Henry VIII,the Reign
The Royal Progress 1535
Reading Abbey , Berkshire
6 Jul 1535
Henry I encouraged religious reform and donated to reform minded groups in the church particularly the Cluniac order, and in1120 gave generous support to Reading Abbey founded as a Cluniac establishment. The building Reading Abbey began in 1121, and Henry endowed it with rich lands and extensive privileges. Henry I – father of Matilda, mother of the Angevin dynasty, and Robert of Gloucester – is buried here.
Ewelme Manor House, Oxfordshire
8 Jul 1535
Here William de la Pole, first Duke of Suffolk, and his wife Alice de la Pole established a school and cloistered alms-houses. Alice was the daughter of Thomas Chaucer (Speaker of the House of Commons) and a granddaughter of the poet and anti-clericalist Geoffrey Chaucer, himself allied with the Lollard Knights and a proponent of the English language over the French. As rulers of the manor, Alice and her father both lived at Ewelme Palace. In 1519, Henry Norris was appointed bailiff here. He was executed the following year, convicted of treason and adultery with Anne de Boulogne.
Abingdon Abbey, Oxfordshire
10 Jul 1535
Abingdon Abbey stands alongside the Thames and straddles the Oxford-to-Winchester road. Before the Conquest, along with Glastonbury in Somerset, it was the centre of reform under Æthelwold, later Bishop of Winchester. Here the royal progress entered Angevin country, inherently hostile to the de Boulognes.
King John’s Palace at Langley, Oxfordshire
13 Jul 1535
The train reached King John’s Palace, north-east of Burford, in midsummer – perhaps an appropriate time for a performance of King Johan, a play written by Jane Seymour’s cousin’s protégé John Bale that lambasts the church and papacy. King John shines through as a hero fighting against (among other things) sedition, usurped power and treason as symbols of corruption in the church.
Henry visited Langley regularly for the hunting it offered.
Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
17 Jul 1535
Sudeley was ravaged for years in the civil war between Matilda and Stephen and was taken as a garrison by Stephen Here also lived John de Sudeley, father of William de Tracy – 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 at Winchcombe (near Sudeley) 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.
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’. 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 statue known as the De heretico comburendo (2 Hen.4 c.15), 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.
A royal proclamation dated 16 November 1538 ‘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.
Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire
23 Jul 1535
The bridge over the River Avon today still bears King John’s name and his body is entombed a few miles away at Worcester. He chose to be buried there near to the shrine of his favourite saint, Wulfstan I. It was from here that King Henry VIII’s Lancastrian father, the future Henry VII, fled after the battle of Tewksbury in 1471 to Brittany. He returned through Wales and the west of England, gathering support in 1485 to defeat Richard III at Bosworth and claim the kingdom for the Tudors.
The abbot who had granted Stanway to Tracy died in 1534 and was replaced by John Wyche (also known as Wakeham). During the royal progress’s visit to Tewkesbury, Wyche promised Cromwell a gelding, which, together with thanks for his preferment, he duly sent him that autumn with five shillings to buy a saddle and a hint of future gratifications. In the guise of his alias, Wakeham, he became the inaugural Bishop of Gloucester in 1541.
27 Jul 1535
In 1140, when Matilda arrived in England to claim the crown, she at once made for Gloucester and ousted Stephen’s garrison there. ‘Thus the whole country down to the extremities of Wales, partly by force, partly by goodwill’ came across to Matilda’s party. Along with Bristol, Gloucester was her stronghold from which to rebut the de Boulogne claim to the crown.
King John inherited the earldom of Gloucester from his first wife, Isabella, Countess of Gloucester, granddaughter of Robert, Earl of Gloucester.
John was ‘sojourning in this city’ when the kingdom was invaded by Louis the Lion, who claimed the throne. After John’s death, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, brought the deceased king’s young son – the future Henry III – to Gloucester and the earl delivered a stirring oration there: ‘Let us remove from us this Louis the French king’s son and supress his people, which are a confusion and shame to our nation, and the yoke of their servitude let us cast off our shoulders.’
The assembled barons agreed; they threw off the yoke of French servitude and Henry was crowned at St Peter’s Abbey – now the cathedral – in place of the dauphin of France. He was the last English monarch to be crowned outside Westminster Abbey.
Some three centuries later at Gloucester, Henry VIII was urged to cast off his own yoke of French servitude, Anne de Boulogne.