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From the Lizard to Deptford Bridge – a guest post

An Gof and the Cornish Rebellion 1497

As the early summer sun seared upon Bodmin Moor, sweeping south westwards to Goonhilly Downs , which straddles a swathe of the Lizard Peninsula , the tortured arid landscapes  weren’t the only features of 1497 Cornwall, threatening to ignite in a blaze of fiery agitation. In  1337 the great Plantagenet King Edward III decreed his young son (Edward) “Duke of Cornwall”. The relevant  Charter recognized that Cornwall , was one of the “remarkable places in our kingdoms”. The Duchy acknowledged Cornwall’s “difference” while maintaining a substantial connection to the dynastic regime . It also took jurisdiction of an earlier institution called the Stannaries, which were re-founded  in 1201 during the reign of King John. They offered Cornish tinners (who in 1586 were reported to be “so rough and mutinous , multitude , 10,000 or 12,000 the most strong men in England”! ) licence from the  regular system of law. The Stannary Parliament enjoyed considerable authority which could even overrule Westminster laws. However, there was no exemption from the king’s taxes. 

By  the early 1490s, due to a diminishing  annual tin yield, all was not well . Tensions arose when the Council of Prince Arthur, Duke of Cornwall , declared tougher regulations for the tin industry. Subsequently  as might have been expected of a maverick spirited people the rules were mostly breached . This show of audacity was swiftly curtailed  by an indignant Henry VII who suspended the Cornish Stannary government . Thus the scene was set for an even  greater conflict which revolved around the enduring contention of taxation.

Perkin Warbeck, who was a pretender to the English throne had garnered support in Scotland , which had the effect of precipitating additional national taxes to finance military action against his northern allies. John Arundell , Richard Flamank, John Trevenor, and Thomas Erisey, were the tax assessors in Cornwall. Not surprisingly the hard pressed  Cornish were soon griping about the unwelcome burden to be foisted on them . The initial expression of blatant insurrection was voiced in  the distant parish of St Keverne, situated on the Lizard Peninsula .  The poorest were exempted from the tax, and  it’s been indicted that a prime motive for the dissenters’ rage was the detested tax collector Sir John Oby. The chief advocates of Cornish disapproval were a tough St Keverne,  blacksmith called Michael Joseph , known as An Gof (The Smith) and an  articulate Bodmin lawyer , Thomas Flamank ; son of the tax assessor Richard Flamank . Consequently  their impassioned rhetoric had the effect of giving rise to an insurgent march towards London. On reaching Wells, in Somerset, they were joined by James Tuchet, “Lord Audley”, who became the commander of the force . By June , the rustic band of brothers were closing  on their destination but were to be disappointed as they weren’t reinforced by the previously rebellious men of Kent. Some became disheartened and deserted the cause. The Great Chronicle of London , described a rebel army of 15,000 who were “favoured” by the people of the territories they’d passed through….”but  which became reduced to between 9,000 -10,000 when it eventually  set up camp at Blackheath.

Tragedy at Blackheath:

The rebel encampment was wisely sited on top of a hill ; the plan being  to attack Henry Tudor’s  army (whose total number of 25,000 included 8,000 soldiers assembled by Lord Daubeney in readiness for war with Scotland) from the high ground ; however, in reality victory over  well equipped troops under experienced leadership  by a company  of peasants armed with little more than bows, arrows, scythes and pikes would have been a miracle . Thus, on the morning of the 17th of June 1497, the Cornish found  their position surrounded by the king’s  forces , though Henry, himself  with a huge reserve and artillery kept out of danger at St George’s Fields, in the suburbs of London !  Rebel archers were stationed to block entry to their chosen ground via Deptford Bridge ; letting fly with arrows a full yard long , “so strong and mighty a bow the Cornishmen were said to draw” ! Though initially tested , Daubeney broke through with (depending on conflicting sources) reported losses of between 8 to 300.  Inexperience told when the Cornish  failed to support the archers defending the bridge, offering Royal troops  the opportunity to storm across to engage their men  who had  neither horse nor artillery . Soon , outnumbered and with vastly inferior weapons, the rebellious enterprise, whose slain were put at between 200 and 2,000, which had started out with such burning  fervour was over and, by 2pm Henry VII was riding triumphantly through London . The three principal leaders of the rebellion were all captured and executed . An Gof and fellow Cornishman Flamank, were both drawn, hanged and quartered at Tyburn, on the 27th of June 1497 while Audley, their noble associate was beheaded at Tower Hill on the 28th. Their heads were then gibbeted on London Bridge.

