Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and a Magna Carta Baron by Marilyn Roberts

Posted By on May 20, 2015

The Twenty-Five Magna Carta Surety Barons

The Twenty-Five Magna Carta Surety Barons – Click to enlarge

Thank you to author and historian Marilyn Roberts for sharing her knowledge with us today…

The Epworth Magna Carta 800th Society was founded in the autumn of 2014 with the joint aims of bringing together the local community to celebrate the anniversary of the original version of Magna Carta while at the same time raising awareness of the importance of a man who, among many other things, was an ancestor of two of Henry VIII’s wives.

After the charter was sealed by King John on 15 June 1215, William de Mowbray, lord-and-master of much of our part of Lincolnshire, was one of a committee of twenty-five barons elected by his fellow rebels to ensure the king kept his word. Although in the intervening 800 years it has become a greatly revered piece of history, Magna Carta actually was a failure in 1215 in that civil war was not prevented and, despite King John dying the following year, would continue until the early autumn of 1217.

(click on the image above right to see the names of the twenty-five Magna Carta Surety Barons, according to the Chronica Majora of the monk Matthew Paris of St Albans. It is highly likely that William de Mowbray was not alone in being an ancestor of the unfortunate queens Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard.)

Our Society was fortunate to be awarded a small Government grant from the Magna Carta Trust, and in February 2015 I attended a networking event in London, appropriately at the Inner Temple, which lies at the very heart of the Nation’s legal system. One of the spin-offs from this was a meeting ten days later with representatives of The Battlefields Trust in Lincoln, the city where Mowbray had been captured in May 1217 while attacking the Castle, held at the time by supporters of the child-king Henry III. Taking a late-evening leisurely stroll back to the hotel, it was thought-provoking to be retracing the steps of Sir William and his fellow rebels, who had fled for their lives down those steep, narrow streets nearly 800 years ago. Facing Lincoln Castle is the outstanding Cathedral, its Norman and medieval glory nowadays accentuated by the miracle of modern floodlighting. It was here that terrified citizens took refuge in 1217, alas to no avail, from the rapacious and murderous intentions of their own king’s army, on what would prove to be a hideously bleak day in the city’s history.

Castle Hill and the Cathedral, Lincoln: William de Mowbray was one of the rebels captured in the vicinity when forces loyal to King John’s son Henry III arrived to relieve the siege of Lincoln Castle in 1217. © Marilyn Roberts 2015

Castle Hill and the Cathedral, Lincoln: William de Mowbray was one of the rebels captured in the vicinity when forces loyal to King John’s son Henry III arrived to relieve the siege of Lincoln Castle in 1217. © Marilyn Roberts 2015

Most of all, though, it was Mowbray’s 10x great-granddaughter, Katherine Howard, who came to mind as we crossed Castle Hill, the ancient thoroughfare linking cathedral and fortress, an area of the city that saw one of the few triumphs of her short reign, while on the Northern progress with her husband. If only those old buildings and streets could talk! The splendour of Queen Katherine’s apparel as she entered the Cathedral by the Great West Door, and the fear and trepidation Henry VIII struck into the hearts of the local nobility and clergy in the summer of 1541 are well documented. So too are Katherine’s stolen hours with her husband’s trusted servant, Thomas Culpeper. At first sight the remarkable carvings around the main entrance to Lincoln Cathedral and along the Norman friezes appear to be purely ornamental, but in actual fact their real message would have been understood by all: Hell and damnation await those who misbehave – and it certainly won’t be pleasant! Did Katherine, one wonders, catch a glimpse of the plight of the tortured souls depicted screaming in the Jaws of Hell? Probably not.

Katherine and Henry entered the Cathedral by its ornate Great West Door © Marilyn Roberts 2015

Katherine and Henry entered the Cathedral by its ornate Great West Door © Marilyn Roberts 2015

As they entered Lincoln Cathedral, both Queen Katherine and Thomas Culpeper would have done well to heed this rather painful warning from Adam and Eve © Marilyn Roberts 2015

As they entered Lincoln Cathedral, both Queen Katherine and Thomas Culpeper would have done well to heed this rather painful warning from Adam and Eve © Marilyn Roberts 2015

In November 1541 a Grand Jury summoned to meet at Lincoln Castle found Queen Katherine guilty of adultery with Culpeper. Within six months her summer triumph was forgotten and her reputation in shreds as her headless body was hurriedly laid to rest in the Tower of London near that of her similarly mutilated predecessor and first cousin, Anne Boleyn.

Descent of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey from Magna Carta surety baron William de Mowbray - click to enlarge.

Descent of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey from Magna Carta surety baron William de Mowbray – click to enlarge.

