“Summer of Discontent”, by Derek Wilson

November 8, 2016 in Guest Writers by Beth von Staats

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Robert Kett ‘holding court’ on Mousehold Heath

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Summer of Discontent
Derek Wilson

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‘Woe to the land whose king is a child and whose princes feast in the morning.’
There must have been many preachers throughout England in 1549 who took those words from Ecclesiastes as their sermon text. England’s king was a child, Edward VI, and the land was in a dire state, seething with social discord, religious conflict and incipient rebellion. The man effectively ruling England as regent was Edward Seymour, duke of Somerset, the king’s uncle. Oral history reminded people of a time, sixty-six years earlier, when another minor – also named Edward – had been titular head, until brusquely elbowed aside by his uncle, Richard III. Foreboding, fear and resentment were felt at all levels of society, from the squabbling rivals on the royal Council to the yeomen and peasants who looked in vain to the government for the redress of their very real grievances. Matters came to a head in the middle months of 1549 – The Summer of Discontent. This is the factual background to The Devil’s Chalice, the latest in my series of Thomas Treviot crime novels.

The backstory: In January 1547 the old tyrant, Henry VIII, died, leaving the throne to his nine-year-old son, Edward VI. That throne rested on uneasy foundations. The Reformation which Henry had begun had sundered England into violently opposed religious camps. There were radicals who wanted to push Reformation further and conservatives who wanted a return to the ‘good old (Catholic) days’. There were also social reformers who called themselves ‘commonwealth men’. They opposed many of the new landlords who had acquired land ‘secularised’ by the Dissolution of the Monasteries and who, it was claimed, were riding roughshod over the traditional rights of the common people. King Henry had left power in the hands of a moderately reformist body of councillors. However, in the back rooms of Whitehall where secret deals were done, it was agreed that the boy king’s uncle, Edward Seymour, should assume the role of Protector while acting in concert with his colleagues. But Seymour gradually took more power into his own hands, consulted the Council less and less and ruled by decree in his nephew’s name. The Protector was determined to push ahead with further social and religious reforms. There can be no doubt that he was impelled by a genuine evangelical idealism, Somerset appointed royal commissions to purify churches of ‘superstitious’ images and to enquire into such agrarian grievances as enclosure of common land.

All this might not have had disastrous consequences had not groups of disgruntled people across much of southern and eastern England taken the law into their own hands. Following the lead of government policy, as they thought, bands of iconoclasts smashed church windows and tore down rood screens. Other malcontents uprooted the hedges and fences built by ‘grasping’ landowners. Unwilling to meet force with force, Somerset issued pardons to offenders and promised new ‘commonwealth’ legislation. This only encouraged further lawlessness. Then, to add to the unrest, a rebellion broke out in the South-West where militant conservatives protested about the government’s religious policy and particularly the attempt to force an English Prayer Book on a region where Cornish was the main language. On 2 July, 2,000 rebels laid siege to Exeter. The Summer of Discontent had begun.

8 July: A commotion at Wymondham, Norfolk, involving the breaking of hedges turns into a movement when Robert Kett, a landowner of moderate means, accepts the leadership of the rebels. He sets off, with a steadily-growing band of followers, for Norwich, the second largest city in England.

9 July: Lord Russell, sent to quell the western rebellion halts at Honiton, waiting for reinforcements.

11 July: Kett sets up camp on Mousehold Heath, outside Norwich, and within days he has 16,000 followers there.

12 July: News reaches London of fresh outbreaks in several counties. The city is placed under martial law. Meanwhile, the Protector, secluded with the king at Hampton Court, issues orders, sometimes contradictory, offering pardons, promising to listen to complaints, dispatching troops, ordering examples to be made of ringleaders. He refuses to summon Council meetings. He is facing, not only rebels, but landowners complaining of his ‘soft’ reaction and councillors resentful of being ignored.

