Sunday, 25 September 2011

VENGEANCE THWARTED - A New book of the English Civil War by Prue Phillipson

This week, Hoydens welcomes debut author, Prue Phillipson. Of her novel, Prue comments ‘I have studied the history of the mid-seventeenth century and am fascinated by its impact on the daily lives of families. A true story of a haystack firing followed by a summary hanging gave me the idea for an exciting opening but under different circumstances.  I enjoyed working out the unusual plot, tracing two lives from one incident that powerfully involved them both until they again intertwined.’ Over to Prue....

We think of the mid-seventeenth century as a time when great matters were settled by fighting. Who rules England? A divinely appointed king or an elected parliament? But behind the scenes were serious efforts on the part of both factions to maintain a framework of legality. In Vengeance Thwarted I show how these efforts touched the lives of two ordinary families, the Hordens of Northumberland and the Wilsons of Yorkshire, from 1640 to 1647.
Sir John Horden is a magistrate faced with a case of theft and rick-firing. The Scots army is advancing to take over the county after the Battle of Newburn-on-Tyne. Sir John is anxious to try the case properly. The furious villagers claim that the culprit is a Scots deserter but the magistrate establishes that the man has actually deserted from the English army. He wishes to show the Scots that looting and pillage must be tried and punished without fear or favour. He convenes a hasty trial in the Dame School and picks a jury of twelve men who are not witnesses. While the case looks strong he is concerned that the accused seems to be a half-wit, but when a messenger rides up and shouts out that the Scots forces are coming, he asks the jury their verdict and the cry of guilty triggers a lynch mob and a summary hanging.
The magistrate, a genuine lover of the due processes of the law, is troubled in his mind. He would be even more so if he knew the true culprit! Read the book to find out.
When the Wilson family learn of their son’s death the enraged mother urges her other son to avenge his brother but his father seeks redress under the law by appealing to the Star Chamber Court system whereby a citizen could approach the king’s representative directly. In this case it is the Earl of Strafford presiding over the Court of the North at York. There is a delay while Strafford is engaged with the Council on the peace treaty but an answer comes at length, under his signature and couched in the legalese of the time, assuring the family of the fairness of the trial. That there had been cunning work by Sir John’s son, Robert, in the meanwhile, backed up by bribery of a clerk of the court, does not invalidate the fact that the appearances of justice were maintained.
When Parliament under Pym’s leadership was in the ascendancy new anti-Papist laws were passed so lists were made of Catholic households whose goods were sequestered. The bureaucracy must have been immense since the lists included any who had even harboured Catholics. Every document of sequestration had to be delivered and details of family members noted, since a proportion of the value of each estate could be kept back for their support.
Sir John Horden himself comes under this punishment in the novel, and the Wilsons suffer under the subsequent laws affecting those who refused to sign the Covenant.
Parliament passed many draconian laws in the mid-seventeenth century but it was still crucial to carry them out as fairly as possible. Spurious laws and often spurious justice, but the keeping of written records and the holding of trials with witnesses and juries persisted. Chaotic and apparently lawless as much of the country was where actual fighting was taking place there remained an underlying loyalty to the idea of justice enshrined in law. 


Sunday, 18 September 2011

Gold fever everlasting

Before the Gold Rush, before Dot Com Fever (and bust), there was alchemy—a formula thought to be able to turn base metals into gold or silver. The search for such a formula was certainly a part of the 17th century in all levels of society.

Madame Catherine Voisin was burned alive at the stake for being a witch, but it was possibly Gold Fever that killed her.

Denis Poculot, Sieur de Blessis (sometimes spelled Belsize), is reputed to have been her lover. Whatever their relationship, there was a certainly a significant affiliation between them. He foolishly made the claim to have succeeded in making lead into gold, and was  thus more or less held prisoner in the château de Fontenay-en-Brie by the bankrupt Roger de Pardaillan, Marquis de Termes, in an attempt to get Blessis to reveal his secret. (Or, at the least, produce counterfeit money.)

It's likely that La Voisin, who believed in alchemy, invested in Blessis's work. Indignant over his capture, she went to Saint-German-en-Laye to try to put a plea before the King for Blessis's release—and thus began her downfall. (Her mentally unstable daughter claimed she intended to poison the King there.) A few days later, March 12 of 1679, Voisin was arrested coming out of her neighbourhood church after mass.

I'm left wanting to know more about Marquis de Termes (shown at left). He was related to the infamous Madame de Montespan's husband, Monsieur de Montespan. He spent some time in the Bastille. He was in business with the Minister of Finance Fouquet, and was thus impoverished by Fouquet's fall from grace.