Part of the defences of Lincoln Castle. One of the 4 surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta is kept here, although it actually belongs to the nearby Cathedral © Marilyn Roberts 2015

Part of the defences of Lincoln Castle. One of the 4 surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta is kept here, although it actually belongs to the nearby Cathedral © Marilyn Roberts 2015

Magna Carta is still seen as a defence against tyranny, and, despite their unpretentious appearance, the four surviving copies of the 1215 original remain amongst the most famous documents in the world. The town of Epworth is justly proud of its connections with these iconic pieces of history and we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to celebrate with us in May and June. The Mowbray Fair is on at Epworth Old Rectory Croft on Sunday 30th May (click on poster below) and then there is a programme of Magna Carta inspired events from Wednesday 3rd June to Sunday 7th June (details to follow).

Mowbray Fair

Mowbray Fair

front_of_book The Bare Bones of the story of King John and Magna Carta: with a profile of rebel Northern baron Sir William de Mowbray is a short book based on the lecture King John, Magna Carta and William de Mowbray to be given by Marilyn Roberts at St Andrew’s Church, Epworth, on Friday 5th June at 3pm – repeated at 7pm – as part of the Epworth Magna Carta 800th celebrations. For further details about the book and more information on the Mowbray family in general see www.queens-haven.co.uk.

Marilyn Roberts is a freelance lecturer and writer and is author of The Mowbray Legacy; Lady Anne Mowbray – the High and Excellent Princess; British Royal Family Trees; and The Bare Bones of Queen Victoria’s Family Trees. She is currently working on a book on Katherine Howard and her step-grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. You can find out more about Marilyn and her work at www.queens-haven.co.uk.

References

  • Letters and Papers of Henry VIII Vols. XVI and XVII
  • The Northerners by J. C. Holt
  • The Mowbray Legacy by Marilyn Roberts
  • The Bare Bones of the Story of King John and Magna Carta by Marilyn Roberts
  • Magna Carta and associated documents can be seen on the British Library website

13 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and a Magna Carta Baron by Marilyn Roberts”

  1. Mrs. Arthur L Keith III says:

    An early morning Hello! What is terrific about this web site is its historical statement and reply so forthwith given on the Internet. I really enjoy reading and viewing historical Britain. My Grandfather Frank C. Burr’s family ancestors were British. His mother’s family I believe were Scottish-Cary. The Cary males were one lake ship captain, the father a ship builder in New York and his father James Cary a ship builder in New Hampshire.
    So the fight for freedom in liberty and thinking from this British background is amazing. I often wonder after reading of the Magna Carter which is so important to the American Colonies at the later dates, that anyone wishes to devalue so hard one freedom. Especially with today’s desire for government overload. atk

  2. BanditQueen says:

    Excellent article: looking forward to a visit back to Worcester later this year, having gone there last year: not to see King John but the tomb of prince Arthur. Of course we did visit the tomb of King John and for some reason ended up spending five hours in the Cathedral. Ironically the previous year we were also visiting Lincoln and Mowbray; the cheese fair as it happened. I love Lincoln, it is a beautiful and wonderful city; will pay a visit again soon, I am sure. Your article is very imformative and brings all these connections together well; thank you.

  3. Christine says:

    Iv often wondered why King John was not buried at Fontevraud with his parents and siblings, maybe he wasn’t bothered where he lay after death but his Queen Isabella is in Fontevraud too.

    1. King John died at Newark Castle in Nottinghamshire in 1216, still at war with the barons. Having lost all his territories in France, and England currently being overrun by French soldiers supporting the rebel barons, he could not be taken to the same resting place as his parents and brother, Richard I. It was even a problem finding somewhere suitable in England where he still had control, so that is why he was laid to rest in Worcester Cathedral.

      Isabella of Angouleme was still allowed control of her territories in France, and in 1220 married Guy de Lusignan, Count of la Marche, a younger man to whom she had nine children. As a very young girl she had been betrothed to his father, but King John took her from him, thereby stoking up a whole load of problems for himself that contributed to the loss of Normandy and other territories.

      In 1244 she was accused of plotting to poison king Louis of France and took refuge in Fontevraud Abbey, where she died, and initially was buried in the churchyard. Although the Dowager Queen of England, in France she was regarded as a mere Countess.

      1. Christine says:

        Thanks Marilyn but isn’t it true that Isabella married her former fiancé not his son? I know quite a bit about John as he’s my 28th great grandad thru his natural daughter Joan who married Prince Llewelyn, but Iv often wondered why he wasn’t buried with his family, I know he lost most of the Angevin empire that his father had built up I thought maybe he was too ashamed to lie next to them because of his fathers angry ghost ha!

