Henry VIII – Birthday boy and psychopath

Henry VIII – Birthday boy and psychopath

Well, it was the birthday of Henry VIII the other day, 28th June. He was born in 1491.

By a strange juxtaposition of events I also read, the same day, that some recent research has suggested he would score incredibly highly on the scale of ‘psychopathy’. Perhaps we should not be surprised at this revelation; he has something of a reputation as a tyrant, after all.  So, to be truthful, I have no desire to wish him a happy birthday.

The stories I read were on Sky News ( http://news.sky.com/story/1108966/henry-viii-would-be-a-modern-day-psychopath )  and in the Independent  newspaper (http://www.independent.co.uk/i/page-3-profile-henry-viii-king-of-england-8677560.html ). One extract explained that the characteristics shared by psychopaths were:-

  • Machiavellian self-interest, persuasiveness, physical fearlessness, emotional detachment, rebelliousness, feelings of alienation, carefree spontaneity, and coolness under pressure.

Certainly sounds like the Henry we all know!

  • Self-interested, to the extent of changing the religion of a whole country in order to change wives.
  • Persuasive, to the extent of getting the parliament to pass regulations making bastards of the children of two of his discarded wives.
  • Physically fearless enough to keep jousting well into his 40s, when he fell off his horse and knocked himself out.
  • Emotional detachment, to mount a (false?) case for treacherous infidelity against his second wife just after she had miscarried a son.
  • Rebelliousness enough to reject the power of the Pope, who wouldn’t annul his first marriage.
  • Alienated, because the Pope would not annul his first marriage!
  • Carefree and spontaneous – you just have to read the tales of his Christmas parties, with “disguisings”, in which he usually took a personal, often flamboyant, part.
  • Coolness under pressure. Stories from his French campaign 500 years ago in 1513 attest to this quality. Perhaps the most useful of these qualities for a monarch!

In the study, undertaken by Professor Dutton, Henry VIII was the only one, of ten famous people, who scored consistently highly on all the characteristics above. Other members of this illustrious group included Byron, Churchill, Newton and Darwin. Henry scored 174 (or 178 said the Independent) on a scale where dangerous psychopaths would score at least 168 to register as psychopaths. These would include people, such as Moors killer Ian Brady in the UK, or Ted Bundy and other mass-murderers in the USA.

Henry VIII certainly ordered the deaths of a very large number of people during his 38 year reign, including two of his six wives, and quite a few other people who were related to him in some way. Estimates by historians, of the numbers he had had killed, vary between about 50,000 and 72,000. Several hundred of those were despatched following the Lincolnshire Uprising and the subsequent Pilgrimage of Grace, both of which happened towards the end of 1536.

1536 a tumultuous year

1536 was a tumultuous year during the latter part of King Henry’s reign.

To start with, his first wife Catherine of Aragon, from whom he was, by then, divorced, died in January. According to modern medical expertise, she probably died of cancer of the heart, but the doctors who performed her autopsy suggested she was poisoned – but who really knows for sure?

On the very day Catherine was being buried in Peterborough Abbey, Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, miscarried of a male foetus. One possible cause of the miscarriage was that Anne had had a surge of bitter anger when she found one of her ladies in waiting, Jane Seymour, sitting on Henry’s lap. A second possible cause, put forward for the miscarriage, was that she was so worried when Henry fell off his horse and was knocked unconscious. You choose which to believe!

Whatever the cause, the Machiavellian Imperial ambassador to the English court, Eustace Chapuys, was apparently overheard, saying, “She has miscarried of her saviour”. Anne Boleyn had already made an enemy of Thomas , Lord Cromwell, over France and other issues, so it rather seems that Henry and Cromwell may have cooked up a lot of false claims about Anne’s supposed ‘treacherous infidelity’. This gave them an excuse to cut off her head. She was executed on May 19th 1536 and very soon afterwards, on 30th May, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour.

In July of 1536, Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII and Bessie Blount, died, aged only 17. Did he die of natural causes, or might he have been poisoned, as was also rumoured at the time?

In the meantime, throughout the year of 1536, Cromwell, as the newly installed Vicar-General of the Church in England, was busy closing down monasteries and other religious houses at great speed. He was, perhaps, seeking to refill the declining coffers of his master, King Henry VIII.

By September he had already closed more than 50 Houses in Yorkshire and more than 50 in Lincolnshire, as well as smaller numbers in other counties around the kingdom. He had abolished Purgatory, and decreed that around 20 Holy Days should no longer be held for their Saints. So, everyone was obliged to celebrate all these saints on the same day just after Michaelmas. Ordinary folk were clearly upset because this deprived them not only of Holy Days, but also of holidays as well!

Then the rumours began that Cromwell would soon start stealing the silverware from all the rich churches around the country. Some churches responded by selling their silver and converting the riches into less pilferable items. In Hull for example they used the money to buy Yorkstone paving for the town.

In Louth, Lincolnshire, the reaction was different. A shoemaker in the town, one Nicholas Melton, and his friends, all local artisans, persuaded the churchwardens to give up the keys to the church, so that Nicholas could lock the church and guard the treasures against theft by Cromwell’s commissioners. It was a protest that, for various reasons, escalated very quickly and turned into rebellion – according to King Henry VIII, that is…

You can read more about this in the forthcoming novel – Captain Cobbler: The Lincolnshire Uprising 1536

The novel, Captain Cobbler, is due to be published on 1st October 2013 – if you wish to enter the draw for a free copy of the book then… send a TWEET OR EMAIL TO YOUR FRIENDS AND THEN ‘FOLLOW’ THE CAPTAIN COBBLER WEBSITE BLOG (see option to “follow” on RHS of screen) AND I WILL DO THE DRAW END-SEPTEMBER FOR FREE E-BOOK. AT LEAST THREE PRIZES!!

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Posted in 1513 england and France at war, Captain Cobbler, Lincolnshire, Tudor Times | 2 Comments

Novel finished and sent to publisher…!!!

Sent my novel Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536 to the publisher yesterday – HOORAY! – so now have more time to Blog again! Trouble is my mind is blank… Felt very nervous as I was giving the manuscript a final check yesterday – same feeling as when I used to take exams at Uni! – strange!

I now have to make my plans to get to England for launch date. I plan to launch the book in LOUTH, Lincolnshire on Tuesday 1st October since the uprising started there in 1536 on Sunday 1st October. I am hoping that will resonate with local people, throughout Lincolnshire. Will be doing follow-up launches in Caistor and Horncastle and Lincoln on dates when those places became involved in the uprising too – it should be fun. Any press/media contacts wanting to know my plans should leave a message on the Blog or the Captain Cobbler website and I will get in touch. just about to send out a few Tweets from @captaincobbler1 ….

Novel finished and sent to publisher. Due out 1 Oct. Captain Cobbler:Lincolnshire Uprising 1536. http://www.captaincobbler.com for more.

Hope that will begin to generate interest

IF YOU WANT TO WIN A COPY OF THE BOOK IN A FREE DRAW, TAKE THE TWEET AND RETWEET IT AND THEN ‘FOLLOW’ THE CAPTAIN COBBLER WEBSITE BLOG AND I WILL DO THE DRAW END-SEPTEMBER FOR FREE E-BOOK. AT LEAST THREE PRIZES!!