As to his prisoner, Denis Poculot, Sieur de Blessis, it appears that he was sent to the galleys. He was known for a trick in which mirrors were manipulated in such a way that whoever looked at them died.

And all for the love of gold.

Sandra Gulland is author of The Josephine B. Trilogy and Mistress of the Sun.


Sunday, 11 September 2011

Queen of the Pamunkey

Daughter of paramount chief, Opechancanough, Cockacoeske was known as the Queen of the Pamunkey. Queen is an incorrect term, but it was the closest 17th-century word to the English concept. In reality, Cockacoeske was a weroansqua, or a female chief. The correct title for a male chief was weroance, and they were usually referred to by the English as kings.

Born around 1640, little is known about Cockacoeske's early life. In 1656, she became chief of the Pamunkey upon the death of her husband Totopotomoy. An ally of the English, he was killed in a battle while fighting against other native tribes. Later, Cockacoeske had an illegitimate son with Colonel John West. The boy was also named John West.

Despite the Pamunkey's alliance with the English, they were attacked during Bacon's Rebellion (a topic for a future blog). Men, women, and children were captured or killed. To save her own life, Cockacoeske went into hiding and nearly starved to death. Her son was one of those captured. During the investigation of the rebellion, the royal commissioners determined that Cockacoeske had remained loyal to England, and she was rewarded with regal attire.

Cockacoeske is best known for the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677. The treaty made her the leader over a number of Indian nations, including the Chickahominy and Rappahanock, who were previously not part of the Powhatan chiefdom. The treaty set up the first Indian reservation, the Pamunkey, which exists to this day. Members from the tribe, as well as the Mattaponi, gave tributes of the now endangered river otter skins that were highly prized by the English to the governor. The agreement is still honored and tribal members present deer and wild turkeys to the Governor's Mansion in Richmond annually, on the day before Thanksgiving.

Cockacoeske died around 1686. Her attempt to restore the paramount chiefdom failed as there was little cooperation with the other tribes. By maintaining her alliances with England, she made it possible for her people to survive.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Yorkshire “Dick Whittington” – Sir William Craven and the rise of the Craven Dynasty

Ashdown House Parterre
This week the hoydens are delighted to welcome back NICOLA CORNICK , USA Today best selling author with another installment in the Craven dynasty. Nicola has a close association with Ashdown House in Berkshire, the seat of the Craven family. 

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to attend a performance of The City Madam at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon. This satiric comedy, written in 1632, reflects on the consumer culture of the early 17th century. The story contrasts the city and the court, new money and old and it was of particular interest to me because it set in context the rise of Sir William Craven, founder of the Craven family fortunes, and father of the First Earl of Craven, Stuart supporter extraordinaire, who built Ashdown House. 

Philip Massinger, who wrote The City Madam, was the son of a provincial gentleman and a tradesman's daughter and was very familiar with the scramble up the social ladder in 17th century society. In scene two of the play Sir Maurice Lacy makes fun of the gentleman Mr Plenty with the following words: "Thy great-grandfather was a butcher, and his son a grazier; thy sire constable of the hundred and thou the first of thy dunghill created gentleman." He could almost have been talking about Sir William. 

The Craven family can be traced back to William Craven of Appletreewick in Yorkshire who in the mid sixteenth-century married a woman called Beatrix and had three sons, Henry, Anthony and William. There is little information about the social standing of William’s family at this time but it is known that William was born in one of two cottages that now form part of the church of St John the Baptist in Appletreewick. He attended a "Dames School" in nearby Burnsall, a place where basic education was provided to the children of poor working families before they themselves were old enough to go out to work. In 1560 William got his big chance when he was chosen to be the new apprentice to Robert Hulson, a Burnsall man who had become a merchant tailor in London.

After he became a member of the Merchant Tailors' Company in 1569, Craven went into business with Hulson and when Hulson died he left his former apprentice £5, “a mourninge gown and my shop at Breedstreete corner of Watling Street with the lytle shoppe and warehowse thereunto adjoining, for a terme of three years.” This bequest was made to William "for failthful and diligent service to me done." He had evidently been a loyal and industrious business partner.

After Hulson's death Craven expanded the business and became a Warden of the Merchant Tailors Company on 4th July 1594. He married late, in 1597, when he was already a man of substance and could look for a wife who was younger but was of equal wealth and social standing. Elizabeth Whitmore was the daughter of William Whitmore, another merchant tailor, and her brother George went on to be Lord Mayor of London. Elizabeth and William Craven had six children.

