In 1554, 300 schoolboys of London played out the divisions of their parents on the fields of Finsbury. It was an instructive backdrop to the return of Papal authority in the form of Cardinal Reginald Pole.
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The Aga Map of London was first created in 1561; the original doesn’t survive, but later copies do. The website Map of Early Modern London allows you to zoom in and search all aspects of the map, and gives you more information about each area as you go. It is a triumph. Here below is Finsbury Fields, right at the north of London’s extent at that time. You can see people practicing their archery, and the mayors kennels to the right, and Moorfields in the south, just outside the city walls.
Right, Now that the Spanish and English have met at court – the Spanish busily being proud, disdainful and uncomfortable, and the English doing what they do best being white, pink and quarrelsome, the logical thing to do in this podcast would be to get on with the main themes of Mary’s reign – Religion and the counter reformation; and the Tudor dynasty in its latest form. But rather than that I thought it would be nice to get a bit more personal about Mary, and her court set up. After all she gets a bit of stick through the centuries so we might as well get to know her a bit more.
One of the fascinating things about having a woman on the throne was the change in the dynamic of the privy chamber. We have got used to visualising Henry VIII doing his, um, ablutions shall we say with his groom of the Stool standing by, while said groom applied paper to the royal bum and whispered in his ear about his mate who needed a helping hand in some way; we’ve become used to the idea of political influence exercised informally through the privy chamber as well as formally through the Royal Council, Privy Chamber versus Privy Council as it were, ying and yang. Well, now that’s all changed, because with a woman on the throne there was no question of a bloke having anything more than a nodding acquaintance with the royal backside, and to some degree that informal influence was curtailed; because while women might indeed exercise influence politically, they could not wield it directly unless you happened to be queen. So the structure shifts a bit; within the inner, privy chamber, Mary surrounded herself by women; while in the Public chambers, her advisors and protectors were men.
And then in general, Mary surrounded herself with women of impeccable character, falling neatly into the worthy but dull category. Among them, and probably first among equals was Susan Clarencius, who she appointed as her mistress of the Robes, the same position as Sarah Churchill would occupy for Queen Anne. Though if you have seen the film the Favourite, I would put the idea of any more similarities out of your mind – concentrate on those two words – worthy, dull. Possibly added with a third, Catholic. Susan Clarencius had been a companion of Mary’s through both thick and thin, right through to the wafer thin and to the reassuringly chunky; from sometime before 1536 and clearly she had a strong bond with her younger mistress. Having stayed with her all through the difficult days, it seems meet and right that she should therefore be rewarded when they burst through the crust of despair into the light of power, affluence and influence; though it’s worth noting that all along the journey through crust of despair land Clarencius acquired grants and goodies, so that she was a proper, fully paid up card carrying member of the Essex Gentry by the finish. Susan Clarencius is a good example of the sort of influence that the women around Mary could wield; if you could catch Susan’s ear, you might get to know how the queen was feeling, or get her to support your cause, whatever said cause was. So Jean Dubois, the imperial ambassador’s secretary, recognised her importance when he described her as ‘the chief lady in the princess’s household’. When Simon Renard was trying to get Mary to sign up to Team Philip rather than team Edward Courtenay when choosing a marriage partner, one of the people to whose door he beat was Clarencius’s, and he came away well pleased, reporting happily that ‘Mrs Clarencius … supports our cause to the utmost’. This was quite clearly important – it mattered, in fact Clarencius was at Mary’s side when Renard was ushered into the Queen’s presence to hear the final answer. However it appears that the women around Mary were not for the most part that interested in wielding political influence; the influence of people like Cecily Barnes, Frideswide Strelley, golly that’s a name and a half you try saying that on a Saturday night, and Jane Dormer doesn’t seem to become a political issue.
There are some rather negative comments that survive about Mary’s household ladies; but you have to suspect that many of them is just tittle tattle, which we should treat with that Jonathan Swift quote in mind
It is the folly of too many, to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom
Or of course, its modern equivalent otherwise known as Twitter. So the kind of comments we get about them are similar to this by one disdainful Spanish courtier
‘The Queen is well served with … many ladies, most of whom are so far from beautiful as to be downright ugly, though I know not why this should be so, for outside the palace I have seen plenty of beautiful women with lovely faces.’
Which seemed to be all that mattered to the lad. Blokes are so shallow. But other reports and events cast a rather different light, of a much more positive interaction. Jane Dormer described by one poet as
a darline and of suche lively hewe that who so fedes his eyes on her may sone her bewte vue
and she would end up marrying King Philip’s favourite the Count of Feria, and leaving for Spain after the death of her Queen, taking Susan Clarencius with her. You suspect that under all the noise of discord there was much more interaction going on between Spanish and English.
