On this day in 1534 – Elizabeth Barton was executed

On 20th April 1534 Elizabeth Barton was executed on charges of treason for prophesising about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

Elizabeth’s life before 1525 is unknown in 1506 she was born in Aldington and it is assumed that she grew up in a poor family. In 1525 at the aged around 18 Elizabeth was working as a servant for Thomas Cobb when she fell ill and believed that she believed she was given the power of visions and could predict the future.

Elizabeth’s predictions started with the death of a child within the house and led to urging people to stay within the Catholic faith as more and more predictions came true the greater Elizabeth’s reputation grew. A local priest, Richard Masters, referred Elizabeth to Archbishop Warham who after ensuring that her prophecies did no damage to the Catholic ways arranged for her to be received into the Benedictine St Sepulchre’s Priory in Canterbury.

Elizabeth’s popularity began to grow and she soon became known as the ‘Nun of Kent’. People would flock to see her in the belief that she could directly communicate with the Virgin Mary. Courtiers such as Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher also began communicating with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth began gaining more and more followers and in 1528 she had a private meeting with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and went on to have two meetings with King Henry VIII. Henry did not oppose Elizabeth and her visions as he was still loyal to Rome and Elizabeth was warning against heresy. However, with Henry pushing Katherine of Aragon for an annulment of their marriage and turning his back on Rome he began to turn on Elizabeth as well. Elizabeth strongly opposed the Reformation and in 1532 with rumours of Henry planning to marry Anne Boleyn she predicted that if the King remarried he would die soon after and he would go to hell.

It took a year for Henry to take action against Elizabeth due to her popularity, but in 1533 Elizabeth was examined by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. With rumours being spread of alleged relationships with priests and that she was suffering from mental illness Elizabeth apparently confessed to spreading false prophecies. Upon her confession Elizabeth was taken to the Tower of London where she was imprisoned.

In January 1534 a bill of attainder was passed against Elizabeth and her supporters. Thirteen supporters were attained in total including Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher however, Thomas More escaped imprisonment as he was able to produce a letter written by him to Elizabeth informing her to not get involved in court business. Bishop Fisher and five others were imprisoned but Elizabeth and the rest of her supporters including Richard Risby and Edward Bocking were all hanged at Tyburn on 20th April 1534. Elizabeth was buried at the Greyfriars Church in Newgate Street with the exception of her head which was put on a spike on London Bridge. She was the only woman in history to have had that happen.

Elizabeth Barton

On this day in 1558 – Mary Queen of Scots was betrothed to Francis future King of France.

On 19th April 1558 Mary, daughter of King James V of Scotland was betrothed to Francis the Dauphin of France. Mary was queen of Scotland since she was six days old.

On 27th January 1548 in the Châtillon treaty the marriage of Mary and Francis was put forward and aged six Mary was sent to France to be bought up in the French court until she was old enough to marry. Mary left Scotland in the hands of regents.

Formally betrothed on 19th April 1558 the agreement allowed Scotland to maintained their traditional rights but when Francis ascends the throne Scotland would unite with France. However, if Mary died without the couple having any children the Scottish throne would go to the Earl of Arran. The wedding was set for 24th April where Mary and Francis were married at Notre Dame Cathedral by Cardinal of Rouen. Mary wore a long trained white dress accompanied with a Diamond necklace and a golden coronet adorned with jewels.

Francis ascended the throne in 1559 to become King Francis II and Mary became his queen consort. As Francis was only 15 when he ascended the throne and already in ill health he created a regency to reign on his behalf, he appointed his wife’s uncles the Duke of Guise and Cardinal of Lorraine along with his mother Catherine de’Medici. However, with his mother still in mourning for her husband all orders were given by Mary’s uncles. At the time of the wedding Mary signed a secret agreement that contradicted the betrothal agreement. Mary agreed that if she died childless then Scotland would stay in control of the French.

King Francis II died in December 1560 and once it was established that Mary was not carrying the heir to the French throne she returned to Scotland landing in Leith on 19th August 1561. Mary went on to remarry and give birth to a son who would unite the thrones of Scotland and England.

Francis and Mary

On this day in 1536 – Eustace Chapuys bowed to Anne Boleyn

Eustace Chapuys was the Imperial Ambassador in England and was loyal to Queen Katherine of Aragon. When King Henry VIII began divorce proceedings against Katherine Chapuys understandably stayed loyal to the daughter of Spain, Katherine. In his writings to the Holy Roman Emperor Chapuys referred to Henry’s new love, Anne Boleyn, as the concubine. Chapuys refused to acknowledge Anne as Henry’s wife let alone queen of England.

