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Talbot Country

There is a pub in Bridgnorth, near where I live. Well, let’s be honest, there’s about a hundred. If you have ever been to Bridgnorth, aside from the Severn Valley Railway, the funicular railway from Low Town to High Town and the remains of the slighted castle, which lean at a greater angle than the Tower of Pisa, the sheer number of pubs will strike you. The one I was referring to is The Bell and Talbot on Salop Street in High Town. The hanging sign shows a dog lying beneath a bell while the one on the wall looks a bit more like a coat of arms, with two hounds rearing up either side of a bell.

bell-talbot-bridgnorth-600x409

The Bell and Talbot, Bridgnorth

The symbol of the Talbot Hound is easy to miss but is significant in Shropshire. Talbot dogs were small white hunting hounds, extinct now, but understood to be an ancestor of the beagle and the bloodhound. The origin of the breed, its emergence in England and the reason for the name are all lost in the mists of time, but they have an enduring connection to the most prominent Shropshire family of the last five centuries.

Henry VI is believed to have referred to John Talbot in 1449 as ‘Talbott, oure good dogge’: I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, but I wouldn’t appreciate such a label! Did the name of the hound emerge from this quip? Or was it a reference to the already-established Talbot breed, coincidentally sharing a name with Henry’s premier general in France? John Talbot became Earl of Shrewsbury and his family inextricably linked with the title and surrounding county for generations. The 1445 Shrewsbury Book, commissioned by Talbot, has an image of the earl presenting his book to Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s queen, with a little white Talbot hound standing behind him.

shrewsbury_book_f.2_(talbot-dog)

The Shrewsbury Book, presented by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury

In 1569, George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury was one of the few English noblemen wealthy and trusted enough to house Mary, Queen of Scots during her period under house arrest at Elizabeth I’s instruction. Shrewsbury was a prominent Protestant and Elizabeth made him a Privy Counsellor as part of the arrangement because of ‘his approved loyalty and faithfulness, and the ancient state of blood from which he is descended’. Mary was initially held at Tutbury Castle and although Elizabeth would not meet the costs of her prisoner’s keeping, Mary’s French incomes covered her hosts expenses for a while. She was moved two months later to Wingfield Manor, a more suitable, well-kept lodging than the dilapidated Tutbury with its inadequate drains. Although he would discharge his duty diligently, Shrewsbury was censured any time he left Mary’s company for his own business and despite his wealth, he and his wife, Bess of Hardwick found themselves financially embarrassed by the cost and Elizabeth’s refusal to help meet them. Mary was eventually removed from Shrewsbury’s care before her eventual entrapment and execution at Fotheringhay Castle.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

Alton Towers lies just north of Shropshire, across the border into Staffordshire, and even as a theme park, it retains a link to the Talbot family who made it their ancestral home. The buildings that lie ruined today were built by Charles Talbot, 15th Earl of Shrewsbury in the early nineteenth century. The ride Hex is contained within the ruins and tells the story of that earl’s battle with the supernatural to lift a curse placed in him and his family.

For anyone interested in the fifteenth century, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, remembered as Old Talbot, is a towering figure sadly eclipsed by later events. He was one of the few Englishmen Joan of Arc is reputed to have known by name. His fearless, often reckless leadership made him the most successful English general in France over many years. He was probably in his mid-sixties when he was eventually killed at the Battle of Castillon in 1453. His loss was such a blow that Castillon is considered the last battle of the Hundred Years War and there is a memorial in France to him, set up where he fell in recognition of a foe worthy of respect.

talbotmonumentcastillon

The Talbot Monument at the site of the Battle of Castillon

For those with an interest more precisely focussed on Richard III and the events of 1483, the Talbot family have a vitally important role to play. Unfortunately, there is little solid fact on which to hang any opinion of the controversy of Edward IV’s marital status. Where hard, written evidence is lacking – and we should expect it to be lacking, given the systematic destruction of Titulus Regius after Bosworth – I tend to fall back on the actions of people affected by events. In their reaction, or even inaction, we can often glean an idea of what must have been going on and what people thought of it.

