Henry VIII,the Reign
The Royal Progress of 1535
King John's Palace to Winchcombe
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
Winchcombe and Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Wednesday 21 Jul 1535
Slaughter in the context of a place name means, ‘muddy place’, from old English 'slohtre'.
For the Boleyn faction of the English government it, perhaps, had a dual meaning. King Henry and Queen Anne, after crossing the Roman built Fosse Way, arrived first at the village of Lower Slaughter, and then soon afterwards at Upper Slaughter, both of which straddle the River Eye.
The villages were a little over half way on the twenty-three-mile journey from Langley to Winchcombe, where stood Sudeley Castle and Winchcombe Abbey.
They were now in the heart of the rolling Cotswold Hills which rise from the banks of the upper Thames in the east to the valley of the River Seven in the west and three score miles, north to south, from Stratford upon Avon to Bath. For the next six weeks, the villages built from golden coloured Cotswold stone would rarely be out of sight.
The original Sudeley Castle was ravaged for years in the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and was taken as a garrison by Stephen. Here also once lived John de Sudeley, father of William de Tracy (his grandfather was an illegitimate son of King Henry I ) one of the knights who murdered Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170. The story recounts that William, placing his foot on the dead prelate’s neck, exclaimed, ‘Thus perishes a traitor!’
When the royal train arrived, easing its way down the steep hill into Winchcombe, in 1535, William’s descendant Richard Tracy held the manor of Stanway, a little over three miles away (he also had property at nearby Toddington). The manor was owned by Tewkesbury Abbey, but two years earlier Cromwell had obtained the lease for Tracy. There had been trouble with the Tracys quite recently, and it was still fresh in the memory.
Richard was a younger son of another William Tracy. William had died in 1530 and had made a will in which he refused to bequeath anything ‘for that intent that any man shall say or do to help my soul’, thus insulting the Catholic church. When the will came to be proved, it was referred to the Convocation of Canterbury, which was sitting in parallel to the second session of the Reformation Parliament, and on 23 March 1531 the will was condemned as heretical.
Thomas Parker, Chancellor of Worcester, was subsequently instructed to exhume the body of William and proceeded to have it burned at the stake.
Parker may have believed he was working within a law that had been enacted in 1401: the statute known as the De heretico comburendo , which had effectively made the Henry–Johnites outlaws and required the punishment of heretics by burning at the stake. It was devised to wipe out Lollardy and punish ‘divers false and perverse people of a certain new sect … they make and write books, they do wickedly instruct and inform people … and commit subversion of the said catholic faith’. Chancellor Parker, however, had not obtained the necessary writ to authorise the burning of the body – in the changing political climate it seems doubtful that he would have obtained it anyway – and thus he had shot himself in the foot and was fined £300.
Worse for the Catholic Church, the arch-Protestant Wycliffe apologist William Tyndale lauded Tracy as a martyr and published Tracy’s will with a detailed commentary on it in his treatise The Testament of Master William Tracy Esquire, expounded both by William Tindall and John Frith.
Emboldened by Tyndale, over the next decade Richard Tracy embarked on many an evangelical discourse, often in tandem with his ward and protégé Bartholomew Traheron.
Later in 1538,a royal proclamation dated 16 November ‘commandeth that from henseforth the sayde Thomas Becket shall not be estemed, named, reputed, nor called a sayncte’. Richard’s ancestor William Tracy is mentioned in the proclamation’s explanation.
Becket’s shrine at Canterbury, one of the most venerated in Christendom, was destroyed by the end of that year.
At Winchcombe, the king’s first minister Thomas Cromwell joined the royal party.