Stewart Trotter and Karen Little gave this talk to a packed audience talk in front of the Southampton Family ‘Tomb’ at St. Peter’s Church, Titchfield, on Saturday, 22nd October and Sunday 23rd October.
Beautiful as it is, there’s a lot that’s strange about this tomb.
For a start it is not a tomb – it’s a memorial. The bodies are in a sealed crypt below – preserved, it is said, in the purest honey.
It has a woman taking complete precedence above two men…..
– one of them to her right wearing the Order of the Garter – the highest honour a man could achieve at the time –
….and the other to her left, resplendent with curly hair, moustache……
…. and gilded, polished armour.
Admittedly the woman wears a golden coronet and a scarlet robe of state lined with ermine.
Elizabethan women were notorious for the power they wielded – not least of all Queen Elizabeth herself….
But most women were happy to exercise their influence under their husband’s name and title. Few – apart from the Queen – would expect this elevation over men in death….
So what was going on? All three people, locked in eternal prayer, seem utterly at peace. But peace was the last thing they were at when they were alive.
This is one of the most dysfunctional, vindictive, spiteful, warring families that has ever lived.
So who were they?
The good thing about this memorial is that carved on it you get a potted life of each of the protagonists….
Let’s start with the gentleman on the lady’s right…..
Here lieth the body of the Rt. Honourable Sr. Thomas Wryothesley, son of William Wryothesley, Esquire…..
And we are immediately into problems.
How do you pronounce the surname?
Is it ‘Risley’ as one member of the family signed his name?
Is it ‘Wryothesly’ as on the memorial?
Or is it – as the Titchfield Parish Register has it – ‘Ryosely’?
I would suggest that it’s all three!
The Risley-Wriothesley-Ryoselies started off as plain old…
…..but one of them became Garter King of Arms and it went to his head.
As the family got richer, more powerful and more aristocratic their surname got longer, more elaborate and more preposterous…
But back to Sir Thomas….
…….who for his virtue and worthiness was created knight of the honourable order of the garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton: Chancellor of England and one of the honourable Privy Council unto King Henry the 8 and King Edward the 6 and one of the especially chosen and trusted executors of the Last Will and Testament of King Henry the 8……
What the memorial doesn’t tell you is that Thomas was a civilised brute with a taste for racking women. He was driven by a lust for power and became Henry VIII’s right hand man…..
– happy to smash up the sacred shrine of St. Swithin at a nod from the king.
The sculptor of the memorial has flattered him……
In real life he was so fat neither the Abbots of Titchfield or Beaulieu could find a horse strong enough to carry him.
But it was not always thus….he was once a handsome young undergraduate at Cambridge with a fondness for amateur theatricals. His friend John Leland described how….
Your beauty so shone upon your brow, your head of golden hair so glistened , the light of your keen mind was so effulgent, and your winning virtue so adorned you, that, one amongst many, you were seen to be a pattern for all.
As a reward for his services, Henry created Thomas Baron of Titchfield in 1544……
…. and gave him Titchfield Abbey – once a glorious gateway to Europe but by then completely run down with a handful of disillusioned monks and an Abott who was happy to be pensioned off.
Thomas turned it into…..
…a right stately house….
……and horrified his wife, Lady Jane, a devout Roman Catholic, when he told her he planned to convert the Abbey Chapel into a master bedroom.
She is the woman who lies on the upper, central slab of marble….
…….the right honourable Lady Jane, Countess of Southampton, Daughter of William Chenie of Chessamboyes in the County of Buckingham, Esq. wife unto the right honourable Sir Thomas Wryothesley Knight of the most honourable Order of the Garter, Baron of Titchfield, Earl of Southampton and Lord Chancellor of England….
Jane was placated when Thomas promised to turn the Chapter House of the Abbey into a private Chapel for her…
Jane was full of fun, highly literate and got on famously with the Titchfield farmers and their wives.
She had her own copy of the Works of Chaucer – in which she wrote her name ‘Jane Southampton’ several times – and was reported as being…
…….as merry as can be with Christmas plays and masques…..
But, like her husband, she had a will of iron…..
After the death of Henry VIII, Thomas carried the Sword of State at the coronation of the boy-King Edward VI……
….semaphoring his intention to take over the running of England.