So it was that the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 ended in military defeat , yet has since catapulted the names of it’s valiant local  heroes to Cornish legendary status. Uncannily  the last words of An Gof, are reported as being that he should have “a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal” . Thomas Flamank’s were said to be, “Speak the truth and only then can you be free of your chains”.

Other names mentioned as having joined the 1497 uprising are :

John Trevysall from Madron
William Antron from Antron
John Tresynny from Penryn
John Rosewarne from Rosewarne
Ralph Retallack from St Columb
Richard Borlase from St Wenn
Thomas Polgrene from Polgrene
John Allan from Stoke Climsland
William Ham from Stoke Climsland

Fifty priests and 69 women were also involved .

If Henry Tudor thought that the crushing of the Cornish at Blackheath , would discourage them from further insurgence, he was mistaken and, a mere two months later, they were again mobilising ; this time under the leadership of none other than Yorkist pretender Perkin Warbeck, who was proclaimed King Richard IV at Bodmin! A new force, numbering in the region of 6000 men which included members of the minor Cornish gentry marched into Devon, where they laid siege to  Exeter, but following hand  to hand fighting were repulsed and moved on to Taunton , which was the place where, bewildered and vexed, they were deserted by Warbeck ! Following their surrender some  were executed, but the majority were pardoned ; those with material resources having to pay for the privilege .

Henry VII imposed heavy fines  on Cornwall, which only served to sustain resentment . However, by 1508 he opted for a change in strategy to gain the allegiance the Cornish, with the Charter of Pardon, which restored the Stannaries.

 

Article by Max Retallack, a descendent of Thomas Flamank : 2019

Flamank Coat of Arms : Thomas Flamank was co leader, with Michael Joseph “An Gof “, of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statue depicting Cornish 1497 Rebellion leaders Michael Joseph “An Gof” and Thomas Flamank , sited at the entrance of the village of St Keverne, Cornwall, to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the uprising .

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The royal palace at Kennington….

Kennington Royal Palace

 

The royal palace of Kennington is all but forgotten now, but for those interested in the mediaeval period it is perhaps most noteworthy for its association with Edward III, the Black Prince and Richard II. The buildings they knew vanished in 1531, at the hands of that arch-demolisher, Henry VIII, and illustrations of the original palace are so rare that I have only been able to find one. See above. At least, I imagine it’s the original palace. The picture is taken from here.

For more information about this long-lost gem, please read this, from which I have taken the following:-

“. . .The manor of Kennington was granted by the De Warrennes, Earls of Surrey, to Edward II in 1316, at which time a fairly important manor house must have already existed. After various grants by Edward II to his favourites, the manor was returned to Edward III, who bestowed it upon his eldest son Edward, the Black Prince, who was also Duke of Cornwall. Between 1346 and 1362 a palace was built which seems to have included a hall with service rooms, a large number of chambers, bakehouse, chapels, stable and gardens. The palace was often occupied from this time by the reigning monarch, and accounts exist of lavish entertainments held there. In 1531 Henry VIII ordered that the palace should be demolished and the material used for building the palace of Whitehall. From the period of the existence of the palace, c.1340 – 1531, parts of six buildings belonging to the palace built by the Black Prince were found. The most important was the Hall which was about 82ft. by 50ft. It was built completely of stone, probably chalk-faced with greensand and with window and door mouldings, many of which were found, also in greensand. (London Archaeologist, 1968)