On 18th April 1536 Chapuys was tricked into bowing to Anne Boleyn in the chapel at Greenwich Palace. Chapuys had already asked Thomas Cromwell to be excused from the event as he did not want to visit Anne let alone kiss her hand Henry however, wanted Chapuys to acknowledge his wife as the lawful queen.

Chapuys was escorted to the chapel by George Boleyn and he was placed behind the door that Anne would enter through in a tactical move by the king and the Boleyns. As Anne entered the chapel she stopped and turned around to bow at the ambassador. An awkward encounter left Chapuys with no choice but to bow in response to Anne.

In a letter to Charles V Chapuys wrote:

“I was conducted to mass by lord Rochford, the concubine’s brother, and when the King came to the offering there was a great concourse of people partly to see how the concubine and I behaved to each other. She was courteous enough, for when I was behind the door by which she entered, she returned, merely to do me reverence as I did to her.”

eustace chapuys

On this day in 1595 – Henry Walpole died

Henry Walpole was born in 1558 in Norfolk. Walpole was educated at Gray’s Inn.

Walpole was present at the execution of the Roman Catholic Jesuit priest Edmund Campion who was executed on the charge of high treason in 1581. Walpole seemingly inspired by Campion gave up his law career and converted to Roman Catholicism. On 28th April 1583 Walpole was admitted into the English College, Rome and soon received minor orders. Walpole was ordained at Metz as subdeacon and deacon as well as priest in December 1588.

Walpole was jailed twice in 1586 at Newgate prison on religious grounds but returned to Reims in December 1589 where he was ordained to more posts before being sent on a new mission on 9th April 1591 which would see Walpole land in Whitby. On his way to England Walpole was imprisoned by the English in Flushing and eventually landed at Flamborough, Yorkshire where he was arrested once again for being Catholic and he was imprisoned in York. February 1594 saw Walpole being transferred to the Tower of London where whilst he awaited a trial was tortured with the rack. In 1595 Walpole was sent back to York for his trial where he was hung, drawn and quartered on 17th April 1595.

Henry Walpole

On this day in 1587 – Anne Seymour died

Anne Seymour was the second wife of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of Edward VI. Anne was born in 1497 to Sir Edward Stanhope and his wife Elizabeth and it is through her mother that Anne is descended from Thomas of Woodstock, youngest son of King Edward III.

Anne married Edward Seymour sometime in 1535. Edward was the brother of the future queen of England, Jane Seymour. After Jane’s marriage to King Henry VIII the Seymour’s began being honoured with lands and titles. Edward was elevated to Viscount Beauchamp and in 1537 after Jane gave birth to Henry’s son, Edward, he was created Earl of Hertford. Finally in 1547 he was created Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of his young nephew, Edward.

Anne and Edward had ten children and Queen Jane Seymour acted as godmother to their first child as well as Thomas Cromwell and Princess Mary.

Anne did not go unnoticed at court Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey took a fancy to her and although he had argued with her husband Howard still went on to write a sonnet about Anne entitled ‘A lady who refused to dance with him’ it portrayed Anne as a spiteful and cold lady.

Anne in 1545 sent aid to Anne Askew, the Protestant preacher who was burned at the stake for foretelling the King’s death. This showed that she was in favour of the Protestant faith and it was not the first she would be implicated in Protestant conspiracies.

Anne Seymour had a very prominent life at court; she was present throughout the latter days of Henry VIII’s reign and was not afraid of confrontation. Although she was present at Henry’s wedding to his final queen, Catherine Parr. Once Henry died and her husband became Lord Protector, Anne and Catherine found it difficult to get along. Anne deemed herself the most important lady in the realm and the rift deepened when Catherine married Anne’s brother in law, Thomas Seymour. Anne refused to enter a room behind Catherine however; Catherine invoked the Third Act of Succession, Henry’s final Act which restored Mary and Elizabeth to the line of succession. The Act also stated that Catherine, Mary, Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves were still took precedence over any other woman in the country and this included Anne Seymour.

Anne’s husband, Edward, was appointed Lord Protector by 13 of the 16 members of the council created in Henry VIII’s will to govern for the young King Edward VI until he was 18. This appointment made Seymour the most powerful man in England. After a series of rebellions during 1548/49 the blame fell at Seymour and the Privy Council had Edward Seymour and his wife arrested and placed in the Tower. Anne was released soon after and Seymour in January 1550. Anne was helpful in securing Seymour’s release by making visits to John Dudley, the new head of the council. Through Anne’s negotiations Seymour was admitted back into the Privy Council and her daughter was married to the eldest son of John Dudley.

