kept under control by constantly being in the saddle, riding back and forward through his domains.

He would come to have eight children with Eleanor, and it is somewhat of an understatement to say that the harmony was sometimes lacking in the family.

His son´s Henry, the heir to the throne and referred to as Henry the Young King, and his brothers Richard (known to history as Richard the Lionhearted) and Geoffrey would eventually rebel – with the backing of their mother – against their father.

Henry was of course also the king who appointed his friend Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, and caused his death through the allegedly misinterpreted words “Will someone rid me of this turbulent priest” once the friendship had turned sour.

The conflicts with his son´s continued, and after having been defeated in a final rebellion in 1189, he shortly after died from what is believed to have been a bleeding ulcer.

Sources:

Henry II – New Interpretations: Nicholas Vincent, Christopher Harper- Bill.

Henry II – W. L. Warren.

The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England – Dan Jones

Viking raid at Lindisfarne

When I was significantly younger, basically half of the age I have today, and went to Ireland with my best friend, there was a recurring joke among people we met to let out ”terrified” yelps or saying to something to the effect that they would go down fighting, both reactions caused by us being “Vikings”, and we happily played along, stating that we were back for some more plundering and pillage, as the vanguards clearly hadn´t quite gotten the job done.

This post is however not about Ireland, or benign “Vikings” like myself and my friend,Lindisfarne_Abbey_and_St_Marys but about the time when it became obvious that Vikings was going to pose a serious threat to the British Isles in what is widely acknowledged as the first Viking attack in England and the start of the Viking era; the raid of Lindisfarne on June 8, in the year 793.

It is documented what happened, in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle;

“Her wæron reðe forebecna cumene ofer Norðhymbra land, ⁊ þæt folc earmlic bregdon, þæt wæron ormete þodenas ligrescas, fyrenne dracan wæron gesewene on þam lifte fleogende. Þam tacnum sona fyligde mycel hunger, ⁊ litel æfter þam, þæs ilcan geares on .vi. Idus Ianuarii, earmlice hæþenra manna hergunc adilegode Godes cyrican in Lindisfarnaee þurh hreaflac mansliht”

Lindisfarne postWhich would read in English;

“In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of the Northumbrians, and the wretched people shook; there were excessive whirlwinds, lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and a little after those, that same year on 6th ides of January, the ravaging of wretched heathen people destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.”

It seems strange of course that the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle state the Vikings as arriving in January when it´s generally accepted that it took place in June, and the conditions for sailing the sea in the, for Vikings, traditional long ships would be more favourable, but according to Michael Swanton, historian, archaeological metallurgist, architectural historian specialising in Old English literature and the Anglo-Saxon period (among many other things), is an error in the original document.

Also a Northumbrian scholar at Charlemagne´s court, Alcuin, was horrified: “NeverKingdom_of_Northumbria_in_AD_802 before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race … The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets”.

The Vikings, or Northmen as they are called in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, or again, Danes, as they are often known was not necessarily of one nationality and most likely had no allegiance between the groups. “Danes” should not automatically be taken as people from Denmark (not least as none of the national states as we now know them existed at the time), but raiding Danes consisted of people from the countries around the Baltic sea, indeed what is now Denmark, but also Sweden and the areas which today form the Baltic states.

But back to what happened on that fateful day of June 8, 793; Lindisfarne was just outside the coast of the mainland, and not unlikely it was a surprise to the raiding Vikings that a wealthy monastery was located in such an isolated and vulnerable area.

But Lindisfarne was also at the heart of the Northumbrian kingdom, and its monasteries was known for its books and arts. This may not have been objects valued by the Vikings, as books was not a commodity known to the people of the north. Not that they didn´t record their stories – even though many of them went on through oral tradition – we still find the tales of particularly worthy people carved into stones, the special Scandinavian runes.

Plundering, burning and killing the monks inhabiting the monastery of Lindisfarne, as well as terrifying everyone that managed to stay alive, the Viking was seen by representatives of the church sent by God, punishing the people struck down by the violent men from the north, something which maybe can be seen as slightly ironic, as the church and its wealth would continue to draw the Vikings attention in the years to come.

