Sunday, 14 September 2014

The loves of Anne Vavasour

Anne Vavasour (1562-1650) became a gentlewoman of the bedchamber to Queen Elizabeth I in 1580, along with her sister Frances (1568-1606). After only a few months, Anne became one of the six maids of honour to the queen.

Anne Vavasour, c.1605

Soon after arriving at court, Anne became the mistress of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). Edward de Vere had been married to Anne Cecil (d.1588), the daughter of William Cecil, on the 16th December 1571. However, the couple did not enjoy a happy marriage and the couple separated in 1576, although they did reconcile in January 1582 and remained together until her death in 1588.

"On Tuesday at night Anne Vavysor was brought to bed of a son in the maidens' chamber. The E. of Oxford is avowed to be the father, who hath withdrawn himself with the intent, as it is thought, to pass the seas. The ports are laid for him and therefore if he have any such determination it is not likely that he will escape. The gentlewoman the selfsame night she was delivered was conveyed out of the house and the next day committed to the Tower." Francis Walsingham to Henry Carey, 24th March 1581

On the 23rd March 1581, Anne gave birth to Edward de Vere's illegitimate son, named Edward Vere. It appears that Anne had hidden the pregnancy throughout the nine months and therefore it came as a shock when she gave birth in the 'maidens chambers' at Whitehall Palace. Anne and her baby were sent to the Tower the day after his birth. Edward was also imprisoned in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth after he was caught trying to leave the country to avoid punishment. Edward was released a few months later on the 8th of June, but was kept under house arrest for one year and banished from court for two years until June 1583. After the birth of their child it appears that the relationship ended and Edward took no responsibility for his son; he was raised solely by his mother Anne.

Edward de Vere, 1575

Edward and Anne's relatives, in particular her maternal uncle Thomas Knyvett (1545-1622), had a number of duels in the streets of London beginning in March 1582 due to the love affair, which led to the wounding of both men. The possible reasons behind this could include Edward's refusal to take any responsibility for his son. Also, three of Thomas and Edward's servants was killed when men loyal to both sides became involved in affrays. The feud continued until 1585 when Anne's brother Thomas Vavasour (1560-1620) challenged Edward to a duel, however this duel did not take place.

"If thy body had been as deformed as thy mind is dishonourable, my house had been yet
unspotted, and thyself remained with thy cowardice unknown. I speak this that I fear
thou art so much wedded to that shadow of thine that nothing can have force to awake thy
base and sleepy spirits. Is not the revenge already taken of thy vildness sufficient, but
wilt thou yet use unworthy instruments to provoke my unwitting mind? Or dost thou fear
thyself, and therefore has sent thy forlorn kindred, whom as thou hast left nothing to
inherit, so thou dost thrust them violently into thy shameful quarrels? If it be so (as I too
much doubt), then stay at home thyself, and send my abusers, but if there be yet left any
spark of honour in thee, or jot of regard of thy decayed reputation, use not thy birth for an
excuse, for I am a gentleman, but meet me thyself alone, and thy lackey to hold thy horse.
For the weapons, I leave them to thy choice, for that I challenge, and the place to be
appointed by us both at our meeting, which I think may conveniently be at Newington, or
else where thyself shalt send me word by this bearer, by whom I expect an answer." Thomas Vavasour to Edward de Vere, 19th January 1585

Before 1590 Anne was married to a sea captain named John Finch, alias Freeman. However, around the same time she became the mistress to another nobleman; Sir Henry Lee (1533-1611), his wife Anne Paget died in 1590. Anne Vavasour gave birth to Henry's illegitimate son Thomas Vavasour in 1589. Anne and Henry lived openly as a couple at his manor of Ditchley. It appears that Queen Elizabeth did not disapprove of this relationship of Anne's as she visited the couple at Ditchley in September 1592. Henry gave a pension to Anne's husband John Finch starting in 1605; he was to receive £20 a year. The couple received another royal visit in September 1608 when Queen Anne visited them at a lodge near Woodstock. Anne and Henry remained together until his death in 1611. In his Will, Henry left Anne £700 a year and properties, as well as instructions for their joint tomb burial in St Peter's Chapel in Quarrendon. The epitaph for Anne on the tomb read;

"Under this stone entombed lies a fair & worthy Dame
Daughter to Henry Vavasour, Anne Vavasour her name.
She living with Sir Henry Lee, for love long time did dwell
Death could not part them but here they rest within one cell"

However, the church disapproved of burying a couple together who were not married, and therefore the tomb was not shared by Anne. After his death, Anne became locked in legal battles with Henry's cousin and heir, another Henry Lee, over the properties that Henry had left her.