Edward Seymour was arrested again on 1st December 1551 and was executed less than a month later on 22nd January 1552 Anne was released on 30th May 1553.

With the death of Edward Seymour Anne remarried to Francis Newdigate who was steward to her late husband. Little is known of their relationship and marriage. Anne appears to have taken herself away from court. Anne died at Hanworth Palace, Middlesex on 16th April 1587 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Anne Seymour

On this day in 1530 – Baron Gilbert Tailboys died

Gilbert Tailboys was born in 1497 to Sir George Tailboys and his wife Elizabeth.

In 1520 Tailboys was married to Elizabeth Blount, otherwise known as Bessie, former mistress to King Henry VIII and mother to Henry’s son Henry Fitzroy. Fitzroy was the only illegitimate child that Henry acknowledged. This is likely because Bessie was unmarried it was normal for illegitimate children to be known as the son or daughter of the husband even if the child was born as the result of an affair.

Not much is known of Tailboys early life but his father George was declared insane in 1517 and Gilbert was sent to court under the protection of Cardinal Wolsey. His links with Wolsey is a probable reason as to why he was selected to marry Bessie Blount after her relationship with the King ended.

It appears that Gilbert and Bessie had a successful marriage, they had three children of their own, two boys called George and Robert and a girl named Elizabeth.

As step father to a potential heir to the throne Gilbert was granted many lands in Warwickshire and Yorkshire. In 1527 he was appointed as a gentleman of the king’s chamber with a further appointment in 1526 as High Sheriff of Lincolnshire.

Gilbert Tailboys was created Baron Tailboys of Kyme on 1st December 1529 but died on 15th April 1530 and was buried in Kyme Church.

On this day in 1556 – Sir Anthony Kingston died

Sir Anthony Kingston was born approximately in 1508 to Sir William Kingston but it is unknown who his mother was, it was one of Sir William’s two wives Anne or Elizabeth. Kingston began being noticed within the Tudor court when he served at the head of a troop of men from Gloucestershire who marched under the banner of the Duke of Norfolk during the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536. Kingston was well rewarded by King Henry VIII firstly he was knighted by Henry on 18th October 1537 and received land that once belonged to the monasteries that were now suppressed, many of these lands were in Gloucestershire and included Flaxley Abbey. Kingston was also rewarded with offices at court that included serjeant of the king’s hawks. In 1546 Kingston was the Constable of the Tower of London and charged with interrogating Anne Askew, a poet and Protestant. Askew was accused of heresy and is the only woman to be documented as being tortured in the Tower and burned at the stake. Kingston prospered further under the reign of King Edward VI where he was made Provost Marshal during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549 that took place in Devon and Cornwall. Kingston remained in Edward’s service by acting on the council for the marches of Wales. Kingston sat in the House of Commons for Gloucestershire on many occasions between 1539 and 1555. During the Parliament in 1555 Kingston was a knight marshal and also a key supporter of the Protestant religion, a danger position to be in with Queen Mary I. During the 1555 Parliament Kingston took the keys to the house with the approval of the majority of Parliament. However, the day after Parliament was dissolved on 10th December, Kingston was sent to the Tower accused of taking part in the conspiracy to place Elizabeth on the throne over Mary. Kingston submitted after 13 days and was discharged from the Tower after asking to be pardoned. This was not the only time Kingston would be involved in a conspiracy regarding Elizabeth. Less than six months later Kingston was concerned about a plot to rob the exchequer in order to fund another attempt to place Elizabeth on the throne by Sir Henry Dudley. It is unknown if Kingston was involved in these plots but he died on 14th April 1556 either in Cirencester or whilst he was on his way to London to stand trial.

On this day in 1534 – Sir Thomas More was summoned to Lambeth to sign the oath of succession.

Sir Thomas More was summoned to Lambeth Palace on 13th April 1534 to swear the new oath of succession. More was one of Henry VIII’s most trusted friends and advisors during the early days of his reign but More was a devout Catholic and loyal to Queen Katherine so when Henry wanted to put Katherine aside and take a new wife More found it difficult to accept. Henry was desperate to get More on side and agree that the marriage was never legal.