The Talbot family come into sharp focus because the basis of Richard’s charge that Edward IV’s children were illegitimate is a claim that Edward was a bigamist. It was alleged that prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, he had already contracted a marriage to Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury. We have no solid evidence that this is the case, but as I said, we probably shouldn’t expect to. Look at what people in London in June 1483 did, though. They accepted the evidence we are told they were shown. We cannot examine it and for the most part, historians dismiss it as fantasy. Yet those who could read it accepted it so completely that they deposed a king and offered the crown to his uncle. Why would they do that? Fear of Richard? Hardly. He had no army in London or anywhere nearby. He was mustering a few hundred men at Pontefract, but they had not left by then and London was well versed in resisting thousands, never mind a few hundred. Fear of a minority? Maybe, but Richard had shown himself willing to act as regent for his nephew, and he was the senior royal male of the House of York, an experienced governor and successful general (within his limited opportunities). Could it be that, just maybe, the allegations looked true?

Edward IV’s reputation, deserved or otherwise, surely made it seem plausible. None would doubt that he was capable of contracting a secret marriage to a relatively unsuitable older lady. That was, after all, how he ended up married to Elizabeth Woodville. By 1483, George Talbot was 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, the first earl’s great-grandson. He was probably too young to fight at Bosworth, but definitely supported Henry VII during the Lambert Simnel Affair. The Talbot family were Lancastrian in their sympathies; after all, their patriarch had built his reputation and title on defending that House. They are often considered hostile to Richard III, probably because of his accusation against one of their number, but I’m not sure that was the case. By the time of the Lambert Simnel Affair, supporting Henry VII was the natural position for the 4th Earl. Besides, if, as I strongly suspect, the Affair was an uprising in favour of Edward V rather than Edward, Earl of Warwick, then the Talbot family perhaps opposed it because they were perfectly well aware of Edward V’s illegitimacy.

Back in 1483, the Talbot family made no move against Richard or his accusation about Eleanor Talbot and Edward IV. When Simon Stallworth wrote his newsletter to Sir William Stonor as late as 21 June 1483, the day before Dr Shaa’s sermon at St Paul’s Cross, he knew nothing of the impending bombshell. He did, however, note that Lord Lisle ‘is come to my Lorde Protectour and awates apone hym’. This is more significant that it is often deemed to be.

Lord Lisle was Edward Grey. He was not only the younger brother of Sir John Grey of Groby, the first husband of Elizabeth Woodville and therefore uncle to her two oldest sons, but he was also married to Elizabeth Talbot, a niece of Eleanor Talbot. If Richard was looking for evidence to substantiate or refute the charge he had been made aware of, Lord Lisle was a sensible person to consult. He might know whether there was any family tradition that Eleanor had married Edward and whether any evidence remained in Talbot hands.

Lord Lisle was from a Lancastrian family and Richard was about to offend the family of his wife, yet Lord Lisle remained with Richard and offered no opposition. Indeed, Lord Lisle attended Richard’s coronation, as did the Duchess of Norfolk, Elizabeth. Elizabeth had married John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk and was the mother of Anne Mowbray, the ill-fated bride of Edward IV’s younger son. She had been born Elizabeth Talbot, though, the youngest daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury and a sister of Eleanor Talbot. She was not so outraged by Richard’s accusations that she boycotted his coronation. Was this because Richard was, in actual fact, righting a wrong that the Talbot family perceived had been inflicted on one of their number by a deceitful young king?

There are many other elements to the precontract story. The timing is always cited as too convenient, but I would counter that George, Duke of Clarence seems to have been on the verge of revealing it in 1477 and it cost him his life. Who else would have been brave enough to trumpet the allegation during Edward IV’s lifetime? It would have been tantamount to signing your own death warrant. This piece of the puzzle is interesting though. We cannot be certain of the truth of the allegation of bigamy. We can, however, be entirely certain that the charge was made, that evidence was gathered (or fabricated), that what evidence existed was unanimously accepted by those able to examine it, that this evidence has subsequently been lost or destroyed and that there was no backlash from the Talbot family in 1483 (accepting that in 1485 Sir Gilbert Talbot, younger son of the 2nd Earl, joined Henry Tudor’s army).

It amazes me that such certainty in the fraud of the bigamy allegation is espoused today. There is no hard evidence for it, but there is also none against it. Expanding our consideration to more circumstantial elements, it is probable that the story nearly emerged in 1477, costing George his life, and it is certain that those who were exposed to the evidence in support of it entirely accepted it. It may have been a well-constructed lie, but it is at least as likely, if not more so, that it was true.

