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Lady Margaret by E.M.G. Routh (pub. 1924)

 

VII

COURT LIFE

1487-1489


SOON after this the peaceful course of events was interrupted by one of the insurrections which disturbed the first part of Henry's reign, and the rebellion planned by the various malcontents who put forward the boy Lambert Simnel as Pretender to the Throne came to a head in Ireland.

The Irish, although not very clear whether the claimant was supposed to be one of Edward VI's [note: should be Edward IV] sons (who had been murdered) or the Duke of Clarence's son (who was in the Tower) nevertheless crowned him King of England in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, with great enthusiasm, and a number of Irishmen, with some Germans, invaded England to try to put him on the throne.

The King was in the Midlands when news of the rising reached him, and he wrote the following letter to the Earl of Ormond, from Kenilworth. [1]

'By the King.

'Right trusty and right well-beloved cousin, we greet you well, and have tidings that our rebels landed the fifth day of this month in our land of Ireland. Wherefore, and for as much as we have sent for our dearest wife and for our dearest mother to conle unto us, and that we would have your advice and counsel also in such matters as we have to do for the subduing of our said rebels, we pray you that, giving your due attendance upon our said dearest wife and lady mother, you come with them unto us; not failing hereof as you purpose to do us pleasure. Given under our signet at our Castle of Kenilworth the 13th day of May.

'To our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin the Earl of Ormond, chamberlain to our dearest wife the Queen.'

The two ladies probably stayed at Kenilworth while Henry, who was not at all a bad soldier, went to defeat the rebels at the Battle of Stoke, with the help of 'a great host of the Earl of Derby's folks'.

At this battle was killed the Earl of Lincoln, who was acknowledged as heir to the throne by Richard III, and who was disappointed of his hopes by Henry's accession. After his death some of his estates in Essex were granted to Lady Margaret by the King. His father, John, Duke of Suffolk, remained loyal, but the younger de la Poles gave a good deal of trouble by conspiring against Henry VII with their aunt Margaret of Burgundy, who could always be relied upon to oppose the House of Lancaster.

In the late autumn of that year, the rebellion having been crushed, the royal family was again united at Greenwich, and 'the Quene's grace and my Lady the King's Moder with other dyvers Ladies and great astates in ther Company' went up to London to see the 'faire and goodly sight' of the King making a triumphal progress to St. Paul's. The streets and windows as he passed were 'hogely replenyshede with People in passing great Nomber'. The royal ladies were 'secretly in an Hous besids Seint Mary Spetell without Bishops Gate', where apparently they became tired of waiting, for the account abruptly concludes: 'when the Sight was passede theyme, they went from theyns to Grenewiche to ther Bedds'. [2]

By this time Henry felt he could safely satisfy the wishes of his people by arranging for the coronation of the Queen. She came to London from Greenwich by water, accompanied as usual by Lady Margaret, and the City craftsmen turned out in force to welcome them, in barges gaily decorated, and 'with Baners and Stremers of Silk richely besene'. The gayest of all was The Bachelors' Barge, which displayed 'a great red Dragon spowting Flamys of Fyer into Temmys', and there were 'many other gentilmanly Pajants wele and curiously devysed to do her Highnesse Sport and Pleasure with' -- yet it was not in summer, but late November.

The next day Lady Margaret watched her daughter in-law start from the Tower on a royal progress through London; the Queen's fair beauty was set off by a wonderful gown and mantle of white and gold and ermine; her 'faire yelow Hair' hung loose, and she wore a little cap of gold network surmounted by a circlet of gold and gems.

On the following day, for the ceremony of coronation, the Queen wore purple velvet and ermine, and her train was carried by her sister, pretty Princess Cecil -- 'less fortunate than fair' -- who married John, Viscount Welles, Lady Margaret's half brother, a man much older than his bride.

The Earl of Derby, as Lord IIigh Constable, rode in the Queen's procession 'in a rich gown furred with sables and a marvellous rich chain of gold many folds about his neck', and Jasper, Duke of Bedford, was there too, his saddle-cloth embroidered with red roses and red dragons, with a border of gold.

