Henry VIII,the Reign
The Royal Progress of 1535
Ewelme to Abingdon
Wednesday 14 Jul 1535
‘The Comperta of visitors Legh and Layton made the most terrible accusations against Abbot Pentecost, and his memory has been specially defiled, as the charges were printed both by Bale and Speed. ‘So, says the Victoria County History of Berkshire in its account of those infamous commissioners and their allegations against the abbot of Abingdon Abbey which to print here and now risk offence.
The visit described in the County History occurred a few weeks after the royal, visit but are not untypical of the tactics applied by the new regime to undermine the credibility of the clergy and pave the way for the dissolution.
Legh and Leighton were probably a little behind Henry and the entourage when it arrived at Abingdon, but caught up during the following weeks. The two were conducting the visits to enquire whether divine service was duly observed and the Benedictine rule was being followed, audit the accounts and supervise the valuation of monastic property for resale. They also left a set of injunctions applicable to all the monasteries to keep the oaths of succession and statutes against papal authority and to teach that the king’s power is by the law of God mist excellent of all other under God in earth.
Twelve miles, most of it running close to the River Tames were travelled on this day, indeed the abbey meadows ran down to the water’s edge. Abingdon Abbey was originally in Berkshire but is now in Oxfordshire was founded in 675 for twelve Benedictine monks and nine centuries later was valued at £1876, 10s, 9d and dissolved in 1538, pillaged and fell into disrepair. The abbey church has now gone although some on the monastic buildings do remain including the timber-framed Long Gallery and the abbey bakehouse.
The Bale who printed ‘most terrible accusations ‘against the abbot was John Bale, former Carmelite monk and ardent Catholic who. However. was persuaded to renounce his faith – and subsequently take a wife, Dorothy – by Thomas Wentworth.
Thomas Wentworth was Jane Seymour’s maternal cousin.
Bale, with Cromwell’s sponsorship, became a leading merchant of propaganda against the Catholic Church and is best known for his play King Johan or King John about the English monarch of that name. The Francophobe King John is represented as the champion of English church rites against the Roman see.
Next stop – King John’s Palace at Langley.