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The story of Middleham Castle….

Middleham Castle

The Battle of Wakefield took place on 30th December, 1460. It ended when Richard, Duke of York, lost his life. As did his second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland. The victors were the Lancastrians, in the name of their feeble-minded king, Henry VI.

York’s claim to the throne finally came to fruition in the forms of two of his other sons, Edward IV and the youngest, Richard III. And one of Richard’s favourite homes—if not the most favourite—was Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.

But Middleham Castle was around for a long time before Richard came along, and was still there when he had gone. To read more of its history, which includes the great Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”, go here.

 

War, English Delusion, and the effect on the Economy (4)

It was fortunate for Henry V that someone on the Orleanist side of politics decided to murder the Duke of Burgundy. This persuaded the new duke, Philippe the “Good” to take Henry’s side, a development which led to the Treaty of Troyes and Henry’s marriage to fair Catherine of France. Henry had by this time conquered a fair chunk of Normandy, but this had stretched his resources considerably. Thanks to the new alliance he could paint himself as the legitimate ruler of France, and some Frenchmen, like Burgundy, were willing to come over to his side.

At the same time, although the cause of the Dauphin and the Orleanists looked bleak, the fact remains that they were in possession of the majority of French territory and the resources that went with it. Henry would need to conquer this, castle by castle, town by town, and every new garrison needed more soldiers and the means to supply them with necessaries.

The bright spot was that the conquered territories did provide a source of revenue. The bad news was that the English Parliament was increasingly of the view that the war was “nothing to do with us, guv.” In short, they saw the conquest as Henry’s conquest rather than England’s, and, in their view, it was up to Henry to defeat his “rebels” at the expense of the Kingdom of France.

That a typical Englishman of this time had his chest swelled with pride at the thought of English military glory, but at the same moment did not want to pay towards the costs should not really surprise us. It was a characteristic of the English almost all the way through.

Henry V’s early death in 1422, with nothing really resolved, was another good example of the “hospital pass”. To Henry V, the glory, to Henry VI the criticism for failing to do the impossible.

It was fortunate for the English that the management of their position in France fell to John, Duke of Bedford, Henry V’s next surviving brother, who just happened to be one of the most able men to grace the entire middle ages, let alone the fifteenth century. Bedford won a stunning victory at Verneuil (1424) which was, if anything, more impressive than Agincourt, though rather less famous.

After that, though, the Anglo-Burgundian position slowly but surely began to deteriorate. There were a number of reasons for this, and one was certainly that Philippe of Burgundy was never 100% committed, except to his own interests. Another key factor was that French gradually improved their military establishment, not least by investing heavily in artillery. But above all, the limitations of English resources in terms of both men and cash became increasingly apparent as the years went by.

As I have remarked before, what is astonishing about Lancastrian France was not that it fell when it did, but that it lasted so long. The Treaty of Arras (1435) detached Burgundy from the English side, and that should have been the end. As it was, the English were not finally expelled from Normandy until 1450, while the last English intervention in Gascony failed in 1453. The tactics of Agincourt no longer worked. The French had developed a well-organised, well-equipped, professional army, while England struggled to raise field armies of any size at all.

Much of this prolongation of the war was down to English pluck and determination, to say nothing of good fortification, but it was really a hopeless cause. If Henry VI had been a more talented ruler – which would not have been hard – or if some of his generals (notably the first Duke of Somerset) had been a bit more inspired than they were, then maybe, just maybe, the disaster might have been stretched out a little longer. Alternatively, if certain English statesmen – notably Humphrey of Gloucester – had been more realistic and less deluded, then something might have been saved of the English possessions in France. As it was, a losing fight against overwhelming odds could only have one end.

The effect on England, as a nation, was disastrous. The self-image of a country that was a great military power was shattered. The treasury was not only empty, but massively in debt, despite years of war taxation. The King’s government was feeble at best, and disorder was commonplace, even to the extent of outbreaks of fighting between rival families. Of course, it must be admitted that Henry VI was one of our least effective monarchs, and that his tendency to favour the incompetent Beauforts over the (relatively) competent Duke of York did not help. The political crisis began long before the final defeat in France, but that defeat added a whole new level to it.