        1. Isabella’s former fiancé was Hugh IX. In 1217 she returned to Angouleme supposedly to arrange the marriage of her daughter Joan, aged seven, to Hugh’s son, Hugh X. The younger Hugh, however, preferred the mother, whom he married in 1220, and there was quite a scandal. Politically she hadn’t done her son Henry III any favours either.

          Isabella was born around 1188 and Hugh X somewhere between 1183 and 1195, so they were roughly the same age.

          There’s a nice piece on Isabella at http://magnacarta800th.com/schools/biographies/women

        2. In the first reply I meant Hugh de Lusignan: Guy was a different person altogether!

  4. Dawn 1st says:

    Lovely to see photo’s of Lincoln used to shop there regularly, and of course take in all the history and beautiful buildings.
    Thank you, a smashing article Marilyn.
    Are you still involved with Gainsborough Old Hall ?

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Not as much as I would like to be. The Magna Carta preparations have taken more time than anticipated, and once they are over I’m joing Alison Weir again as a speaker on one of her tours, this time talking about Queen Mary, and also about the Sandringham Estate. I love Sandringham and am looking forward to seeing it again.

      Have a few more talks after that and then a few weeks are fairly quiet, so a bit of retail therapy, I think, at Marshall’s Yard in Gainsborough, and a bit of lunch at the Old Hall to catch up with friends there. Did you know Marshall’s Yard, or had you moved by the time the old engineering works were converted into a rather nice retail outlet? – killed off Gainsborough Market Place, though).

      Thanks for the kind comment about the article.

      1. Dawn 1st says:

        Busy Lady!!
        I know where you are talking about, but it wasn’t a ‘posh’ retail centre when I was living near there. I left 15 years ago now and have never been back, I would imaging it will have killed the market place, these retail places always do don’t they. Meadowhall finished Rotherham and had a big impact on Sheffield too. It is a shame.
        Give my love to Gainsborough Old Hall, lol, I miss it dreadfully, such a beautiful place steeped in history.
        Enjoy your Tours.

        1. Christine says:

          I visited Lincoln on a coach trip with a friend some years back, we went in the Cathedral it’s a pretty place and has a really steep hill, King John has had a bad press over the centuries but my teacher at school said he was a very good King, he was good at administration and did sign the Magna Carta which is the basis for all the law in England and is what American law is based on to, part of the reason he has had a bad press is because of the silly Robin Hood legends and was the work of Sir Walter Scott , and Victorian myths about him which people began to believe, Robin was the nick name of a thief in medieval times and although there are records of a man named Robin Hood he lived in the reign of Edward, Errol Flynn didn’t help hopping about in green tights but Richard 1st is revered and called the Lionheart whearas John is basically called a waste of space, yet Richard left England at the mercy of feuding Barons to go on his crusade, only visited England a few times when he was King, didn’t even speak English and bled her coffers dry to fund his crusade, was in open rebellion with his father and is described by one contemporary as raping and pillaging the provinces with his soldiers that he had determined to subdue, not a very nice man I think but rather cold blooded, although he was his mothers favourite, I can’t see how John was worse than him

  5. Christine
    Your teacher was right that at times King John showed signs of the administrative ability his father had, but he was also flawed and frequently he did not see it through. Magna Carta is usually seen as being a solution to a problem that suddenly appeared, whereas the discontent among the barons had been brewing for decades before he came to the throne
    I agree that his brother Richard was a poor ruler as far as England was concerned – he hated the place – and was much happier crusading and warring than governing, and was far from being the gifted and charming man of the legends. He reigned only ten years, and it makes you wonder if he had carried on whether we would be seeing him in a different light today.
    As for John’s reputation – the chroniclers of his own time had little to say about him that was good, although being men of the Church they were biased against him. Even so, bribery, corruption, administrative weakness, the appalling treatment of prisoners, the disappearance of his young nephew, the burden of continually rising and increasingly frequent taxes, all contributed to making John a failure as a ruler. His reputation was rock bottom centuries before the days of Sir Walter Scott, Errol Flynn, etc., although I agree that these people have left us with an artificially rosy picture of his brother.

    1. Christine says:

      Hi Marilyn Iv often wondered if his father was to blame did he spoil him I wonder? He was his favourite son and maybe gave John the idea that he could do what he liked, I know his treatment of prisoners was appalling, one of my ancestors was starved to death on his orders and iv heard that young Arthur his nephew was castrated and blinded but that could just be a rumour, I do believe he had him murdered tho, just as I believe that Richard 111 had the little Princes murdered, it was what English Kings did if the throne was under threat, I know there’s not many historians who say much good about John but I don’t like the painting of his brother Richard as this great King who was valiant and just and in fact was ruler when as you say the Barons were becoming quite discontented, Henry 11 has been called a great King who amassed a large Empire but his sons it seemed were both a disappointment one couldn’t care less about England and the other one nearly lost it.

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