“The manor of Kennington belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall. The Black Prince, as Duke of Cornwall, inherited the manor and rebuilt the manor house between 1346-1362. a new hall was built on vaults from 1351-7 at the very large cost of £1845-5s-5d. Kennington was a favourite residence of Richard II. Under him, there was expenditure on the great hall, chapels and stables. Although a favourite residence of the Lancastrian kings, it fell out of favour under the Tudors, and was demolished in 1531 to provide material for the King’s new palace at Whitehall. (HKW)

“Kennington was acquired by Edward of Woodstock, later known as the Black Prince in 1337 when he became Duke of Cornwall. He rebuilt the already standing manor between c. 1340 and 1352 and again between c.1353 and c. 1363. The palace remained largely unaltered until it was completely demolished by Henry VIII and was used as building material for Henry’s Whitehall Palace. The main parts of the building, including the Hall, Great Chamber, Kitchen and Stables were excavated between 1965-8. Not much is known about the pre-1337 building at Kennington, and the first documentary evidence associated with the building dates to 1304. There probably existed quite a sizeable manorial complex which was altered by the Black Prince when he owned it. Information on and descriptions of the building and the works carried out are documented in the Black Prince’s register. For example it describes the completion of the hall in 1358 and further refurbishing of older buildings in 1359. Documents from the late 14th century and 15th century indicate that only minor work was carried out on the palace. In 1531 the buildings were demolished by Henry VIII. (PastScape ref. Dawson). . .”

Earl Rivers, What was he up to in January 1483?

I came across this page in a book The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485 – 1504, written by P R Cavill. As I haven’t read all the book I am not sure why he is citing something that happened in 1483 in a book about Henry VII’s Parliaments. Maybe it is meant to be an example for something that happened in one of the usurper’s Parliaments. The author cites Ives “Andrew Dymock” and Rosemary Horrox “Richard III”. The book itself was only published in 2009 and from what I can see from reviews on line P R Cavill was not exactly enamoured with Henry VII either.

The English Parliaments of Henry VII 1485 to 1504, page 128

“In January 1483 Anthony, Earl Rivers was seeking the returns of his attorney Andrew Dymock, the Suffolk lawyer Robert Drury and three or four East Anglian men where he was a significant landowner and head of the Royal affinity. He made enquiries about seats at Yarmouth, but none was available. Instead he looked to the seats controlled by Edward IV’s sons The Duchy of Cornwall Boroughs, the Mowbray inheritance and possibly the boroughs around the Prince of Wales Council at Ludlow.

“Rivers subsequently heard from a Duchy servant in the West Country that there were “three Rowmes voide of Burgeses” which he therefore planned to fill with Norfolk gentry. It appears that Rivers was looking for vacancies rather than intending to overturn existing elections. He did not explain why he was seeking to influence the Commons membership. Certainly, he could not have anticipated Edward IV’s illness in late March, his unexpected death and Gloucester’s coup against his family and the Duke’s subsequent usurpation. What may have mattered was the likelihood that would hear complaints about extra parliamentary and an expensive Royal household. The Earl may have been seeking wider powers as Governor of the Prince of Wales, but it seems improbable that Members of Parliament could have played a part in pressing such a suit.”

Of course, the real attempted coup that spring was by Rivers and his supporters, not Gloucester. What may have mattered was the likelihood of a difficult session which would hear complaints about extra Parliamentary levies and an expensive Royal household.

So, what was Earl Rivers up to in January 1483? We know that in March 1483 that he was seeking confirmation of his right to recruit troops in Wales because a letter he wrote to his agent, Andrew Dymmock, exists. The same Andrew Dymmock that he was seeking a seat in Parliament for. Also, it appears, from what P R Cavill has written, the other men were from East Anglia and probably part of his affinity. So why would he want men who were answerable to him in Parliament?