Vikings-VoyagesAfter the attack on Lindisfarne, the previously mentioned Alcuin who himself was a monk as most scholars of the time, took the opportunity to write to the Northumbrian king Ethelred as well as the Bishop of Lindisfarne where he urged them to, in the future “consider the dress, the way of wearing the hair, the luxurious habits of the princes and people”, just in case “this unaccustomed and unheard-of evil was merited by some unheard-of evil practice…” One can only say that victim blaming clearly isn´t a modern phenomenon.

The monastery of Lindisfarne did recover from this attack, but the raids would continue, all over England as well as Scotland – where Iona was attacked in 794, 802, 806 and 825. In the unlikely event Alcuin was on to something in his accusations, the monastery of St Columba had really aggravated God.

 

The Viking World – James Graham Campbell and David Wilson

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – Michael Swanton

BBC History

A History of Britain 3000BC – AD1603 – Simon Schama

 

 

The Grey Friars of Canterbury

When seen from a distance, as for example through the window of the Canterbury 20160716_103054Heritage museum, which was the way I saw it for the first time two years ago, it doesn´t necessarily look much, the old stone house standing alone in the field.

But it is what remains of the very first Franciscan house in England, founded at a time when Francis of Assisi himself was still alive (although he had only two years left to live).

It was on September 10th, 1224, that nine Franciscan Friars, Grey Friars, landed at Dover and from there made their way to Canterbury where they stayed at the priory of the Holy Trinity for two days before four of them continued on their way to London.

The remaining five stayed at the hospital of Poor Priests in Stour Street, the same street on which one today can see what remains of their time in Canterbury.

20160716_103645It seems they won the favour of the Archbishop Stephen Langton, and with the support of him, and the good will of Alexander, the master of the Hospital of Poor Priests, who gave them a plot of land on which they could build a chapel of which one unfortunately has found no trace during excavations. As it was part of the rules for the order that the Friars could hold no property, the chapel was owned by the citizens of Canterbury, and the Friars used it at the will of those citizens.

Other important benefactors during these early years included Simon Langton, Archdeacon of Canterbury and brother of the Archbishop as well as Loretta de Briouze (sometimes spelt Braose), countess of Leicester and daughter of William de Briouze, at one-time close associate to King John.

Loretta had been exiled in association with the plot to dethrone John in favour of her nephew by marriage, Simon de Montfort, but she returned sometime between 1211 and 1214, and had all previously confiscated lands restored to her.

Even so, she chose later to become a recluse or anchoress at Hackington north of 20160716_103449Canterbury, from where she worked in favour of the Friars by using her contacts with influential individuals even though she was a recluse.

They seem to have stayed in the Hospital for Poor Priests and their chapel until 1268 when the alderman, and later bailiff of Canterbury, John Dygg (or Diggs) bought them the small island of Binnewith situated between two branches of river Stour – the location where the lone chapel now stands – as well as “the place of the gate on Stour Street” where one still today enter the compound of Grey friars even if the original gate is since long gone.

About 10 years later they were granted a license to enclose a road that formed the western border of their land, and the friary began to grow.

Grey Friars

The remaining house is the one standing across the river

In 1309, they acquired a road leading from the highway leading to river Stour, and also obtained license to build a bridge across the river from said road leading up to their house “for the benefit of people wanting to attend service in their church, with the bridge built in such a way that boats could pass under it.

In 1325 the new church and cemetery were consecrated by Archbishop Reynolds in 1325, and it seems, from royal grants, that it at the time was 35 friars in the house, a number that in 1336 had risen to 37.

Only two years later, two of the friars, John Noke of Newington and John of20160716_103333 Bromesdon, received a royal pardon for rescuing to felons on their way to execution in Canterbury.

This was only one of the times when members of the house can have been said to have been in trouble, but they also seem to have been popular. When they for unknown reason refused to pay rent to Christchurch and the monks there in turn withdrew an annual grant, the dowager queen Isabella intervened, to no avail though.

