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Archive for the tag “Speakers of the Commons”

Not all Speakers of the House of Commons left gracefully….

 

Painted Chamber, Westminster

Well, while researching the Painted Chamber of Westminster Palace, with particular reference to the “Good Parliament” of 1376, I couldn’t help imagining today’s House of Commons faced, not with someone like John Bercow (whose birthday it is today and is quite short with a head), but Edward the First! Can you just imagine old Longshanks putting up with all the parliamentary shenanigans we’re witnessing today? He’d see there were so many heads displayed on London Bridge there wouldn’t be any room left!

Patrick McGoohan as Edward I
I don’t know about you, but I found his portrayal of Longshanks really chilling!

Which leads me to combine the subjects of Speakers and beheadings. How many of them actually met with this fate? If you go to this list you’ll be able to see all the Speakers until 1707. There is a link to subsequent Speakers. The man to be accepted (now) as the first true Speaker was Sir Peter de la Mare, although the title Speaker was not yet established.

It would seem that the following unfortunates were executed: Sir John Bussy (died 1399), Sir Thomas Tresham (died 1471),William Catesby (died 1485), Sir Richard Empson (died 1510), Edmund Dudley (died 1510), and Sir Thomas More (died 1536). Sir William Tresham, father of Thomas, was murdered/lynched in 1450. Back then it didn’t do to enter politics if your name was Tresham!

Maybe there were others who met a sticky end, if so, no doubt you will tell me!

A constitutionally important “Tudor” servant

Sir Richard Rich

We tend to have rather a negative view of Sir Richard Rich, or Baron Rich of Leez as he became in February 1547, nowadays. In this, we are somewhat influenced by Robert Bolt’s portrayal of him, as a “betrayer” of More, together with the history of Trevor-Roper. One Bolt line, memorably delivered by Paul Scofield as More, was “Why Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but Wales?”, as Rich (John Hurt) becomes Attorney-General for Wales a few (film) minutes before More is executed. More is also quoted as saying that Parliament could make Rich King if it so wished.

Leez Priory

Rich, a lawyer, protege of Wolsey, Colchester MP, Speaker and Solicitor-General, was certainly involved in many of the events of the mid-“Tudor” period such as the prosecution of More and Fisher, accounting for Catherine of Aragon’s assets at Kimbolton Castle, supporting Cromwell in the Dissolution, quite possibly a personal hand in Anne Askew’s (unprecedented and illegal) torture, executor of Henry VIII’s will, the attempted prosecution of Bonner and Gardiner and the Seymour brothers’ fatal division. He then resurfaced under Mary I as an enthusiastic persecutor of heretics in Essex, before dying, nine years into the next reign, at Felsted where he donated money to the church and famous school in the village.

His descendants were granted the Earldom of Warwick and were heavily involved, on both sides, in the Civil War – one great-grandson, the Earl of Holland, fought for the Crown at the 1648 Battle of St. Neots and was beheaded the following March with the Duke of Hamilton (captured at Preston) and Lord Hadham (taken at Colchester).

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