The King and his mother saw the splendid sight of the coronation from a 'goodly stage' set up in the Abbey and screened with a lattice, and they watched the banquet that followed in Westminster Hall in the same unexplained and retiring manner. Perhaps they felt that this was the Queen's day, and that all honours should be hers alone. The feast concluded with music and trumpets 'and so the Queen departed with God's blessing and to the rejoicing of many a true English man's heart'. [3]

Christmas and New Year's day after the coronation were kept with great ceremony by the Court, and there were plays, 'disguisings', dances and music; on Twelfth Night the King and Queen went in state to evensong, wearing crowns, and Lady Margaret was with them, in a mantle and surcoat like the Queen's, with 'a rich corownall on her hede'.

The Court spent Easter at Windsor, and at Matins on the Feast of Saint George the two royal ladies wore gowns of the Garter like those of the knights of the Order. On the following Sunday they went in state to evensong again, 'riding in a rich chair' which was covered with cloth of gold and drawn by six horses; they were followed by twenty-one ladies dressed in crimson velvet, who rode on 'white Palfereys' with gold harness decorated with white roses. At this time the King gave a 'great and noble feast' at Windsor, at which were present the archbishops and many foreign ambassadors. Whitsuntide and All Hallowtide were spent there too, and all that summer the King 'hunted and sported him merrily'. On a very foggy morning in November they all went up to London, to St. Paul's, to see the presentation of a sword and cap of maintenance sent for Henry VII by the Pope.

In November 1489 the Countess of Richmond became godmother to her eldest granddaughter, Margaret, the future Queen of Scots, and gave her the practical present of a chest of silver and gilt full of gold pieces, which was carried by Lord Welles at the christening. The silver font at Canterbury was sent expressly for the occasion and Lady Margaret perhaps wore one of the dresses which the King gave her about that time, one of 'fine white blanket' and one of 'sanguine cloth in grain', both furred with 'pure menever, gross menever and byse'.

Little Margaret was a great favourite with her godmother, who as a token of affection left her in her will 'a gyrdell of gold conteyning xxix linkes, with a grete pomaunder at oon ende, ponder: xviii unces iii quarters'.

The royal Christmas party assembled at Westminster after the christening, but 'at that season ther wer the Meazellis soo strong' that they all left London and went by Thames to Greenwich until after Twelfth Day, and because of the epidemic they had no disguisings and but few plays, though an 'Abbot of Misrule' made much sport.

In all these festivities Lady Margaret seems to have been a benevolent spectator of the amusements of her son's family, whom she 'loved right tenderly'. The following letter (which contains her only recorded joke) has been more than once quoted as an indication of the happy feeling that existed. The original spelling is remarkable; the 'glovys' she says 'wer to myche for my hand '.

It was written to the Earl of Ormond, the Queen's chamberlain, who was at that time in France. [4]

'My Lord Chamberlain,

'I thank you heartily that you list so soon remember me with my gloves, the which were right good save they were too much for my hand. I think the ladies in that part be great ladies all, and according to their great estate, they have great person ages. As for news here, I am sure you shall have more surety than I can send you. Blessed be God, the King, the Queen, and all our sweet children be in good health; the Queen hath been a little crazed [5] but now she is well, God be thanked. Her sickness is [not] so good as I would, but I trust hastily it shall, with God's Grace, whom I pray give you great speed in your great matters and bring you well and soon home.

'Written at Sheen the 25th day of April.

M. Rychemond.

'To my Lord the Queen's Chamberlain.'

Another of Henry VII's children was Lady Margaret's godchild; she held him at the font and he was called, probably by her wish, Edmund, Duke of Somerset, after his grandfather and great-grand father. He died in early childhood.

Perhaps her favourite grandchild, after Margaret, was the 'faire suet' little boy who became Henry VIII. His grandmother went to London from Sheen when he was knighted and created Duke of York, at the age of three. The royal children were not kept at all in the background on state occasions, and at the tournament which followed, little Margaret, then five years old, presented the prizes, giving a gold ring set with a diamond, ruby or emerald to each of the victors, 'by thavys of the kyng, the quene, my ladie the kyngis moder and of all the ladies'. [6]