Will Kempe – Shakespeare´s clown

When William Shakespeare wrote his plays, he didn´t do it for any random actors, but 800px-Will_Kemp_Elizabethan_Clown_Jigspecifically for his own company – first called The Lord Chamberlain´s Men and after the accession of James I The King´s Men – and most likely with the different actors in mind for specific parts in each plays.

In the company there was also a “clown”, the one to get the particularly comical parts, and the first one of these was William – or Will – Kempe.

It isn´t known for certain where Will Kempe was born, or who his parents were, but there are theories that he may have belonged to the Kempe family of the manor Olantigh in Kent.

Will Kempe started his career as an actor in Leicester´s Men, the company receiving its patronage from the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, and he is first mentioned performing at Leicester House in May 1585 together with the company and he toured with them in the Netherlands and Denmark.

Already in 1583 Leicester´s Men had begun to be slightly depleted when several of it´s members jumped ship to instead join the newly formed Queen Elizabeth´s Men, which had been created on the direct order of the Queen herself. In 1588 the Earl of Leicester died, and the theatre company, which he had endorsed, ceased to exist all together. In 1593 Will Kempe resurfaced in Lord Strange´s Men which consisted of retainers of the household of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. It the very same year the company changed its name to Lord Derby´s Men, as Ferdinando Stanley came into his father´s title.

By this time Will Kempe had started to become known, both to the audience and his fellow actors as a great comical talent, and he stayed with Lord Stange´s/Lord Derby´s Men for only a year, and joined The Lord Chamberlain´s Men in 1594 where just that talent was put to good use in roles such as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Peter in Romeo and Juliet and, as already mentioned, Falstaff and most likely Lancelot Gobbo in the Merchant of Venice as well as Bottom in A Midsummer Night´s Dream.

He may also have been the original Falstaff, but this is less certain. In the introduction to the 19th century print of Kempe´s own book, “Kemps Nine Daies Wonder Performed in a Daunce from London to Norwich”, which there will be more about later in his post, the Reverend Alexander Dyce also states that he most likely played the parts of Launce in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, Touchstone in “As you like it”, one of the grave-diggers in “Hamlet”, Justice Shallow in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and he supposedly also had a part in “Every Man in his Humour” by Ben Jonson, written in 1598 and performed by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men.

Will Kempe stayed with Shakespeare and The Lord Chamberlain´s only until 1599, and while the reason for him leaving isn´t documented, scholars have suggested that it was a result that William had had enough of his improvising on stage, and it has been said that Shakespeare made a reference to this conflict in Hamlet, where the following lines can be found in act 3, scene 2;

“And let those that play  your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh  too.”

Others suggest that he left because he had been denied a role in Hamlet.

Kemp's_Men,_Chapelfield_Gardens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_167501After the departure of Will Kempe from the company, Shakespear´s comical roles are said to have changed, and there are indications that Will Kempe had a physical way of acting which may have been hard for his successor to follow.

His ambition was to find another outlet for his comical talent, and one way of doing so was to, in 1599, embark on a Morris dance from London to Norwich, a distance of almost 100 miles which took nine days spread over several weeks (23 days all in all) from start to finish, and resulted in a book penned by Kempe himself; Kempe´s Nine Daies of Wonder.

If searching for information of Kempe´s Morris Dance, it should be noted that the year varies between 1599 and 1600, which allegedly has to do with differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendar, and that notes may have been changed after the fact.

In 1599 Ben Jonson wrote a sequel to his Every Man in his Humour, called “Every Man out of his Humour”. This too was played by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, the irony being that while Will Kempe was missing from the cast, he was very much present through a line in the play, alluding to his Morris dancing that very same year;

“Would I had one of Kemp’s shoes to throw after you!”

A year later he supposedly left England to tour Europe, returning in 1602, when he joined the acting company Worcester´s Men, but at the same time, he is said to during 1601 have borrowed money from the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe.

Just as only assumptions can be made when it comes Will Kempe´s background, this is also the case for when and where he died. He is mentioned one last time in Philip Henslow´s diary from 1602, and after that there is “silence”.