Since all attempts at political compromise failed, it was all but inevitable that what we now call the Wars of Roses should break out, even though the first “battle” (St. Albans 1455) was little more than an unseemly squabble. But the root of political instability in England was the disastrous policy of war with France.

Henry VI….two kings for the price of one….?

Henry VI crowned king

We all know Henry VI, saintly and incompetent, with a French Fury for a wife. Well, that’s how the tradition goes. But do we all know that he was also crowned King of France? You can read about it here.

Henry VI - French coronation

Richard and the invisible snake….?

 

 Coventry Tapestry - 3

I must have read about this before, but it feels new somehow. Supposedly, the man in blue (see below) is Richard of Gloucester/Richard III. The illustration is part of the Coventry Tapestry, which is housed in St Mary’s Guild Hall, and which is still in the place for which it was created. I wasn’t sure if the kneeling king on the bottom left was EIV or HVII (the latter didn’t seem likely, as the figure is alive, and Richard certainly wasn’t when Henry became king).

Then it was pointed out to me that the king was most probably HVI. This prompted me to look into it a little more, and I came upon the following from the Coventry Telegraph

“Coventry Tapestry reveals car park king

“A figure depicted in the magnificent 500 year old tapestry at St. Mary’s Guildhall could well be one of the earliest depictions of King Richard III, whose remains, discovered in 2012 beneath a Leicester car park, were recently confirmed as those of the controversial English monarch.

“The tapestry’s highly detailed design includes seventy five individual characters, including angels, saints, apostles, and noble members of a royal court, arranged around a central image of the Virgin Mary. Whilst no contemporary records exist as to the exact identity of many of the characters, certain clues have been observed that strongly suggest that Richard is amongst them.

[See illustrations below for the footnotes in the text.]

“Firstly, the figure is shown carrying a coin ¹ in his right hand, used elsewhere in art of the time to represent a ‘Judas’ character with a history of treachery for personal gain, whilst in his left hand the figure was originally depicted holding a snake ² – another emblem of evil and deviousness – which at a later date was removed leaving a distinctive outline.

“By way of further evidence, the figure bears a striking resemblance to two of the earliest, and most trusted, portraits of King Richard III in the collection of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, from eye colour and hair curls, right down to slightly deformed hands and misshapen shoulders ³. Intriguingly, it has been proposed that one of these portraits was painted by Sir Thomas More, who may have been familiar with the tapestry as he came to Coventry on several occasions to visit his sister who lived in the city.

“Whilst Richard III had died a few years before the dating of the tapestry, it is thought that the tapestry depicts an earlier period, that of King Henry VI – who is also shown on the tapestry – when Richard was Richard of Gloucester. Henry VI was revered for many years after his death, with miracles even recorded in his name, and he was fondly remembered in Coventry where he chose to base himself and his royal court for a period during the Wars of the Roses. Under the new Tudor monarchy of Henry VII it was politically wise to maintain, and even encourage, adoration of the much-loved Henry VI. Moreover, showing such respect for the old Lancastrian King Henry, gave the Tudor monarch a chance to boost his image, tarnished by his weak claim to the throne and the manner in which he seized it from the Yorkist Richard III in battle.

“There were suspicions that Richard was linked to the death of King Henry VI in 1471, and placing Richard in the tapestry with symbols of dastardly deeds may have been a subtle piece of propaganda, with those behind the tapestry not only remembering their favourite king, but also pleasing the new Tudor monarchy by presenting Richard as the baddie in this wonderful woven story.”

Stained-glass magnificence, courtesy of five Kings of England….

 

stained-glass window

This article provides an interesting interpretation of magnificent windows that are to be found in various churches, including King’s College, Cambridge. Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII had a royal hand in these masterpieces.

Henry VII, of course, went overboard with all his heraldic symbols, and at King’s College (see illustration above) he had all the usual Tudor badges on display, to which he added the hawthorn tree in which Richard III’s crown was supposedly found. Looking at the illustration, I suppose the greenery on the left depicts said hawthorn tree. Unless the hawthorn is in the part of the window that is not shown.

 

The “naughty” corpse of Henry VI….

