Sunday, 15 February 2015

More On Tudor Times

Working my way slowly through The Register of the Guild of Knowle 1461-1535, in The County of Warwick, text available online, would seem to have little to do with the flurry of Tudor period items on BBCTV or the current actor celebrity Benedict Cumberbatch or celebrities of the mid and late 18th Century but it can happen if the connections might be there.

The programmes are Wolf Hall, last two episodes coming up and last week's Michael Wood hour on Mary Arden, wife of John Shakespeare and the mother of William Shakespeare.  To our amazement etc. she was a capable intelligent woman who could deal with business as well as running the home.

It is very likely that it was precisely these qualities as well as the portion and land that came with the marriage that attracted John as much as the swirl of a skirt or a come on look from under the bonnet.  Marriage was often business in those days as much as romance etc. whatever The Bard's popular entertainments might suggest.

In The Register one name caught the eye, it was a Comberbach.  There is a full and well organised Cumberbatch family history website, doubtless the source of all the media exclusives on his family past we have been given but I wonder if this one has been missed.

If so a pity because The Register lists three Shakespeare's, a John, a Richard and a Christopher along with others that caught the eye, notably a Somervyld and Throgmortons.  We should remember that name spelling was often elastic in those days.  Another thing is that Warwickshire then was not quite the same as it is now after reforms and changes in the late 19th and 20th Centuries tidied up and changed boundaries and removed separated parts in other county areas.

The Guild of Knowle (also Knoll) had its reach across a wide area of Warwickshire and was a major religious, charitable and administrative organisation which impacted on social matters as well.  This included the lands in which the Arden family were a major influence.

In those days if you are working out who was what and the rest it is far from easy to tease out the networks and groupings of families never mind just how things worked in practice at which the few remaining records only hint.  It is also quite alien to our modern life as well as periods in the more recent past.

The Somerville Plot 1583 might be a place to start, when John Somerville, Edward Arden and Francis Throckmorton lost their lives in a planned attempt to dethrone Queen Elizabeth and restore the Roman Catholic Church.  John Somerville was married to Margaret Throckmorton daughter of the marriage of Edward Arden and Mary Throckmorton, she being the daughter of Sir Robert Throckmorton of Coughton near Stratford upon Avon.

He was the eldest son of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton and Anne Carew.  Anne was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Carew, Master of the Horse, Companion to King Henry VIII, above, who grew up with Henry and was very close to him but lost his head in 1539.  He was a near cousin of Anne Boleyn and made the wrong call, with others, at a fraught time.

After Thomas Cromwell, it seems agent of this, lost his head the following year, King Henry had cause to regret Carew's loss.  As the Carew name was taken by the senior branch of the Throckmorton's, Queen Elizabeth had some sympathy with them, as long as they toed the line, which Francis did not.

Elizabeth (Bess) Throckmorton was a favoured Maid of Honour until she gave in to Sir Walter Raleigh and married in secret and found herself in the Tower as a kind of social housing.  Meanwhile, the John Somerville above, along with his brother who succeeded him Sir William, the close friend of The Bard were of Edstone in Wootton Wawen just north of Stratford.

This estate had come to the family with the marriage of their grandfather, Thomas Somerville  to Joan Aylesbury (also Ailesbury) daughter of John Aylesbury.  They were a leading family of gentry in Warwickshire ranked among the most senior in the Guild of Knowle emblazoning their coat of arms in the chapels.

They have long gone off the radar of our major families but not then.  Joan's uncle Ralph was the grandfather of William Aylesbury of Eastcote in Warwickshire and Holborn in London.  His son Thomas, who went on to high office was born in 1576 a little older than the bard.  William's marriage to Anne Poole of Sapperton in Gloucestershire brought connections to the Bridges, Whittington's and others.

A good many academics and others seeking to place The Bard in his "lost years" when there is little trace of him concentrate on peers in high places at Court and theories derived from his writing.  There are as many theories as there are sonnets and plays.  But it really could be quite simple.

He could well have been enjoying the hospitality, as well as the security, of the Aylesbury's given the mutual connections over several generations.  He will have needed it because across the Avon from Stratford at Charlecote was Sir Thomas Lucy who had it in for the Arden's as well as the Shakespeare's and who took full opportunity of the 1583 fiasco to impoverish them.

It will be interesting to see whether Sir Nicholas Carew turns up among the characters in Wolf Hall and what they make of him.  At that time he was a major figure and his memory was carried on for some generations in the families of his many descendants.

Among the Aylesbury descendants were Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.  Sir Thomas, born in 1576, had a daughter, Frances, who married an up and coming lawyer called Edward Hyde who attached himself to the exiled King Charles II.  He was made Earl of Clarendon after the Restoration and his daughter Anne married James, brother of the King with some scandal and bore him Mary and Anne.

Later the main branches of both the Arden's and the Somerville's moved close to Lichfield were they became acquainted with Dr. Johnson, David Garrick and others.  It is not surprising there was then a revival of interest in The Bard.

If you think that the TV items are complicated they do not get near the reality of it and the intermingling of families, people and the rest.

1 comment:

  1. "We should remember that name spelling was often elastic in those days."

    I bet Ed Balls wishes it still was.