Some scholars believe him to have died in the plague in 1603, when one of the biggest outbreaks occurred, but no sources exist to really substantiate this. In parish records for St. Saviour in Southwark, there is a mentioning of “A man, Kempe” which died in late 1603. There is however no way of knowing that this is the right Kempe, but facts remain that he was never heard of again after this year.

 

Sources:

 

William Kempe – Amanda Mabillard, Shakespeare Online, May 31, 2016.

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/willkempe.html

 

A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964 – F.E. Halliday

 

The Elizabethan Stage – E.K. Chambers

 

Shakespeare A to Z – Charles Boyce

 

The Shakespearan Stage 1574-1642 – Andrew Gurr

 

literarynorfolk.co.uk

Will Kempes Nine Daies of Wonder : Performed in Daunce from London to Norwich – Will Kempe/Camden Society/Gutenberg Project

Images;

Wood carving of Will Kempe in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich – Graham Hardy/Wikimedia Commons

Will Kempe. Nine Daies of Wonder – Wikimedia Commons

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Theories of identity – the alleged Shakespeare mystery

Some subjects, in history or in our time, can be a bit like a hornets nest. It shouldn´t be touched or poked, because the risk is that you will be severely stung. But probably against better judgement, I will try to approach the theories existing around the identity of William Shakespeare.

I will yet again stress that I personally hold the very firm belief that William Shakespeare was the man born in Stratford to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, but some people don´t, and I´m curious enough to take a peak at what they actually believe, and why.

Let´s start out with the ones that has been lifted as potential candidates. Some years ago, the film Anonymous came and went, and at the bottom of the plot was the Oxfordian theory which holds as a fact that the real Shakespeare was Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

Edward-de-Vere-1575This is seemingly the most popular theory and contains a fair amount of conspiracy theory, namely that records has been falsified to protect the identity of the real author. It was first presented in the 1920 by Thomas Looney, an English writer to whom it was inconceivable that a person further down the social ladder than a nobleman could possibly create the work that William Shakespeare, the son of a glover, did.

There are no links to connect de Vere to the actual work of Shakespeare, and in absence of evidence, that absence has come to in itself be evidence for the Oxfordian following, a so called argument from silence.

The proof for the true identity of Shakespeare, according to Oxfordian theorists, are similarities between the life of Edward de Vere and Shakespeare´s plays, longer poems and sonnets. This would of course mean that a large number of his work would in fact be biographical. One also point out similarities in language, idioms and thought in Shakespeare´s work and surviving letters and poems actually written by de Vere.

In this case, one could on the other hand argue that no man is an island, and that it isn´t that rare to find similarities between two contemporary men without coming to the conclusion that they are one and the same.

That no plays exist under de Vere´s own name is taking as further evidence, as one is of the opinion that he may have been one of several writers suppressed during the 16th and 17th century, one of the “anonymous”. Edward de Vere died in 1604, at which point the world had another 12 plays penned by Shakespeare to look forward to.

This is by Oxfordian’s explained by stating that a dedication to the Sonnets implies that the author was dead previous to the publication, and that the plays written after 1604 are the work of collaborators of de Vere.

In one of the many branches of the Oxford theory one also find a love child of de Vere´s and Elizabeth I who, as an homage to his father’s nom de plume, adopted the stage name William Shakespeare.

Other circumstances considered evidence by the Oxfordian’s are de Vere´s connections to the theatre as he was a known patron, family connections as the dedications of Shakespeare´s plays are to actual or proposed husbands of de Vere´s daughters (the earls of Southampton, Montgomery and Pembroke). On the other hand, there wouldn´t have existed many other authors at the time if a few Oxfordian’s are to be believed as there are those who think de Vere was also Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Philp Sidney, John Lyly, George Peele, George Gascoigne, Raphael Holinshed, Robert Greene, Thomas Phaer, and Arthur Golding. The author and motivational speaker Paul Streitz has even suggested that de Vere is the real man behind King James Bible.

