Elizabeth Hungerford, prisoner of her husband

When you look around in archives, be it browsing through them physically or, as is possible today, searching through them on the internet, looking for a particular subject or person, it´s always the possibility of stumbling on something completely different which catches your imagination and empathy. One such case is the (fragmented) story of Elisabeth Hungerford;

Sometime in or around 1536 a letter arrives for the Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Cromwell,800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_East_Gate a letter which with our view on such things would have seem deeply disturbing.

The signatory is Lady Elizabeth Hungerford, and she asks Thomas Cromwell to do right by her, and let her have a divorce.

She writes that she for several years has been kept a prisoner at her husband´s castle, and that he on one hand makes sure that no one that can be considered friendly to her ever comes into her presence, but that he on more than one occasion has had his men trying to poison her. This has made her afraid to eat and the only reason that she is still alive is that kind women from the village bring her food at night.

She has however no way of paying them back, as her husband has not given her any money for a long time.

Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_from_the_south_east_-_geograph_org_uk_-_438798She states “that she could tell, if she dared, many detestable and urgent crimes on the part of her husband, as he well knew,” and especially of his notorious cruel conduct “always to his wives.”

Her letter ends by her saying that she “Wishes to be divorced upon reasonable causes, or else her husband to be required to let her out of prison. Would then come up on foot with some poor body to Cromwell for the security of her life. Will not longer continue this wretched life with him. Had rather destroy herself or beg her living from door to door.”

The letter is signed Eleisbet Hor´ford, but she was born Elizabeth Hussey, and she was one of four daughters of John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford and his second wife, Lady Anne Grey.

Her husband´s name was Walter Hungerford, squire of the body of Henry VIII, and as Elizabeth hints in her letter to Cromwell, she was not his first wife, nor the first one to be treated appallingly by him.

At first he was married to Susan Denvers, with whom he had a son, also named Walter450px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_tower_remains Hungerford. I haven´t been able to find any information on what year they were married, but already in 1527 when he himself, being born in 1503, was only 24 years old, he married for a second time, to Alice Sandys, the daughter of William, 1st Baron Sandys.

Here I find information that I really need to look further into, because it seems that William Hungerford the elder managed to get his second wife executed for his own murder, at least that is what the Grey Friars Chronicle as interpreted by Camden Society in 1862 suggests (They have traced the family trees of the Hungerford´s at the time and only found one ever married to an Alice; Walter Hungerford, later husband of Elizabeth), and in all honesty, they are as baffled as me. In any event, an Alice Hungerford was executed at Tyburn;

“And this yere in feverelle the xxti. day was the lady Alys Hungrford was lede from the tower un to Holborne and there put into a carte at the church-yard with one of her servanttes, and so caryed unto Tyborne, and there both hongyd, and she burryd at the Greyfreeres in the nether end of the myddes of the church on the north syde.”

In any event, Walter clearly wasn´t murdered, and he would move on to marry Elizabeth sometime after 1527.

There is reasons to believe that Cromwell didn´t act on Elizabeth´s plea, already in 1532 her own father had written to Crowell and stated that his son in law wished to be introduced to him, as well as desired the position as Sheriff of Wiltshire.

The request was granted, and apparently the work carried out to Cromwell´s satisfaction, because in 1535 he suggests that Walter Hungerford should be rewarded for his service, and just a year later Walter was created 1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury (not to be confused with Baron Hungerford).

800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_Inner_CourtWalter Hungerford´s fortune was however to come to a swift ending only four years later, in 1540 he was executed on July 28th, the very same day as Thomas Cromwell himself, accused and sentenced for treason, witchcraft (allegedly trying to have find out the life span of Henry VIII) and buggery. He was executed, like – if we assume that that´s who she was – his wife Alice, on Tyburn.

While I at the moment haven´t been able to find out what happened to Elizabeth during the years between her letter to Cromwell and the execution of her husband, she did move on to a new life, marrying Robert Throckmorton, courtier and first cousin of Katherine Parr in or around 1542.