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Falling from Grace

The following is an extract from my novel “Captain Cobbler” which is due to be published later this year (target date – October 1st 2013)… Nicholas Melton, my namesake, became Captain Cobbler in 1536, but this extract isa glimpse into his life at age 16…

The stories about Saint John the Evangelist and the punishment are both true… and since it is 500 years since Henry Vlll personally went to war with France, it seems an opportune time to share these tales more widely…enjoy!

Falling from Grace: Understanding truth

Remembering…a Hostelry in Newark, April  1516

“….and it were so wet and muddy that big St. John the Evangelist slipped and slithered in t’ mud, overbalanced completely and ended up, face down in t’ ditch, in two foot of water. We pushed and pulled for nigh on a quarter of an hour, but we couldn’t move him an inch.”

Young Nicholas – soon to be turning 16 years old – was just coming into the colourful tavern in the south-west corner of Newark Market place, from the pelting rain outside and was both unnerved and puzzled by this overheard tale. He quickly cast his mind back over the Biblical learning he had imbibed as a child but could find no recollection of such a story about the extraordinary demise of one of the Apostles, for surely he must have drowned, face-down, in that depth of water?

Nor could he readily grasp why the teller of this tale, a rough-hewn and stocky man, stubbly of countenance and with but three fingers to his right hand, was telling it as if it happened only the day before. Clearly, it must have happened a millennium and a half ago – if, of course, it had happened at all! Very strange!

Despite a great and sudden urge to deny the truth of such an outrageous story, as any hot-blooded, well-schooled youth of fifteen would naturally be tempted to do, he was minded to keep his counsel. Indeed, he was kept quiet, not least, by the efforts he and his companion needed to expend to get comfortable and dry in the crowded hostelry, for it was truly foul weather outside that day.

Firstly, they had to divest themselves of their sodden hats and riding capes without incurring the wrath of the other occupants of the room, most of whom had been indoors long enough to be thoroughly dried out from the persistent downpour. Then, they had to find space to be seated – a task made so much easier by Nicholas’ robust, not to say rumbustious, and well-acquainted fellow traveller, William Cole. Cole was not of Newark Town itself, but he was well known there, not least in ye Olde White Hart Inn, in the southern-most corner of Newark market-place, where they now found themselves.

Move along that bench now, Jake Hoskyns, otherwise you’ll be joining yon fine pig on the spit, agen the fire!”

I’m warm enough now, thank’ee, Bill“, Jake said, laughing, but moving nonetheless.

As for you, young David” – here, Bill Cole was addressing a skinny youth of about Nicholas’ age – “you’re taking up far more than your fair share of room in that big chair. Landlord! Bring us a stool from the kitchen!”

The stool appeared, David moved (with much better grace than Nicholas thought he might have managed in similar circumstances) and William eased himself into a well-warmed, substantial oaken chair by the blazing log fire, opposite the three fingered yarn-spinner. Nicholas perched himself, damply, on the end of the bench trying hard not to disturb the current occupants of the bench who were already dry and warm.

By the time everyone had settled down again, and a copious platter of well-roasted pork and steaming pease pudding, fresh baked bread and a large mug of ale had appeared in front of the new arrivals, it had become clear to young Nicholas that ‘..big St John the Evangelist..’ was no-one of human form.

In fact, it was a large brass siege cannon, lost in a ditch no more than a few miles out of the English stronghold of Calais. And that the time of the tale was less than three years earlier, during the summer of 1513, at the start of King Henry’s French campaign.

Nicholas flushed up to the hairline at the potential for embarrassment if he’d have spoken up scornfully when they first entered the room, as he might so easily have done. Fortunately no-one noticed his discomfort, or, if they did, merely put it down to the heat of the fire bringing rosiness to his cheeks.

Gradually, the warmth and good food brought him greater physical comfort as he recovered from the long day’s ride he’d had through the surging spring storm.

His spirits, too, were lifted by the convivial company in the busy Inn. Bill Cole had thought to send word ahead to the innkeeper early that week, so that they were assured of a room and a bed for the night, despite the lateness of the hour and the impending market on the morrow.

Indeed, notwithstanding the heavy rain, the cobbled town square had still been bustling with men struggling with the elements to put up the stalls for the morning trade. Men cursing the rain, cursing the blustering wind which kept whipping awnings from their slippery-fingered grip and cursing each other for fools and knaves when shouted instructions were misunderstood, or misheard, in the howling weather.

As Nicholas now learned, it was the state of the weather which had brought on the recollection of big St John’s fall from grace, from the old soldier seated near the fire grate. Although he answered to the epithet “Three-fingered Jack”, his given name was John Fuller and he spoke with the friendly intonation of a Yorkshire accent.

I ‘ad a full ’and of fingers at the time”, he was saying, “..’appen I’ll tell you ‘ow I lost ‘un before the evening’s out though, if the ale keeps a’coming in!”

He smiled, disarmingly.

He’d obviously been through the saga before and now had it down to a fine art, knowing just how many jugs of ale and platters of victuals his stories were worth, given a ready audience and a warm fire.

I’ll tell you straight“, he went on, leaning forward confidentially, “the weather were as bad as today, if not worse. ‘Twas about three years since, …1513 as I recall.  In fact, when we set off from Calais three days before, it were so bad that we got nobbut three miles down the road an’ we ‘ad to pack in fer the day. Most of the fancy tents for the noble lords was nigh on impossible to put up. Those we got up, mostly didn’t stay up and I hazard that not a soul got a wink of sleep that night, not even young King Henry hisself.”

Fine figure of a man he is, too, six foot four they say, and sturdy as an Oak. The King rode all round that night and, near as I can tell, spoke to everyone in sight. ‘Well comrades‘ he sez to us, ‘now that we have suffered in the beginning, fortune promises us better things, God willing.’ An’ we all believed him, a’ course, – he looked you straight in the eye and meant it true, as sure as I sit here with you this e’en.”

There was something about John Fuller at that point, with his voice quiet and his sense of complete conviction, that when he stopped speaking there was a hush of affirmation over the room; with just the crackle of the log fire, and the occasional spit of fat from the nearly eaten porker, to disturb the silence.

Fuller sat back, took a long pull from his jug of ale, expelled an equally long breath and spoke again in normal tones but with a touch of irony in his voice.

‘course, like a’most everything else I knows of, it got worse afore it got better. Aye, and for some,” he added with faded sadness, “it ne’er did get any better.

We didn’t move the next day, being Sunday, but on the Monday we marched another five or six miles to a town called Ardres, which were in enemy territory. The townsfolk had promised to provide us wi’ vittals as long as we let ’em alone.”

Well! No-one had thought to tell this to the Germans, – or, if they did, they only told ’em in English! So these Almain mercenaries, together wi’ a few of our lads went on the rampage, looking for loot. They was told to quit in the hour and no messin’. But they didn’t take a deal of notice of that message either and, in the end, our King Henry went in hisself, with some of ‘is own guards, an’ sorted ’em out.”

They say he strung at least three Almains up in the town square by the neck to set the matter to rights.”

Whether the looting upset the Frenchies I can’t rightly say; or mebbe they thought to test our nerve; but some of their light cavalry kept having at us from behind. Then, them of ours as were at the front, decided to get a bit of a move on,” …he spoke confidentially, directly to Nicholas, or so it seemed, “…shoulder to shoulder they was at this stage, for protection like, wi’ weapons drawn.”

We was trying to keep up at the back … and that were when big St John went to baptise hisself.”

