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.

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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.