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Archive for the tag “Thomas Courtenay Earl of Devon”

Illustrated by SHW …

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Today in 1538-9, Henry Pole Lord Montagu, was beheaded for treason, after the “plot” involving his brother, Reginald, later a Cardinal. It was previously thought that Reginald was a sub-deacon for many years, was only properly ordained in late 1536 and thus could have married at any time before this. However, it is now clear that he had undertaken a clerical career many years earlier, culminating, from an English perspective, as Dean of Exeter (1) for the decade from 1527. This demonstrates that he would have been required to observe celibacy from the outset, which sets a different light on Henry VIII’s reaction to the plot.

As you will have observed from our previous posts, those arrested in November 1538 included: Montagu, Sir Geoffrey Pole (also his brother), Henry Pole the Younger (his teenage son), Sir Edward Neville (uncle of his late wife, Jane) (2), Henry Courtenay Marquis of Exeter (cousin) and Thomas (Exeter’s teenage son, later Earl of Devon). All of these adults, except Sir Geoffrey, were executed in early December or January and only Sir Geoffrey and Thomas Courtenay emerged alive from the Tower. Henry VIII’s proclamation refers to the “plot” involving a marriage to Princess Mary and we can now confidently state that the putative husband was definitely either Henry Pole the Younger or Thomas Courtenay, thereby explaining their arrest.

(1) The ODNB, as cited by the author’s correspondence with Exeter Cathedral.
(2) Also an ancestor of Colonel Richard Neville (Royalist commander) and George Washington, inter alia.

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An award for masochism?

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The 1538 plot first saw Sir Geoffrey Pole arrested that autumn and compelled, by a threat to torture his servants, to give evidence about the activities of his exiled brother Reginald and other relatives. Henry Pole Lord Montagu and Henry Courtenay Marquess of Exeter were arrested next, together with Montagu’s son Henry the Younger and brother-in-law Sir Edward Neville, Exeter’s wife Gertrude Blount and their son Edward. Montagu was, of course, George of Clarence’s grandson and Exeter was Edward IV’s. Reginald and Henry the Younger had both been considered as husbands for Princess Mary.

Henry Pole the Younger and Thomas Courtenay are both likely to have been under age in 1538 because almost all of the adult prisoners here – Montagu, Neville and Exeter – were attainted and executed, as was Montagu’s mother the Countess of Salisbury, eventually. Gertrude Blount was released, as was Sir Geoffrey Pole, but unlike Henry Pole, who disappeared by the end of 1542, Edward Courtenay was held until Mary’s accession. In some ways, the most interesting phase of his short life was about to start.

On his release from the Tower after almost fifteen years, Courtenay was restored to the family’s Earldom of Devon. He was in favour with Mary and may have been another suitor In the following year, he was returned to the Tower along with Princess Elizabeth, the Queen’s sister, for suspected complicity in the Wyatt rebellion and he is thought to have planned marriage to her. Both were soon released: she to a form of house arrest and he to exile in Padua, Venice.

Mary finally married Phillip II of Spain later in 1554. She only lived for four more years and Thomas died mysteriously without issue in 1556, although he is rumoured to have found a bride in Padua: one Laurana de Medici. He was probably not thirty, being the younger son of parents married in 1519, and had lived half of that time in the Tower of London. He could have married either of Henry VIII’s daughters but was probably fortunate to have failed in this respect.

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