Sir Henry Lee

Despite still being married to her first husband, Anne married again before 1618 to John Richardson. Due to this second marriage, on the 8th August 1618 Henry Lee - the heir of her former partner - brought Anne before the High Commission and accused her of bigamy. The case continued until the 1st February 1622, when it was finally decided that Anne was to pay a fine of £2000. She was granted a dispensation from having to perform public penance.

Anne's eldest son Edward attended the University of Leyden at the age of fifteen, and then followed a military career under the command of his cousin Sir Francis de Vere. Edward was a captain in the army by 1600, and later on in 1623 he became an MP. During his childhood, Edward was raised in Henry Lee's household, as well as being accepted as a member of the de Vere family by his half-brother and cousins. It appears that Edward had an uneasy relationship with Henry Lee; Henry offered him money due to the fact that as an illegitimate son he inherited nothing from his father, but Edward refused and paid him back in goods worth the same value. Edward was a witness to Henry Lee's Will, but did not inherit anything. Edward Vere died in 1629.
Anne's younger son, Thomas Vavasour, became known as Thomas Freeman later in life. Thomas was an executor of his father Henry's Will.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The murder of Henry Shirley

Henry Shirley (1591-1627) was a playwright whose works included "The Martyr'd Souldier", "Giraldo, the Constant Lover" and "The Dumb Bawd". In 1627 Henry Shirley was murdered by an MP for financial reasons.

Children of Thomas Shirley (1542-1612) and Anne Kempe (1542-1623);
+ Thomas Shirley m. Frances Vavasour
                             + Henry Shirley (d.1627)
+ Anthony Shirley m. Frances Vernon
+ Robert Shirley m. Teresia Khan
+ Cecily Shirley m. Thomas West
                          + Essex West
+ Mary Shirley m. John Crofts
+ Anne Shirley m. John Tracy
+ Elizabeth Shirley m. Edward Onslow
+ Margery Shirley m. Pexsall Brocas
+ Jane Shirley m. John Shirley
+ Henry Shirley
+ Eleanor Shirley
+ Edward Shirley

In 1622 Henry's grandmother Anne left him a bequest in her Will of £40 a year;

"Item, I give and bequeath unto my true and loving friend, the said Sir Thomas Bishop, the
sum of three hundred pounds current money of England being now in his own custody,
upon the trust and confidence hereafter following, viz., that he, the said Sir Thomas
Bishop, shall retain the same forever, and in lieu thereof shall pay or cause to be paid by his heirs or assigns unto Henry Shirley, my grandchild, during his natural life only for
and towards his maintenance, the full sum of forty pounds yearly of current English
money at two usual feasts in the year, viz., the feast of Sir Michael th’ Archangel and the
Annunciation of Our Blessed Lady St. Mary the Virgin by even and equal portions, the
first payment thereof to begin at such of the feasts as shall first happen after my decease,
and I do charge my executor that he see and provide that the same yearly sum of forty
pounds be wholly used and employed according to my true intent and meaning, viz. for
the only maintenance of the said Henry Shirley during his natural life and not otherwise"- Will of Anne Shirley, 1622