As I said afore, we pulled an’ pushed, pushed an’ pulled and got oursens nowhere, e’en wi’ a full team of Flanders mares. Then t’ ’igh and mighty Master Carpenter from Calais, mester George Buckemer, came farting around and took it upon hisself to get Saint John high and dry wi’ a ‘…carefully crafted block and tackle..‘ or so he said, all ‘oity toity, like.

None o’ the officers or Nobles liked ‘im too well, so they left ‘im to get on wi’it. Aye, and us, too. I’d say there were nigh on a ‘undred of us to ‘elp lift and ‘ammer and pull an’ all.”

There was another pause for a theatrically timed gulp of ale by the narrator, who then leaned forward and dropped his voice, taking the whole room into his confidence again.

We was at this game for just over an hour when the bad fish I’d eaten the night before got t’ better of me an’ I ‘ad to dive away into the bushes as quick as you like.”

He leaned back again in his chair and shook his head slowly from side to side, as if not even believing, himself, what he was now about to say.

Masters, one and all,” he paused, looking round at the attentive throng, ‘…that bad fish surely saved my life.

There I were, groaning my innards out, behind a large laurel bush, when the whole French army descended from t’ nearby hills and laid into ‘igh an’ mighty mester Buckemer and my comrades, wi’out mercy. Only about ten of our lot was fightin’ men, the rest just workmen, joiners, blacksmiths – like me – carters, an’ coopers and the like.”

Well – they did t’ best they could. But it were a bloodbath, and over in nobbut a few minutes. Them as weren’t killed…Aye, an’ that were precious few…. was trussed up an’ carted off, goodness knows where. I ‘aven’t seen ’em since, anyroad.”

And there were nowt I could do. I were ‘elpless behind a shrub wi’ my leggin’s round my ankles, daring not even to breathe, let alone groan anymore.”

I got the most terrible cramps in my legs, but I nivver moved a muscle ’til ‘alf an hour after the last Frenchman ‘ad left. By the time I’d got meself moving again and caught up wi’ the rest of the lads who had left us to it earlier, it were just about dark. The truth ‘ad somehow got back to camp afore I did and everyone were talking about it. One of our little four man scouting groups on ‘orseback ‘ad been sent to find out what t’delay were all about – but they must’ve taken a different road from me, ‘cos I saw nowt of ’em, goin’ or comin’.”

John Fuller lapsed into silence at this point and if, afterwards, you’d asked any man then present in the room, he would have said there was a ‘..tear in the eye of Three-fingered Jack..’ as he leaned his head back on the old oak settle.

Someone called for more ale all round and, by turns, the noise level in the bar rose to a convivial hubbub once more.

Nicholas, who had listened to the tale as avidly as the next man, was now ready for his bed, if the truth were told. He had, after all, been up since four o’clock that morning and the food, drink and warm fire were all conspiring to close his eyes, but his companion, big Bill Cole, with a strange edge to his voice, had just asked John Fuller what happened next. Nicholas decided it would be unseemly to leave before the tale was finished.

What ‘appened next, you say sir?”

Aye, sir, I do.”

Well, sir, for several days, nowt much at all. We all waited round, dryin’ out in t’ summer sun, repairing tents and the like. We was just past the town of Tournehem, on the river Hem, ‘…wherein lay as fair a castle as you might wish to see…‘ as I heared one o’ our fine lords say to another, ‘…set, exquisite, in rolling wooded countryside…’ Fine words or not, it were a pretty sight, I’ll grant.”

Young King Henry were in a right fine temper about losing one of ‘is twelve Apostles. We all heard ‘im a’shoutin’ at my good Lord Essex, for such a carry on – specially when ‘e found out that the Frenchies ‘ad walked away with one of our bombards, we called the ‘Red Gun’.”

One of the younger voices in the room piped up to ask “Why was that, sir?”

Why – because of the colour it were painted, sir!”

The possibility of such an obvious answer had eluded the young man and the assembled throng guffawed in kindly mocking of his innocence. He wisely played no further part in the conversation.

Three fingered Jack took up again with his tale.

To cut the long of it short, sirs, my lord Essex and Sir Rees ap Thomas was sent back wi’ my lord Berners, the ‘Mester of Ordnance’ and ‘is pioneers and a great troop of archers and swordsmen to see if they could recover Saint John. ‘e were still in t’ ditch, yer see!”

An’ it were dry now, so the job were a lot easier. It were a great blessin’, too, that I’d ‘aten no bad fish the night before, much to the benefit of big St John and meself – for it weren’t needed to save my life this day, ‘cos we wasn’t attacked again, until we’d got the Evangelist out of the river.”

The Frenchies tried a skirmish or two, but me an’ my comrades got the better of them this time an’ soon sent ’em packing.”

Aye, an’ no doubt you played a hero’s role this time“, Bill Cole’s voice boomed into the temporary quiet.

Nicholas was startled into wakefulness by the ferocity of his friend’s jibe. Puzzled by the animosity of the tone, as was everyone in the room, Nicholas waited to hear more.

The tendons in Bill Cole’s neck stood out with apoplectic fury and his eyes bulged. Everyone had been so intent on Fuller’s story that Cole’s deepening anger had gone unnoticed.

The tale you tell is accurate in every detail except one, my friend.”

No-one in the room could have heard so much venom crammed into the word ‘friend’ as they heard just then.

The minor detail you have wrong is that you weren’t even there.

I know, because I was! Oh, – I have no doubt you were in France. And I have a good idea how you lost your finger, too, which I shall relate in a moment, – but you were certainly not with big St John the Evangelist that day!”

Fuller now began to look very uncomfortable, his eyes darting round looking for a quick way out of the crowded room.

There wasn’t one! In becoming the centre of attention for his story telling, he had also become totally encircled by his audience. The focus was now on William Cole, his deep anger seeming more under control as he spoke again.

This time he addressed his remarks to the room at large, taking over the role of story teller.

We did lose big St John in a ditch and those of us as were left with George Buckemer to pull the Evangelist out were attacked with little mercy by the French army. I got a broken rib and a six inch scar on my back to prove it. There were sixteen of us alive after the attack but my young brother Jeb and a goodly number of my friends lost their lives, hacked to death in the space of but a few minutes. We had no chance. Totally surrounded and outnumbered.

I was bundled into a cart with three other men who couldn’t walk and we were taken back to the coast at Boulogne, where we were held until after King Henry’s army returned to England. We were treated civilly enough and once my rib had mended we were free to wander round the town during the day, for the gates were well guarded and we couldn’t get to the boats.”

Bill Cole now even smiled a little at a prompted recollection.

I managed to learn some of the French tongue from a pretty serving wench in one of Boulogne’s taverns. At least enough to ask for wine, butter and eggs.”

And where the nearest bed was!” Jake Hoskyns added to much laughter all round.

How did this’un lose his finger, then, Bill?” another voice asked from the crowd.

I don’t know for sure“, said Bill with great honesty, “but before we set out from Calais I heard tell of a man who was caught asleep on guard duty three times in one night by the watch sergeant.”

The punishment for this crime is special to Calais, although I do hear tell they do something similar in Berwick, up North, for dozy watchmen who drink too much for their own good – Aye, and for all they’re watching over too!”

If someone on watch is caught asleep twice, and the sergeant of the watch finds him asleep again and is able to twist his nose for him, without him waking up first, then he’ll be put under lock and key until morning, when the whole town will be called out to watch him pay the penalty.”

All the time he was relating this tale, Bill Cole was watching John Fuller as close as could be. Fuller, meanwhile, kept his eyes glued to the ground.