Other people had the same idea.
On the instructions of King Henry’s will, Thomas was created Earl of Southampton in 1647 – but in a coup he was sacked as Lord Chancellor a month later.
Bereft of power, he languished and died three years later at the age of 45 in 1550 – though the memorial puts the date at 1551.
Don’t believe all you read on tombstones…
Jane was left in charge of his estates, his five daughters and his five year old son, Henry, the new Second Earl of Southampton, who lies in armour to Jane’s left….
King Edward introduced compulsory Protestantism to England – but Jane defied him by bringing up her children as strict Roman Catholics.
Edward visited Jane at Titchfield in person in 1552 – so all the candles, rosaries and statues in her private chapel must have been hurriedly packed away.
But then Catholic Mary Tudor – ‘Bloody Mary’ – became Queen of England…..
….and out they came again.
Jane was one of the first people in England to ride in a carriage – introduced from Europe for the first time – in Mary’s Coronation Procession.
But five years later Protestant Elizabeth came to the throne…..
…..so they all went back into the cupboard.
Jane hid her teenage son Henry away from the Court but in 1564 the Privy Council ordered them both to attend the Queen’s Christmas celebrations at Richmond.
Henry wasn’t entirely under his mother’s thumb. He fell in love with the beautiful, vivacious, Mary Browne……
…..daughter of Anthony Browne, Viscount Montague…….
…..one of the country’s leading Catholics.
When Henry was twenty and Mary was thirteen, he married her in her father’s house in London.
Mother Jane did not approve – and time was to prove her right.
On religion and politics, the couple were at one.
Both, like their families, were committed recusants who harboured Catholic priests and plotted to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
Henry was even imprisoned in the Tower of London from October 1571 to May 1573.
Mary must have had visiting rights: her son Harry was born 6th October 1573…..
He and his older sister, Mary, were the only children the couple had.
It was their private life that was the problem. Three years after Lady Jane’s death in 1574, Mary was seen with a man called Donesome….
…a common person…
Henry went wild with jealousy and forbad his wife to see him.
However, three years later Mary was spotted again with Donsome at Dogmersfield – a new stately home that Henry was building – by Henry’s sinister Gentleman of the Bedchamber, one Thomas Dymmock…
Henry banished Mary from his presence and denied her all access to Harry. But before he could snatch the boy away from her, she gave her six year old son a letter for her husband to read….
But as she explained in a heart-breaking post-script in a letter to her father, Lord Montague….
….his heart was too great to bestow the reading of it, coming from me. Yet will I do my part so long as I am with him, but good my lord, procure so soon as conveniently you may, some end to this misery for I am tired with this life.
In the same letter to her father she predicted that Henry….
….will mix up old matters, repented and forgotten long since…..
….he may blame me of folly, but never justly condemn me of a fault….
Henry believed otherwise – and it led to war between the House of Southampton and the House of Montague: just like in Romeo and Juliet, their servants fought with each other in the streets….
Henry, according to Mary, turned…
….his manservant into his wife….
…and, according to Gervase Markham, surrounded young Harry with…..
a whole troop of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen and tall good fellows that kept a constant pace.
Mary observed grimly…..
This house is not for them who will not honour Dymmock as a God.
But soon an event was to take place that would eclipse all these domestic squabbles – the arrival in England of the Jesuit missionary priest, Edmund Campion….
Campion provides the first link between William Shakespeare and the Southampton family….
Many scholars now believe that the teenage Shakespeare was at Hoghton Hall in Lancashire when Campion visited the old Catholic family there.
Henry – via Dymmock – also tried to arrange a meeting with Campion. But Campion was arrested and racked so violently he lost the use of his arm. In his agony he named names – and Henry’s was one of them.
The same day Henry was arrested and taken to the Tower.
The Privy Council resolved to ‘examine’ him…..
…..what Jesuits or Priests he had known, where they have been harboured, and by whom relieved, what letters or messages he hath received or sent unto them, and where they remain.
Whether they tortured Henry the way they had tortured Campion we do not know.
What we do know is that, two months later, he was dead at the age of 36.
He had written his will just before he arranged to meet Campion – so he must have known his life was in danger.