21-22 July: Kett occupies Norwich. He sets up his own court, issuing orders, sitting in judgement on offenders and commandeering provisions. He sends to the government an ultimatum of twenty-nine demands, insisting that they are in line with the Protector’s policy, and directed only against landowners who are enemies of king and commonwealth. Somerset produces no plan of action. Though, himself an accomplished general, he does not dare to forsake the safety of Hampton Court. His security depends on his ‘possession’ of the king’s person.

28 July: The Protector dispatches a force of 1,300 mercenaries and local levies under the command of the woefully inexperienced William Parr, Marquess of Northampton to ‘negotiate’ a peaceful outcome in Norwich. Kett had withdrawn his men to Mousehold Heath but broken down parts of the wall and was poised to retake the city at a moment’s notice.

1 August: A totally incompetent effort by Northampton provokes Kett’s men to make a night assault on Norwich and drive the royal troops out ignominiously. One eye-witness reports.

Lamentable and miserable was the state of the City at this time when nothing was seen or heard but lamentation and weeping … the clashing of weapons, the flames of the burning, the ruin and fall of houses, and many other fearful things which … struck with incredible sorrow the hearts and ears of all that heard it.

2 August: Somerset instructs the Bishop of London to preach at St. Paul’s that ‘those who resist temporal authority resist God’s ordinance, and are utterly damned. The rebels deserve death as traitors and receive eternal damnation with Lucifer’. For most members of the political class, such condemnation from Somerset is too little, too late.At Honiton, Lord Russell’s reinforcements arrive, at last. With 5,000 men he sets off towards Exeter.

At Honiton, Lord Russell’s reinforcements arrive, at last. With 5,000 men he sets off towards Exeter.

3 August: In London, there is widespread fear that Kett will march on the capital. The guard on the city gates is doubled and gibbets set up as a warning to disaffected citizens. Several Council members leave the royal court and meet at Westminster as a ‘rival’ government.

4-6 August: Russell confronts the rebels at Fenny Bridges, Clyst Heath and Clyst St. Mary. Thousands perish, including 900 prisoners butchered by Russell. The king’s enemies are pursued over a wide area and hanged in places as far away as Minehead and Bath. Russell enters Exeter and unleashes gruesome vengeance. Observers used to warfare are appalled at the violence of this campaign.

7 August: Somerset reluctantly authorises John Dudley, Earl of Warwick (seen by many as a potential rival of the Protector) to go to the relief of Norwich.

17 August: Some of the western rebels rally but are finally defeated at Sampford Courtenay. The Prayer Book Rebellion has cost 5,500 lives.

24 August: Warwick, assembling his forces in a businesslike way, is at Wymondham with 10,000 levies drawn from a wide area and waiting for another thousand German mercenaries. He sends a message to Kett demanding surrender.

27 August: After two days of stand-off, the German landsknechts arrive. Warwick takes possession of Norwich and cuts Kett’s supply lines, forcing him to do battle at nearby Dussindale. The result is a massacre in which some 3,500 peasants are slain.

7 September: Dudley returns as a public hero to London. He camps his mercenaries outside the city. He and other councillors now know that the current regime cannot be allowed to continue. The next few weeks are occupied by a number of behind-closed-doors meetings. Meanwhile, pamphlets circulate and sermons are preached pro and anti the Protector. Somerset, feeling increasingly isolated and insecure tries in vain to have all armed levies stood down.

5 October: Panicking now, the Protector sends a flurry of messages to local officials ordering them to come to Hampton Court with as many armed men as possible, ‘to defend the king and the lord protector, against whom a most dangerous conspiracy has been attempted’.

6 October: Being accused of treason galvanises the ‘Lords of the Council’ into action. Astonished Londoners see them processing through the City ‘weaponed and had their servants likewise weaponed, attending upon them in new liveries’. Somerset responds by ordering the Lieutenant of the Tower, Sir John Markham, to hold it against the ‘rebels’ but Markham hands the fortress to the councillors.