They have a special large basket, hanging out from the town wall over the sea. It’s a bit like a crab catching basket, but big enough to hold a man. In the basket he goes and in with him goes a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine and a knife.”

The bread is to stop him starving, the wine to give him Dutch courage to face the long drop and the knife to cut the rope that holds the basket to the wall. The art is to get the timing right.”

They say that time and tide wait for no man!”

If the tide is out, the drop to the rocks is enough to break a few bones at the very least if it doesn’t break your skull open! But, of course, if the tide is right in and the basket doesn’t break open straight away, then you’ll probably drown instead!”

If you time it right though, – so that the water is deep enough to break your fall, but shallow enough to let your basket break on the rocks without drowning you in the process, – you have a chance of staying alive!”

I wasn’t in Calais at the time – I arrived a week after it had happened – but I heard tell of a man being caught asleep three times in one night. He apparently survived.”

Bill Cole paused dramatically.

But he did lose one of the fingers from his right hand when he bounced on the rocks!”

At this point, Three-fingered Jack looked up from the floor and he had about him the haughty yet frightened look of a stag at bay. His breathing was fast and shallow, his cheeks flushed, his eyes darting about searching for a desperate route for escape.

There was nowhere to go!

He took a deep breath and spoke in a defiant tone.

So, what if it were me? So…what…?” His voice cracked, and the tears that formed in his eyes were real this time. Tears of self-pity. It was the first time he had been found out in nearly two years of story-telling.

Into the silence that followed big William Cole spoke briefly once more.

In Calais they call this punishment the ‘Fall from Grace’.”

Posted in 1513 england and France at war, Captain Cobbler, Falling from grace, Lincolnshire, St John the Evangelist, Tudor Times, Unusual punishment | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Cast of Characters

Dramatis Personae

In order of appearance

 

Real People

Catherine (Catalina) of Aragon daughter of Isabella and Ferdinandeventually Queen of England as Henry Vlll’s first wife.

Arthur, Prince of Wales – Son of Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York

Maria de Salinasfaithful companion and friend of Catherine. Later married to Lord Willoughby from Lincolnshire and as such was Great(x16) Grandmother of Princess Diana –  Princess of Wales in more recent times.

Donna Elvira Manuel Catherine’s “governess” and then guardian/companion when she left for England

Brother Alessandro Geraldini Catherine’s tutor, then priest for her journey to England)

Isabella – Queen of Castile (Catherine’s mother)

Ferdinand of AragonIsabella’s cousin and husband and Catherine’s father King of Aragon and joint ruler of all Spain with Isabella

King Richard lll – Last of the Plantagenet dynasty, (slain in battle with Henry Tudor, see below. Body was dug up recently from under a Leicester car park and confirmed as Richard)

Edward lVolder brother of Richard lll

Richard, Prince of Wales and William, Earl of Richmond – sons of Edward lV, who mysteriously vanished from the Tower of London, presumed murdered, just after Richard lll, their uncle, deviously took the throne by having their parents’ marriage declared illegal

Elizabeth of Yorkdaughter of Edward lV promised in marriage to Henry Tudor by her mother Elizabeth Woodville (Edward lV’s wife and Queen) to Margaret, Lady Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor.

Henry Vll – father to Arthur and Henry Vlll. Plain Henry Tudor until he usurped the crown of England in battle.

Sir John de Vere, Earl of Oxfordwas Henry Tudor’s ‘general’ and military strategist

Sir William Brandon was standard bearer for Henry Tudor and did save his life. His son Charles Brandon became Duke of Suffolk under Henry Vlll

Baron Stanley and Sir William Stanleybrothers, the baron was Henry Tudor’s stepfather and they did dither and equivocate, joining the battle at the last minute

George, Lord Strange – son of Sir William Stanley and hostage to King Richard lll, did survive because no-one got round to executing him before the battle began

Nicholas Melton* – Captain Cobbler (We know he had a horse and two servants and that he wore a ‘coat of motley’)

Thomas Foster*real person, ’singing man’ in Louth, and although I do not know that he was a childhood friend of Nicholas, but there is no reason he might NOT have been!

Thomas Kendall* – Louth Parish Priest, well educated, had earlier in his career been involved in heresy trials for the Bishop of Lincoln, did not like the ‘new learning’ that was being required of priests and was known to object to the ‘erroneous books’ in English as misleading the common people. He did go to Bolingbroke to watch the examination of priests from that sub-deanery area by Dr Raynes the Bishop’s chancellor (see below).

Ma and Pa Melton – they must have been real otherwise Nicholas would not have existed but we do not know anything historical about them!

Jane Mussenden* (Sister Maria?) – Jane Mussenden was mother superior at Legbourne Abbey at the time of the rebellion. I have introduced her at the time of Eleanor joining the Abbey (see Eleanor below in Fictional People) but do not know how old she was at the time. Also I do not know what she may have called herself so “Sister Maria” is author’s  licence!

Ann Boleyn – her championing of Reformation and her execution may have contributed considerably to the instability at the time amongst ordinary folk

Lord Kingston – Constable of the Tower of London

Lord Hussey* tried to stay aloof from the Lincolnshire rebellion, but there was a strong attempt by the Commonwealth to involve him. The most senior aristocrat in Lincolnshire at the time. The county had had no major players, Dukes and so on (or, rather, the arrival of the Duke of Suffolk to Lincolnshire was so very recent, so it had not become the “norm”), so the noble Lord who had served Queen Catherine (as Sir Robert Hussey) in the way described was probably a man with torn loyalties. He dithered too much for Henry’s liking and paid the price with is life but in all probability was not involved in any plotting, although he apparently had close ties with Chapuys who WAS a schemer – see below

Perkin Warbeck a stunningly successful con artist or may really have been Richard Plantagenet, one of the nephews of Richard lll, (seems quite unlikely?) the second son of EDWARD IV, who was thought to have been murdered in the Tower with his brother prior to the reign of Henry VII

The Parson of Conisholme* Name unknown, but did say the things attributed to him

 John Wilson, Robert Norman and Richard Nethercotts*all real see below for more on two of them

Guy Kyme* he really did report this fact about Hull getting new paving but I have given him a wider role than is recorded as the uprising develops

Young Henry  – eventually Henry VIII of course….more follows!!

Count de Cabra, the chief aristocrat of Catherine’s sizeable retinue.

Duke of BuckinghamHigh Steward for Henry Vlll’s Coronation, cousin to Elizabeth of York.

John Walshe – King’s Champion for Henry Vlll’s Coronation – should, by right have been Sir Robert Dymocke, according to tradition

Duke of Suffolk – Charles Brandon, son of Sir William Brandon (see above) and great friend of Henry, said to look a lot like him, married Henry’s sister Mary after she had been widowed from her marriage to French King Louis lV. Then when Mary died he married his ward, Catherine, daughter of Maria de Salinas and Lord Willoughby (which brought him lands in Lincolnshire).

Master Carpenter George Buckemer          ) all these people and the story of the

Lord Essex and Sir Rees ap Thomas          } lost gun “St John the Evangelist” is

Lord Berners, the ‘Master of Ordnance’      ) a true tale (embellished of course!)

Bishop Longland of Lincoln – one of five senior clerics who were deemed “heretics” by the protesters during the Lincolnshire uprising and the Pilgrimage of  Grace which immediately followed it. Bishop Longland had taken over in Lincoln from Wolsey (later cardinal Wolsey) when the latter was elevated by Henry Vlll to Archbishop. Longland had supported Henry in his divorce attempts.