In it he leaves nothing to his wife, but £2,000 to his daughter Mary – the equivalent of £1million pounds today – on condition she is brought up by one of Henry’s sisters or aunts and is never ‘in house’ with her mother.
He gives Dymmock custody of his son Harry, charge of his stately home at Dogmersfield and income from rents of £1,000 [£500,000] a year.
But what is of particular interest to us is the clause in the will about St. Peter’s…
I bequest my body to be buried in the parish church of Titchell, county Southampton, where my mother lies interred; which chapel I will and direct to be new altered and finished by my executors within five years after my decease [i.e. 1586] in form and following, that is to say – New side windows of stone to be made, the roof plastered with pendants being set full of my arms and all the walls plastered like my house at Dogmersfield and the same fair paved and divided with iron grate from the church.
Also two fair monuments there to be made, the one for my lord my father (whose body I would have thither to be brought and there buried) and my lady my mother : the other for me, with portraitures of white alabaster or such like upon the said monuments; and I will to be bestowed thereupon one thousand pound[£500,000] alms by my foresaid executors. And I will such funeral charges and obsequies to be done and bestowed upon my said burial as shall seem meet and convenient to my executors for mine estate and degree, so that the same exceed not a thousand pounds. And I will to be given 100 marks [£30,000] at the time of my burial in charitable according to the executors’ discretion. Also to the needy poor within my several lordships the sum of £200 [£100,000] to pray for the good estate of my soul, the souls of my ancestors and all Christian souls. Also for the same purpose £3 [£1,500] to every Almshouse in the City of London and County of Southampton.
Henry is leaving an extraordinary amount of money for the poor to do something which by Queen Elizabeth’s reign was illegal – pray for the souls of the dead.
Calvinists believed that a soul was either in heaven or hell – and there was nothing people on earth could do about it.
Henry asks for a joint monument for his mother and father and a single one for himself.
This was to serve one purpose only: to humiliate his wife….
His solitary statue of white alabaster would be an eternal reminder to the world of Mary’s infidelity.
Mary was having none of it.
She pulled aristocratic strings and overturned her husband’s will.
Her eight year old son Harry – whom she had not seen for two years – and her daughter Mary were returned to her by order of Queen Elizabeth and her husband’s estate placed in her hands till Harry came of age…
As for the two monuments and chapel alterations…..
She quietly forgot about them…
Fast forward eight years to 1590…..
Harry has become a Ward of Court and his guardian Lord Burghley…..
…… wants sixteen year old Harry to marry his grand-daughter, Elizabeth de Vere….
……otherwise the Southampton family will have to pay an enormous £5,000 fine – the equivalent today of £2 and half million….
Harry however, has imbibed his father’s hatred and suspicion of women….
Enter William Shakespeare…..
The Armada in 1588 had not been kind to the acting profession….
Performers and writers had been viewed as unpatriotic and unmanly – and their costumes had been ripped from their backs to provide clothing for soldiers and sailors – the ‘real men.’
Christopher Marlowe had gone to work for Bess of Hardwick, Thomas Kyd for the Earl of Sussex at Portsmouth and William Shakespeare – as I argued in my 2002 book, Love’s Labour’s Found…..
…….and subsequent blog The Shakespeare Code – for the Southampton family in Titchfield.
Not only was Shakespeare part of the recusant network – he came from a committed Catholic family on both sides – his mother Mary Arden was also distantly related to Lady Mary.
She commissioned Shakespeare to write seventeen sonnets for Harry’s seventeenth birthday – to convince him of the joys of heterosexual love and fatherhood….
Shakespeare in the poems refers to Harry’s dead father, Henry….
You had a father, let your son say so
….and to his living, beautiful mother, Mary….
Thou art thy mother’s glass and she is thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime…
Shakespeare also refers to Harry as…
…with the word ‘rose’ italicised and the ‘R’ made a capital.
…a reference both to the Southampton rose (which can be seen in abundance in the arches of the memorial)
….and to the way Harry by then was pronouncing his surname…..
Cut now to 1594…..
That was the year Harry was to came of age – on October 6th…
Mary’s fear was that Harry – who had never liked her – would banish her to some remote dower house.
She also worried that Harry might activate his father’s desire for two memorials in the Church.
So Mary, as usual, took extraordinary action…..
(To read Part Two click: HERE )