Together with Robert he had four daughters; Muriel (who would later have a son, Francis Tresham, one of the members of the Gun Powder Plot), Anne, Elizabeth and Temperance.

Elizabeth Hungerford, later Throckmorton, died in 1554, approximately 44 years old.

I will return to her and her life.

 

Sources:

‘Henry VIII: Addenda, Cromwell Period Papers’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 510-568. British History Online

 ‘Additional notes’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 99-104. British History Online.

 ‘The Chronicle of the Grey Friars: Henry VIII’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 29-53. British History Online

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. Ja

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 259-274. British History Online

 Images;

Due to the lack of images of Elizabeth and Walter Hungerford, the post is illustrated by images of Farleig-Hungerfod Castle where Elizabeth was held prisoner by her husband.

 

  • Photpgraph by nicksarabi/flickr
  • Graham Horn/Creative Commons
  • Ian Knox/Creative Commons
  • Aegidian/flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

We have just gotten over the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn when today, May 27, it´s time to rememberMargaret_Pole,_Countess_of_Salisbury_from_NPG_retouched another one of the horrendous acts that were so frequent in the very last decade of the reign of Henry VIII: the execution of Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury.

Something, other than the actual execution, that kind of send chills up my spine is that one might say that this was an act that definitively put the previous Royal House to rest, because Margaret was the daughter of George, duke of Clarence  -immensely troubled brother of Edward IV and Richard III – and Isabel Nevill, the eldest daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker.

Margaret who together with her future issue had been barred from the throne through the attainder against her father when he was convicted and executed (according to legend by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey) for treason against his brother king Edward IV, had married Sir Richard Pole, with whom she had 5 children, one of whom was Reginald Pole, cardinal and from 1536 a thorn in Henry VIII:s eye.

Margaret and her brother were kept by Richard III at Sheriff Hutton until 1585, when her brother Edward, earl of Warwick was put in the Tower after the battle of Bosworth and later executed allegedly for plotting against Henry VII together with Perkin Warbeck.

In 1487, Henry VII gave Margaret in marriage to Sir Richard Pole with whom she had 5 children. She became a widow in 1504 with limited land left to her by her husband, whose funeral were paid for by Henry VII.

At the time of Henry VIII:s accession, Margaret Pole was returned parts of her lands, and she was one of the gentlewomen of Catherine of Aragon. Despite her Plantagenet background, she was loyal to the Tudors, and she most likely never posed any kind of threat to Henry VIII, and she was also made governess of the young princess Mary. She had devoted her son Reginald to the church, and when the changes came in the 1530´s, he had warned against the marriage with Anne Boleyn and already in 1526 he had gone into voluntary exile as a response to Henry´s demand for support in the planned divorce from Catherine.

In 1536 the rift became irreparable when Reginald Pole after he had first spoken out against the marriage to Anne Boleyn and consequently encouraged the royal houses to depose Henry. In 1536 he had slipped back to Rome and in 1537 he was made a cardinal even though he had yet to become an ordained priest.

The previous “insubordination” of Reginald Pole would come to have a disastrous effect on his family back in England.

We will most never know in a “black and white” if he based it or fact or his convenient wishes, but Henry uncovered the Courtney conspiracy. It was an assumption of treason on the part of Margaret Pole, her son Henry and other individuals. The evidence was fragmentary, based on conversations and memories but most likely mostly based on Henry´s feelings for Reginald.

The Courtney conspiracy was an idea of marrying Edward Courtaney, grandson of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and thereby second cousin of Reginald Pole to the disinherited princess Mary.

But with Reginald Pole out of reach for Henry, he instead turned on the family, not least on the aging countess who was imprisoned for two years in the Tower. She was executed on May 27th 1541 at the age of 67 in a display which clearly showed the horrors of capital punishment.