Thomas Cromwell King Henry Vlll’s Chancellor at this time and (since earlier in 1536) had become the Vicar General of the Church in England, the architect of the Dissolution of the Monasteries which was providing a rich source of cash for the Crown.

Charles, King of the Burgundian Netherlandslived in Ghent, where he inherited the title from his father, Philip the Handsome who was married to Joanna the Mad, sister to Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England ­adding colour to Nicholas’s Coat of Motley

Mr Goldsmith, Mr Elwood* – were the churchwardens who had to hand over the keys of the church to Nicholas Melton and his friends.

Parson of Conisholme – did say those words

Thomas Youllpriest, did say those words.

Sir Simon Maltby priest, did say those words.

Richard Nethercotts*, John Wilson* and Robert Norman*All names known to have been involved in the Louth uprising, saying or doing at least some of the things I have them saying or doing…Robert Norman* was a ropemaker in Louth and he was known to have paid….. John Wilson* who was a sawyer, the princely sum of one penny to spread the words of Thomas Foster (see above) who believed it may have been the last time the congregation could have “followed the crosses” in Louth. Thomas’s father, (also here called Thomas?) Foster* was also known to be a chorister. Richard Nethercotts* is known to have rung the common bell with John Wilson on the Monday morning;

William Morland* – Monk from the nearby, dissolved, Louth Park Abbey – got involved in the uprising early on the Monday morning and played a key role in stirring things up as the week went by.

William Hert* – Town butcher and brother of Sir Robert Hert*, another ex-monk from Louth Abbey

Nicholas Weeks* – as indicated, a servant of Lord Gainsborough.

Robert Bailey* – was a mercer and a friend of William Morland’s and had been a Churchwarden the previous year. One of Louth’s well-to-do class.

Walter & Robert Fishwyke* – Brothers and amongst the town’s elite. They claimed that, together with William Ashby, below, they wanted to stop the rebels going any further than they already had by taking the keys from the Churchwardens

William Ashby*Chief Constable of the town of Louth

Henry Plummer and Great James (Long?)* – they really did block the way for the monk William Morland from getting into the church on the Monday morning but all I know are their names – I don’t know that Great James was a wrestler, but he just sounds like he probably was one or, if not, he should have been!! He was actually a tailor by profession – we don’t know his surname.

John Heneage* – was one of three brothers (one was Dean of Lincoln, the other, Thomas, was an associate of Thomas Cromwell, as stated) and John acted for the Bishop of Lincoln as administrator for Louth. He was there for the Town meeting as indicated. Whether the meeting had been brought forward we do not know and I may have done him an injustice by painting him as a rather dotty gentleman?

Robert Proctor* – was the unfortunate former churchwarden whose house was damaged by the mob on that Monday morning

Dr Raynes* – chancellor to the Bishop of Lincoln, was at Bolingbroke to examine the priests from that area and was obviously not well during and after that day for he was still there and unwell on the Tuesday following when a crowd from Horncastle including Phillip Trotter,(see below) threatened him. He managed to pay his way out of trouble on the Tuesday but was dragged out of bed and killed by a different group from Horncastle the following day!

(Jack?) Bawnus*  – Although we do not know his first name for sure, nor if Bawnus was his family name or a nickname, it was the case that a “Bawnus” did “pour his heart out” to Mr Heneage and Heneage did offer to go to King Henry personally to ask whether the threats of confiscation of church treasures was likely. And the location for all this was the Choir of St James church. No idea whether he was a schoolteacher but there had to be some reason he ended up as spokesman.

John Frankish* – John Frankish was the registrar to the Bishop of Lincoln and was in Louth to conduct the Visitation of the local priests.

Arthur Graye*is known to have had the heretical book by Frith which was written as a reply to Sir Thomas More which contained a denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation – where bread and wine are taken to turn into the body and blood of Jesus whilst appearing to remain the same. And this book along with others were burnt on the Bonfire by the Cross. We know he was a “singing man” but not necessarily that he was a ‘booming bass’.

(Robert?) Collingwood* we know that Morland disappeared into the house of one Collingwood nearby, the assumption being that it was Robert Collingwood, who had been a churchwarden in 1531-32.

(Jack?) Page* We don’t know if his Christian name was Jack (Author’s licence….!) but a man by the name of Page did take the book of reckonings from Monk Morland after he came out of Mr Collingwood’s house. After the Uprising was over the book was found in the possession of Nicholas Melton, presumably passed to him by this Mr Page.

John Bellow and (Roger?) Millisent* – were servants of Thomas Cromwell and Commissioners whose task was to oversee the dissolution of Legbourne Abbey.

Robert Brown* – did imprison them for the duration of the Rising (or at least kept them under some form of house “arrest”)

Thomas and (Jack) Spencer; Robert Bailey; William King* – all as described, were the instigators of the idea of “bringing in” the Commissioners going to Caistor

Lord Burgh, Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, Sir William Ayscough, Thomas Moigne, Thomas Partington, Thomas Dalyson, John Booth, Thomas Mussenden* – were all Commissioners going to Caistor on Tuesday, 3rd October 1536 to assess the subsidy – i.e. the local taxes due. Do not know if Thomas Mussenden was related to Jane Mussenden, Abbess of Legbourne, but have taken author’s licence to assume he was, since it is not a particularly common name!

Richard Nethercotts and John Wilson*  – did ring the common bell at least once, so I have taken the liberty of making them official campanologists.

Prioress of Orford*really did provide Monk Morland with a horse after his walk from Louth to Orford near Binbrook. Made me wonder what sort of relationship  they may have had!

Nicholas, servant to Lord Burgh*clearly a man of caution, not wanting the action to upset the status quo but eventually too loyal to Lord Burgh for his own good (I have given him the surname Weeks – author’s licence)

Eustace Chapuys – Austrian Ambassador, notorious schemer and letter writer, but the degree to which this may have been known to Henry at the time is not clear?

Leach brothers and cousin, William, Nicholas, Robert and Parson Robert* – All active in setting the rebellion going in nearby Horncastle. William seems to have been the key instigator

Thomas Dixon* – A labourer called upon by William Leach to round up other “poor men” to come and listen to what he had t say about the happenings in Louth

John Taylor* – It is known that when the people assembled on the Tuesday morning they were addressed near the Church by Nicholas Melton and John Taylor, so he must have had a significant involvement, but beyond that little is known of him.

Elizabeth (Bessie) Blount#– well known to be the “lover” of the King, who produced a healthy bastard son in June 1519, when she may have been as young as 16 or 17. She was a lady in waiting of the Queen, but was she placed there after the King had taken a fancy to her or was she there before. Certainly it seems Henry’s interest in her began when she was a very young teenager and I have seen it suggested that Henry was very ‘interested’ in the younger girl generally, albeit without serious historic proof – other than the age of Blount when they first became lovers – she may have been as young as 12. If Henry and Suffolk were ‘paedophiles’ in modern terms, they would not have been thought of as such in the early C16th when arranged marriages were often made in the early teen years anyway, particularly for girls and sometimes for boys too.

She went on to be married off to Lord Tailboys of Lincolnshire when he turned 21 and then when he died she married the younger Lord Clinton in Lincoln, to whom she was married in 1536. Her son Henry Fitzroy died, aged 17 in 1536 the same year as her first Clinton daughter was probably born. As well as Fitzroy she had a daughter and two sons with Lord Tailboys and three daughters with Lord Clinton, the last in 1539 – acknowledgement to Wikipedia for these details and many others!