Ophelia's costume

The link below concerns an exhibition entitled ‘Costuming the Leading Ladies of Shakespeare: From Stratford to Orange County’ at UC Irvine’s Langson Library, West Peltason and Pereira drives, Irvine; www.lib.uci.edu/langson. The exhibition is there through to the end of September.

Several amusing anecdotes are described in the article, including one about Lady Anne’s apparent effect upon an on-stage corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI!

 

Channel 5’s “Inside the Tower of London”

This four-part series is narrated by Jason Watkins and heavily features Tracy Borman, Joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces.

The first part dealt with the Peasants’ Revolt, which resulted in Simon of Sudbury‘s beheading and Borman travelled to St. Gregory’s in his home town to view the preserved head. She spoke about the animals kept in the various mini-towers and the Royal Mint that coined “Long Cross Pennies”, introduced by Henry III. We saw the Beefeaters, including a retirement party for one, before scholars at Eton and King’s College commemorated their founder, Henry VI, at the “Ceremony of the Lilies and Roses”. Then came the mystery of the “Princes”, as Borman used Domenico Mancini’s correct forename whilst taking him at face value a little too much, although she did note that More was five in 1483 and wrote three decades later to please Henry VIII. The seventeenth century discovery of remains of some sort was mentioned and a new exhibition on the “Princes” was launched, even as counter-evidence has emerged and been clarified.

Part two focussed on Henry VIII’s first and second “marriages”, together with the dramatic end of the second. Part three moved on to the twentieth century with the shooting of Josef Jakobs and other German spies, together with the 1913 visit of the suffragette Leonora Cohen. Rudolf Hess was also held there, as were the Kray twins later. The concluding part dealt with the role of the Constable, the ravens and the interrogation of Guy Fawkes and other prisoners, together with the tale of the more privileged, such as Raleigh, and the audacity of Colonel Blood’s attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, so soon after many of them had been recreated.

The Banbury Barmaid and the Battle of Edgecote Moor. . . .

 

battle of edgecote - 1

According to this site, (http://www.northamptonshiresurprise.com/news/2018/the-battle-decided-by-a-banbury-bar-maid/) Edward IV lost the Battle of Edgecote Heath in 1469 because of a Banbury barmaid. And no, amazingly, Edward was not involved in the lustful squabble. The culprits were the Earls of Pembroke and Devon. . .and a barmaid from Banbury.

It seems that prior to the battle:-

“Edward decided to wait in Nottingham for the William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon, arriving with an army from the south. The strength of this army was around 15,000 -20,000 men and had with it over 200 Welsh nobles. Unusually, most of the archers were with the Earl of Devon, whilst Pembroke’s contingent included around 2,000 cavalry under Pembroke’s brother, Sir Richard Herbert.”

“On 25th July, Pembroke and Devon arrived at Banbury. According to legend, they argued over who would spend the night with a barmaid. Pembroke won and Devon left in a sulk, taking his forces with him. The real cause of the altercation will probably be never known; however, Devon withdrew with his men to Deddington Castle, thus dividing their army at a crucial point.”

When the battle commenced, the rebels (Robin of Redesdale, Warwick and George of Clarence):-

“…attacked across the river, forcing Pembroke to retreat and pull his men back some distance. Pembroke was attacked again in his new position, but he put up a brave defence while awaiting Devon. At 1 o’clock the Earl received the news he had been waiting for: Devon was rapidly advancing with all his men. However, at the same time the advance guard of Warwick’s army arrived upon the field. Rebel morale was instantly boosted. Seeing Warwick’s livery amongst the enemy, Pembroke’s men presumed his whole force of expert soldiers was upon them. The royal army broke and fled the field, possibly before Devon could even reinforce them.”

Battle of Edgecote Moor

“The Earl of Devon never reached the battlefield and . . .fled with his army, but was captured and executed at Bridgewater, Somerset a few weeks later. The Herberts [the earl and his brother] were taken to Northampton’s Queen Eleanor’s Cross and executed in the presence of Warwick and Clarence.”

Robin of Redesdale was believed to have died in the battle, although there is an element of doubt about this.

Edward IV fled the country, and Henry VI was put on the throne again. However, Edward returned in 1471, defeated Henry’s army (well, Margaret of Anjou’s) at Tewkesbury, and remained on the throne until his death in 1483.