Common for Oxfordian’s is that they disregard evidence found by historians

The theories of another author than the man from Stratford-upon-Avon started in theFrancis_Bacon,_Viscount_St_Alban_from_NPG_(2) 19th century, and the first candidate was Sir Francis Bacon, philosopher, essayist and scientist, in the Baconian theory and his reason for writing under a pseudonym should have been that being a playwright would presumably have been that this dubious occupation would have hindered him from achieving success within his other areas.

Here, as in the Oxfordian theory, William Shakespeare himself is mostly a poster boy.

This theory was introduced by Delia Bacon, American writer of plays and short stories who eventually thought she herself was a descendant of Sir Francis (which she wasn´t). The Baconian Theory seems to be a mish-mash of misunderstandings, including the 18th century pamphlet The Learned Pig which has no references to Francis Bacon at all (here I really have to bite my, if not tongue, so the fingers I write with) and research, exposed as fraudulent, conducted by the English clergyman James Wilmot.

During the 19th century it was claimed by some that Bacon through ciphers in the text of the original plays (by Shakespeare) revealed his true identity, and while de Vere was suggested as the father of Elizabeth I´s alleged son, it was now suggested that Francis Bacon himself. The father in this version would be the favourite courtier Robert Dudley, and Robert Devereux was supposedly the younger brother.

All in all, the Baconian theory is about hidden messages, secret codes and a profound contempt for the idea that someone of a humble origin could have a profound talent, and it has rightfully been dismissed by all serious academics.

marlowe-corpuschristiThere is also the Marlovian theory, where someone I find incredibly fascinating in his own right is dragged in to the attempts to prove Shakespeare wasn´t Shakespeare; the playwright Christopher Marlowe.

This theory is based on the assumption that Marlowe was not at all murdered in Deptford in 1593, but change identity and continued writing under the assumed name of William Shakespeare. The assumptions are based on alleged anomalies surrounding Marlowe´s death and the fact Shakespeare´s name was connected with any literary work for the first time two weeks after Marlowe´s death.

The death of Christopher Marlowe was however acknowledged as genuine by 16 jurors at the time, and as he was far from unknown at the time of his passing, it´s highly unlikely that he would have lived on as another person without ever having been exposed. There *are* things surrounding both his life and his death that raise questions, but the possibility that he would have been Shakespeare is not one of them.

The funny thing about this theory, which was initiated in the 1890´s by T.W. White is that it was preceded in the 1820´s by another theory presented by an anonymous writer in The Monthly Review; that Christopher Marlowe might at one point have been a pseudonym used by William Shakespeare.

Finally, the probably least known theory, and also the one to have the least life in it; the6thEarlOfDerby Derbyite theory. In this it is suggested that the “real” Shakespeare was William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby.

Introduced in the late 19th century, by the archivist James H. Greenstreet, this is a theory that has been favoured by French writers. It is based on the discovery of letters stating that Derby was “penning plays for common players”.

Greenstreet pointed out similarities in Love´s Labour´s Lost and a pageant only held at Derby´s home. Greenstreet however died at the age of 45 before he had the chance to elaborate any further on his theory.

Sources:

Seven Pillories of Wisdom – David R. Hall

 Historical evidence and argument – David P. Henige

 Shakespeare´s Fingerprints – Michael Brame, Galina Popova

 The Genius of Shakespeare – Jonathan Bate

 Hollywood Dishonours the Bard – James Shapiro, New York Times

 Forgery on forgery – James Shapiro, Times Literary Supplement

 England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy – Michael Dobson & Nicola J. Watson

 The Monthly Review, Or, Literary Journal – Ralph Griffiths, G. E. Griffiths

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Trail of the Yorks – new book by Kristie Dean

To visit places where people you´ve only read about once lived or visited during important frontcoverbooktimes of their lives can give a new understanding both of the individuals and the period in which they lived and died. 

In her book Kristie Dean takes her readers to the places that in different ways helped to shape the House of York. Below an excerpt from the book which will be out for sale today, March 15th 2016:

On the Trail of the Yorks – Amberley Publishing.

Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire

This tiny village, amid the breathtaking scenery of the hills of Northamptonshire, seems too small and peaceful to have been the scene of one of the more momentous events in the history of England. Prior to King Henry VIII’s changing its name, Grafton was known by Grafton Woodville and was home to the Woodville family. Here in Grafton manor, Edward IV’s future queen was born. The eldest child of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, and Richard Woodville, Elizabeth was born soon after her parents’ marriage.