7 October: Somerset flees by night with the king to Windsor, calling on all loyal Englishmen to come to his aid.

9 October: London’s Common Council decide in favour of the councillors.

Now the two principal royal strongholds are in rival hands. Messages from London and Windsor fly all over the country to gain the support of the great magnates for one side or the other. For a couple of days, England teeters on the brink of all-out civil war. Will it be the Wars of the Roses all over again? But no-one wants an escalation of the summer’s violence and peace negotiations begin.

13 October: Somerset submits at a full council meeting held at Windsor.

14 October: The Protectorate is over and the ex-holder of that office is taken to the Tower.

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The rebellions failed and, for that reason, they tend not to receive much attention from historians. But we should not readily disregard what was a national crisis of major proportions. Perhaps this is one of those instances when fiction can help our understanding by using imagination to vividly convey past events. I hope so and I commend to you my novel, The Devil’s Chalice, set during the chaotic Summer of Discontent.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson has been writing historical fiction and non-fiction since the mid 1970s and is the author of 70+ books, as well as work for radio and television and innumerable newspaper and magazine articles. After graduating from Cambridge in History and Theology, he spent some years teaching and travelling abroad before settling to a freelance writing career. He specializes in the Reformation but his large output includes studies of the Rothschild family, the Plantagenets, Peter the Great, Charlemagne and the history of circumnavigation. He lives in Devon and is the patriarch of a family of three children and six grandchildren. His most recent release is The Devil’s Chalice, published by MadeGlobal.

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New Release!

New Release!

The third book in the acclaimed series of Thomas Treviot Tudor crime thrillers – Based on REAL TUDOR CRIME RECORDS.

The Real Crime: In the steaming summer of 1549 two men languish in the Tower of London. William West is accused of attempted murder. Robert Allen is under investigation for dabbling in the Black Arts. Meanwhile, England is in the grip of rebellions against the boy king, Edward VI. The connections between these facts remains a mystery.

Our Story: London goldsmith, Thomas Treviot, is sent by his patron, Archbishop Cranmer, to discover discreetly what connections West has with leading figures at court. But Thomas has problems of his own: his teenage son has gone off to Norwich to join rebels led by Robert Kett. Trying to find his son and please Cranmer, he is plunged into dangers from peasant mobs, London gangsters and political chicanery, not to mention an enemy wielding occult power…

To Purchase The Devil’s Chalice,

Click The Link Below!

THE DEVIL’S CHALICE

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WIN

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!

Derek Wilson and MadeGlobal Publishing are graciously offering a complimentary copy of The Devil’s Chalice to one lucky QAB member or browser. If you are interested in being included in a drawing for a chance of winning this wonderful book, send the administrator a message via the website’s contact form. To complete the contact form, click here –> CONTACT US! We will draw a random winner on November 11, 2016. Good Luck!!!

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ANNE BOLEYN DAY 2016: A Reading From “The First Horseman” and Anne’s Execution – Derek Wilson

May 19, 2016 in 2016: Anne Boleyn Day by Beth von Staats

ANNEBOLEYNDAY

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Queenanneboleyn.com is sharing with you today the events of ANNE BOLEYN DAY 2016 as they unfold. Prolific historical writer Derek Wilson teaches us about Queen Anne Boleyn’s execution and also delights with a reading from his novel The First Horseman. Enjoy!

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VIDEO CREDIT: MadeGlobal Publishing

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson is a self-described highly prolific historian of  “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. A graduate from Cambridge in 1961, Derek spent several years travelling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971.Derek’s body of work of both fiction and non-fiction work is exhaustive, and we strongly urge you to visit his website of an amazing chronology of biographies, general history books, and historical fiction novels at Derek Wilson: Historian of Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy. Under the pen name D.K. Wilson, Derek has authored The First Horseman and the recently released The Traitor’s Mark, both featuring lead protagonist Thomas Treviot, young goldsmith drawn into a religious conspiracy.