During the inquest into the King’s Great Matter that saw Cardinal Campeggio dispatched from Rome to oversee events More kept himself busy by pursuing heretics and negotiating peace deals with France and Spain abroad. He kept himself away from Blackfriars and the ongoing trial into the King’s marriage.

In 1529 after the fall of Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas More was appointed Lord Chancellor despite Henry being aware of More’s sympathies towards the former Queen. More accepted the role in the hope he could persuade Henry back to church and to Katherine.

As Henry moved further and further away from Rome and Papal Supremacy he began demanding that the Church recognised him as the Supreme Head of the Church. In 1532 Thomas Cromwell created a new bill that limited the Church’s powers. On 15th May 1532 the clergy were forced to accept that Henry was the Head of the Church and that he was superior to the Church and their laws. The following day in the gardens of York Place Thomas More resigned from his role as Lord Chancellor, he returned the great seal to Henry and bowed before leaving never to see Henry again.

In 1533 Thomas Cromwell ordered an investigation into the activities and movement of More. Two events appear to have triggered the investigation the first was More’s lack of attendance at Anne Boleyn’s coronation and the second was More’s involvement with Elizabeth Barton, the nun who claimed to have visions and predicted the King’s death if he went through with his marriage to Anne. More wrote to Cromwell and the King in March 1534 stating that he remained loyal to the King and would remain silent on the matter of his new wife.

While More thought he was safe remaining quiet Cromwell was working behind the scenes on new bills that were to be passed through Parliament. The Act of Annates stated that all bishops were to be selected by the King. Another act was passed at the same time The Act of Succession, the act declared that Henry’s marriage to Katherine was unlawful and void and that their child, Mary, was now illegitimate. It stated that any children the King would have with Anne would be heirs to the throne. It was also required that all citizens were to swear an oath in support of the new act.

On 12th April 1534 Thomas More was exited St. Paul’s Cathedral after a service with his son in law. He was handed a summons that requested him to go to Lambeth Palace the following day in order to take the oath of succession. More having decided not to sign the oath must have known that by not signing it then that was to be his last day as a free man.

On 13th April More set off on a boat for Lambeth, when he was seated and asked to sign the oath More asked to read both the oath and the Act itself. He carefully read each document and told those in the room that his conscience would not allow him to sign the oath. His response was unexpected so the commissioners asked More to leave the room for them to decide what to do with More now that he had refused to sign the oath. More was summoned back and once again refused to sign it despite being threatened with prison. He was eventually given to the Abbot of Westminster for four days before being transferred to a cell within the Tower of London.

Thomas More would remain imprisoned where he would be interrogated and asked to sign the oath again on numerous occasions. In 1535 Cromwell interviewed More on the King’s behalf where he was asked his opinion on the Act of Supremacy an act that would declare Henry the supreme head. More refused to comment on it and was left in the Tower.

The trial of Thomas More was set for 1st July 1535 where he was once again asked to sign the oath. He was also charged and questioned on four points. At each one More gave clear answers but he must have known that a guilty sentence would be handed out in fear of displeasing the King. More was handed a guilty verdict and sentenced to death by means of hung, drawn and quartered. This was later changed to beheading by the King in recognition of the years that More had served him. Sir Thomas More was executed on 6th July 1535.

Sir Thomas More

On this day in 1587 – Sir Thomas Bromley died

Sir Thomas Bromley was born in 1530 to George Bromley and Jane Lacon. The Bromley family had some relative success at court from his father George being a member of the Inner Temple to a cousin, George, being Chief Justice of the King’s Bench by Queen Mary I.

Thomas Bromley continued in the path of many of his family and trained in law and entered the Inner Temple before going on to study at Oxford University, where he gained his Bachelor of Civil Law degree. His time at the Inner Temple was successful and in 1563 he became a member of the Temple’s parliament. In 1565 he was appointed attendant on the Reader (a senior barrister elected to deliver a series of lectures) for the first time. Bromley would later go on to be appointed Reader on various occasions.

In 1573 Bromley was elected to the post of Treasurer of the Inner Temple where he found the Inn to be in financial difficulty as a solution a levy was enforced on all members to help clear this debt. It was not enough to get the Inn out of trouble and Bromley passed many new rules to bring the Inn back into financial safety from charging members for their food consumption to charging the cooks for any loss of pewter dishes.