Elizabeth first married Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian supporter. Following his death at the second battle of St Albans, Elizabeth tried to gain control of her jointure, but was unsuccessful. From here, the story takes on legendary quality.

churchofstmaryat grafton (2)One variation of the story is that Elizabeth stood by an oak tree with her two young sons and begged Edward to help her. Hall says that Elizabeth was with her mother when Edward, out hunting, stopped by the manor.

She pressed her suit to him, and he was fascinated. He thought her to be an ‘excellent beautie’ and neither too ‘wanton nor to humble’. Impressed by her body and her ‘wise and womanly demeanour’, he asked her to be his mistress. Elizabeth rebuffed him, saying that if she was not good enough to be his wife, she would not be his mistress.

Mancini pushes the image further, having Edward pull a dagger, with Elizabeth coolly churchofstmaryat grafton (1)resisting his advances. Impressed by her character and enflamed with desire, Edward decided that she would make a fitting royal spouse.

The most accepted date for the marriage is 1 May 1464. Edward left Stony Stratford and hurried to Grafton. Here, Edward and Elizabeth were married, quietly and privately, with only the bride and groom, her mother, the priest, two gentlewomen and a young man who assisted the priest in singing. Whether this happened at the manor, the Hermitage or in the parish church is unclear, but Edward and Elizabeth did marry before she was publicly proclaimed his queen in September of that year.

Grafton Manor

The manor at Grafton officially came to the Woodville family in 1440, but it is believed they had been tenants there prior, since the family had lived in the village for years. After Earl Rivers was killed, the manor passed to his son, Anthony, who was executed after King Edward’s death. His brother, Richard, inherited, and once he died, the estate came to his nephew Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s son by her first marriage. His son gave up the property to Henry VIII, who largely extended and renovated the existing manor home. The house was set on fire and ruined during the Civil War.

churchofstmaryat grafton (3)Visiting Today

Sadly, there is little to see of the Grafton Elizabeth would have known. The manor lands are not open to visits. It is possible to visit the parish church of St Mary, however. Some historians speculate that Elizabeth and Edward were married at the Hermitage, which was a small friary. However, the parish church was adjacent to the manor and would have offered a more private venue, especially at an early hour.

Elizabeth was almost certainly christened in the Norman font that still stands in the church today. The family was unquestionably active in church affairs, and Elizabeth’s grandfather, John Woodville, built its tower. The church warden speculates that a Woodville chapel may have stood to the left of the high altar. John Woodville’s alabaster altar tomb may still be seen in the church.

Grafton Regis is located just off the main Northampton road. If headed north, take the second right into the village; if headed south, take the first left. Park near the village hall and walk down the quiet country lane. After a short stroll through beautiful scenery, the church will be on the left, just past the entrance to Grafton Manor. Prior arrangements should be made by email to see the interior.

 

kristiesmallpic (2)About the Author

For as long as she can remember, Kristie has had her nose buried in a book about history, especially medieval history. It was this passion that led her to earn her master’s degree in history. Today, she writes about the medieval period at night and teaches history to students during the day. In her rare spare moment, she can be found at home with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

Lady Arbella Stuart

On January 21st 1582 Walshingham receives a letter from George, Earl of ShrewsburyStuart,Arabella00 where he asks Walshingham to inform the Queen of the death of his daughter – Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Lenox – and that she “commend to her royal favor her infant and orphan daughter” and that the little girl now was destitute and her grandmother “taketh her daughter’s death so grievously, and so mourneth and lamenteth, that she cannot think of aught but tears”

The grandmother in question was the Countess of Shrewsbury, known to history primarily as Bess of Hardwick, and the young girl who now lacked both her parents was Arbella Stuart, second cousin to the Queen and cousin of James IV of Scotland, later also to become James I of England.

