Touching History

There are glimpses of the lives of a few of the individuals listed in our family records from the histories of England, Scotland, Wales, and America. Of most, very little is known about their lives. These are some of the exceptions:

Anne Paston, Katherine de Roet, and John of Gaunt

Anne Paston, was the daughter of Sir William Paston and Anne Beaufort. Anne Beaufort's father was Edmund Beaufort, the First Duke of Somerset and the son of John de Beaufort, the First Earl of Somerset.

John de Beaufort was the son of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and Katherine de Roet. He is buried in Cantebury Cathedral.

His brother, Henry of Bolinbroke, became King Henry IV and was a key figure in the Wars of the Roses. John de Beaufort's grandson from another marriage became Henry VII, the founder of the Tudors.

Katherine de Roet, originally of Belgium's Hainaut region, was raised at the English Court. Her sister, Philippa, was the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Katherine's 1396 wedding to King Edward III's son, John of Gaunt, was of little surprise as they had been together for more than twenty years and already had four children.

The Pope and King Richard II declared their children legitimate although John of Gaunt's first wife, Costanza of Castile, was alive until 1394.

Katherine and John of Gaunt's daughter Joan became the wife of James I of Scotland from who the House of Stuart is descended.

Katherine de Roet's first husband, Sir Hugh Swynford, died in the 1370s and she is known to history as Lady Katherine Swynford.

Margaret Beauchamp

Margaret Beauchamp's first husband was our ancestor Oliver St. John. Her second husband, John de Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, was the brother of another of our ancestors -- Edmund de Beaufort. Both Beauforts were grandsons of John de Gaunt. Her daughter from that marriage, Margaret Beaufort, became the grandmother of Henry VIII. She married a third time, to Sir Lionel de Welles.

Oliver St. John died in 1437 leaving six children behind. John de Beaufort died in 1444 - possibly of a suicide. Sir Lionel was killed in 1461 in the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses. Margaret Beauchamp, mother of nine children, lived well into her old age.

Maurice de Berkeley, 2nd Lord Berkeley

Maurice de Berkeley was known as "Maurice, the Magnanimous", his son became known as "Thomas, the Rich" and his grandson, "Maurice, the Valiant."

He was the grandson of Isabel Fitzroy, who was the granddaughter of (possibly) England's worst monarch: King John II.

Maurice de Berkeley fought in the wars that resulted in Edward II's loss of Scotland to Robert the Bruce. There is no evidence that this was primarily his fault.

Maurice de Berkeley joined the Earl of Lancaster's rebellion against Edward II. Lancaster was defeated and executed. Maurice de Berkeley was imprisoned in Wallingford Castle in 1322 and died in 1326. King Edward II suffered a very painful death in 1327.

Thomas Fiennes, 9th Lord Dacre

Thomas Fiennes succeeded his grandfather as Lord Dacre at the age of 17. He served on the jury that convicted Anne Bolyn and was assigned to the party who escorted Anne of Cleves to her marriage with Henry VIII.

On 30 April 1541, the 24 year-old Fiennes headed out from the castle with seven other young men for an evening of poaching on the land of Mr. Nicholas Pelham. The party split into two groups. The other group got into an altercation with Pelham's servants and a man was killed.

The entire party was indicted for murder and four men were executed. Fiennes initially plead not guilty, then threw himself, probably unwisely, on the mercy of the King Henry VIII. The king ordered his execution the following morning.

A stay of execution was granted - but Fiennes was "strangled like a common murderer" later in the afternoon. His estates were restored to his daughter some 65 years later (and nine months following the death of Queen Elizabeth).

Fienne's wife, Mary Neville was the daughter of Sir George Neville, who had the office of "Chief Larderer" for both the coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 and the coronation of Anne Bolyn in 1533. He was also the "Keeper of Ashdown Forest" which may have made the post of "Chief Larderer" a bit easier. His portrait by Holbein is online at The Peerage.

Sir John Norreys

Sir John Norreys' daughter Ann, and later his daughter Lettice, married Sir John Harcourt. Norrey was the Sherriff of Devon and the Sherriff of Berkshire. He also was Master of the Wardrobe for King Henry VI (the person who oversees the private side of the King's household).

His son William was present at the Battle of Towton during the Wars of the Roses and a great-grandson, Sir Henry Norreys, lost his head after a supposed affair with Anne Bolyn.

Sir John Norreys restored the family manor of Ockwells during the mid-1400s. He installed stained-glass depictions of the arms of 15 of his friends and two of his three wives. The arms include those of King Henry IV; Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset; Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick; and Sir John Langford.

The stained-glass windows remained even when he later switched allegiance to Edward IV following the Wars of the Roses and are still visible today.

Ockwells was originally given to Richard le Norreys, Queen Eleanor's cook, in 1238. Another great-grandson, Sir John Norreys, gave up Ockwells, in exchange for a pardon for murdering John Enheld in 1517.

William Morris established the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, in part, to save Ockwells.

Sir Thomas Gamage

I was not able to find a lot of details of the life of Sir Thomas Gamage, but his name shares the root of Tolkein's character Sam Gamgee, so I couldn't possibly pass over that.

More stories as I have time.

Susan Franz