Lord Willoughby, Baron of Eresby – He had served the Royal family in various roles for a long time by the time of the activities of 1536 but he appears in the story in a flashback to when he married Maria de Salinas, Catherine’s lifelong friend.

Sir Robert Dymocke* – elderly, still carried the title of King’s Champion, now an honorary position held by the family. Formerly a servant of Catherine of Aragon too.

Edward Dymocke* – Sheriff of Lincolnshire in 1536.

Arthur Dymocke* – second son of Sir Robert.

Nicholas Sanderson* – a Commissioner staying with the Dymockes and Sir William Sandon*, his father in law, also staying with the Dymockes

Robert Sutton* – Mayor of Lincoln.

Phillip Trotter* – was actively engaged in the Horncastle events. A ‘mercer’, he saved Dr Raynes (see above) on the Tuesday by accepting a bribe to keep him from harm. Was known to bring information to Louth during that week. It is also thought he may have “borrowed”, and used, the suit of armour which the Dymocke family had left in Horncastle church to ‘stand guard’ over their family memorial.

Sir Richard Rich# at the time of this action Rich was Solicitor General and the historian Lord Dacre has said of him that he was a man “of whom nobody has ever said a good word”. Under Cromwell he was Chancellor of Augmentations and, therefore the “lesser hammer” in the destruction of the monasteries.

Bishop Mackrell – Abbot of Barlings Abbey, known to be a fine speaker and widely known outside Lincolnshire and associated with Captain Cobbler as  leader of the rebellion – but the official inquiry was told he was ‘dragged into it unwillingly’..

Tom Bailey The name is a false one (and perhaps the role of bailiff is misplaced too!), but a ‘servant of Maddison’s’ was the person who brought the King’s reply into the Cathedral accompanied by a very large group of rebels.

Parson of Snelland (Robert Albright?) – the Parson of Snelland was the man who told the rebels in the chapter House that Moigne was giving a “false read” but his name here is a fiction since it is not known.

Sir John Thimbleby – did bring a group of men up from Irnham near Stamford, a long walk from Lincoln

 

 

[* For much of the detail of the key local players in the uprising I am indebted to the details in the booklet about “The Lincolnshire Rising 1536” written by Anne Ward, whose well researched work, published by the Workers Educational Association, East Midlands District, contains a very detailed description of the events of that fateful week, precursor to the much better known Pilgrimage of Grace, which followed after the events in Lincolnshire had been brought to an abrupt end by the deviousness of the King’s representatives. The booklet referred to was published in 1986, Anne Ward dying, before her time, only a couple of years later in July 1988 ]

[# For the information on Elizabeth Blount, Sir Richard Rich and on several other real life characters Wikipedia has been a very useful source of information

Fictional People

Bennett Waterland recently buried member of the PloughLight. (As with several players of small parts in the story I have used what I know to have been an old Lincolnshire name. The reason I know they are old Lincolnshire names is that our family tree is littered with them – so I have ancestors with the name ‘Waterland’ and ancestors called ‘Bennett’ but, as far as I know none that would have been related to Nicholas at that time and none that I know were called Bennett Waterland, either.)

Joseph Waterland ‘cousin and friend’, same comment applies as above! (p12) The description of him getting the ‘giggles’ is, I fear, a family trait although one inherited, I think, more from my maternal ancestors. My mother’s brother Joe was a fellow sufferer and my own family know I am helpless once I get started!

Eleanor (Nicholas’ cousin – I needed a religious relative who could explain some of the background religious turmoil as Henry VIII addressed his “Great Matter” in a way that led, in practice, to the Reformation and the closure of monasteries and religious houses)

Robert Melton (Nicholas’s older brother – Not sure if he had an older brother although we do believe he had a real brother, name not known, who survived after the Lincolnshire uprising and who also got into trouble for “striking” from his role as a jobbing shoemaker for higher wages with a group of other cobblers in south Lincolnshire a few years after 1536, sometime in the 1540s. My best guess is that the real brother would probably, therefore, have been younger)

Richard Foster (Fictional son of William Foster and brother of Tom Foster both of whom were real people – see above)

Eliza Jane Foster (also fictional – introduced as Nicholas’s life-long love interest and wife to be. Nicholas is understood to have been married but we do not know that it was to the “girl next door”!)

Widow Foster (But the masons constructing Louth Church tower must’ve got their eggs from someone – so why not Nicholas’s neighbour) – really should be in the Real People list since Tom foster must have had a mother! But we don’t know whether she was widowed or kept chickens!

“old Uncle Tom Glenn” (I had to get Nicholas down to London for the coronation somehow – Glenn is another old family name)

Tommy Musgrove (not named from my family tree, and his dog…

Sir Lancelot (Wolfhound – not real then; but a real wolfhound with these characteristics lived near us in my home village and was just like this, soft as a brush – he just wasn’t called Sir Lancelot)

John Partington (I dare say Lord Kingston as the real Constable of the Tower will have had assistance but I wanted someone who could provide a view of the broad sweep of the rebellion from an impartial point of view to give context to the activities of Captain Cobbler and the rest).

Bobby Medwell The name is fictional but someone did say the words I put in his mouth about making the King a “breakfast he never had”, a strange phrase open to all sorts of interpretation!

Mr Ellwood and Mr Goldsmith (Churchwardens. We do not know for sure the names of the then churchwardens. But there really were churchwardens whose keys were taken on the Sunday after Mass. Also, there really WAS a Robert Goldsmith who was actually a goldsmith by trade, so he should probably be in Real People list, I just do not know if he was a churchwarden?)

Edward Smithill (Just a man in Church, but there must have been pompous people then as now!? Not a family name. )

John and Jane (‘Mother’) Baker (There must also have been nice, well-organised people then as well as now who would know how to plan and organise the feeding of a disparate group of people whose number changed from day to day!?)

Willum van Planck and family [including Gypsy the dog] (We know that there was a significant Dutch commercial colony in England involved in both the cloth trade and possibly leather which would therefore have links to cobbling – so it may have been such a connection which would lead to Nicholas wearing a ‘coat of motley’ – so Willum here fictionally provides that connection)

Jonno, Jezza and TommoLondon urchins

Bill Cole (accompanies Nicholas on his journey down towards London and provides perspective on Henry’s early French excursions by way of “story-telling”)

John Fuller (Butt of the tale “Falling from Grace” he is fictional – although the punishment was real enough in Calais at the time!)

Jake Hoskyns (Just a man in the pub – or should I say hostelry – The hostelry is, however real and now houses the Newark branch of the Nottingham Building Society – it is a delightful building. The walls were, around the time of the story, painted with murals and the renovation of this building revealed faint traces of the wall paintings which can still be seen near the new plate-glass entrance door. It would have been a very modern building at the time when our hero might have stayed in it)

William Bonner (fictional neighbour of William Morland – see Real People above – with names from the family tree)

Brothers Luke, Mark, Peter and Ignatius and helper “Madge” – (trying to give a view of the sort of role monks and monasteries might have played in a local community.)

Eleazor Swain (again, just another man carrying names from my family tree that were never used together as far as I know)

Alan Barham and Johann Kirkkgarde (More fictional people to get Nicholas down to London again and get his Coat of Motley – he really did wear a multi-coloured coat!)

Marieke Molenaar – a means of getting Nicholas to the Netherlands to pick up his Coat.