They both received bequeaths and buried prominent people of the area and time, and they survived through the centuries.

In 1498 Henry VII included the house among the convents of the Observant Friars, something which was confirmed by Pope Alexander VI a year later. When the king died in 1509, he left the friars 100 marks, and entrusted another £200 with the prior of Christchurch for the use of the Observant Friars of Canterbury.

They also received £13 6s 8d from Henry VIII to pray for the soul of his father.

20160716_103918While the first decades to have run smoothly between the new king and the Observant Friars of Canterbury, this was eventually to change. When Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, appeared in the 1530´s, two of her chief supporters, Hugh Rich and Richard Risby, were friars of this house. They stood by her side at the scaffold at St. Paul´s Cross on November 23rd, 1533, for which they were denounced by Dr Capon for having suborned and seduced their companions to maintain the false opinion and wicked quarrel of the queen against the king.”.

For this they were taken to Canterbury to do penance, and then to executed at Tyburn together with the Nun of Kent on April 20th 1534. All three were buried at Grey Friars in London.

Around this time, which coincided with the demand for the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy, the Friars of Canterbury seems to have begun to disperse. Some died, others were whisked away to safety and others yet fled to the continent.

But when the time came to take the oath, only two are noted as having refused to do so, Father Mychelsen and Father John Gam.

Henry VIII didn´t chose to have the Grey Friars supressed at this time, but instead he20160716_103352 put them in what must have been a house arrest. A John Arthur was appointed as warden, who is said to have treated the Friars with severity, sometimes imprisoning them for “rebelling against the king”. He seems however to have been outsmarted by the Friar Henry Bocher, who managed to accuse John Arthur of speaking against the king, and also making it stick through a sermon held by Arthur helf on Passion Sunday in 1535, where he objected to “new books and new preachers discouraging pilgrimage”, with the result that Bocher went free and John Arthur was imprisoned at the command of Thomas Cromwell. He doesn´t however, have been prepared for the treatment he was willing to subject others to, and fled to France.

The friaries of Canterbury were dissolved in December 1538. At the time this friary consisted of the house and two messuages, two orchards, two gardens, 3 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow, and 4 acres of pasture in the parishes of St. Peter, St. Mildred, and St. Margaret.

Sources:

‘Friaries: The Franciscan friars of Canterbury’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 190-194. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp190-194

Briouze, Loretta de, Countess of Leicester (d. in or after 1266) – Susan Johns/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

All photos are taken by me, apart from the map, which belong to East Bridge Hospital, Canterbury.

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King who Never Was – Review

Sean Cunninghamthe king that never was

Amberley Publishing

Publication: 15th July, 2016

I have had the honour to read the new book by Sean Cunningham about the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York that we rarely hear about; Prince Arthur, the intended heir to the crown.

When the name Tudor is mentioned, I dare say that it isn’t the name “Arthur” that pops up in the head of most people, but rather those of either his father, the Henry who won the Battle of Bosworth and became “the seventh” or – and probably the most likely candidate – one thinks of Arthurs younger brother, Henry, who should never have been king but still became maybe the most famous and infamous king throughout British history as Henry VIII.

But in between the two Henry´s, father and son, was the firstborn: Prince Arthur, the Tudor King who never was, which is exactly the title of Sean Cunningham´s book about the nearly forgotten son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

He was born in September 1486, and would live for only 15 years, dying after falling ill in the damp caste of Ludlow, only months after his marriage to the Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon who would later be his brother´s first wife of six, whereby Henry not only took the throne which should have been Arthur´s, but also his queen.

Sean Cunningham travels through these 15 years, exploring the hopes of Arthur´s father when the boy was born, Arthur was a name the came with expectations, taken as it was from the mythical Arthur, and speculate how England might have evolved differently if this firstborn son would have been allowed by the powers that be to live to an old age and have children of his own to inherit the crown.