So, we have lust for a Banbury barmaid to blame for the outcome of the Battle of Edgecote Moor. The lady’s name does not seem to have been recorded….

battle edgecote barmaid

 

 

 

The mystery of the Cade key….

There is an interesting article by Sally Self in the Victoria County History, Gloucestershire, Newsletter 8, January 2018. I will repeat it in full, before making any comments of my own. Not to disprove anything, I hasten to say, but to show my own efforts to find out more about this key. I wish to thank Sally for giving me permission to reproduce her article.

 

“Cade Key or Cade Key? (GA 2025/Box8443/1) 

“A recent discovery made while cataloguing at the Archives has intrigued several of us. A large iron key [estimated 10-11 cm] was found under documents that apparently had little relevance. The key has a wooden tag attached, noting that it belonged to the Cade family and was for the family vault. Showing the key to others elicited various suggestions. ‘They will have had to send for a locksmith’, ‘they would have needed a large hacksaw’ to ‘they won’t have been able to bury anyone’ and ‘explosives might be necessary.’

“When browsing for information on the ‘Cade’ family up sprung the words ‘Cade Key’. So, thought I, others have been there before me! Seemingly the family name was not ‘Cade’ but ‘Cade Key’ – I must have read the wooden tag incorrectly. Back to the key itself – but no it did indeed say ‘Key to the Cade Family Vault under Greenwich Church’.

“More research was needed. The ‘Cade’ family is of ancient Yorkshire lineage, probably pre-Conquest, with a coat of arms – I can buy a mug and/or a key ring embossed with their shield. The surname may derive from the word for a barrel or cask, possibly used as the sign for an ale house. There was of course Jack Cade of the Kent Revolt, 1450 and Shakespeare uses it in ‘stealing a cade of herrings’. According to family history sites, both the Cade and Cade Key family are now widely spread around the world, particularly in America and Australia.

“The Cade Key family vault is in Hampstead, where they lived in the early 19th century, William being nominated as a possible Sheriff for London, but he died in Bath in 1823. Further research into the families would have taken days and would probably not have shed any further light on ‘our’ key.

“So to the ‘Greenwich Church’. The most likely church is St Alfege of Greenwich, dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred on the site in 1012. The medieval church of 1290 collapsed in a storm of 1710 and the present church was designed by Hawksmoor. If indeed the Cades are buried there, then they have illustrious company – Thomas Tallis, General James Wolfe, Henry Kelsey, an English-born explorer of Canada, the actress Lavinia Fenton and others – unfortunately no Cades are acknowledged!

“So one is left to wonder – did they have to break into their vault? If anyone is at Greenwich and has time to visit the church, perhaps they could find the answer!”

An  intriguing item, this key. Why is it labelled as belonging to the Cade family vault at Greenwich, if there is no Cade family vault beneath that church? I agree with Sally that the church referred to has to be St Alfege’s, simply because there does not appear to be another candidate. However, there is a coat of arms for the Cade family of Greenwich. It is described in The General Armory as: “Erm. Three piles issuing out of a chief engr. Sa. Crest—A demi cockatrice gu. Winged or, combed of the first.” Which I think is something like the illustration below left, although I see no cockatrice, demi or otherwise.

So I investigated St Alfege’s. A church has stood on the site for 1000 years, and the present building is the third version. The medieval version was where Henry VIII was christened in 1491. According to From the Shadows: The Architecture and Afterlife of Nicholas Hawksmoor by Owen Hopkins:-

“During the night of 28 November 1710, a great storm ripped through London. Perhaps already weakened by the ‘Great Infamous Wind’ that had plagued Britain the previous month or maybe by excavations in the churchyard, the roof of the medieval church of St Alfege in Greenwich collapsed.”

St Alfege’s church, Greenwich

When Nicholas Hawksmoor’s replacement church was built, the money ran out before his tower could be built, so in 1730 the old medieval tower was encased and redesigned by John James of Greenwich, with the addition of a steeple, to look as if it belonged to the rest of Hawksmoor’s design.