She refused to put her head on the block, but the inexperienced executioner delivered a blow anyway which instead of severing her head gave her a deep cut in her shoulder. Legend has it that she was chased around the block, being struck several times before she finally died, something which in large part is confirmed by contemporary state papers.

Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was beatified December 29th 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.

The poem below is said to have been carved into the wall of her cell.

 

             For traitors on the block should die;

I am no traitor, no, not I!

My faithfulness stands fast and so,

Towards the block I shall not go!

Nor make one step, as you shall see;

Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!

 

 

Sources:

Henry VIII – Elizabeth Wooding

 The execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury – The Anne Boleyn Files

 Executions and beheadings at the Tower of London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Jane Grey – The Nine Days Queen

When Edward VI got sick and it was obvious that he wasn´t going to survive, the discussion of who was going to be his Lady Jane Greyheir started. The obvious choice would have been his eldest sister Mary, daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon who had been restored to succession towards the end of Henry´s Life.

But while Henry´s break with Rome had more to do with Rome itself than with the catholic faith – Henry himself was never anything but catholic – his son by Jane Seymour had been raised to become a convinced protestant and it wasn´t conceivable to him or to the people around him to leave the throne to a devout catholic, which was exactly what Marys was.

The solution was Jane Grey – granddaughter of Henry´s sister Mary and his best friend Charles Brandon. She had received a humanist education, was very scholarly and was in correspondence with some of the most prominent European thinkers of the time. She was presented as an alternative heir to the throne by Edward´s own maternal uncle, Thomas Seymour, who was guardian of Lady Jane during his marriage to the dowager Queen, Katherine Parr, and allegedly even suggested Jane Grey as a wife of the young King.

634px-Edward_VI's_'devise_for_the_succession'Technically, Jane could have had a claim to the throne, but for reasons unknown, Henry had removed Frances – the mother of Jane Grey and daughter of Mary – from the line of succession.

Edward died on July 6th 1553, 16 years of age, and Jane, being the same age, found out three days later that she now was Queen of England. According to herself later on, and popular belief, Jane was strongly against being proclaimed Queen (this has been put into question by some latter day historians). Her opinion would however have mattered very little as she was under the authority of her father-in-law, John Dudley*, Duke of Northumberland and her parents.

Jane Grey only got to be Queen until July 19th and has because of this gone to history as the Nine Days Queen. It would become clear that Mary had a considerably greater support for her claim to the throne than Northumberland anticipated, and when he left London with armed force to met Mary and her forces at her manor at Hunsdon though640px-Lady_Jane_Grey_letter_as_Queen East Anglia, the parliament shifted their support and declared Mary Queen of England.

When she arrived in London on August 3rd it was to the sound of cheering citizens. Jane was apprehended and brought to the Tower, as were her husband Guildford Dudley, the son of Northumberland. Northumberland himself was executed as early as on August 22nd.

Jane pleaded to Mary for mercy, and for the longest time it looked, as she would actually get to keep her life, as Mary seemed sympathetic to the assurances on Jane´s part that she had simply been a tool in the hands of Northumberland. Mary was however in the middle of marriage negotiations with the future Philip II of Spain. Spain made it quite clear that it was out of the question for Philip to set foot on English soil as long as Jane Grey was alive. To Mary, it was far more important to marry and if possible produce an heir than it was to keep her word given to the child of her cousin.

Lady Jane Grey was beheaded on this day, February 12th 1554; the same year she would turn 17. She is buried at St. Peter ad Vincula within the Tower. Her husband was executed as well on this day.

The two letters published on this post is, first from the top, the declaration of Edward VI where he declare Jane as his heir and the second is a letter written by Jane Grey, signed with ”Jane the Quene”

*In the event the surname Dudley seems familiar, it´s no coincidence. The Duke of Northumberland had several sons, and one of those would later on enter the stage as Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, with a very special role to play in the life of Elizabeth I.