The fact that Henry was left the money outright, but was to be given the money in yearly installments can be seen as an indication of his inability to spend his money wisely and perhaps previous behaviour where he has wasted his money.
The executor of Anne Shirley's Will, Thomas Bishop (1553-1626), maintained the payments to Henry until his own death in 1626. In Thomas' own Will he made the request that his son, Edward Bishop MP (1602-49), take over the management of payments to Henry Shirley, indicating which property to use the rents from to pay him.
The Friday before the 31st October 1627, Henry Shirley visited the house on Chancery Lane of Edward Bishop and demanded the money that he was owed. The unarmed Henry Shirley was then run through with a sword by Edward Bishop, who many reported was drunk at the time. Shirley died immediately.
After the coroner's inquest into the incident, Edward Bishop fled and went into hiding. He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to be burnt on the hand, but was later pardoned on the 21st October 1628. The money, a sum of £279, which was found in the household of Edward Bishop was paid to a cousin of Henry Shirley. The pardon came as a result of Bishop promising to pay the £40 annuity that Henry was receiving, to Henry's older brother in his place. However, Edward Bishop did not pay the money due in arrears, nor did he pay the promised annuity. Due to this Shirley's creditors, to whom he owed money to before his death, petitioned the Privy Council to force Bishop to pay them.
In addition to the money not paid to Henry Shirley, another grandchild of Anne Shirley's named Essex West was to receive £100 when she reached the age of fifteen years. This money was also not paid by Edward Bishop, despite his father mentioning it in his Will.

It would appear that Edward Bishop's actions were due to his own dire financial situation which occurred after the death of his father.

"There is a foul murther committed on Friday last by Sr Edward Bishop, of Sussex, on Mr
Henry Shirley of the same shire, whom he run thro’ with his sword (having no weapon
about him), as he came to him in his lodging in Chancery Lane to demand of him an
annuity of 40l., which the said Sr Edward Bishop was to give him, whose lands (which
are reported be of 1500l, or 2000l, by the year) were presently begged or given away, but
himself not yet found out."-Mr Beaulieu to Sir Thomas Puckering, 31st October 1627

The murder was still remembered by many as it was mentioned four years later in William Prynne's 'Histriomastix' (1633);
Given as an example of "the sudden and untimely ends of all those ancient play-poets" is mentioned the case of "Sherly, slaine suddenly by Sir Edward Bishop, whiles hee was drunke, as most report".

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Mary Hastings, Empress of Muscovia

Mary Hastings (1552-84) was the youngest daughter of Francis Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon (1514-61) and his wife Katherine Pole (1511-76). Through her mother Katherine, Mary was of Plantagenet descent; her ancestor being George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV.
In 1581 Mary Hastings was suggested as a bride for Ivan, Tsar of Russia by Dr Robert Jacobi, an English physician living in Russia. Ivan was interested in finding an English bride, and due to Mary's royal blood she was an ideal candidate. 

At this time, Ivan was now married to his seventh wife; his first three wives had died and the next three he had divorced. It appears that if an English royal bride could be found for him, Ivan would then divorce his seventh wife.

In September 1582 Theodor Andrevich Pissemsky was sent as an ambassador to England to negotiate a marriage which he hoped would create an alliance with England against the King of Poland. He was ordered to find out the height, complexion and measurements of Mary Hastings and commission a portrait of her, as Ivan was hoping for a bride with a stately or regal appearance. Also, if Mary did agree to marry Ivan, she and her ladies in waiting would all have to convert to the Orthodox religion.
In typical Queen Elizabeth fashion, she delayed making a commitment with the ambassador; she told the ambassador that Mary had recently suffered from smallpox and therefore a meeting and a portrait would not be possible. It was not until eight months later in May 1583 that the ambassador finally met Mary Hastings.

The meeting was recorded by the ambassador himself as well as a later remembrance by Sir Jerome Horsey in his memoirs. Pissemsky and Mary met in the Lord Chancellor's garden, however he did not speak to Mary directly but through an interpreter, Dr Roberts. Mary was part of a group of ladies walking in the garden including Katherine Hastings (nee Dudley) and Elizabeth Fortescue, and she was pointed out as the lady at the head of the group to the ambassador. Mary and the other ladies continued their walk circling the garden, and they passed the ambassador several times so that he was able to get a good look at her. Horsey wrote that the ambassador threw himself at Mary's feet and declared she had the face of an angel, which sounds unlikely to have actually happened. 