William was by now well on the way to making a fortune and moving up in the fluid social world of the late-16th century middle class. Opportunities provided by trade gave men such as Craven a route not merely to money but also to influential municipal connections. He was elected Alderman of the Bishopsgate Ward of London in 1600, became Sheriff of London in 1601, was knighted in 1603 and became Lord Mayor of London in 1610. He made his money in the wholesale of cloth for the domestic market, providing, for example, cloth worth almost £600 for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth I. Later on in his career he became a moneylender to the aristocracy, and his debtors included Sir Robert Cecil, the 2nd Earl of Essex and the 9th Earl of Northumberland. 

Craven was associated with a number of charitable projects in London and he also became a benefactor to the Yorkshire villages of Burnsall and Appletreewick. He paid for renovations to St Wilfrid's Church Burnsall in 1612, furnishing the main body of the church and the chancel with seats and "stalls of wainscot" and he walled the churchyard and had gates added. He paid for a bridge to be built over the River Wharf and had a causeway built from Appletreewick to the church. This was visible until the mid-20th century but is now buried. A rather charming verse was painted onto the church wall to record Craven's generosity:

This church of beauty most, repaired and bright,
Two hundred pouds or more, did cost Sir William Craven, knight,
Many other works of charity whereof no mention here;
True tokens of his bounty in this parish did appear.
His place of his nativity in Appletreewick is seen,
And late of London Lord City Mayor he hath been.

There is a second verse in a similar vein referring to "that bountiful knighte" and his generosity once again. The total sum Craven spent restoring the church and its grounds was about £600, the equivalent of about £80,000 today. Craven also built and endowed Burnsall Grammar School in 1605, giving £20 per annum to pay a schoolteacher and £10 for an usher (assistant schoolmaster). The scholars received free education in Latin and English but had to pay one shilling a week for tuition in Maths. The school statutes give a fascinating insight into both Sir William's benevolent paternalism and into the influence that the rest of the Craven family were already exerting in local affairs. All documents relating to the governance of the school were to be kept in a chest in the schoolhouse. The chest had three locks and the three keys were held by the Rector of Burnsall, 

Sir William and his relatives Robert and Antony Craven. The keys were handed down through the family and the statutes decreed that they should be held by "two men of the name of Craven from the Parish of Burnsall" for as long as there were Craven descendents in the parish.

The school was built on land given by Sir Stephen Tempest, the local squire. The Tempest family had been well-established in the Appletreewick area for three hundred years; it would be interesting to know how they felt about the re-appearance of the newly rich and knighted Sir William Craven in a county where they had always led society, especially as in 1601 Craven bought the manor house Elm Tree in Appletreeewick, which he re-named High Hall. It was situated opposite the cottage where he had been born. Again this seems a significant statement in Craven's rise to eminence.

When Sir William Craven died in 1618 he left a fortune of £125,000, the equivalent of £5.3 billion in today's values. He was however still very much a man of the upper middle classes, not the aristocracy. What happened next in the Craven family, though, was possibly even more interesting in terms of upward mobility. In his will Craven specified that his wife (for obvious reasons now one of the most sought-after widows in London!) should invest some of his billions in land. This she did, buying Combe Abbey in Warwickshire, Ashdown in Berkshire and Stokesay in Shropshire, amongst many others. This had strong social as well as financial implications. Craven was posthumously moving his fortune and his family's social positioning from the middle to the upper class.

William Craven, 1st Earl
A look at the Craven family tree serves to demonstrate the influence that one success can have on future generations. Sir William Craven's eldest son William went on to become the first Earl of Craven, a notable soldier and friend of Charles II and prince Rupert of the Rhine. His second son John became Baron Craven of Ryton and married the daughter of the 2nd Baron Spencer. One of his cousins became Master of the Horse to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia and another became her usher. His daughter Mary married Thomas, 2nd Baron Coventry. His other daughter Elizabeth married Sir Percy Herbert who succeeded to the title of Baron Powis.

 Several other Craven nephews and cousins were knighted and married into the aristocracy. Perhaps the most interesting early descendent is Mary Craven who became Lady Andros. As a result of her connection to the first Earl of Craven she gained a place at the court of King Charles II and went on to marry Sir Edmund Andros, gentleman in waiting to Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia and later one of the early colonial governors of America. Mary died in Boston in 1688. It was a long way from Appletreewick in Yorkshire, and a graphic illustration of how high the Craven family had risen on the coattails of one man.