Arthur was not only a son to Henry, he was the anchor that tied him down to the English throne that up until then could be lost just as easily as he had won it, through conquest. With an heir, that also was the grandson of Edward IV, his claim was strengthened.

Prince Arthur – the Tudor King who never was is an expose of the years leading up to a reign that never took place, and the result of which we can only piece together from the ambitions Henry VII drew up, and from which one can see the contours of maybe a different kind of monarch than his younger brother came to be. And Sean Cunningham does a good job.

He also recounts the point where Arthur´s ghost return to the English court he never was head of, when the doubts of whether or not Arthur´s marriage to Katherine was ever consummated, a doubt which was highlighted in the process which is known as Henry´s great matter, his strife for annulment of the years he had spent with his Spanish queen.

We also meet Henry himself in relation to the brother he barely knew, as Arthur at a young age moved to his own household at the castle where he far too early met his death.

But most importantly, and unlike in many other books, here Arthur becomes an individual of his own, built on an extensive research a work rarely done previously by historians who has had a tendency to view Arthur as nothing more than a parenthesis between the two Henrys.

The book is important, and well worth the read both for those who are completely unfamiliar with this part of Tudor history, which in other respects is so accessible and for those who has made the acquaintance of Arthur before.

 

Kett’s Rebellion

On July 8th 1549, only just over two years into the reign of the young Edward VI, a A_group_of_dissenters_in_Norfolk_during_Robert_Kett's_rebellion_of_1549rebellion started in Norfolk, primarily as a response to enclosure of common land, to a large extent a result of the high demand for English wool, the farmers owning the sheep valuable sheep turning arable land into pastures for their sheep, as well as depriving peasant farmers of land where they could graze their own cattle.

The geographical starting point of the rebellion was Wymondham where the rebels went about destroying fences put up by landowners, one of which was the yeoman farmer Robert Kett, a tanner with extensive landholdings who had been prosecuted at the manorial court for putting up enclosure.

The prime target for the rebellion was however Sir John Flowerdew, who had earned the dislike of the population not only through enclosing land but also for having been the overseer of the demolition of Wymondham Abbey during the dissolution.

Flowerdew, however, sent them to another target; Robert Kett, no doubt without having even the slightest idea how that could possibly end.

Robert Kett, or Keet, a tanner with extensive landholdings who had been prosecuted in the manorial court of Wymondham for enclosing lands. It may have been that Robert Kett took the rebels a bit by surprise, but rather than being intimidated by them, he offered to be their leader.

Robert Kett was born in 1492, the son of the butcher and landowner Tom Kett and his wife Margery. In 1515 he had married Alice Appleyard who had born him five sons.

Even though Robert Kett most likely had a comfortable life, he in 1549 all of a sudden found himself heading a rebellion. Disturbances over the previous months – tearing down of fences – had most likely been committed in good faith as Edward Seymour, brother of the late queen and protector of the young king, had issued a proclamation against illegal enclosures.

Mousehold HeathThe rebels, now under the leadership of Kett, marched on Norwich, making the “The oak of Reformation” on Mousehold Heath between Hethersett and Norwich their base and the oak itself a symbol for rebellion.

After movements around Norwich, where they were refused entry, they once again set up camp on Mousehold Heath and stayed there for the coming six and a half weeks.

Setting up headquarters in St. Michael´s Chapel – later, in its ruined form known as Kett´s Castle – Robert Kett formed a council consisting of representatives of the Hundreds of Norfolk* as well as a representative from Suffolk.

As days passed, people streamed to join the rebels, and the camp on Mousehold Heathkett´s oak eventually consisted of more people than the city of Norwich itself which at the time was the second-largest city in England with a population of 12 000 inhabitants, one number which is mentioned is 20 000 rebels, and allegedly even though having been a tanner and landowner, Kett was perfectly suited as a commander of disgruntled peasants.

A list of grievances was put together, signed by Kett himself, representatives of the Hundreds as well as the mayor of Norwich, Thomas Codd, the former mayor Thomas Aldrich and the preacher Robert Watson who all three had – as a part of the negotiations between the rebels and the city of Norwich – had accepted an invitation to be a part of the rebel´s council.