Pissemsky reported back to Tsar Ivan that Mary "is tall, slight, and white-skinned; she has blue eyes, fair hair, a straight nose, and her fingers are long and taper." A portrait of Mary was commissioned shortly after and was taken by Pissemsky back to Russia in June 1583. A new English ambassador to Russia also travelled to Russia on this journey, Sir Jerome Bowes, who had been instructed to dissuade the Tsar from marriage with Mary Hastings due to her poor health, reluctance to leave her family and friends in England and her scarred complexion due to her suffering with smallpox.
Ivan was not to be dissuaded, and so until his death in March 1584 Mary was known as the "Empress of Muscovia".

It would seem that there was no real likelihood of Mary marrying Ivan; it is unlikely that Queen Elizabeth would have agreed to the marriage and also it seems Mary herself was unwilling to marry him.
Mary Hastings never married and died around the year 1589.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Elizabeth Southwell and Barentyne Moleyns

Elizabeth Southwell (1566-1622), the daughter of Thomas Southwell (d.1567) and his third wife Nazareth Newton (1541-83), was a maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth I. 

In 1591 Elizabeth was a mistress of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex who was the queen's favourite, and gave birth to his son Walter Devereux (1591-1641). Walter was sent to be raised by his paternal grandmother Lettice Dudley in Drayton Bassett in Staffordshire. It was only in June 1595 that Queen Elizabeth discovered that Essex was the father of Walter when he made provision for his son in his Will. Up until this time Thomas Vavasour had admitted to being the boy's father and had taken the punishment, which was imprisonment, for having an affair with an attendant of the queen. Queen Elizabeth was furious as not only had the child been fathered by her favourite, but she had been lied to by all parties involved for four years.

Elizabeth seems to have been easily forgiven by the queen and she returned to court. She remained unmarried until the suit of Sir Barentyne Moleyns which was in progress by 1597. Barentyne Moleyns (b.1572) was the son of Michael Moleyns (d.1615) and Frances Huddleston, who was the daughter of Anthony Huddleston (b.1518) and Mary Barrentyne. At the age of thirteen he had attended St John's College, Oxford University, beginning in March 1584-5. By the time of his marital suit, Moleyns was almost blind, had a repulsive nasal condition and was well known for his ugliness; he also had a number of serious wounds which he received in military service abroad to the queen. Upon the death of his father in 1615, Barentyne inherited the manors of Clapcot and Rush Court, but was still paying off fines incurred by his father as late as 1627.


Moleyns entry in Simon Forman's diary, 22 March 1598

On the 22nd March 1598 at 10:45am, Moleyns visited the astrologer Simon Forman to consult him on whether his engagement with Elizabeth would hold. Moleyns was a regular visitor to Forman; he paid him 19 visits between 1597-9 to consult him concerning his ailments as well as his marital issues, due to the fact that as well as an astrologer he was also a physician. In April 1598, Moleyns was considering his options; he considered abandoning the match with Elizabeth if he could persuade another woman by the name of Mary Hampden to marry him. However, in June Moleyns went and obtained a marriage licence in order to marry Elizabeth, yet it appears she had changed her mind. 
Elizabeth did eventually marry Moleyns in 1598 after a long and tumultuous courtship. Elizabeth's father Thomas had stated in his Will that Elizabeth was to receive £1000 upon the event of her marriage.
Elizabeth and Barentyne had only one son together;
+ Michael Moleyns (b.1602)

Like his father before him, Michael Moleyns attended St John's College, Oxford University beginning in November 1616. He became MP for Wallingford in 1625. During the English Civil War, Michael sided with the monarchy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Alleged daughter of Mary and Philip

In 1587, a woman named Anne Burnell (nee Kirkall) was found to be claiming she was the daughter of King Philip of Spain, former King consort of England, and Queen Mary I, and believed herself to be a royal heir to the throne of England.

Eight years earlier when Anne was visiting her mother-in-law in Winkbourn in Nottinghamshire, she met a man known as the 'witch of Nuttall', otherwise called Thomas Watson. Although later on this story changes to that Watson came and stayed at their home in Westminster. This witch, or wise man, told Anne that she was "a spanish birde & that she had marks above her, which would appeare hereafter & that she did not knowe her owne father for it was a wise childe that did"..."then he toulde her that the best spaniard that euer came in England was her father & toulde her that she had markes aboute her yt should appeare greater hereafter". With the onset of England's war with Spain, Anne came to understand this reading to mean that King Philip of Spain was her father.