Bromley had much success as a lawyer serving the Queen’s Bench and the court of equity. He became associated with many senior figures at court like Henry Carey, Francis Drake and Lord Burleigh. These connections helped Bromley serve Catherine Willoughby, dowager duchess of Suffolk and her new husband who fled England under the rule of Mary I. They left their property and assets in the hands of Walter Herenden, a lawyer at Gray’s Inn. However, when they were ready to return to England, under Queen Elizabeth, Herenden refused to sign the property’s back over to the couple. Bromley successfully petitioned the case and the Court of Chancery ordered Herenden to hand over the properties, although it did require a further act of Parliament to get them fully restored.

As well as a successful career with the Inner Temple Bromley also found himself an elected member of Parliament on three occasions. In 1558 when Bromley was just 28 and not yet a fully qualified barrister he was elected to serve Bridgnorth, Shropshire. The following year he was elected to serve Wigan and finally in 1563 he served Guildford.

In 1566 Bromley gained the post of recorder of the City of London and three years later in 1569 he was appointed Solicitor General, a role of high importance. Bromley was sent north to participate in the trials following the Revolt of the Northern Earls, a rebellion by Catholic nobles to depose Queen Elizabeth and place Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne. In 1571 Bromley was part of the trial of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk for his role in the plot. The trial focused on communications between Norfolk and Ridolfi and the proposal for Norfolk and Mary to be married. Bromley’s involvement in the plots did not end here and he was sent north once again to Sheffield to lay charges before Mary. His aim was to get Mary to renounce her claim on both the English and Scottish thrones and allow her son James to take the Scottish throne.

In 1579 Bromley was appointed Lord Chancellor along with Keeper of the Great Seal after gaining the support of the Queen’s favourites Robert Dudley and also Christopher Hatton. In this role Bromley found himself working on many cases and advising the Queen on many matters of importance included a proposed marriage to the Duke of Anjou, which Bromley was against.

Bromley found himself once again involved in the case against Mary, Queen of Scots in 1583 when Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the Throckmorton Plot. Percy was released then rearrested and found dead in his cell three days later. After an inquiry Bromley announced that Percy had committed suicide after his role in the plot. After trying many of the conspirators and Mary’s associates Bromley began finding a way to bring Mary to trial.

A court was established in 1586 at Fotheringhay Castle headed by Bromley. Mary, Queen of Scots denied any involvement in the plots to free her and also tried to claim immunity as she was not from England. Bromley and the Queen thought of this and decided that as Mary had been under the Queen’s protection in England she could be tried in an English court of law. A guilty verdict was reached and announced to Parliament but Elizabeth took her time to sign Mary’s death warrant with it finally being signed on 1st February 1587 three months after the decision was reached.

Bromley was taken ill just days after Mary’s execution and died on 12th April 1587, aged 57. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. There is no cause of what Bromley died off but it was reported at the time that it was the strain of sentencing a former Queen to death but there was no concrete evidence of this.

Sir Thomas Bromley

On this day in 1554 – Sir Thomas Wyatt was executed

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger was executed on 11th April 1554 for leading a rebellion against Queen Mary I.

Bought up a strong Catholic and spent many years accompanying his father on missions in Spain. His father was Sir Thomas Wyatt, the court poet during Henry VIII reign and once rumoured lover of Anne Boleyn before her marriage. Due to his time in Spain Wyatt developed a deep displeasure towards the Spanish government, this came from his experience with the Spanish Inquisition. When it was announced the Queen Mary I would marry Philip of Spain Wyatt found himself drawn into a group who wished to prevent the marriage.

Several of the group were arrested and this pushed Wyatt to be the leader of the rebellion. Wyatt found himself in command of 1,500 men and he went about setting up his headquarters in Rochester. The Queen soon found out about the plans and offered a pardon to all followers that returned home within 24 hours. Wyatt instead encouraged his men to stay.

The Duke of Norfolk was dispatched to deal with the rebels but when they meted many of Norfolk’s men deserted him and joined the rebel cause. Wyatt and an army of 4,000 men marched towards Blackheath in January 1554. The government took this rebellion seriously and mustered an army of over 20,000 volunteers to defend the Queen. Wyatt was given the chance to put his demands forward but by this point he had already been declared a traitor and a reward was offered for his capture.

Upon arrival in London, Wyatt was surprised by the level of security protecting the capital and many of his supporters abandoned his cause at Southwark. On 15th March Wyatt admitted defeat and was sentenced to death for treason.

Wyatt’s execution date was set for 11th April 1554. On the morning of his execution Wyatt asked to speak to Edward Courteney, the original leader of the rebellion and begged him to confess the truth. Wyatt was beheaded for his involvement and his body was circulated as a warning to any rebel.

Sir Thomas Wyatt