Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Viscount Lisle – the Last Plantagenet II

Arthur Plantagenet (C)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage Number Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Precocious Little Horror

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Viscount Lisle – the Last Plantagenet

Edward IV
An Illegitimate Birth

Arthur Plantagenet was the illegitimate son of Edward IV and his mother was probably Elizabeth Lucy, daughter of one Thomas Wayte, a Hampshire gentleman. The date of Arthur’s birth is similarly lost in time, but believed to be between 1461 and 1475. 1462 is more probable as Edward possibly met and seduced Elizabeth Lucy, a widow, on a summer progress in 1461.

Edward’s mother, the dowager Duchess of York, was furious when Edward married the portionless Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464. The duchess claimed that Edward’s marriage was invalid as Edward had promised to marry Elizabeth Lucy. Thomas More claimed in his History of King Richard III[i] that, the seemingly naïve, Elizabeth Lucy under examination agreed that Edward had never promised to marry her;

‘She said his grace [Edward IV} spoke so loving words unto her that she verily hoped he would have married her, and if it had not been for such kind words she would never have showed such kindness to him to let him so kindly get her with child.’[ii]

Written sometime after the event and more with an eye to drama than accuracy, the history traduces the author’s patron’s predecessors. Sir George Buck claimed that Edward;

‘Loved her well and she was his witty concubine, for she was a wanton wench, and willing and ready to yield herself to the king and to his pleasures without any conditions.’[iii]

Arthur’s birthplace was Calais, the last bastion of Plantagenet holdings in France[iv]. Now all that was left was the Pale of circa 120 square miles surrounding the town and including the fort of Guisnes. Arthur was originally known as Arthur Wayte. It is highly possible that Elizabeth was also the mother of Elizabeth Plantagenet, born in 1464, which would imply that she had become the king’s mistress.

Arthur at Court

Elizabeth of York
Arthur’s godfather was William FitzAlan, 16th Earl of Arundel. Arthur spent his childhood at the Edward’s court. At the age of ten he moved to join his mother’s family at one of their manors; Byrne tentatively identifies the manor as that of Soberton in Hampshire. In 1472 the king’s tailor was ordered to make Arthur several robes. When Edward died in 1483 the 23 year old Arthur disappeared from the record for 17 years.

Having usurped the throne from Richard III[v] in August 1485, Henry VII married Arthur’s legitimate sister Elizabeth. In 1501 Arthur reappeared joining his half-sister Elizabeth’s household. When Elizabeth died in 1503 Arthur then became part of his brother-in-law’s household. Henry was indulgent to his brother-in-law.

Arthur’s relationship with the royal family was acknowledged and the de la Poles from the Countess of Salisbury down greeted him as cousin. In turn Arthur habitually referred to Cardinal de la Pole as ‘my cousin Reynold Pole.’ Arthur took after his father in that he was easy going and agreeable. He also continued the family trait in that he was a veritable giant of a man, being over 6’3”[vi]. Thomas More described Arthur as;

‘Princely to behold, of visage lovely, of body mighty, strong and clean made.’[vii]

When Arthur’s nephew Henry succeeded to the throne Arthur was made an Esquire of the King's Bodyguard and was a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber. He was a close companion of Henry's despite the disparity in ages. Arthur was also appointed the King’s Carver, although the date of the appointment is not known.

Marriage Number One

Edward Dudley (R), Henry VII (C)
On 12th November 1511 Arthur was married to Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Lisle. She was the widow of Edmund Dudley, treasurer to King Henry VII, who had been executed the previous year on charges of treason. The day after the wedding the king granted Arthur some of the Dudley estates which had reverted to the crown as a result of Dudley's attainder.

Elizabeth had three sons by her previous marriage; Arthur’s eldest stepchild was John Dudley[viii]. The year after the wedding John was made the ward of Sir Edward Guildford and was taken into his household. Elizabeth’s second son Andrew was placed in the household of the Duke of Norfolk. Arthur seems to have taken no interest in either Andrew or Jerome, Elizabeth’s youngest son. Jerome apparently was mentally or physically disabled and, although destined for the priesthood, was unable to take orders.

Arthur and Elizabeth had three daughters: Frances[ix], Elizabeth[x] and Bridget who was placed in the care of Dame Elizabeth Shelley, Abbess of St Mary’s Abbey in Winchester .

Disaster at Sea
Louis XII
In 1512 Arthur was made a member for the Commission of the Peace[xi] for Hampshire and he remained so for many years. The following year Arthur was made a Spear of Honour, a crack corps of men of noble blood.