Sources:

The Sisters who would be Queen; Mary, Katherine and Lady Jane Grey – Leanda de Lisle

Lady Jane Grey – A Tudor Mystery – Eric Ives

John Dudley Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553 – David Loades

 

Elizabeth of York

I have written about her quite recently, in relation to the anniversary of her wedding to Henry VII, but she is well worth mentioning again. Not least because it was today she was born, 11/2, 1466 as the oldest child of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.

It was also today she died, the 11/2 1503, as the wife and queen of the first Tudor-regent, as the mother of the future Henry VIII and grandmother of Elizabeth I.

Contrary to what is sometimes said, that she loved her uncle Richard III and continued to do so for the rest of her life, there are credible sources stating that she and Henry VII had a happy marriage.

May she rest in peace.

IMG_1624-0

In my end is my beginning

Mary_Stuart_Queen

The quote in the headline in attributed to Marias Stuart, queen of the Scots, who on the 8th of February met her death through beheading at Fotheringhay Castle, sentenced for conspiring to murder her the cousin of her father as well as regent of England, Elizabeth I. As the only surviving child of James V of Scotland – son of Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII – and Mary of Guise, Mary became queen at the tender age of 6 days and Scotland came to be ruled by a council of regency, not least since Mary Stuart from the age of 5 lived in France where she had been married to the dauphin, one day to become Francis II. She returned to Scotland in 1561 after only a short time on the French throne as Francis died in 1560, only a year after being crowned king.

The execution of Mary, which took place on this day 428 years ago, is connected to her claim to the English throne as a successor to the childless Elizabeth I. to the chagrin of Elizabeth, Mary shortly after her return from France, had married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (I will return to this at some point), an arrogant and self-absorbed man who also was her cousin through the half-sister of her father, Margaret Douglas. Together they had the son James, who in other words was of blood royal though both parents, which almost made his claim to the throne stronger than that of Elizabeth. Mary demanded that James should be named heir to the English throne, but Elizabeth was of the opinion that as soon as she named an heir, her days would be counted, not least due to the strong support enjoyed by Mary from the English Catholics.

Mary, who can´t, even with an endless amount of good will, be said to have been a good monarch, fled toTrial_of_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots_-_Documents_relating_to_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots_(1586),_f.569__-_BL_Add_MS_48027 England after a number of very strange decisions and events which included the murder of Lord Darnley, where she hoped to enjoy the protection and support of Elizabeth. This, however, was not to happen and Mary instead found herself under house arrest for the next 19 years, during which Mary committed herself to one conspiracy after another directed against Elizabeth. What was finally to become her undoing was the so called Babington plot which entailed a Spanish invasion led by Elizabeth´s former brother in-law, Philip II. It has to be said that Elizabeth over the years had had an enormous forbearance with a number of attempts to overthrow her, in which Mary more as a rule than an exception had been involved, but now it had to end.

Mary was arrested August 11th and was sentenced to death on October 25th based on evidence gathered by the master spy of Elizabeth, Sir Francis Walsingham. On February 8th she was finally beheaded in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle. It took several blows with the axe to separate her head from her body, and it´s said that her small lap dog had hidden under her skirts during the execution where it was found soaked in blood and had to be thoroughly bathed to remove the blood. When the executioner lifted up Mary´s severed head, the long auburn locks were revealed as a wig, and the now 44 year old Mary turned out to have very short, completely grey hair.

 

Execution_of_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots,_created_1613,_artist_unknown

When Elizabeth was informed of the execution of Mary, she claimed that she had been misunderstood, and that her intention had never been to take Mary´s life. Maybe the reminder of her own mother death was too strong, as well as the knowledge that if some queens could be executed, so could they all. That if find the quote to be an appropriate headline for this post is because that she was right of sorts. When Elizabeth passed away on the 24th of March 1603, Mary´s son, James VI of Scotland, took the throne as James I of England.

Sources:

Mary, Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley – Alison Weir

Mary, Queen of Scots – Antonia Fraser

Calendar of State papers, 1587