Anne's husband, Edward Burnell, was a wealthy Catholic from Nottingham, and was the step brother of the poet Barnaby Googe. In 1586 Edward had been imprisoned in the Kings Bench, as part of a round up of Catholics after the Babington Plot. Edward did not support his wife's claims of royal parentage. Edward stated that; "Since Witsontide her husbande upbradeinge her with the basenes of her parentage her father beinge one Kirkall a Butcher in Eastcheape in London who died xiiii yeares past & her mother long before".

The Privy Council charged James Dalton with examining Anne's claim; he was chosen as he already knew the woman, and so Anne stayed with James and his wife Mary while this went on. Anne claimed she had on her body, on her back, the marks of the Arms of England which had only appeared after her meeting with Watson. Later, Anne swore she had never said she was Queen Mary's child but continued to affirm she had the arms of England on her skin. The wife of James Dalton, Mary Dalton, also backed up this claim and stated that Anne had never claimed to be the child of Queen Mary I, only to be an illegitimate child of King Philip.
When the wise man, Thomas Watson, was found and questioned about his meeting with Anne, he admitted to meeting her yet denied the suggestion that he had told her she was of royal parentage.
It would appear that Dalton was a genuine friend to Anne and did his best to protect her; the investigation came to nothing. This result can be seen as unusual when the political climate at that time concerning the war with Spain is considered.

Edward Burnell died later on in 1587 and Anne was left a widow, she was then alone with her delusions of royalty. Dalton had hinted during the 1587 investigation that Anne's mental health was not stable, something which would only worsen after the death of her husband.

Five years later in 1592, Anne's delusion had continued and she was again investigated by the Privy Council.
Anne was examined and it was found that there was nothing on her back, as she had always claimed. The only person who seemed to still believe her was her thirteen year old maid, Alice Digges, who was simply reprimanded for her part and sent back home to her parents.
As punishment, she was whipped through the streets of London on the 19th December 1592. It may have only been the intervention of Dalton that prevented Anne from suffering this punishment in 1587.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Katherine Howard's Welsh ancestry

Through her maternal Welsh ancestry, Katherine was in fact related to the Tudor monarchs, and therefore to her husband Henry VIII. Katherine's ancestors were members of the noble Welsh family which included the rebel Owain Glyndwr.


Katherine Howard (1525-42)
+ Joyce Culpeper (1482-1531)
   + Isabel Worsley (1450-1527)
      + Rose Trevor verch Edward (1422-1460)
         + Angharad Puleston (1392 Flintshire, Wales-1420) m. Edward Trevor ap Daffyd (1365                               Denbighshire, Wales -1448)
            + Lowri ferch Gruffudd Fychan (b.1360)  m. Robert Puleston (b.1358)
               + Elen ferch Thomas (b.1325) m. Gruffudd Fychan ap Gruffudd (b.1325)
                  + Thomas ap Llewelyn (1302-43) m. Eleanor Goch


Owain (ap Gruffyd Fychan) Glendower, Prince of Wales (1349-1416), was the older brother of Katherine's ancestor Lowri ferch Gruffudd Fychan, and it was this Owain who led the rebellion against King Henry IV in 1400.

Owain Glyndwr

Owain and Lowri were maternal first cousins to Maredydd ap Tudur (d.1406), who along with his older brothers Rhys the Sheriff of Anglesey, and Gwilym, supported Owain's rebellion. Maredudd's mother Margaret ferch Thomas, and Lowri and Owain's mother Elen ferch Thomas were sisters. Therefore Katherine Howard's ancestry and her husband King Henry VIII's ancestry meet at Elen and Margaret's father Thomas ap Llewelyn, Lord of South Wales (1302-43). Maredydd, or Meredith in its anglicized form, was the father of the Owen Tudor who married Katherine of Valois and became the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII.

Owen Tudor

Lowri's husband Robert Puleston was a supporter of his brother-in-law Owain in the rebellion. As well as this, Lowri and Robert's son Roger (d.1469) was an ally of Jasper Tudor and was his Deputy Constable in the years 1460-1.

Jasper Tudor