Henry VIII,the Reign
The Royal Progress of 1535
Abingdon to King John's Palace, Langley,Oxfordshire
In March 1533, Henry promised that he would repair the insult to Kings Henry II and John, who had been tricked into offering the realm in tribute to the Holy See. He was also determined to reunite the crown with the goods churchmen had appropriated from it.
Letters & Papers No 235 1533 Volume 6, dated 15 March 1533
Friday 16 Jul 1535
King John’s Palace at Langley, Oxfordshire
King John ordered monks to build New Bridge across the River Thames near the confluence of the River Windrush. Today it is a listed building and has twelve arches reduced from the original fifty-one. The structure John ordered spanned some 726 yards (664 m) and vies with Radcot Bridge, further downstream, to be known as the oldest bridge across the River Thames. The royal entourage funnelled over the crossing from mid-morning until well into the afternoon, woe any poor soul trying to cross in the opposite direction that day.
Unlike the bridge there is no trace of King John’s Palace today, it once stood in the heart of the Wychwood, a royal forest popular for hunting with many kings over the preceding centuries. The larger palace of Woodstock, where Blenheim Palace now stands, was less than ten miles to the east. The chronicler, William of Malmesbury refers to lions, leopards, lynxes, camels and a porcupine there in the days of Henry I.
This was a long march, over twenty miles, the ground however was relatively flat, and heading north east they parted company with the River Thames, which since leaving Windsor had never been far away.
The palace, haunted, for some, with memories of King John’s so called evil councillors, one of whom was a Seymour, Sir Amery St Maur, at least provided some respite from the road, they were here until Wednesday.
Langley was built to host royal hunts and Henry would have made the most of that, he was familiar with the place and he delighted in boasting, after a day in the saddle, of his kills to provide for the royal kitchen. In the evening, perhaps an early performance of John Bale’s new play King John.
King John – whose father, Henry II, was so often embattled with the papacy – was himself famously excommunicated by Pope Innocent III in November 1209.
Bale drew inspiration for his work from William Tyndale’s Obedience of a Christian Man. (We stop over at Tyndale’s master’s house later in the progress) The author of the play, as already mentioned, was a protégé of Jane Seymour’s cousin Thomas Wentworth. Cromwell used Bale as his propagandist in chief and by using King John as propaganda material the way was paved for the introduction of another parallel with that reign – Francophobia.
Along with the pope King John’s dual arch enemy was the Dauphin of France Louis, the Lion, who invaded England and claimed the Crown for himself. John died at Newark on Trent before Louis was finally defeated and England saved from the French.
Thus, the Henry – Johnite party added another ploy to play on the mind of Henry VIII.
Was Henry not, they enquired of him, being threatened with excommunication now, as John had been then and had not the King of France only recently betrayed and humiliated him while in the presence of the pope at Marseilles. ‘Surely,’ the king was goaded. ‘you grace will not allow history to repeat its self?’
Cromwell began to prepare the allegations that he would soon use against Anne Boleyn, he would accuse her of complicity, that she was in league with the present Dauphin of France, Francois, to kill the king of England and replace him with her daughter Elizabeth.