The list was to be presented to the Protector, Somerset.

  1. We pray your grace that where it is enacted for enclosing that it be not hurtful to such as have enclosed saffron grounds for they be greatly chargeable to them, and that from henceforth no man shall enclose any more.
  2. We certify your grace that whereas the lords of the manors have been charged with certain free rent, the same lords have sought means to charge the freeholders to pay the same rent, contrary to right.
  3. We pray your grace that no lord of no manor shall common upon the common.
  4. We pray that priests from henceforth shall purchase no lands neither free nor bond, and the lands that they have in possession may be letten to temporal men, as they were in the first year of the reign of King Henry VII.
  5. We pray that all the marshes that are held of the king’s majesty by free rent or of any other, may be at such price as they were in the first year of King Henry VII.
  6. We pray that reed ground and meadow ground may be at such price as they were in the first year of King Henry VII.
  7. We pray that all bushels within your realm be of one stice, that is to say, to be in measure VIII gallons.
  8. We pray that priests or vicars that be not able to preach and set forth the word of God to his parishioners may be thereby put from his benefice, and the parishioners there to choose another or else patron or lord of the town.
  9. We pray that the payments of castle ward rent, blanch farm, and office lands, which hath been accustomed to be gathered of the tenements, whereas we suppose the lords ought to pay the same to their bailiffs for their rents gathering, and not the tenants.
  10. We pray that no man under the degree of a knight or esquire keep a dove house, except it hath been of an old ancient custom.
  11. We pray that all freeholders and copyholders may take the profits of all commons, and there to common, and the lords not to common nor take profits of the same.
  12. We pray that no feodary within your shores shall be a counselor to any man in his office making, whereby the king may be truly served, so that a man being of good conscience may be yearly chosen to the same office by the commons of the same shire.
  13. We pray your grace to take all liberty of leet your own hands whereby all men may quietly enjoy their commons with all profits.
  14. We pray that copyhold land that is unreasonable rented may go as it did in the first year of King Henry VII. And that at the death of a tenant, or of a sale the same lands to be charged with an easy fine as a capon or a reasonable sum of money for a remembrance.
  15. We pray that no priest shall hold no other office to any man of honour or worship, but only to be resident upon their benefices, whereby their parishioners may be instructed within the laws of God.
  16. We pray that all bond men may be made free, for God made all free with his precious bloodshedding.
  17. We pray that Rivers may be free and common to all men for fishing and passage.
  18. We pray that no man shall be put by your Feudatory to find any office, unless he holdeth of your grace in chief, or capite above 10 by year.
  19. We pray that the poor mariners or fishermen may have the whole profits of their fishings such as porpoises, grampuses, whales, or any great fish so it be not prejudicial to your grace.
  20. We pray that every proprietary parson or vicar having a benefice of 10 or more by year, shall either by themselves, or by some other person teach poor men’s children of their parish the book called the catechism and the primer.
  21. We pray that it be not lawful to the lords of any manor to purchase lands freely, (i.e. that are freehold), and to let them out again by copy or court roll to their great advancement, and to the undoing of your poor subjects.
  22. We pray that no proprietary parson or vicar, in consideration of avoiding trouble and lawsuit between them and their poor parishioners, which they daily do proceed and attempt, shall from henceforth take for the full contents of all the tenths which now they do receive, but 8.
  23. We pray that no lord, knight, esquire, nor gentlemen do graze nor feed any bullocks or sheep if he may spend forty pounds a year by his lands but only for the provision of his house.
  24. We pray that no man under the degree of [word missing] shall keep any conies (rabbits) upon any freehold or copyhold unless he pale them in so that it shall not be to the commons’ annoyance.
  25. We pray that no person of what estate degree or condition he be shall from henceforth sell the awardship of any child, but that the same child if he live to his full age shall be at his own choosing concerning his marriage the King’s wards only except.
  26. We pray that no manner of person having a manor of his own, shall be no other lord’s bailiff but only his own.
  27. We pray that no lord, knight, or gentleman shall have or take in form any spiritual promotion.
  28. We pray your grace to give license and authority by your gracious commission under your great seal to such commissioners as your poor commons have chosen, or to as many of them as your majesty and your counsel shall appoint and think meet, for to redress and reform all such good laws, statues, proclamations and all other your proceedings; which hath been hidden by your Justices of your peace, Sheriff, Feudatories, and other your officers, from your poor commons, since the first year of the reign of your noble grandfather King Henry VII.
  29. We pray that those your officers, which have offended your grace and your commons, and [are] so proved by the complaint of your poor commons, do give unto these poor men so assembled 4d. every day so long as they have remained there.