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QAB Interview: Historian of “Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy”, Derek Wilson

March 22, 2015 in QAB Guest Interviews and Chats by Beth von Staats

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Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson

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Derek Wilson is a self-described highly prolific historian of  “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. A graduate from Cambridge in 1961, Derek spent several years travelling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971. Derek’s body of work of both fiction and non-fiction work is exhaustive, and we strongly urge you to visit his website of an amazing chronology of biographies, general history books, and historical fiction novels at Derek Wilson: Historian of Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy. Under the pen name D.K. Wilson, Derek  authored The First Horseman and the recently released The Traitor’s Mark, both featuring lead protagonist Thomas Treviot, young goldsmith drawn into a religious conspiracy.

Queenanneboleyn.com caught up wit Derek recently to discuss his new release The Traitor’s Mark, as well as his interest in Tudor Era history. His commendable knowledge led to highly fascinating answers to our questions.

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MM derek wilson

1. Derek on your website you describe yourself as a historian of “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. You obviously are a highly prolific author of both factual English history and British historical fiction. Can you share with browsers how “faith” and “fantasy” influence both your research and your fiction writing?

As a Christian (my university degree is actually for theology) I am naturally interested in the impact of religion on major movements in history, particularly the Reformation. The 16th C was a time when issues of belief were important for the majority of people. As to fantasy, I’m not into sci-fi but one of my literary heroes is C.S. Lewis. In 2013 I published Magnificent Malevolence, a kind of update on Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Perhaps I should have put ‘Imagination’ instead of ‘Fantasy’ – but that wouldn’t have alliterated!

2. The main protagonist of The First Horseman and your recently released novel The Traitor’s Mark is Thomas Treviot, a fictional goldsmith who while providing no spoilers gets drawn into religious intrigues and conspiracies during the reign of King Henry VIII. Please tell QAB browsers a little bit about Mr. Treviot. What makes him such a compelling lead character?

When we first meet Thomas as a 21-year-old, he’s a damaged character. He’s lost his father and his wife in quick succession, he has an infant son to bring up and his mother is suffering from dementia. He’s very much a ‘lost soul’ and, as such, evokes our sympathy (I hope). It is the quest for Packington’s killer that draws him out of his self pity. Then his innate qualities of loyalty and tenacity emerge. Also, his business contacts and his life in London involve him in society at all levels.

Hans Holbein the Younger (self-portrait)

Hans Holbein the Younger
(self-portrait)

3. I see that Hans Holbein factors into your newly released novel The Traitor’s Mark. Do disagreements among historians as to his cause of death factor into the plot at all?

I don’t think there are ‘disagreements’. Our only source is Karel van Mander who stated, 60 years after the event, that Holbein died of plague. Historians generally accept that because there’s no alternative. But the plague theory rests on very weak evidence and earlier attempts in Elizabeth’s reign to locate the artist’s grave and English family failed. We can fairly class Holbein’s disappearance as a mystery and that entitles the fiction writer to speculate.

4. I am an admitted lover of historical thriller and mystery novels. What interested you in the genre?

I’ve always loved whodunits as well as historical novels. Because scientific crime detection was almost non-existent 500 years ago there remains a wealth of unsolved homicides ready for exploration.

5. In your fascinating QAB Guest Article that published on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury on March 21st, you discuss the Prebendaries’ Plot of 1543. (For the benefit of browsers, this plot was a conspiracy among conservative clergy to orchestrate the fall of Thomas Cranmer). Is this plot so unfamiliar to many Tudor enthusiasts in any way factor in your new novel The Traitor’s Mark? If you can do so without giving too much away of the overall plot, how so?

Much of the action of the Prebendaries’ Plot took place in Canterbury and the surrounding area of Kent. This is where Treviot has his country home and by 1543 he is a leading member of Kentish society. As the county is torn apart by pro-Cranmer and anti-Cranmer factions Treviot is inevitably involved in trying to maintain law and order.

