Saturday 27 July 2013

Suburban Tudor Postscript: Wolsey and 'Mrs" Wolsey's boy in Willesden

Before Cardinal Wolsey was a cardinal he was an 'almoner' and nominally should have been celibate. Instead he had what I didn't know is termed a 'non-canonical marriage'.  His wife/lover/mistress/partner was called Joan Larke. She was born in around 1490 in Yarmouth in Norfolk. Her father was either an innkeeper from Thetford or a 'gentleman' from Huntingdonshire.

Joan Larke lived with Wolsey in Bridewell and they had two children: Thomas Wynter and Dorothy Clancey.

Dorothy was adopted and then 'placed' in the Shaftesbury Nunnery, where she became a nun. She received a pension from Thomas Cromwell (see Hilary Mantel!) when her religious house was dissolved.

Thomas went to live with a family - I love this - in Willesden, which was then a village. It was a place of pilgrimage due to the presence of two ancient statues of the Virgin Mary at the Church of St Mary. One of these statues is thought to be a Black Madonna, which was insulted by the Lollards, taken to Thomas Cromwell's house and burnt in 1538 on a large bonfire of "notable images" including those of Walsingham, Worcester and Ipswich. There was also a "holy well" which was thought to possess miraculous qualities, particularly for blindness and other eye disorders.

(The Willesden I knew was an industrial suburb with a 'tech' (a technical college) which offered students  a way of getting 'technical' qualifications if they had been to a 'Sec Mod' or hadn't stayed on at grammar school to do their 'O-levels'. As a young person in the 1950s,  the most important thing about Willesden was Willesden Junction where British Rail trains co-existed with tube trains. There was a point at which that was exciting: hundreds of railway lines. Brilliant.

I'll pause for a moment and think about Wolsey's non-canonical wife, a young chap (their son) going off to the village of Willesden where there is a religious cult - or several, including a pagan one and let it merge with the railway lines of Willesden Junction. )

Sometime after Wolsey's arrest and death in November 1530, Thomas Wynter went to study at the University of Padua, at the King's expense. When he returned to England penniless in about 1535, he was financially assisted by Queen Anne Boleyn, Wolsey's former adversary.

As Wolsey continued to rise swiftly and prominently in the Church and government, eventually becoming Bishop of Lincoln, Archbishop of York, a cardinal, and Lord Chancellor of England, Joan became an embarrassment to him.

(I bet she did.)

In 1519, he arranged her marriage to George Legh, of Adlington Hall, Cheshire, (is that how it was done? Amazing.) and provided her dowry.

Wolsey would later assist the Leghs in a property dispute.

Together Joan and George had four children:
Thomas Legh (1527–1599), married Maria Grosvenor, by whom he had one son, Thomas (1547–1601)
Elizabeth Legh (1525–1583)
Mary Legh
Margaret/Ellen Legh

Sometime after Legh's death in 1529, Joan married secondly, George Paulet, brother of William Paulet, 1st Marquess of Winchester.

Joan Larke died on an unknown date.

[Most of the info comes from wikipedia]