 

Portrait_of_Edward_VI_of_EnglandIn the meantime, the city had sent messengers to London, and on July 21th the truce ended when a messenger from the King´s Council, the York Herald Bartholomew Butler arrived to offer the rebels a pardon. Robert Kett refused the pardon, stating that he, or the rebels, had not committed any crime and therefore needed no pardon.

This put the end to the, in the circumstances, so far amicable relationship between the men who were now officially declared rebels and the city of Norwich which now closed the city gates.

As it doesn´t seem to have been an option to disperse the camp, the rebels now decided to take the city, something which was necessary in order to keep the thousands of men that had gathered at the camp from starvation.

After a night of exchanged fire between the rebel camp and the city of Norwich, the rebels took control of it on July 22nd.

By the time the King sent the Marquess of Northampton (William Parr, brother ofWilliam Parr Katherine Parr, last Queen of Henry VIII) with his 1 500 men, including Italian mercenaries, Robert Kett had already realised the difficulties of defending the city against the King´s forces and had retreated to higher ground outside the city, preferring to besiege it instead.

In the night between July 31st and August 1st fighting began between the rebels and the King´s army led by Northampton, but fighting in the streets of a city was not to the advantage of a trained army, and after having a senior commander, Lord Sheffield, bludgeoned to death by one of the rebels, Northampton and his troops retreated as far as Cambridge.

By August 24th the Earl of Warwick – John Dudley, who within just a few years would be in deep trouble and executed himself – had arrived with an army consisting of about 14 000 men, among which were mercenaries from Wales, Spain and Germany. It´s impossible to know what went through the heads of the rebels in the face of this increased force, but it´s clear that they weren´t prepared to abandon Kett or their cause, and fighting continued.

In the night between the 24th and the 25th, the rebels who once again had entered Norwich burnt the city.

On the 26th more 1 500 more German mercenaries arrived, and the King´s army could no longer hide in the city. The final, and for the rebels devastating, battle took place on the 27th, seeing thousands of rebels killed and the rest running for their lives.

According to sources 3 000 rebels lay dead after the battle while Warwick had lost around 200 men.

Robert Kett was captured at the village of Swannington and his brother, who had joined the rising was brought to the Tower. After having been found guilty of treason, Robert Kett was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle in December that same year while his brother was hanged from the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.

 

“Warwyke was sent thyther wt ye kynges power, who did so handell the matter yt aboute the

begynnynge of September, bartellmewtyd, he ouer came them, & toke ther capitayn, called

Keet ye tanner, whome he sent to London to ye kynge, by whos commaundement ye same Keet was broughte throughe London ye last of September, & wt hym a brother of hys also, wh. were both broughte vnto ye Tower.

ffor ye which offence ye sayd Keet ye tanner was hanged vppon ye toppe of ye castell of Norwytche, and his brother also.”

 

 

Sources:

Kett´s Rebellion, the Norfolk rising of 1549 – S.K Land

Robert Kett and the Norfolk rising – Joseph Clayton

‘A London Chronicle: Edward VI’, in Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (London, 1910), pp. 17-27. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/camden-misc/vol12/no1/pp17-27 [accessed 9 July 2016].

 

 

*Norfolk was from Anglo-Saxon times to the 19th century divided into hundreds for administrative purposes.