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Photo Credit: Jesus College, Cambridge)

Thomas Cranmer
(Photo Credit: Jesus College, Cambridge)

6. Please forgive my ignorance, but until I read through your website, I did not realize that you researched and wrote a history book entitled A Brief History of the English Reformation. I was thrilled to see this as many new to an interest in the era are sometimes frightened off by the outstanding comprehensive works of historians such as Diarmaid MacCulloch. Do you find that shorter historical works draw in those who might otherwise not delve into the intrigues and historical significance of the English Reformations? Why is the English Reformation still important for people to understand today?

I see my role very much as making history accessible to the non-academic reader. History, after all, belongs to everyone. The Reformation, in my view, was the most important movement in the last thousand years of European history. Certainly it created ‘modern England’ as an independent nation state, increasingly in conflict with its neighbours and one which transplanted its religious and political ideology all over the world (including America).

7. Do you think their is a historical figure who is under appreciated relative to his or her contributions to the English Reformation? If so, who is this person and why?

It worries me that Thomas Cromwell is often represented as a cynical politique, driven by self-interest and by his desire to please his tyrannical master. Foxe’s evaluation of him as a great ‘soldier and captain of Christ’ tends to be dismissed by our secular age which finds religious commitment difficult to understand.

8. Do you have any thoughts about the life stories of English priests and recusants enduring through the English Reformation?

One must admire all who suffer for their beliefs. The position of English Catholics was made impossible when the pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth and released them from their allegiance to her. Like all marginalised communities their resentment led some to acts of violence (the Gunpowder Plot).

King Edward VI

King Edward VI

9. Many browsers as history enthusiasts debate this question endlessly. Since you have an expertise in the English Reformation I will ask this question on their behalf. Who do you think was the principal driver of the Devise of the Succession of 1553, King Edward VI or John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland? To follow-up, why are you of this opinion?

There is no doubt from Edward’s diaries that he was a dyed-in-the-wool Protestant who wanted at all costs to prevent the accession of Catholic Mary and who believed he could not face his Maker if he allowed his realm to fall back into the papal fold. Had Dudley engineered the coup to place Jane Grey on the throne I think he would have made military preparations to ensure its success. This he, fatally, failed to do. See my Uncrowned Kings of England, pp.215 ff.

10. Given we are Queenanneboleyn.com, I need to ask this question for the benefit of our browsers. How much did the religious beliefs of Queen Anne Boleyn influence the English Reformation? Is the opinions of many “Anne Boleyn enthusiasts” that she had a profound influence overstated?

We have to accept the unpalatable fact that, in the 16th C, women, of whatever status, were regarded as inferior to men. There were several outstanding examples of women who made their mark despite this prejudice but Henry VIII certainly never allowed his wives to ‘interfere’ in religion or politics (eg. he became irritated in 1546 when he thought Catherine Parr was trying to instruct him in matters of faith). This does not mean that they had no influence. Anne, for example, suggested that Henry should read Tyndale’s Obedience of a Christian Man. It took a much subtler mind, such as Cromwell’s, to ‘steer’ the king towards further reform.

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11. Is there anything else you would like to share with QAB browsers?

The only point I’d like to add is that we should read historical fiction for what it is – fiction. The novelist always has to tell a story. That means that he/she selects the facts to be used (and not used) and the interpretation placed on them. Novels should not be allowed to colour our judgement of the major figures in history. That is why I prefer to write about made-up characters from the lower echelons of society. I’ll be making this point in the video Claire plans to post on her site next month.

Editor’s Note: In the answer above, Derek is speaking of Claire Ridgway, historian and founder of  The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society. The video he is referencing will be shown on The Tudor Society, and membership is required. QAB’s owner and Twitter Representative @QueenAnneBoleyn are both members of The Tudor Society. We wholeheartedly recommend this outstanding online forum.