Bess_of_Hardwick_as_Mistress_St_LoHer grandmother would be prepared to fight for what she believed was Arbella´s rights, and on the 28th that same month she turned to Walshingham asking him to solicit for the same portion (pension) that had been previously been granted her daughter, to secure the young girl´s education and training in good virtues. It seems her request goes unheard this first time around, because she returns in May that same year, again making that same request, stating that the young girl´s mother on her sickbed….

Arbella was 7 years at the time, and instead of becoming a ward of the crown which was the usual for heiresses, she would stay with her grandmother at Hardwick Hall, from where she seems to have gone for occasional visits to court during the years to follow. She would eventually fall out with her grandmother whose ambition to see Arbella on the throne was greater than those of Arbella herself.

Arbella did get her education through tutors, and 10 years after the death of her Portrait_of_Christopher_Marlowemother, her grandmother Bess writes to Lord Burghley, William Cecil, of one of her grand-daughters attendants, a Morley who “hath attended on Arbell & red to hyr for the space of thre yere & a half”. The fact that he had read to her, and a later reference to him studying at the university, has led some – among others the author Charles Nicholl – to believe that Morley was the playwright Christopher Marlowe who at times has his name spelt in that way.

The Countess of Shrewsbury goes on to explain that the man in question apparently has been waiting to receive some kind of annuity from Arbella as his work there had been damaging to his university studies, and that he due to this, and due to the fact that the formidable Bess finds him suspicious, not least because of his “forwardness in religion (though I can not charge him with papistry)” she took the opportunity to fire him.

While this post really isn´t about Christopher Marlowe, it is highly interesting that Bess of Hardwick still seems to have found *something* catholic about this man, as Christopher Marlowe would at one point be suspected for being catholic.

But back to Arbella; as a great-grandchild of Henry VII through his daughter Margaret Tudor in her second marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, she had a claim to the throne – which she herself didn´t seem much interested in pursuing – and for a while she was considered as a successor to the childless Elizabeth I who was drawing towards the end of her reign and life, but it seems that from the beginning of the 1590´s, the Cecil´s preferred her cousin, James IV of Scotland (Arbella´s father had been the brother of Lord Darnley, murdered husband of Mary Queen of Scots).

George_Brooke,_9th_Baron_Cobham,_after_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerArbella´s own seeming disinterest in the throne, and the fact that another successor was in the end chosen, did not prevent others from wanting to see her on the throne. In 1603, after the death of Elizabeth I, she allegedly was the focus point in The Main Plot in 1603. The plot is thought to have been funded by Spain, and led by Henry Brook, Lord Cobham and was only discovered during investigation into the Bye Plot – a plot striving to force the implementation of religious tolerance and headed by Lord Cobham´s brother George Brooke.

The members of both conspiracies where tried together, and one of the accused wasSir_Walter_Raleigh_oval_portrait_by_Nicholas_Hilliard Sir Walter Raleigh, at the time governor of Jersey. It was alleged that the money provided by Spain would be brought here and divided between Lord Cobham and Raleigh to be used in the plot as they saw necessary. It has on one side been suggested that it´s utterly ridiculous that Raleigh, who had fought Spain during the reign of Elizabeth, not least during the defeat of the Spanish Armada, would all of a sudden turn on England in this fashion and during many years Raleigh´s involvement in the plot was considered marginal* at most, but it did send him to the Tower for the next 13 years.

Arbella herself had early on reported the invitation to join the plot to her cousin the King.

Throughout her childhood, possible marriage candidates had been discussed, and among those suggested or interested in securing her hand was Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (a potential match infuriated the Earl´s father), Ludovic Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lennox as well as the king of Poland, Sigismund III Vasa, son of the Swedish King John III.

2ndDukeOfSomersetWhen she did eventually marry, it was after a betrothal entered in secret. In 1610, news reached the king that Arbella was planning to marry the 13 years younger William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp. This worried the King, as Arbella was fourth in line for the throne and William – being the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey and therefore descendant of Henry VII through Mary Tudor (with Charles Brandon) – sixth in line and it´s no wonder if he thought this was a prelude to an attempt at taking the throne.

Both of them however denied that any agreement existed between them, which was clearly a lie as they got married in secret on June 22nd 1610 at Greenwich Palace. This led to their arrest once the king had found out, and Arbella was kept at Sir Thomas Perry´s house at Lambeth while Seymour was brought to the Tower.