Hans de Groot – Tailor cousin who produced said “coat of Motley”

Tom Butcher (an apprentice acquaintance at the moment he is introduced but will play a significant role later as a fictionalised persona for a real person…..just wait and see!)

George Smith – (just a man in the Louth host and not a family name this time)

Sister Mary, Emiline, the Prioress and girls of the unnamed Priory – A company of bit part players to accompany the introduction of Bessie Blount, not known whether Henry ever attended such a place of ill repute but it might explain his apparent disgust later at the “goings on” of some smaller religious houses – ‘methinks he protesteth too much’…?!)

Robert Applewhite We know the Commissioners sent a servant in to reconnoitre Caistor town before the group moved in….but we do not know his name or whose servant he was…?)

William Corbett and Jack Bligh Introduced to account for the beating up and murder of Lord Burgh’s servant Nicholas (Weeks). There must have been hot-blooded bullies present to account for the violence and, for me, that did not seem to fit the profiles of any of the main players as I have envisaged them.

John Chapman Again a family name used for the fiction – but I really did have an ancestor, John Chapman who was a butcher in Langworth…except that was in the 19th century rather than the 16th

Davy Bennett – Just a name.

George Tuxworth and daughter Rebecca – help to fill the ‘back-story’ of Guy Kyme (see Real People above) – Tuxworth is an ancestral name for me but as far as I know was not closely involved in these events!

Mrs Hempsall and husband – I enjoy food and I am sure that there were ALWAYS people who could cook better than average and would be assets to a good household! Again, the name is from my family tree, although only related by marriage.

Robert Sleight and his cousin Jack (and jack’s wife Jane) – There possibly were Sleights living in Normanby by Spital because I have ancestors by that name (including a Jane Sleight) who lived there in the 19th Century but Robert and Jack are fictional.

 

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Publishing Puff

Publishing Puff

Keith Melton’s new novel is a “Tour de force” extending from the bloody, treacherous ending of the Plantagenet dynasty when young Lancastrian upstart, Henry Tudor killed the nasty Richard lll in the Battle of Bosworth Field through to a rebellion against Henry Tudor’s second son, Henry Vlll in 1536 in the Author’s County of Birth, Lincolnshire.

[By the way, that was not swearing…. It was both Bloody and it was Treacherous, full of medieval conspiracies, ranging from the murder of Princes in the Tower, to Henry’s stepfather, Baron Stanley, waiting until the midst of battle before deciding which side to support… and he was only just in time – for Richard lll was within a sword’s length of killing the Tudor ‘usurper’ before he was shot in the back by an arrow which knocked him off his horse, whereupon he was chopped to bits by Tudor foot-soldiers, displayed for two days so everyone could be sure he was actually dead, then thrown unceremoniously into a grave that was a bit too small for him only to be dug up 518 years later and examined to see if it was him – I am sure you have seen the recent news that DNA profiling has solved 500 year old mystery?!]

Then the novel takes us over to Alhambra Palace in Spain where a young Catherine of Aragon is playing with her childhood friend Maria de Salinas, who keeps appearing in the book to give us insights into the Court of the day and some of its machinations.

It turns out that Catherine was well-loved as Queen to Henry Vlll, so ordinary English folks were none-too-pleased that Henry put her away, though they seemed to like him a lot when he was a young, handsome(?) Prince. Then, too, he started closing down the monasteries and Abbeys, which performed a central role in the lives of a lot of ordinary folk and rumours started flying around that the churches were next to have their treasure stripped from them and the “ordinary folk” got a bit ‘uppity’ at this point and started a bit of a rebellion.

In fact it was a shoemaker from Louth, in Lincolnshire, who happens to have the same surname as our Author, one Nicholas Melton [Nicholas was the shoemaker and Keith is the author] actually started the rebellion by taking the keys from the Louth Churchwardens and, with his friends, locking their Church treasures up for the night, so they could not be confiscated.

And what with one thing and another [and that ‘thing’ and the ‘other things’ are written about in detail in the novel, of course!] the simple act of protecting the treasures escalated into a widespread rebellion and Captain Cobbler – as Nicholas Melton became famous throughout the land – started something that upset Henry Vlll a lot.

In fact 1536 was a heck of a year for Henry anyway [so much so that, as the Queen Elizabeth ll did a few years ago, Henry would have been entitled to call it HIS “Annus Horribilis!” ]

The year started with his former wife dying, probably of a form of cancer but it was widely assumed she had been poisoned by Henry himself! Then his current wife was accused of all sorts of wicked and deviant sexual behaviour and ended up getting her head chopped off, although he married again within weeks, so he was probably just fed-up with her.

Then, later in the year his bastard son, recently promoted to be Earl of Richmond, [he was the offspring of his lover Bessie Blount, who now lived in Lincolnshire] died of some illness but believers in conspiracy theory assumed he had been poisoned, possibly even by his own father because he was now old enough to be used by people as an excuse for a real rebellion.

It was this same year of 1536 that Henry and his first Minister, and now Vicar-General of the new Anglican Church, Thomas Cromwell, started the process of closing the Abbeys and Monasteries down. This was not a popular move. But perhaps of as much importance for the “ordinary folk” was the fact that Henry had decreed that about 20 separate “Saint’s Days” – each Holy Day being a Holiday for ordinary folk, of course – should all be celebrated on one day of the year, which happened to be the day the rebellion started. And all of this came to a head On Sunday October 1st  1536.

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The novel is finished…!

hello again, my 18xGreat Nephew Keith tells me he has finished writing what he calls a Novel about the activities of 1536 in Louth and I have now had a read of what he has written, he certainly seems to have caught the atmosphere as I remember it. So, this post is what he has called a “Synopsis” – I would have called it a summary of what he wrote….

Synopsis

 

This book tells the story of the 1536 Lincolnshire Uprising against King Henry VIII, but from the viewpoint of one of the leaders of the uprising, a Louth cobbler, Nicholas Melton. (He is my namesake – but I have yet to establish whether he might also be an ancestor – my family is a Lincolnshire family, so the chances are fair that he was a relation. I have adopted him for the purposes of the book) The relatively little known Lincolnshire uprising was the precursor to the much better known Pilgrimage of Grace.

The first prologue introduces Catherine of Aragon as a little girl before she leaves Spain and she and her friend Maria are central to the story as a means of telling the wider story of the years of Henry VIII’s reign through to the instability which led to the uprising.

The second prologue tells the story of the very start of the Tudor Dynasty and the last days of the Plantagenets including the grisly death of Richard lll whose recently rediscovered body has revealed new forensic details of his manner of death on the battlefield.

Chapter one, proper, starts at the story’s end with Nicholas in the Tower of London about to be hung drawn and quartered (he was) as a traitor (Henry VIII decided he was – but the book shows him and his fellows as good-hearted but naïve men) – and then keeps flashing back to his early life. This sets part of the pattern of the book with each “Nicholas” chapter providing several paragraphs covering the day of his death, following them with longer reflections of his life as he remembers it during that day – the excitement of his first visit to London to deliver cattle for the coronation; life as a lively extrovert youth; his second visit to London for a couple of years apprenticed to a London cobbler; the death of his father and elder brother in a plague (1520) and his return to Louth to take over the business, an unusual visit to the Netherlands where he bought his multi coloured coat of Motley, and so on.