There is something of a theme in Mary’s life, of long service and loyalty from the people closest to her which speaks well of her; so for example, outside the Privy Chamber, access to the queen was governed by the men of Mary’s old Framlingham household, the likes of Robert Rochester and Henry Jermingham we heard so much about during her coup. Mary was a stickler for gifts and presents, never forgetting anyone, from the great and the good to the small and positively pokey. Included among these long-lived relationships should be included Jane Fool, who was, you may be amazed to hear, Jane’s Fool from somewhere around 1537. Ironically she first appears in the accounts of Mary’s arch nemesis and personal fiend, Anne Boleyn. Historians think there’s a picture of Jane in a family portrait of Henry VIII, sitting in state with his lad and his two lasses. In the background through an arch is a woman often identified as Jane Fool – I’ve popped a pic on the website. The question is whether she was what was called a ‘very fool’ at the time – that is, someone with learning difficulties – or a merry fool – that is, a bit of a kidder who did the leaping and dancing and farting thing to amuse the mighty. We don’t know, though it seems that she shaved her head, as did other Merry Fools. And there’s even been a suggestion that she married Will Somers, who was Henry VII’s fool and as quick as a whippet, and apparently one of only two men able to make Mary laugh according to Tracy Borman, so there’s a thing. However, the evidence is thinner than a very thin thing so I wouldn’t put your shirt on it. As you can tell, Mary also brought Will Somers into her household when her Dad died and he was therefore potentially between jobs.
This all rather plays to the image of Mary as a rather serious, uncharismatic sort of person, but loyal and conscientious person, maybe to the point of being rather pedestrian. And honestly no one is really disputing the image, but it has been somewhat modified. It’s been more accepted that Mary understood the importance of display even if it wasn’t her natural game; And as her Guildhall speech had shown, she could appeal to the people if the devil drove – but she didn’t have that casual natural facility for it like her father and sister. The Venetian ambassador claimed that she was subject ‘to a very deep melancholy’, that she suffered from regular illnesses and headaches; she ate sparingly, to the point where some have suggested a form of anorexia at times. But she had that Tudor love of gambling, and loved cards and boardgames. So there we are at last, I have found a shared passion with Mary, a love of board games. Hurrah. While we are painting a picture of the private Mary, she was a dab hand with the needle and thread, as her mother had been also, and she would spend hours with embroidery, which I would guess is a reasonably therapeutic occupation after a few hours you know, governing the people. She was fond of pets, keeping a spaniel and parrots, and a lover of masques and plays. So you know, all work and no play and all of that, did not conspire to make Mary as dull as her reputation might have her. However, there’s equally little doubt that Mary’s greatest passion was religion, that she was deeply devout, going to mass at least 4 times a day, and starting each day with the same prayer which goes like this
‘Oh Lord my maker and redeemer, I thank thy goodness most humbly that thou hast preserved me all this night.’
These then are the pursuits of the Queen of England, who now had a king, and now we should maybe get on with those themes, and one of those themes was of course what kind of king Philip would be – would he abide by the terms of the treaty Gardiner had forced him into which made him a kind of baby maker in England while he expended all his political energy purely on his own empire. Which was after all substantial enough to keep most people amused. We know that Philip had been appalled by the treaty, and had himself absolved with an oath with the help of a compliant religious, but we also know that he had given in and played ball to various demands on his dignity such as taking the secondary, left hand side during the coronation, to the fury of his Spanish courtiers.
However, it seems to be that Philip did not roll over at all by any means and that he had his methods of acquiring influence, and so did a bit of worming. He was unwilling to risk any more obvious conflict at court, and English passions and fears were already inflamed enough, but he was prepared to worm his way into the affairs of state. And in this he had his wife’s support to some degree at least. I’ve been rather at pains to try to avoid this old image of an entirely hormonal Mary in thrall to her passions for her husband, but it seems acceptably clear that Mary was reasonably bowled over by her other half and very keen to make him happy, without losing her sense of reason. Two days after the wedding therefore, Mary stipulated to the privy council that
A note of all such matters of Estate as should pass from hence should be made into Latin and Spanish from henceforth’
And that seems significant – she’s making an effort to ensure that Philip knows what is afoot. She Mary seems to have been keen for Philip to be involved in other ways; she told her lord Privy Seal, the Earl of Bedford, to have a bit of a meeting with her new husband, with or without biscuits, to bring him up to date, and then keep him informed as things went on:
First to tell the king the whole state of the realm…second to obey his commandment in all things
This begins to look like a breach of the principle so firmly established that Philip would have no hand in the political events of the realm, I can feel my hackles doing whatever it is that hackles do in tune with the testosterone endowed nobility and people of England. I can feel a lord Melchit ‘bah’ coming on. And if you are looking for the story that Philip was really running things, then as Balloo said to Baghera, there’s more, baggy, much more. So, when new coins were struck in 1554, this time it was the king’s image that appeared on the right-hand side, that caused a few raised eyebrows I can tell you. Philip set up his own mini council whose job it was to process English political events and keep him informed; he carried out discussions discreetly with Mary’s councillors to keep himself abreast of affairs and even handed out some equally discreet annuities drawn on his own purse – William Paget got the most, £375 a year. All of this meant that two parties began to emerge in the real Privy Council; one group led very much by Gardiner and Mary’s old, trusted, Framlingham councillors, and on the other side William Paget and the more military minded of Councillors, like the Earl of Pembroke for example. Pembroke, while we are at it and just in case his name is not living in infamy for ever, was the loser who backed out of his promise to support Jane Grey. Just saying.
So does this add up to a hill of beans, to the idea that Philip really drove the bus of state while his adoring wife stood aside and wave him through? No, it does not. There is little doubt that Philip did wield influence in events that followed, but it’s equally clear that while Mary was smitten, and wanted peace and harmony with hub, just like a Queen Consort and a king, Philip’s influence was for the most part dependant on him influencing Mary. He quite clearly found this frustrating; he was not given an English estate which is rather remarkable for a Consort of any sex, and even more annoyingly from his point of view, he was not given a coronation either. He would get progressively crosser and crosser about that. But, although Philip found the situation deeply frustrating, he behaved very much like an English person watching a bit of queue barging, a bit of eye rolling and tutting, but he did not unduly push himself forward to change the situation. And it’s also clear that Mary was quite capable of choosing her own path, and in some key situations, she did just that.
Despite Philip’s political frustration and his all too obvious lack of passion, his was keen to keep Mary happy, and for those first few months there is little doubt that he did, and that for a while at least, Mary had as much opportunity to feel at peace and one with the world as she ever had before or since.
Philip also shared Mary’s passion to bring the country back to Rome and to Catholicism in all it’s aspects, and so now we must leave the bower of love and domestic harmony and stride back into the cold light of religious conflict, and this might be a moment for a quick recap – where had we got to by 1554, was everyone back now on the Catholic side of the boat? Well, let me take you back to Finsbury Fields in March 1554. Finsbury Fields were then on the northern edge of London, and a popular recreational area. Early in the 16th century it had seen riots as the Mayor had tried to enclose it and the hedges had been torn down and the ditches filled in by the good Londoners with all their native cockney wit. On the Aga map of 16th century, which is something of a triumph by the way, there is it – complete with windmills, and right next door to the Lord Majors hunting kennels. I’ve put a link to the Aga map on the website – it’s amazing, you can search for whatever bit of Tudor London you would like to see, the winter evenings will fly by.
Anyway Finsbury Fields were home to lots of popular pastimes, such as archery for example, which as we know everyone was still required to practice, just in case a bunch of French nobles showed a renewed desire to commit collective suicide. In March 1554, while Wyatt’s rebellion raged outside the walls of London and everyone quaked, a bunch of 13 year old schoolboys did what 13 year old schoolboys do and made a game out of the daft goings on of grown ups. There they were on a Sunday milling about Finsbury Fields, and maybe the word had gone out before, but by the time things kicked off there were about 300 schoolboys from the city schools. So with that many boys around, the logical thing to do would be to turn to violence, which they duly did. They split themselves up into two teams. One side called themselves the ‘Army of the King and M Wyatt’, I guess that would have been in memory of King Edward, and the other side called themselves ‘the Prince of Spain and the Queen’. This brought back memories for me, because I remember as a nipper going to see my brother in re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth. It was all rather disappointing and counterfactual since Henry Tudor was totalled within about 4 nano seconds, though that was fine because it meant we could go and have tea and buns. But there was a similar outcome here. Mary’s side were roundly defeated.
All that sounds fun enough, but as 13 year old boys do, they took it way too far and decided that the best conclusion would be to hang the Prince of Spain. So they selected a small child and did that very thing with almost disastrous results – don’t try this at home gentle listeners. Well, by this time the authorities were on the scene and they did not take kindly to these jolly japes, not kindly at all. As far as Mary was concerned there was nothing to laugh at all, and she ordered some of the boys whipped, and others even taken and slung into the Guildhall gaol, with a resulting sounds of little squeals as small boys hit the back of the prison wall. There was general outrage, the sucking of lemons, pursing of lips, tutting and shaking of heads and a general sound of humour failing all round. Both Spanish and French Ambassadors wrote home at how horrid were the English, not for the first time and most definitively not for the last.
Apart from being a bit of a fun story, the Battle of Finsbury field does have a significance. It rather illustrates the divisions of the grown ups. And the victory of Wyatt probably also demonstrates the lack of basic sympathy among the young for Mary and for Catholicism – these younger people would have known nothing of the Catholic rites, even from the days Henry VIII, and certainly the Pope had come to be a figure of widespread ridicule and detestation. Mary, Bishops Bonner and Gardiner, and Cardinal Pole might hopefully think that returning England to the Catholic faith would be something of a doddle, just gently showing the way, opening the door to allow the faithful to stream through into the garden as it were; and for very many, that was absolutely the case as it happens, many had been pushing already at that door; but equally for many others it was not just contentious, or alien – but completely unknown.
Anyway, we have heard I think that a bunch of protestant bishops had been ousted and replaced by good catholic ones, and the likes of Bishops Hooper, Ridley, Latimer, Cranmer were in the processes that would lead to the fire, the status quo had been returned to the time of Henry VIII. The more zealous of them like Edmund Bonner of London had needed no more encouragement but had started forcing his parishioners into line, altars and masses were restored all over England. Possibly the most brutal aspect at this time was the outlawing once more of clerical marriage, with the wives of priests declared concubines, and their children illegitimate.
Parliament though had been surprisingly difficult, mainly due to their worries about the land they had snapped up during the reformation, and their fear that the church would like their lands back please; and so a large stick had been placed between the legs of the running Catholic religious, and the counter reformation was in danger of ending up sprawled all of the floor. Because there was no resolution to the problem of resumption of church lands, and the heresy laws remained outlawed as they had been under Edward VI.
The answer to these problems was cooling his heels impatiently on the other side of the channel – Reginald Pole. And part of the reason for that was the desire for Philip to get all the credit for the return of England to the fold, by getting into England before Pole, and now that this had happened, the way was set fair for Pole to finally set sail for England, and the battle for the soul of the English could really get underway, along with a big, red hot knife ready to remove the verruca that was the protestant heresy from the foot of state. But there was still a problem. Reginald Pole was a zealot, and Philip was concerned that rather than get things sorted, Pole would just inflame the situation. No pun intended.
Let us remind ourselves very briefly of Reginald Pole, though he has been mentioned a bit so hopefully he is not a stranger to you. Born to Richard and Margaret Pole in 1500, the first point to make is that Pole was of the highest rank of nobility; through Margaret he had a claim to the English throne even, through the Yorkist Clarence. Groomed by Henry VIII for great things he had been sent to Italy for his education and preferment, but there he had refused to toe the Henrician line and after some agonising wrote his most famous book, In Defence of the unity of the Church, wherein he could be accused of being a little sharp towards Henry. Well, it might be more accurate to say that he roasted the man. Henry did not take kindly to such treatment, and Henry was able to go after Pole’s family when they were implicated in the Exeter conspiracy. Reginald’s mother was messily executed in 1539, and Reginald himself attainted in absentia. There was, you might say, bad blood.
Reginal Pole was without doubt a talented man with a gift for writing and he had risen to great heights in the Catholic church. He’d become a Papal Legate in 1536 sent to whip up a storm in support of the Pilgrimage of Grace; and in 1538 he was part of a legation to establish the council of the church that would become the Council of Trent, and engine of the Catholic Reformation. In 1541 he was Legate of the Papal Patrimony, and his writings also continued to the popular and influential; there’s one in 1543, The Benefit of Christ’s Death’, which sold 40,000 copies. I mention this because it conceived of the church as a small group of the elect, justified through salvation by faith alone which is entirely in line with Pole’s rather aristocratic distant and haughty view of the world but is also of course dangerously protestant sounding; and indeed Pole was gutted that the concept of justification by Faith was rejected by Trent. And despite his talents and success in the church, he had his enemies, who suspected him of being dangerously heretical; he had been a very poor and unenthusiastic member of the inquisition, withdrawing with indecent haste, apparently upset by their methods.