Like her grandmother, Arbella wrote letters that has survived, some of them from this period, and sometime after her arrest, Lady_Arbella_Stuartmost likely from Lambeth, she petitioned the King, asking for his forgiveness;

“May it please your most excellent Majesty

To regard with the eyes of your royal and gracious heart, the unfortunate estate, your Majesty´s handmaid, who, knowing your Majesty´s gracious favour to her to be the greatest honour, comfort and felicity that this world can afford, doth now feel any part of the contrary to be the most grievous affliction to her that can be imagined. Whereinsoever your Majesty will say I have offended I will not contest but in all humility prostrate myself at your Majesty´s feet; only I do most humbly on my knees beseech your Majesty to believe that that thought never yet entered to my heart to do anything that might justly deserve any part of your indignation……”

 However, Arbella did not only write numerous letters and petitions to the King, she did also write to her husband, and when this came to the King´s attention, he arranged for her to be moved from Lambeth into the care of the Bishop of Durham. The move was delayed due to Arbella claiming to be sick, and during this delay she and her husband attempted to escape.

The plan was to meet up at Lee in Kent, there to get on a ship heading for France. Arbella was during her escape dressed as a man to avoid detection, and it has been suggested that Shakespeare based the character of Imogen in Cymberline on Arbella. Lady_Arabella_Stuart (1)When she arrived her husband was nowhere to be found, while he had managed to get out of the Tower, he arrived too late and the two boarded different ships.

Arbella´s ship was intercepted by the King´s men just as it was about to reach Calais, and she was brought to the Tower.

Arbella would never see her husband – who would go on to be a commander during the Civil War – again or even leave the Tower.

On September 25th 1615 Arabella Stuart died from illness and malnutrition due to refusing to eat, at the age of 40.

 

Sources:

Calendar of State Papers Domestic of Elizabeth I, 1581 – 1590

Bessofhardwick.org – collected letters of the Countess of Shrewsbury

Life of Lady Arabella Stuart, Volume 1 + 2 – Mrs A. Murray Smith

Lexscripta.com

The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart – Sarah Jayne Steen

 

*History changes as new evidence is put forward and the view on Raleigh´s part has somewhat changed, but that is clearly for another post.

Interview with Amy Licence

Recently I reviewed Amy Licence book “Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a trueAmy love story”, and now I have had the pleasure of asking her a few questions

 How did your interest in history start?

I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.

AmyAt what point did you realise it was primarily the women’s stories you wanted to highlight?

I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.

How important is history to C21st people and do you personally feel that lack of In bedknowledge influences the modern man?

I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.

sixWhat determines who you will be writing about when you prepare for a new book?

It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.

What will you be working on next?

I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want All about Richard IIIto set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.

 

Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.

Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).

Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII

Sir Francis Walshingham – Spymaster

“There is less danger in fearing too much than too little.”

Just as her father had had men he depended on, Elizabeth had people around her that800px-Sir_Francis_Walsingham_by_John_De_Critz_the_Elder played a significant rule during her reign, but while men like Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell had worked their way up from quite humble origins, Francis Walshingham was born in a well-connected gentry family, presumably living in Chislehurst, Kent.

His father, William Walshingham, had in his capacity as a successful lawyer served as a member of a commission to investigate the estates of Thomas Wolsey in 1530 and his uncle Edmund Walshingham, knighted after the Battle of Flodden, was in attendance of Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold as well as Lieutenant of the Tower from early 1520´s until Henry´s death in 1547.

William Walshingham died in 1534 when Francis was only two years old – here it may be appropriate to mention, in the event someone has watched the Cate Blanchett film about Elizabeth I where Walsingham is portrayed as a man significantly older than Elizabeth, that he was in reality just one year older than his Queen – and four years after William´s passing his mother Joyce remarried to the courtier Sir John Carey, brother of William Carey in his turn married to Mary Boleyn, sister of the, by then, executed Queen Anne Boleyn.

In 1548 Walshingham enrolled in King´s College at the university of Cambridge, the college known for being ardently protestant and reformist, and only four years later he was admitted to Gray´s Inn in London where he embarked on his studies in law.