Nicholas was not part of the Gentry of Lincolnshire but he was well enough off to have two servants and was a leading light in the local community of craftsmen (hence his “leadership” in the “uprising”) so in these flashbacks we will see the development of his participation in and leadership of this strata of community, much of which revolved around the church.  (It would be a mistake, by the way, to see this in terms of Protestantism versus Catholicism – all THAT happened after this story has been told, with the bitterness of Henry’s daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, towards each other and their two versions of the rightness of religion, helping to define much of the history of England for the following four hundred years.)

 

The story told here is of the life of the community and the naiveté of the “commons” in seeking to question the King and his subsequent brutal repression of this “rebellion” – but also their gullibility as unscrupulous priests and radical reformers take advantage of their innocence and irritation against change, to ‘stir up trouble’.

Interspersed with these chapters of Nicholas’s life are chapters covering Henry’s progress through life to explain the personal background of the times from a royal perspective and we follow the life of Catherine of Aragon and, in particular, Maria de Salinas who was the strongest, most consistent companion of her life. Between them they had a significant impact upon the commons view of their evolving monarchy. Through her daughter Catherine, Maria de Salinas is the 17Xgreat-grandmother of Princess Diana and the 18X great-grandmother of a future King of England

Then there are chapters dealing with the “uprising” itself when there was a great march by the commons of Lincolnshire into the County town of Lincoln. The tale is one of naive common folk thinking the King is being badly advised and discovering from his actions that not only is he really his own master but that he is a vicious vindictive oppressive monarch – not that they are likely to have thought to say as much then?!

Real People and Fictional Characters

The majority of the people in the book are real although, of course, the interaction between them has been fictionalised to a considerable extent in order to tell Nicholas Melton’s story. The overall sweep of the book, however, is as correct, historically, as I can make it with the key events and times and so on being as nearly accurate as my researches allow.

Quite a lot of direct quotations are known to be true from the investigation Henry Vlll set up to discover the extent of a “conspiracy” he thought was responsible for the uprising. To a very large extent it now appears that the rebellion was instigated and moved forward by many ordinary people of the ‘Commonweal’ and not by the grand lords and gentry of the time – such an occurrence being outside the experience of Kings prior to that date.

Henry VIII could not believe, therefore, that there was NOT a conspiracy and spent much effort to uncover which of his aristocracy and gentry must have been responsible. We therefore have access to voices of the people subjected to this inquisition that do not generally appear to this degree in historiography before the Lincolnshire Uprising and the Pilgrimage of Grace.

Historians academically, now seem to be coming round to believing that these really WERE events promulgated by ordinary people of the time after all and I wanted to tell the story from inside the mind of one such “ordinary person” who happens to be a namesake of mine and who might be an ancestor (We have traced the Melton family tree back to North Lincolnshire of about 1690 or so but cannot get back to a Nicholas Melton in Louth, although “Melton” is not that common as a name in Lincolnshire even nowsuffice to say I have “adopted” Nicholas Melton, the book’s Captain Cobbler, as my own!)

Certainly I have made Nicholas behave as if he were a Melton of the family I have known through my own lifetime of 60 years or so and from details of ancestors back to the 1880s for which we have good genealogical evidence and family papers. We would have got involved in the community (and did) in the ways Nicholas does and we would have wanted things to have been better than Nicholas found them in his lifetime and we have been prepared to get up and say so in different ways for at least 130 years as lay-preachers, community leaders, business people and/or political activists (so why not 500 years ago too?!)

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Captain Cobbler says Hello

Ummm …HELLO,

I seem to have awakened after a long sleep. My mind and thoughts are still in 1536 but the date on this odd screen in front of me seems to suggest it is really nearly 500 years later… most puzzling, I am sure I will get the hang of it eventually. My great, great …..,great, great nephew Keith is helping me with what he calls “typing” and words seem to appear by magic here in front of me. It is amazing really and sometimes my eyes go a bit squiffy, reading the words as they appear.

I learnt to read at school when I was very young. The Church in Louth has a school, the Holy Trinity School, which has a schoolmaster paid for by the Holy Trinity Gild, who is under the obligation to teach the local boys good manners and polite letters. We have a fine tradition of singing in the Church, too, and although my singing voice these days is not what it was, it is wonderful to hear the boys’ choir on Holy Days through the year.

One of my great friends, Thomas Foster, who was in the choir with me when we were lads is still singing wonderfully and has a deep rich voice, marvellous to hear along with the other fine singers, including his father – Old Tom, who still sings every other Sunday or so – and we all sang together when the new Spire was finished in 1515, just after my 15th birthday.

I can remember the priests blessing the wonderful new golden weathercock before it was raised to the top of the tower. I think the parish priest at the time was old William Ayleby and he and the other priests were all dressed up in their finery waving holy water over this golden cockerel as it was lifted up the spire. The sun was shining and the gold flashed in the sunlight as it spun round on the rope. A wonderful sight….and the new bells were all ringing out, three new bells all the way from Nottingham and the old bell which had been sent to Nottingham to be re-cast.

Tom Foster and I were talking (it only seems like the other day!) about the time when we were boys at school. They were still building the Spire and I am fairly sure it was before we reached our teenage years…and the schoolmaster had told us the day before that we should turn up at school in our Sunday best on this particular day because we were to have a Special Visitor. Looking back, I think he did not tell us who the Special Visitor would be just in case he didn’t turn up but I remember thinking it was all a bit mysterious…

So, there we were, all in itchy “best” Sunday School outfits, trying to concentrate on normal lessons as the morning went by, wondering who was going to visit us that required our discomfort so! By the time this “someone” had arrived we were all getting hungry and wanting to go home to eat some lunch, but we were made to sit there and keep quiet!

All of a sudden we heard a carriage arriving on the cobbles. We could see nothing, of course, as the windows in the schoolroom were all too high to see out of unless you stood on tiptoe on one of the desks. (Actually, my friend Great James did not have to stand on tiptoe, he was so tall – but I will tell you all about him another day….!) We could hear greetings being exchanged between the visitor and the priest but not what was said, so we still had no idea who the visitor was!

Then a swishing of robes and other approaching noises and the door was flung open and, goodness me, Cardinal Wolsey himself swooshed into the room; all a picture of red from head to foot, hands ensconced in silk gloves with several rings on his fingers and a chain with bright jewels round his neck. He really was a Special Visitor! He had been Archbishop in Lincoln before he went on to York and then became a Cardinal, so we had heard a lot about him although we had never met him before.

I cannot really remember now what he said to us all those years ago but he bade us sing for him (he had, of course, heard our reputation as a wonderful Choir!!) so we sang him a piece written by the Music master of Louth Church, himself. We sang a capella, which was a bot wobbly at first because we were so nervous, but we quickly got right into it and the Cardinal clapped his hands together after we finished but that may have been because he was cold!?

Then, because it was so near to time for lunch, he gave us a long homily about the manners we should adopt when eating out in good company. He was very specific about cleanliness and bade us wipe our mouths and hands copiously on our napkins when we wanted to “…take some more wine…” so as not to leave greasy fingerprints or smears of grease from our lips on the goblet “…because fat and grease do no good to silverware!

Well, it was all we could do not to laugh boldly at all of this. The only silverware we had ever seen was in church and apart from the communion wine which made your mouth shrivel none of us was used to indulging in wine at all! As for napkins not one of us lived in a house where such a thing existed! Still, he seemed a nice gentleman for all of that.

My eyes are going squiffy from looking at this ‘screen’ so I shall have to go now and will tell you more another day.

Bless you all,

Nicholas Melton – “Captain Cobbler”

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