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The Traitor’s Mark (Content from the author’s website):

FACT

In the autumn of 1543, Hans Holbein, the leading European portrait painter, disappeared in London. What happened to him remains a mystery. At the same time a plot was afoot to bring down Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Were these events linked?

STORY

Thomas Treviot is again plunged into the murky world of Tudor politics and religion when his friend, Hans Holbein, disappears and his assistant, Bart Miller, is charged with murder. Thomas and friends who will be familiar to readers of The First Horseman are drawn into the political world of a sick and unstable Henry VIII and a nation torn apart by ruthless, rival factions determined to shape England’s identity. Publication 14 March 2015. Available as ebook now.

Derek Wilson is a self-described highly prolific historian of  “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. A graduate from Cambridge in 1961, Derek spent several years travelling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971.Derek’s body of work of both fiction and non-fiction work is exhaustive, and we strongly urge you to visit his website of an amazing chronology of biographies, general history books, and historical fiction novels at Derek Wilson: Historian of Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy. Under the pen name D.K. Wilson, Derek has authored The First Horseman and the recently released The Traitor’s Mark, both featuring lead protagonist Thomas Treviot, young goldsmith drawn into a religious conspiracy.

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TO PURCHASE THE TRAITOR’S MARK

CLICK THE LINK BELOW!

The Traitor’s Mark

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The Prebendaries Plot – A Crisis in the Life of Thomas Cranmer, by Derek Wilson

March 21, 2015 in Guest Writers, Historical Fact, News by Beth von Staats

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Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury (Photo Credit: Jesus College, Cambridge)

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury
(Photo Credit: Jesus College, Cambridge)

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The Prebendaries Plot – A Crisis in the Life of Thomas Cranmer

Derek Wilson

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There are some events which, because they lack high drama or obvious significance, tend to receive scant attention in history books but which, on closer examination, prove to have been of great consequence. The failure of Archbishop Cranmer’s enemies to encompass his destruction in the autumn of 1543 is one such. The story ends in anticlimax. The conspiracy against him had been well-planned, involved several agents and seemed to be on the verge of success. Then, at the eleventh hour King Henry intervened and it was all over. What has been called the ‘Prebendaries Plot’ was a flop and, therefore, has merely been accorded a wry footnote in some accounts of Henry VIII’s final years. It is only if we pause to ask ourselves ‘What if’ that we truly grasp the monumental significance of Cranmer’s escape. The failure of the conspiracy bought Cranmer another dozen years of life – years that saw the Archbishop set up the theology and liturgy of the reformed English church. If the forces of Catholic reaction had triumphed in 1543 the politics of Henry’s last years and the brief reign of young Edward VI would have been very different. It is unlikely that England would have become a Protestant state. Mary Tudor, coming to the throne in 1553, would have had little difficulty in returning her realm to papal obedience. And Elizabeth I? Lacking the zeal of her half-brother and his evangelical councillors, it is unlikely that she would have rekindled the fires of religious revolution. So, there is ample reason to take a closer look at the Prebendaries Plot.

In the 1530s the reform movement had been led by Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer, the former giving the forces of change legislative teeth; the latter providing the theological meat for it to chew on. They had seemed unstoppable. Then the fiasco of the Cleves marriage gave the Catholic clique the opportunity for a counter-attack. Cromwell’s fall in July 1540 was sudden and complete. One charge against him was that he was an extremist religious radical and a supporter of known heretics. Over the ensuing months the Catholic group on the Council, led by Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, made the most of their advantage. They took every opportunity to block moves by Cranmer and his supporters to press on with the work of reform. The gloves were definitely off as both sides used any and every weapon that came to hand.