Maria_Tudor1During Walshingham´s second year at Grey´s Inn, the young king Edward VI died, which eventually – after the interlude if the Nine Days Queen, Jane Grey – led to the zealous catholic Mary taking the throne. Just as many other protestants, Walshingham – not without reason as would be obvious – saw fit to leave the country. During his five years in exile, he studied civil law in Padua and would during that time become fluent in both Italian and French.

He returned to England when Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, and with the support of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, one of his companions in exile, he was elected as a member of Elizabeth´s first parliament, representing Bossiney in Cornwall. In a re-election in 1563, he was returned for two different constituencies, Lyme Regis in Dorset, which was also under the influence of Bedford, and Banbury in Oxfordshire. Walshingham however chose to sit for Lyme Regis. To be a member of parliament was not something which appealed to Walshingham though, and it seems, even though he remained a member of parliament for the rest of his life, it was something he dealt with rather half-heartedly.

Already in the late 1560´s Walshingham was involved in gathering support for the Huguenots who were severely persecuted in France, and at this time the so called Wars of Religion were raging in France, primarily fought between Catholics and Huguenots. Walshingham himself would also be the eyewitness of something that no doubt further influenced his views on Catholics.

In 1568-69, he joined the service of William Cecil, chief advisor, secretary of state andWilliam_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley_from_NPG_(2) finally Lord High Treasurer of Elizabeth I. Walshingham´s assignment was to counter plots against the Queen, and no doubt it was now he started to build up the intricate networks of spies for which he has come to be known. The first plot he managed to defuse was the Ridolfi plot, named after the instigator Roberto di Ridolfi, in 1571 which aimed to have Elizabeth I murdered and replaced with Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary had been placed in house arrest in 1568, and a part of the plot was to have her married to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and cousin of Elizabeth. Norfolk was subsequently executed, as would Mary be eventually, but Ridolfi would live on until 1612. Walshingham is also credited with being the one who anonymously wrote a pamphlet decrying the marriage plans between Mary and Norfolk.

But before this, Walshingham had in 1570 been appointed ambassador to France, where one of his missions was to negotiate a marriage between Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou, an “adventure” where he fully got to suffer the classical ambiguousness of Elizabeth, where she – in relation to proposed marriages – gave the impression of being very eager only to stall and stall until it came to nothing. Walshingham himself was very much against an alliance with France, much due to the persecutions of Protestants, and beginning the night between the 23rd and 24th of August 1572 and continuing for weeks, he himself got to see it in all its horror.

Francois_Dubois_001In the week leading up to the event, religious tension had been running high in Paris due to the marriage between the Catholic king Charles IX sister Margaret to the Protestant king Henry III of Navarre, and on the 22nd an assassination attempt was carried out against the Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. The attempt failed, just severing a finger on the admiral, and his would-be murderer got away. This agitated the Catholics of the city who feared retaliation, and on the night of St Bartholomew´s Day, a massacre of French Protestants started which made the Seine run red with blood. Apart from Admiral Coligny finally being murdered, it is believed that between 5 000 and 30 000 people lost their lives in the following weeks as the violence spread to towns and villages outside Paris.

In Paris, Walshingham´s home became a sanctuary for terrified Protestants. His wife Ursula managed to escape back to England with their four-year-old daughter, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a second daughter but Walshingham stayed on in France until April 1573. In December that same year he was appointed to the Privy Council as well as made principal secretary alongside Thomas Smith who retired in 1576, with Francis Walshingham becoming the keeper of the privy seal, although he was never formally invested. He was knighted in 1577.

It is of course impossible to write about Walshingham without getting into more detail about his work as the “spymaster” in service of Elizabeth I. It has been suggested that Francis Walshingham practically invented espionage, but that isn´t quite true, there had been spies before him, but he managed the task masterfully. Among his achievements was the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots, who thought she in secret communicated with her supporters, but due to Walshingham, together with people working for him, having developed a technique which allowed them to open letters without breaking the seal, as well as employing people capable of deciphering them, every letter she sent and received was read by the spymaster and his co-workers, thus exposing the Babington plot in 1586 which aimed not only to, again, murder the Queen and replace her with Mary, but also to facilitate a Spanish invasion of England.