The Parliamentary Privileges of the Commons: The Role of the King and his Officials. History of Parliament reports that:

“The king had to do more than simply decide when and where Parliament should meet and how long it should last. It was always important that Parliamentary affairs should be conducted in his best interests, at least as he saw them and thus for procedure to be controlled by him with the help of his ministers and other councillors”

 Also, on the Richard III Forum, Doug Stamate says:

“Parliament was only summoned at the King’s pleasure, so it wasn’t in a position to act as a counterweight. The upper nobility had men, but rarely were they united enough to force a king to do something he didn’t want to do”.

Doug also wrote:

“So we end up with a situation where having some sort of personal relationship with the king is of literally, inestimable value. Edward V was a minor and whoever had possession of his person could almost run the country as they wished. As long as Edward retained all his royal power and authority and, more importantly remained under the control of the Woodvilles”.

It just seemed odd to me that Rivers was doing this in January 1483. P R Cavill says that “he did not explain why he was seeking to influence the Commons membership. Certainly, he could not have anticipated Edward IV’s illness in late March, his unexpected death and Gloucester’s coup against his family”. Several questions arise. Is it possible that this was part of the Woodvilles’ plan to take charge of the young Prince of Wales in the event of Edward’s death? How would having five or six members of the Commons benefit the Woodville cause?

Maybe Lieutenant Colombo was right after all.

 

 

 

The accounts for the Duchy of Cornwall, ordered by Richard III in June 1483….

1483 duchy of cornwall accounts

“The accounts for the Duchy of Cornwall for 1483 – a momentous year in English history – are to be sold at Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts Sale in London on 21 March. They are estimated at £4,000-6,000.

“The records were taken to Bonhams offices in Exeter for valuation, having been bought as part of a job lot at a local auction in Devon. They were drawn up on the orders of Richard III who came to the English throne in June 1483. His brother Edward IV had died earlier that year, and Richard had been appointed Protector to his 12 year old nephew, who succeeded his father as Edward V.  When Edward V was denounced as the product of an unlawful marriage, he was stripped of the crown and Richard declared the legitimate king in his place.  Edward and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where they were later famously murdered, traditionally on the orders of Richard III.”*

“The Duchy of Cornwall was created by Edward III in 1337, specifically to produce an income for the heir to the throne.  It covered, and still covers, areas outside Cornwall -mainly in Devon, including Plympton, Tavistock and Exeter. The accounts for sale are for the period Michaelmas, 22nd year of Edward IV’s reign to Michaelmas, the first year of Richard III’s year i.e. 29 September 1482-29 September 1483. During this time, the position of Duke of Cornwall was held by the future Edward V, and then by Richard III’s son Edward (who died the following year at the age of 10).”

“The records are highly detailed, showing totals for rents, sales and court receipts for each manor within the Duchy, with the names of the bailiffs or reeves. The receipts for tin mines were particularly valuable.  By this period, the profits from the Duchy were worth around £500 a year. By contrast, the annual average wage of a labourer was then about £2.00.

“Bonhams valuer in Exeter, Sam Tuke, said, ‘It is always exciting to come across something so special. The accounts are particularly interesting because they include details of properties in Devon as well as in Cornwall itself. They are of course, written in mediaeval Latin, but our specialists were able to decipher the text, and reveal their true value.’”

* Traditionally usually means “according to Tudor propaganda” and should not be believed in this case. It is not known what happened to the boys in the Tower, but to lay the blame solely at Richard III’s feet is naïve. If he was in the business of murdering his brothers’ children, there were many others he would have disposed of as well. On the other hand, there were people who would have benefited from the boys’ deaths, including Henry VII, Margaret Beaufort and the Duke of Buckingham. Henry certainly didn’t want them around when he had to make Elizabeth of York legitimate in order to marry her. So forget Richard in this matter, and look to his enemies.

 

Postscript: Here is a link to a further article about these accounts. It contains much more information about the discovery. Just look away when you reach that word “hunchback”!

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/02/27/medieval-accounts-richard-iiis-rule-found-among-job-lot-1930s/

 

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