The initiative swung Cranmer’s way in the autumn of 1541 when it was revealed that Queen Catherine Howard (Norfolk’s niece) had been foolishly cuckolding her husband. Cranmer played a leading role in unmasking her adulteries and for this Norfolk never forgave him. The hatreds between the rival camps was intense. Gardiner was denounced from several pulpits as a supporter of the pope and the bishop, for his part, was rumoured to have said that he would give six thousand pounds to pluck down the Archbishop of Canterbury. His spies were busy everywhere sniffing out heretics, while evangelical agents were just as assiduously unmasking suspected papists. By 1543 feather and furs were flying in all directions.

The campaign against Cranmer was pursued on several levels. Throughout the country and particularly in his Kent diocese preachers acting with Cranmer’s licence were watched carefully and any suspected of unorthodox views were hauled before the magistrates. At the royal court Cranmer’s friends and supporters were under close observation. The number of evangelicals in the king’s household was growing. They included his physician, Dr. Butts, and his head of the privy chamber, Sir Anthony Denny. The king’s illness and pain were making him more and more reclusive and the companions he trusted (like Cranmer) were in positions of increasing influence.

The spearhead of the campaign against Cranmer was in Canterbury. The cathedral prebendaries (senior clergy) were bitterly divided into pro and anti-Cranmer camps. An incident in late May indicates the depth of feeling stirred by religious controversy. Prebendary Richard Champion, one of Cranmer’s supporters, died and was buried in the cathedral. At the end of the ceremony another official jumped down into the grave and emptied hot coals from a censer onto the coffin – a symbolic burning of the heretic. One of the prebendaries was Germain Gardiner, Stephen Gardiner’s nephew. He acted as messenger and information-gatherer for his uncle and, in the spring and summer of 1543, was compiling a list of the archbishop’s ‘heresies’ with the names of his evangelical protégés. At Easter he preached an incendiary sermon in the cathedral, in which ‘he did inveigh against preachers … and … made such exclamations, crying out “Heretics! Faggots! Fire!”’ [Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII, 18, ii, 546] Around the end of April Germain Gardiner’s ‘little black book’ was given to the king and Cranmer’s enemies noted with satisfaction that Henry was distancing himself from his archbishop.

Emboldened by their progress, the conservative faction embarked on a major inquisition of evangelical sympathisers. Several suspects were thrown into prison and most recanted under pressure. Now the Catholic strategists were ready to focus their attention on members of the king’s entourage. They carried out a purge of evangelicals in the town of Windsor and the staff of the royal castle. Five men were arrested and taken to the Marshalsea prison, close to Bishop Gardiner’s Southwark palace. There they were interrogated and every effort was made to make them implicate their superiors in the king’s household. Three of the prisoners were burned at the end of July.

At the same time, Richard Turner was brought in for questioning. Turner was a member of the Chapel Royal at Windsor, rector of Chartham, Kent, where he attracted crowds to his evangelical sermons, and a personal favourite of Archbishop Cranmer. He, too, was taken to London for an interrogation carried out, in person, by Stephen Gardiner. The noose around Cranmer was tightening.

However, accusations were one thing; getting the king to act on them was quite another. Henry watched and listened and kept his cards close to his chest. He must have been weighing up in his mind whether or not to sacrifice his archbishop. He will have remembered how he had been persuaded to throw Cromwell to the hounds, only to regret later losing ‘the best servant I ever had’. He resolved not to make the same mistake again. The exact chronology of events in the autumn of 1543 is not clear but John Foxe in his Acts and Monuments of the Christian Religion recorded two incidents reported to him by Cranmer’s secretary, Ralph Morice. The first took place aboard the royal barge moored off Lambeth. Henry, out for a pleasant trip on the river, summoned Cranmer to join him. He produced the evidence gathered against the archbishop. ‘Now I know who is the biggest heretic in Kent,’ he said. It must have been a heart-stopping moment for his passenger. But Henry went on to point out that if erroneous doctrines were being preached in Cranmer’s dioceses then a full investigation must be carried out. And who better to head that investigation than the Archbishop himself! [Foxe, VIII, pp 28] By this one act (the sort of dramatic gesture Henry loved) the judicial initiative changed hands. The prisoner in the dock became the judge on the bench. Now all suspect preaching could be brought under review – papist as well as evangelical. One result was the examination of the anti-Cranmer conspiracy. Prebendary Gardiner’s lodgings were ransacked and incriminating evidence discovered. His uncle hastened to disassociate himself from his relative’s actions and, the following March, Germain Gardiner suffered a traitor’s death at Tyburn on dubious charges of denying the king’s supremacy over the English church.

Desperate situations call for desperate measures and the conservative leaders made one more determined attempt to destroy Cranmer. It was intended to be a re-run of the events which had brought Cromwell down. They obtained the king’s permission to confront the archbishop at the Council board and detain him for examination. Henry allowed them to go ahead but, once again, intervened by having a private audience with Cranmer. The archbishop responded that he was prepared to have his opinions placed under the microscope. At this, Henry upbraided his naivety. Once his enemies had him in confinement, the king pointed out, they would produce false witnesses to ensure his conviction (an indictment of the Tudor justice system from the horse’s mouth!). He gave Cranmer his ring, with instructions to produce it when his enemies tried to proceed with his arrest. That is precisely what happened at the next day’s Council meeting [Foxe, VIII, pp 256]. Gardiner, Norfolk and Co. were completely outmanoeuvred and hurried to the royal apartments to beg forgiveness of Henry and his archbishop. ‘Nevermore after, no man durst spurn [Cranmer] during the King Henry’s life.’ [Narratives of the Days of the Reformation, p 258]

These dramatic and often violent events form the background to my recently published novel, The Traitor’s Mark (under my pseudonym, D.K. Wilson). It is fiction but I do not believe I have done violence to the known facts. Rather, I have tried to look beyond them in order to create an impression of the incredibly tense atmosphere affecting people at all levels of society in 1543 – an atmosphere seldom evident from a straight reading of the records. ‘Whose readeth, let him understand.’

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Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson

Derek Wilson is a self-described highly prolific historian of  “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. A graduate from Cambridge in 1961, Derek spent several years travelling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971.Derek’s body of work of both fiction and non-fiction work is exhaustive, and we strongly urge you to visit his website of an amazing chronology of biographies, general history books, and historical fiction novels at Derek Wilson: Historian of Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy. Under the pen name D.K. Wilson, Derek  authored The First Horseman and the recently released The Traitor’s Mark, both featuring lead protagonist Thomas Treviot, young goldsmith drawn into a religious conspiracy.

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The Traitor’s Mark (Content from the author’s website):

FACT

In the autumn of 1543, Hans Holbein, the leading European portrait painter, disappeared in London. What happened to him remains a mystery. At the same time a plot was afoot to bring down Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Were these events linked?

STORY

Thomas Treviot is again plunged into the murky world of Tudor politics and religion when his friend, Hans Holbein, disappears and his assistant, Bart Miller, is charged with murder. Thomas and friends who will be familiar to readers of The First Horseman are drawn into the political world of a sick and unstable Henry VIII and a nation torn apart by ruthless, rival factions determined to shape England’s identity. Publication 14 March 2015. Available as ebook now.

Derek Wilson is a self-described highly prolific historian of  “fact, faith, fiction and fantasy”. A graduate from Cambridge in 1961, Derek spent several years travelling and teaching in Africa before becoming a full-time writer and broadcaster in 1971.Derek’s body of work of both fiction and non-fiction work is exhaustive, and we strongly urge you to visit his website of an amazing chronology of biographies, general history books, and historical fiction novels at Derek Wilson: Historian of Fact, Faith, Fiction and Fantasy. Under the pen name D.K. Wilson, Derek has authored The First Horseman and the recently released The Traitor’s Mark, both featuring lead protagonist Thomas Treviot, young goldsmith drawn into a religious conspiracy.

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TO PURCHASE THE TRAITOR’S MARK

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The Traitor’s Mark

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