The whole process started after Walshingham and Cecil realising that the isolation Mary-cipher-codeMary had been subjected to after a previous plot also meant that they had no means of discovering future plots to bring Mary to the throne, and she was once again allowed to communicate with her friends. The scheme to expose Mary involved Gilbert Gifford, originally part of the plot himself, but after having been arrested by Walshingham, he had agreed to act as double agent.

The letters were deciphered by Thomas Phelippes, a forger and intelligence gatherer in the employ of Walshingham who at the time was housed under the same roof, Chartley Hall, as Mary herself. When he had intercepted and deciphered the letter that finally, beyond any doubt, proved Mary´s involvement in the plot, he allegedly drew a gallows on the envelope before passing it on to Walshingham. It did indeed end in the execution of Mary within a week after the final evidence had been revealed.

Francis Walshingham was also instrumental in the preparations that greatly helped to secure the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

From the time of the discovery of the Babington Plot in 1586, Walshingham received a large number of dispatches from his agents on the continent regarding a planned Spanish attack on England and worked tirelessly to prepare England for war with Spain, and was among other things behind the rebuilding of the harbour at Dover as well as supporting Francis Drakes attack on Cadiz which left the Spanish fleet in bits and pieces in 1587. An invaluable asset in gathering intelligence was Anthony Standen who was a friend of the Tuscan ambassador in Madrid, and of course on Walshingham´s pay role.

loutherbourg-spanish_armadaThe Spanish Armada left Spain for England in July 1588, and on August 8th it was not much left of it then a memory. After the naval battle, the naval commander Lord Henry Seymour praised Walshingham for having “fought more with your pen than many in our English navy fought with their enemies”

One of the people believed by some to have been one of the spies in service of Francis Walshingham is the playwright Christopher Marlowe, for whom the court stood up when he was accused of travelling to France to study at a priest seminar, but there is no conclusive evidence of this, which maybe is only to be expected in the world of spies. The theory is however that Marlowe during his time in France acted as an agent for Walshingham, which would explain the royal intervention when he was accused. What can however most likely be dismissed as nothing but fantasies is the idea that Walshingham should have been behind the murder of Marlowe, not least since Walshingham himself had been dead for three years at the time of the murder.

As mentioned earlier, Walshingham was not the first to employ spies, but what has 500px-Queen_Elizabeth_I;_Sir_Francis_Walsingham;_William_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley_by_William_Faithorne_(2)made him stand out was how wide his network was, with men in his service in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, North Africa and Turkey. He planted agents in groups of Catholic exiles in Europe and managed to employ skilful co-workers.

Francis Walshingham died on April 6th 1590 at the age of 58. He was married twice, to Anne Barne and Ursula St Barbe and fathered two daughters in his last marriage of whom the youngest died at 7 years of age. His surviving daughter, Frances, married three times, to Sir Philip Sidney (dead as a result of a wound sustained in the battle of Zutphen in 1586) , Robert Devereux , 2nd Earl of Essex (executed for treason in 1601) and Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde.

At the time of his death, Sir Francis Walshingham was heavily in debt, partly because he funded much of his intelligence work out of his own pocket, but also because he took over the debts of his son in-law Philip Sidney after his death.

He was buried at St Paul´s Cathedral but his grave was destroyed in the great fire of 1666. He is mention on a plaque at the cathedral as one of those once buried there.

 

 

Sources:

Encyclopaedia Britannica/Stephen Budiansky

Her Majesty´s Spymaster – Stephen Budiansky

Walshingham and Burghley in Queen Elizabeth´s Privy Council – Conyers Read/The English Historical Review.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England – Neville Williams

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I – John Cooper

Sir Francis Walshingham, painting – John de Critz the Elder

Mary I, painting – Antonis Mor

William Cecil, painting – unknown, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

St Bartholomew´s Night Massacre, painting – Francois Dubois

Actual deciphering code of Francis Walshingham, used to decipher the letters of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Defeat of the Spanish Armada,  painting – Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg