Friday 30 November 2012

Devised by Burghley

One person stands at the centre of all the conspiracies that sought to thwart, depose or kill Mary, Queen of Scots, from the time that she was betrothed to the Dauphin in France; he is William Cecil, the first minister of Elizabeth Tudor, 1520 - 1598. 
During its history England has produced some fairly nasty people, but the person of William Cecil is particularly hard to swallow as one of our forebears. It was he who from the outset conived and conspired to force the downfall of the Scottish Queen and whose 'skill' at manouvering the English State to execute her, caused shock and scandal throughout Europe and precipitated the whole episode of the Spanish Armada. Many, throughout Europe, still placed their hopes in Elizabeth Tudor, that she would ultimately show herself to be an honourable and Christian ruler, but the execution of Mary Stuart destoyed those hopes.
William Cecil masterminded the reconstruction of the English State, together with a whole mindset, as an alternative to truth. He manipulated truth and freedom in such a way that his alternative approach to reality controlled government, public information and individual conscience. The penalty for standing against him was death, imprisonment and loss of all possessions and rights, for men, women and even for young children. It is hard not to think of Hitler and Stalin when you think of Cecil!
Cecil was the architect of a State that was, in its day, an early and extremely agressive form of the Enlightenment, pushing God and truth to the margins and establishing human endeavour as the pivot. It is not surpising that England, with him at the helm manipulating God's plan and laws according to his design, became separated from the great movement of the Church in the world. In such a context, many, including Mary Stuart were merely pawns.
However, since her death Mary Stuart has been shown much honour by each successive generation; it is as though we instinctively recognise her dignity as well her naivity. And much more, we honour and celebrate all those beatified and canonised martyrs, who are such a witness for us today and who help us to see the real vision of life and the call to be part in it: God's Kingdom.  

Thursday 29 November 2012

Final journey

On 21st September 1586 Mary, Queen of Scots was taken from Chartley Manor to Fotheringhay Castle near Peterborough, a site chosen by the Privy Council for its strength as a fortress, its remoteness in middle-England, and its relative closeness to London. At that time Fothering Castle was owned by Elizabeth Tudor.
The journey took four days. The party stopped first at the old Abbot's House just outside Abbot's Bromley at Hall Hill. Presently, Manor House Farm stands on the site of this former monastic residence. Then moving east, the party stopped at the Earl of Huntingdon's House in Leicester. The last part of this fortified manor was demolished in 1902. Finally, the party arrived at Fotheringhay Castle on 25th September 1586. The Queen was installed in the first floor apartments of the State Appartments of the Castle, overlooking its Great Hall.
The trial took place on 15th October 1586. (St Teresa of Avila, whose feast day it would become, had been dead for just over four years.)
On 25th October 1586 a verdict of Guilty was delivered in London. (The day which would become the feast of the Forty Martyrs.)
On 1st February 1587 Elizabeth Tudor signed the Death Warrant for Mary Stuart.
On 7th February Mary Stuart was informd that she was to die the next day.
On 8th February 1587 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland and Dowager Queen of France, was judicially murdered, publicly executed, in the Great Hall of the Castle, sometime shortly after 8am. (This day is now the feast of St Josephine Bakhita and my birthday.)
Fortheringhay Castle fell into disuse immediately after the execution and was finally demolished in the 1630s. The site (photo above) is a now a scheduled monument and is open to the public. It was not a large Castle and nothing of its fabric and moats now remain (except a small piece of the curtain wall which was left in place and surmounted by memorial plaques to Mary, and to Richard III who was born there).

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The trap is sprung

When, in the summer of 1586, members of the Privy Council knew that they had lured the Scottish Queen into their conspiracy, they sprung the trap. Mary was unceremoniously bundled out of Chartley Manor temporarily so that her rooms, possessions and papers could be searched.
From 11th - 25th August 1586 she stayed at Tixall Hall. Tixall is about ten miles west of Chartley, just east of Stafford. Edward Aston, a committed Protestant, had built Tixall Hall in 1555. In the 1700s the Hall was demolished with the intention of rebuilding it. When this was eventually done in the late 1700s the new build was itself demolished in 1928. The original Gatehouse - which still remains - was built in 1580 by another member of the Aston family. The drawing above shows Tixall Hall and the Gatehouse as it was in the mid 1600s. The house is as it was when Mary lodged there; the Gatehouse did not exist in Mary's era.
On 25th August 1586 Mary was moved back to Chartley Manor.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

The clouds gather

On Christmas Eve 1585 Mary, Queen of Scots was installed in Chartley Manor. She would remain here, undisturbed, until the summer of 1586.
Chartley Manor was the home of the Ferrers family who had been the local Barons since the early Middle Ages. Their castle on the hill, overlooking the village of Stowe-by-Chartley, had been abandoned in the late 1400s when the family built a moated manor house close by.
The first image above shows Chartley Manor as it would have been when Mary Stuart was lodged there. The second picture is of the remnants of the castle today seen from the road. The Manor stood to the left of this photograph on ground below the castle. The Manor was destroyed by fire in 1781 and nothing at all, except evidence of the former moat, remains. A new Manor was built on a new site nearby; this in turn was destroyed by fire and the Manor that now stands there was built in the late 1800s.
The image of Chartley Manor as was, shows that it would have been a much more cosy and hospitable house than Tutbury Castle could ever have been. Indeed, it looks like a little gem, and it is a great shame that nothing of it now remains. It was while Mary was at Chartley that members of the English Priviy Council brought their plotting against her to a head. The plot which they devised would incorporate Anthony Babington and ensure his death, and also bring to a conclusion their plan for Mary Stuart.

Monday 26 November 2012

To Tutbury again

On 13th January 1585 Mary Stuart was moved from Wingfield to Tutbury in Staffordshire, her fourth and final period of confinement there. The party stopped overnight between Wingfield and Tutbury in Derby, but I have been unable to identify the house in which the Queen was lodged for the night.
The drawing above was made before Tutbury Castle was mostly demolished after the Civil War. Sir Ralph Sadler had instructions to keep her confined within the castle but within a few months had relaxed and the Queen was riding and hawking outside the castle again. So, in April 1585 Sir Ralph was relieved of his duties and Sir Amyas Paulet took over the custody of Mary Stuart. She was now confined strictly within this unpleasant and smelly castle.
Mary's health detriorated throughout the Autumn of 1585 and the decision was finally made in late December for her to move to a better place of lodging. So, on Christmas Eve the Queen, her small retinue and her guards left Tutbury Castle and rode west towards a more salubrious house.

Eleven more years

After her two and a half year stay at Sheffield Castle, Mary Stuart was, for the next eleven years, moved around some of the other houses of the Earl of Shrewsbury. First to Sheffield Manor, then to Buxton, where she stayed in Buxton Old Hall on three occasions. This house no longer stands but the site is occupied today by the "Old Hall Hotel".  She would also return to Sheffield Castle, and on four occasions to Chatsworth Hall. Mary was at Sheffield Castle when the Battle of Lepanto took place, 7th October 1571. She would have been at Chatsworth when St Edmund Campion and his companions were executed, 1st December 1581.
She also stayed once at Worksop Manor, pictured above as it would have been a century later. George Talbot had built this house but it was burnt down in 1761.
In the summer of 1584 she was moved back to Sheffield Castle for the last time. It was at this time that the Priviy Council decided to change her custodian from the hospitable Geroge Talbot to the more strict governance of Ralph Sadler, someone who was more sychophantic of the Elizabethan regime.
On 2nd September 1584 Mary was taken to Wingfield for the last time, her new custodian having received instructions to hold her more securely again in Tutbury Castle. 

Sunday 25 November 2012

Another of the Earl's castles

Mary was at Tutbury in February 1570 when the Holy Father, Pope St Pius V, excomunicated Elizabeth Tudor with his Bull Regnans in Excelsis. In May 1570 Mary was ill again and was moved out of draughty Tutbury and into the more comfortable Chatsworth. She was here in July of that year when the same Holy Father signed another Bull, Quo Primum, which canonised that form of the Roman Liturgy which we know as the Tridentine Liturgy. And in November 1570 she was moved to Sheffield Castle; this was to be her home for over two years. (Above is an artist's impression of what this formidable castle would have looked like in the Middle Ages.)
The Earl of Shrewsbury also had a hunting lodge about two miles south east of the castle; the ruins of this Manor are still evident in the housing estate in Sheffield which bears its name (The Manor). Mary was allowed to hunt and lodge in this house from time to time. The castle itself was utterly demolished after the Civil War and the site, once a garden, has been built on. You can find the site at Grid reference SE358877.
If England still had all of its castles and monasteries, which were so numerous, its landscape would be today like a Fairytale landscape; richly adorned with turrets, spires, fantastic stone tracery and stained glass windows. Such a landscape would have been today a wonder of the world! Sadly two men, Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell, destroyed this unique and beautiful national heritage.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Sudden move south

When some of the northern Earls, led by Blessed Thomas Percy, established the celebration of Mass again in Durham Cathedral in the Autumn of 1569, Elizabeth Tudor and her Privy Council were thrown into paroxysms of neurosis. Mary Stuart had to be moved further south so that these northern Catholics would not include her in their enterprise - The Northern Rising.
In November 1569 Mary was moved to Coventry Castle in Warwickshire. Her party stopped overnight in the castle at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and then passed south to Coventry. Coventry Castle started as a Norman Motte and Bailey structure. This was demolished towards the end of the 1100s but then substantially rebuilt. Mary Stuart was lodged both in the castle itself and in a house near the castle. She would almost certainly have known the great Hall (photo above) which became the Guildhall of Coventry. Later alterations, not least by Parliament after the Civil war, and then the bombing by Hitler's Luftwaffe in 1942, have destroyed all but one small tower of the castle. It is not thought that the Scottish Queen actaully lodged in this tower, which can still be seen. Mary remained in Coventry until 2nd January 1570, when she returned to Tutbury for the third time.

Assorted estates

George Talbot, the earl of Shrewsbury and Mary Stuart's custodian, owned a number of castles and estates in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. So, when the Queen and her retinue needed their accomodation to be cleaned, or if she was ill, the Earl had a number of places in which she could be lodged.
On 20th April 1569 Mary arrived again at Wingfield Manor from Tutbury and stayed for six months. However, in May she was ill and was brought to Chatsworth House (photo below). She stayed here from 15th May till 1st June 1569 when she returned again to Wingfield.
The Chatsworth that Mary knew is not as it is today; the earlier Elizabethan House was remodelled two centuries later by the Duke of Devonshire, although the inner court today has remnants of its earlier Elizabethan fabric. In Autumn 1569 Mary again returned to Tutbury. 

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Trapped in a plot

On 3rd February 1569 Mary Stuart arrived at Tutbury Castle; this was to be her prison, during four extended visits, until Christmas 1585.
She disliked the castle because it was cold and draughty. When I was there recently, although the castle occupies a prominant site overlooking the Derbyshire and Staffordshire countryside for miles in each direction, with magnificent views,  I could see that it would have been exposed to whatever the weather chose to deliver.
The castle would have been a formidable fortress in its day. However, it was remodelled by Charles I in the 1630s when huge classical windows were set into the curitain wall. As a consequence the castle suffered terrible damage in the Civil War when it was besieged by Parlimentarian armies. It suffered further demolishion when the War ended.
The site of the Queen's lodgings is marked; these were discovered when the inner bailey of the castle underwent a historical dig. These lodgings would have been a timber-framed house which was set against the inside of a part of the curtain wall.
Mary Stuart was Catholic and, having been the subject of English State plots from her earliest years, was now totally at the mercy of those plotters. Elizabeth Tudor and her agents were desperately setting up that particular form of the Enlightenment which is the Church of England, as a defensive cultural entity to protect the English State from Catholic truth. Curiously, having become a formalistic culture within the English State, we see today the same Church of England wrestling with its own self-focussed, self-embattled, agenda.
Many in England and beyond knew that Mary Stuart should be free and they placed their hope in the expectation that her confinement would only be temporary. I don't think that anyone then could see just how deeply this form of the Enlightenment was being entered into and forced upon the English, and the hopes of many were vain hopes.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

To the centre

On 26th January 1569 Mary was taken from Bolton Castle to be placed in the custody of George Talbot the Earl of Shrewsbury whose estates and houses were in the centre of the country. His principal stronghold was Tutbury Castle near Burton-upon-Trent. This castle was chosen as her next prison since, in south Derbyshire, she would be much further away from the Scottish border, further away from the northern pro-Catholic nobles, and yet still well out of the reach of a French rescue party.
After leaving Bolton Castle she was lodged overnight in Ripon, North Yorkshire, at the Thorpe Prebend House. This house was totally rebuilt in 1609 so we cannot now see the house as it was during Mary's visit.
Following this she lodged, en route, at Pontefract Castle, the principal castle of the north, which was mostly demolished by Parliament after the Civil War. She also stayed at Sheffield Castle, which was totally demolished after the Civil War. Then, moving south see lodged at Walton Hall, south of Chesterfield, on 1st February 1569. This house, which had been the home of the Foljambre family, was rebuilt at the beginning of the 1800s and again we cannot return to the house which Mary visited.
The next morning the party again moved south and stopped for the night, 2nd February 1569, at another of the Earl of Shrewsbury's houses - South Wingfield Manor.
This image made in the early 1800s gives us an idea of what Wingfield would have looked like in the sixteenth century. The Manor is now a ruin but one which these postings will return to, along with Sheffield Castle.
And so, on 3rd February 1569, Mary Stuart arrived at Tutbury Castle and was greeted by the Earl of Shrewsbury, who was to be her Warden for the next fifteen years.

Monday 19 November 2012

Her Wensleydale sojourn

After stopping at Lowther Castle and then Wharton Hall in July 1568, Mary Stuart arrived at Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire. She would stay here for six months until 26th January 1569. Bolton Castle was chosen because it was the Castle of Henry Lord Scrope, who was the senior English official in the north at that time. At that time, Bolton Castle was one of the most comfortable castles in England; it had a primitive central heating system and the Scottish Queen was shown great hospitality by Lord Scrope's wife. I understand that Mary Stuart's stay is the most important event to have taken place at the Castle.

Saturday 17 November 2012

On route to Yorkshire

On 15th July 1568 Mary Stuart was taken from Carlisle Castle; she was to be installed in Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire. It was thought that Carlisle Castle was too near the Scots' border for comfort. Bolton Castle is some distance away in Wensleydale so, the Queen of Scots was lodged briefly at Lowther Castle (photo above). Lowther Castle in east Cumbria, was the home of the Lowther family, the Earls of Lonsdale.
After a stay of perhaps one night the journey was resumed. The Queen and her party of guardians then stopped at Wharton Hall (photo below). This Hall, the home of the Wharton family, is further south near the town of Kirby Stephen. The fortifications of the Hall were developed in 1544 since the Hall had been beseiged by pilgrims in the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace.
Again, after a short stay the party, with the captive Queen, made its way into Yorkshire.

Friday 16 November 2012

A history of imprisonment

For almost nineteen years Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, was imprisoned in various places in England by her cousin, Elizabeth Tudor. Indeed, Elizabeth had systematically plotted against Mary Stuart from the time that Elizabeth had become Queen of England; these plots were finally to extinguish the life of Mary Stuart in her judicial murder on 8th February 1587.
The Queen of Scotland fled her realm and arrived in England at Workington on the Lake District coast on 16th May 1568. Two days later she was taken, under the authourity of Elizabeth Tudor to Carlisle Castle (photo above) in Cumbria. Here she would remain for two months before being brought further south into England and away from the Scots border.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Blessed Robert Sutton

I was in the town of Stafford recently and went to find the site of the ancient gallows. It was here that Fr Robert Sutton suffered in 1588.
The site (photo above) is on the Sandon Road north of the town where it crosses the Sandyford Beck (Grid ref. SJ923243). The site is now built up and there is no sign (as far as I could see) commemorating the site of the gallows. 
And so, while Elizabeth Tudor and her sychophants were trying to establish the conditions by which the people of England might be saved, Fr Robert Sutton allowed Christ to demonstrate His love for England and its people, through his self-giving death. Robert Sutton was hung, drwn and quartered here on 27th July 1588. He had been held in Stafford gaol (further down the Sandon Road, opposite the contemporary gaol).
Robert Sutton was born in Burton-on-Trent and became an Anglican minister at Lutterworth. However, he became convicted of the Truth and told his parishioners from the pulpit that he had been teaching them false doctrine for five and a half years, and he asked them to embrace the Catholic Faith. He left England and went to Douai where he was eventually ordained priest in March 1578. Finally, in July 1588 he was arrested in a Catholic house in Stafford and condemned for his priesthood.
It is written of him that the night before he died his gaolers witnessed him deep in prayre and surrounded by a mysterious light. And also that when his quarters were taken down from the public view almost a year after his execution, that the finger and thumb of one hand (and which had held the sacred host) were not in any way corrupted.
Fr Robert Sutton was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 22nd November 1987. During the Beatification Mass at which eighty-five English men and women martyrs were honoured, the Pope said of those who were priests that they had "wished only to feed their people with the Bread of Life and with the Word of the Gospel. To do so meant risking their lives. But for them this price was small compared to the riches they could bring to their people in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."
Blessed Robert Sutton, priest of God, may your light and your witness always be an inspiring grace for the people of this country; intercede for us today that the life of Christ may be focus and the whole truth of our lives.  

Sunday 11 November 2012

Irnham Hall

A little further north in Lincolnshire is the village of Irnham. Irnham Hall was the home of the Thimelbys. They too were recusants and built the present Hall in 1510. The family remained at Irnham until 1854 when the Hall was sold. There were possibly a number of hides in the Hall but the north wing was gutted by fire in 1887. However, one hide still remains in the south wing, the oldest part of the house. It is probably the work of Nicholas Owen. The hide is on the first floor and was entered from the attics. It is a space 8ft by 5ft by 5ft 6in and used to have both a ventilation and a feeding hole.
The house is privately owned and, again, is set in the most lovely countryside.

Saturday 3 November 2012

Red Hall

Moving east into southern Lincolnshire in the town of Bourne is the seventeenth century house, Red Hall. The Hall now stands in an open lawn and is run by the local Council. It was closed when I was there. On the first floor there used to be a false-wall hide lit by one of the mullion windows behind. One part of this was merely a discrete place and could be entered from the room, the other part was entered from the top floor. The Hall itself is a lovely example of a small seventeeth century town house and has been restored. I gather that the false-wall of the hide no longer exists. I should like to learn more about its recusant history.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Mrs Vaux of Harrowden

Mrs Elizabeth Vaux of Harrowden is my kind of person. It was she who, towards the end of the sixteenth century, did so much to support priests. She was someone who was very given over to God, very free (which are two ways of saying exactly the same thing.)
Fr John Gerard writes about her in his autobiography and we know that she took enormous risks for God and His church. She declared to Elizabeth Tudor's Privy Council that she would rather die than see a priest undone. I know many people who are like her today. However, there are also today many who are her opposite: readers of "The Tablet", for instance, who in my experience, tend to be stoogy and self-opinionated about the Church.
Elizabeth Vaux worn born in Kent in 1564 to the Roper family. She married George Vaux (1564-1594) of Harrowden. They had six children. When George died in 1594 she devoted her energies to supporting the Church and its priests. Harrowden Hall (photo above) was a real centre of the Faith welcoming many priests, and complete with hiding places. The Harrowden Hall that we see today is the Wellingborough Golf Club House. The three story house which Elizabeth Vaux developed was rebuilt during the period 1716 - 1719. I don't know that any hides now remain.
The other Vaux house, the Manor of Irthingborough, also welcomed priests. Nothing now remains of this house. I took the photo below in Spinney Road, Irthlingborough of the site the Vaux Manor, which would have been to the right of the road as you look up it.  

Towards the end of 1611 Harrowden Hall was raided by Government agents looking for priests; the search was unsuccessful. But Elizabeth Vaux was taken to London and put first in the Gatehouse Prison at Westminster, and then in the Fleet Prison. On 19th February 1612 she was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment and the loss of all her estates. She was paroled in July 1613 for reasons of health and returned to Harroden. In 1616 she left Harrowden and went to live in Boughton, just north of Northampton town. We know that she appeared again before the Privy Council in 1618. Her date of death and her place of burial are unknown. It is presumed, from corresponding historical evidence, that she died in 1625.
What a great example, what a great witness!