Eager to prove his martial prowess, and bound by a treaty of 5th April 1513[xii], Henry’s troops invaded France while Louis XII’s troops were involved elsewhere in a fruitless attempt to regain his maternal inheritance in Italy[xiii]. Arthur held a command in the navy and was responsible for the seas between the Thames estuary and Brest.

The fleet under the command of Sir Edward Howard[xiv], Lord High Admiral, took to the waters on 20th April; it suffered from a lack of victuals due to the speed of the orders from Henry. Arriving in Brest, Howard found the weather inclement, the town and harbour heavily defended by Admiral Prégent de Bidoux. The English ships were unsuited to close infighting in the harbour.

Howard, pressured by a letter from Henry, made an attempt to attack the French galleys[xv]. Howard managed to board Prégent’s galley but Howard was driven overboard and drowned, dragged down by the weight of his own armour. The dispirited fleet returned to Plymouth on 30th April to regroup under the new Lord High Admiral, Edward’s elder brother Thomas, Earl of Surrey[xvi] who wrote to Henry that the sailors;

‘Had as leve go in to Purgatory as to the trade [of battle]’[xvii]

Henry’s scathing letters of rebuke to the captains had only made things worse. Howard requested permission to launch raids into Brittany. Henry was only too happy to authorise this as it gave cover for the land invasion due in short measure.

Victory on Land

Maximilian (L) and Henry VIII (R) meet at Therouanne
The English troops in conjunction with the troops of Maximilian I[xviii], the Holy Roman Emperor besieged Thérouanne, and defeated the French led by La Palice at the Battle of the Spurs on 16th August; the Imperial Master of the Posts wrote;

‘Early in the day the Emperor and the King of England encountered 8,000 French horse; the Emperor, with 2,000 only, kept them at bay until four in the afternoon, when they were put to flight.’[xix]

The allies then went on to capture Tournai; the two towns were all the booty that Henry was to receive as a result of his efforts.

In an attempt to divert English involvement in France James IV of Scotland[xx] invaded England at Louis’ behest. The Scots failed to draw Henry's attention from France, and James’ death and the Scots' catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Flodden on 9th September did nothing to assist the Scottish cause.


Richard III’s ‘Beloved Cousyn’ – John Ashdown-Hill, The History Press 2015

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

Cardinal Wolsey – Mandell Creighton, MacMillan & Co 1891

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

Elizabeth and Leicester – Sarah Gristwood, Bantam Press 2008

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

Thomas Cromwell – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2008

The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992

Thomas More – Richard Marius, Weidenfeld & Nicholson 1993

The Tudor Navy – Arthur Nelson, Conway Maritime Press 2001

Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family – Robert Virgoe (Ed), MacMillan London Ltd 1989


[i] Although More did not finish his history and it was not printed at the time. Published after More’s death the history is believed to have influenced Shakespeare when he wrote his Richard III
[ii] Thomas More – Marius
[iii] The Royal Bastards of Medieval England – Given-Wilson & Curties
[iv] Originally captured by Edward III in 1347, Calais was retaken by the French in 1558. All wool exported to the continent from England had to be exported through Calais and the Staple was the largest single producer of royal revenue.
[v] Edward’s brother who is alleged to have disposed of Arthur’s half-brothers Edward and Richard who both mysteriously disappeared after their father’s death.
[vi] When his coffin was opened in 1788 his skeleton measured 6’3.5”
[vii] The Lisle Letters - Byrne
[viii] Later the Duke of Northumberland Dudley died on the scaffold when his attempt to place his niece Lady Jane Grey on the throne failed. Dudley was unlikely to have had much contact with Arthur as he was made a ward of Sir Edward Guilford when he was 7. He later married Guildford’s daughter Jane
[ix] Frances was married twice: firstly to her step-brother John Basset (1520–1541) of Umberleigh, Devon, the son of Arthur's second wife by her first marriage. When he died she married Thomas Monke of Potheridge, Devon, of an ancient Devonshire family. Her great-grandson by this marriage was George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608–1670)
[x] She married Sir Francis Jobson, Member of Parliament for Colchester; he was also a Receiver in the Court of Augmentations. A proposed marriage to the eldest son of Sir Francis Lovell fell through
[xi] Now known as Justices for the Peace or JP or Magistrates
[xii] The treaty bound Henry invade France within 30 days; the co-signatories were the Holy Roman Emperor, the Pope Julius II and Ferdinand of Aragon
[xiii] A small part of the War of the League of Cambrai
[xiv] Following the death of the Earl of Oxford
[xv] Brought round from the Mediterranean
[xvii] The Ebbs and Flows of Fortune - Head
[xviii] By this time Ferdinand had come to an agreement with Louis XII and left his son-in-law in the lurch
[xx] A traditional ally of France against the English