Is the crypt pre-Hawksmoor? It seems not. According to the National Churches Trust:

“The crypt is best known as the burial place of General James Wolfe but it was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor to be a space for the living, and possibly a school. Soon after the church was consecrated in 1718, the parishioners of Greenwich decided they had other plans. People paid to be buried on the floor of the crypt and as a result the current floor level is about three feet higher than the original. Wealthy local families set up family burial vaults in the crypt, like the one used for James Wolfe. The vaults contain over 1,000 bodies. The crypt is currently only open to the public a few times a year.”

St-John-at-Hampstead

So I think the key must be 18th-century, as must be the Cade family vault to which it belongs. If there were to be such a vault. But there isn’t. Not in Greenwich, anyway. So which part of the key’s label is incorrect? The name Cade? The fact that it is concerned with Greenwich? Or maybe even that it isn’t the key to anyone’s vault, but to something else? Or, it belongs to the vault in Hampstead, where the Cades lived at the beginning of the 19th century. The site of the parish church of St-John-at-Hampstead (above) is, like St Alfege’s, about 1000 years old, and the present building is not the original, dating from 1747. There was a tomb in the churchyard (perhaps still is?) belonging to ‘Marck Cade, surgeon (1773)’. But if the key belongs to a vault in Hampstead, why is it in the Gloucester Archives? And how has it been misidentified?

When one thinks of the name Cade, it is almost always in connection with Jack Cade, who led a rebellion in Kent in 1450. Cade is still a very interesting and slightly mysterious figure. According to Matthew Lewis:-

“In July 1450, a mysterious man known as Jack Cade led a huge force of common men from Kent into London to protest against the ailing government of the Lancastrian king Henry VI. This episode is generally regarded as being outside the bounds of the Wars of the Roses, but those edges are blurred and elastic.

Jack Cade and the London Stone“When Jack Cade entered the capital he struck the London Stone, which can still be seen on Cannon Street, and, according to Shakespeare, proclaimed: “Now is Mortimer lord of this city!” After this, Cade openly adopted the provocative name John Mortimer. The Mortimer line was considered by many to be senior to the Lancastrian line, since the Mortimers were heirs apparent to Richard II – so adding weight to the later Yorkist claim to the throne.

“In 1460 Richard, Duke of York would trace his lineage from Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, whose only daughter had married Edmund Mortimer. The House of Lancaster was descended from John of Gaunt, Edward III’s third son. The Mortimer Earls of March had been considered the lawful heirs of the childless Richard II before he was deposed, and the Lancastrian kings eyed them with suspicion. Was Jack Cade a son of this deposed line seeking restitution?

“Many would later claim that Richard, Duke of York had arranged for Cade to use the name ‘Mortimer’ to measure the response to it. Stow’s Chronicle, a Tudor source, claimed that the object of the uprising was to place York upon the throne, and Baker’s later A Chronicle of the Kings of England called Cade “an instrument of the Duke of York”.

“Cade – who was captured and fatally wounded following the failure of his rebellion – is a fascinating, elusive figure. Was he a genuine claimant to the throne, a social campaigner, or a puppet?”

Jack Cade cuts the drawbridge rope on London Bridge

A very interesting man indeed, who may have been of far greater significance than we fully realize now. Or, he may simply have been a cypher. Unless evidence is found that tells us one way or another, we are not likely to find out now.

Whatever the facts, in 1450 he appeared to be firmly based in and connected to the south of England, Sussex and Kent. According to surnamedb.com:- “the first recorded spelling of the Cade family name is shown to be that of Eustace Cade, which was dated 1186, in the ‘Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire’, during the reign of King Henry II.” The Victoria County History newsletter says the family originated in Yorkshire. I do not know which is right. Perhaps both are, for I suppose they are not mutually exclusive.

By the way, the reason surnames became necessary was in order to tax people! Might have known. Otherwise, I suppose we’d all still be something like Will, son of Will, or Margaret, daughter of Will, and so on.

But the mystery of the Cade key lingers on. Has anyone any ideas about it? In the meantime, I do hope a present member of the Cade family isn’t seeking a key to the ancestors’ vault. . .in Greenwich or Hampstead.

 

See more about St Alfege’s Church at:-

https://www.greenwich.co.uk/tag/greenwichcouk-guide/

https://www.greenwich.co.uk/magazine/08014-photo-special-inside-the-crypt-of-st-alfege-church

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-environs/vol2/pp527-551

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