Leading the dissing of Pole was one Gian Pietro Carafa, a one time ambassador to England and papal nuncio in Spain. He did not like Spain or the Spanish, and would do everything he could to thwart them. This was a feature of Carafa – here is a man driven by his prejudices, his opinions; he was deeply involved in the traditional local Roman politics, opposing the powerful Colunna, the kind of politics that did nothing to help the reputation of the papacy in the minds of non Italians; he was an enthusiastic Italian patriot, and even as a reformer, he might have had success but the virulence of his methods caused criticism. To Carafa’s horror, in 1549 on the death of Pius III Pole was the front runner in the papal election. In the first round of voting, Pole landed 24 of the 28 votes he needed and for a moment it looked as though he’d be elected by acclamation. But in the background Carafa was doing his work. He charged Pole with being a poor manager, with having an illegitimate daughter, and most damaging of all, of being a heretic, which is unhelpful when you are a Pope. Many cardinals objected to him as a foreigner, which is a lovely line of course, the Papacy supposedly being an international institution, but the xenophobia was not restricted to the Italians, but also to the French. In the end Carafa was triumphant, and Pole missed the election by a smidge, and the new pope was one Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, elected as Julius III.
As it happens, Julius III was a fan of Pole, and protected him against his enemies so while not an ideal result for Pole it could have been worse. In August 1553 Pole and Julius were buzzing with excitement about the situation in England and the chance to bring England back to Rome. Things were looking up, and Pole had a mission. Julius gave Pole very wide powers so that he was almost like a remote operating Pope as it were, and the letters were flying between Pole and Gardiner and Pole and Mary. At which point problems appear. Some of the problems were about politics – as we have heard, Charles wanted Philip to win the glory of England’s return to Rome. But another problem was that Pole could be accused of being a little inflexible, or shall we say, firm. Rather zealous. It’s interesting isn’t it how saying someone is zealous is so much milder than saying someone was a zealot. Zealous is better here.
Pole hated and detested the marriage of Mary and Philip, not an attitude designed to make him popular; ‘even more universally odious than the cause of the religion’ in his words, so it’s perhaps understandable that Charles would not allow him to travel into England. Pole was equally uncompromising on church governance; as far as he was concerned, England must return immediately to Papal Supremacy and he was furious when Gardiner and Mary felt they could not push parliament; Pole fired off furious letters to Gardiner and Mary, and told Mary in no uncertain terms that in making parliament the authority for changing religion she was making a big mistake – after all what was secular when compared to the glory of religious authority? Monarchs were essentially to be judged by their diligence in carrying out God’s will, that was the only relevant yardstick. There are ample examples of the extravagance of Pole’s view of the supremacy of church over more earthly authority, and his enthusiasm for putting people right; Mary herself received a letter lashing when she presumed to describe her father’s blessed memory.
I am painting a rather negative picture here, and in some ways Pole was a poor choice to lead the full reconciliation of the church given the strength of his views; and his harassing and bullying of Cranmer which would come later but which we’ve already heard about is an unattractive part of his character. But in other ways, he was very well designed for the role. For Pole this was not just about a return to obedience, though it was most certainly that; it was a chance to bring the glories of the Catholic reformation to the English, to refresh and revive the liturgies and worship, to educate the clergy so that the people were given the best possible guidance. Pole meant to re-invigorate, to re-enthuse, to refresh and reform Catholicism in England, he was not just a blunt stick intending just to brow beat, and it is something I promise we will keep in view for balance.
However, he was uncompromising in his attitude to church lands; those that possessed them were in a state of sin, and nothing good could come from Mary’s reign until they were all returned, at which point we could then begin to talk about forgiveness. This again was a deeply unhelpful attitude. Philip could see far better in England that the idea of returning church lands was just plain daft; that the most influential men in the realm and in parliament specifically had paid a perfectly good price for them, and firmly believed the king that sold them had perfectly good title to the land.
In this, Philip then intervened, corresponding with the Pope, and he brokered a deal with Mary and the Pope, since Mary also was inclined in this to be practical rather than doctrinaire. They all managed to arrive at a deal; Pole was given wider powers and allowed to forgive the possession of church lands, which effectively meant Pole was ordered to forgive them, in return for a promise from Mary that she would return as much of church land as possible.
With this, then, we have lift off, and Pole set off for England. On 20th November 1554, he landed at Dover and over the next two days he travelled to London. As he came, he gathered councillors and noblemen to his side, and at Gravesend he took to a grand barge and with Londoners lining the banks of the Thames and calling out enthusiastically, the Cardinal and Papal Legate rowed up the Thames towards parliament. Papal authority had returned to England, and if they could have done, Thin Lizzy’s favourite track would have been piped over the town.