Henry VIII,the Reign
Wolf Hall – Where Seymour Trounced de Boulogne.
3 September 1535
The Royal Progress has arrived at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire
A ride of twenty miles from Bromham House to Wolf Hall, Sir John Seymour's place where he lived with his family who were in the process of setting a new course for English history. The consequence of their actions was a watershed, the effect of which continued to run on over the centuries and from the here and now into the future.
Who was the leader, Edward Seymour or Thomas Cromwell? Whoever it was the two families would soon be united by the marriage of Seymour’s sister Elizabeth to Cromwell’s son Gregory.
John Aubrey visited the area in 1672 and said of Wolf Hall: -
"…the ancient seate of the Sturmeys, which house has been much bigger, and great part pulled downe within these 10 years to build the house of Tottenham Parke. I remember a long gallery. It was never but a timber house”
A timber house of course does not mean it was a small place, many a medieval hall was a substantial building.
The Seymours, originally named, St Muar, hailed from the Welsh Marches, as did most Henry – Johnites.
In 1240, under the protection of Gilbert Marshall, son of William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, Sir William de St Muar held Penhow Castle eight miles west of Newport, Monmouthshire and just six miles from Caerleon.
Sir William St Maur married Sir Gilbert’s third daughter.
Daughter Seymour’s grandfather, William Marshall, after the death of King John at Newark, Nottinghamshire, in 1216, at the dying king’s request, was named as guardian of nine-year-old Henry III. He was also named regent of the kingdom during the king’s minority.
At that time, the Kingdom of England was in a dire state, King John, when he died of dysentery or poison, had been battling with the French dauphin Louis, who had invaded England and his forces held Lincoln. William Marshall saw out the winter and then the following May called his forces to Newark Castle and went on to heroically defeat the French pretender to the English throne in what became known as the second battle of Lincoln. The first battle was in 1141 between Robert of Gloucester and Stephen of Blois who was captured during his efforts to secure the Kingdom of England for his son Eustace de Boulogne. The first Henry – Johnites had saved consecutive boy king Henrys from French hegemony, and this later generation would not allow this Henry to slide under French control, orchestrated by what they perceived as a Trojan Horse, in the person of Anne de Boulogne.
In about 1340 Roger Seymour married Cecily de Beauchamp daughter of Sir John Beauchamp and Margaret St. John of Basing in Hampshire. We will visit Basing House on the progress, later in October. Cecily inherited the manors of Hatch Beauchamp, Shepton Beauchamp, Murifield and one third of the manor of Shepton Mallet, Somerset, the manors of Boultbery and Haberton, Devon, of Dorton, Buckinghamshire, and of Little Haw in Suffolk.
The Seymours fortunes were further advanced upon the marriage of Roger to Maud Sturmy (Estermy) daughter of Sir William Stermy who held property in the north of Hampshire, including the manors of Belney, Polling and Liss Turney, and at Hartley Wintney and Elvetham Hall in Hampshire (where, in 1403, he obtained a royal licence to impark 300 acres).
We are also scheduled to visit Elvetham Hall, after Basing on the progress in October.
Sir William had quite a remarkable career in the service of both the monarch and Parliament where he was speaker.
By the time the royal progress arrived, in 1535, the Seymours had risen to be the most influential family in Wiltshire, indeed across the western counties, surpassing the Herberts in their authority with the king.
Wiltshire at that time was the centre of English industry, boasting a booming cloth trade, it was also, and by some distance, the wealthiest county in England.
Since the fall of Wolsey, the influence of Parliament had grown and that of the clergy had been blunted. The plan for the next session of the Reformation Parliament was to dissolve the monasteries, pull them down, sell off the land and quarry the ruins, beginning with the smaller houses. The policy required the authority of Parliament.
Wiltshire and its boroughs wielded enormous influence represented by some thirty-four MPs, substantially more than any other county in England, and as further indication of local sway in government the neighbouring county of Dorset was third highest with eighteen. This was, way way beyond any political clout that the Boleyn faction could muster. (Sussex and its boroughs came second with twenty MPs, Sir Thomas Seymour later coincidently contributed to the wealth of that county too).
Reports addressed to Cromwell from the commissioners visiting the monasteries in the western counties were arriving daily.
The consequences, of the law passed in the upcoming final session of the Reformation Parliament can be seen up and down the country today, from the small priories where it all started to the haunting ruins, the like of Fountains, Binham ,Rievaulx, Biland, Waltham, Mount Grace, Glastonbury, Whitby, Bayham, Crowland, Buildwas, Abingdon, Castle Acre, Llanthony, Cartmel, Dale, Bolton, Reading,Tintern or nearby Malmesbury to name but a handful.
If Anne de Boulogne had been blessed with any influence at all by the time the progress reached Wolf Hall she would have rebutted their intentions. She would have introduced an alternative policy, some way similar to the direction her daughter took years later, and reformed their monastic purpose drawing on the thinking of her mentor Marguerite of Angoulême, and as for the buildings – she would have preserved them all, as places of education.
But that was never to be, this was Jane Seymour's home, Anne de Boulogne had few friends here at Wolf Hall.
One she did have, however, was Henry Norris.
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