Henry VIII,the Reign
At Wolf Hall. The Visitation of the Monasteries and a Knight
‘He was also determined to reunite the crown with the goods churchmen had appropriated from it.’
The financial assessment the Valor Ecclesiasticus (Church Valuation), the catalogue of the revenues of the Church was pretty well complete when the progress left Windsor in July.
The second visitation, an inquisition in to the standards of the management employed in the monastic houses, got underway it seems more or less in parallel with the royal progress. For much of that wet summer, those commissioned to carry out the inquisition were never far away. (David Knowles Bare Ruined Choirs is an excellent highly readable narrative on this). To draw on Knowles the first evidence we have of the commissioners at work is Richard Layton’s visitation of Cirencester Abbey, which he completed at midnight on 28 July.
Richard Layton was one of the chief commissioners appointed by the government along with Thomas Legh, John ap Rice, John London and John Tregonwell.
Travelling with a liveried retinue of a dozen or more, they carried with them two weighty documents, the first titled Instructions and the second Injunctions.
The Instructions essentially amounted to some eighty-odd wide-ranging questions from, for example, the election of the master of the house…
…to another example about ‘Letters of Love’
The second document, the Injunctions, also wide ranging, for example, gave instructions ‘to keep oaths to the succession and the statutes against papal jurisdiction and to teach that the kings power is by the law of God most excellent of all other under God in earth; no monk or brother to leave the precincts, nor woman to enter them; only one gate to be used and that to be well watched; good habits to be formed of reading the scriptures …
Not everything went to plan, by this time Cromwell had received a letter from the Abbot of Bruton in Somerset, dated 23 August, who had been visited it twice, first by Layton who said he could leave the monastery grounds at his own discretion. Some days later Leigh turned up. He banished him to the confines of the building. There, was left one unhappy and confused abbot
John ap Rice on the other hand reported, on the same date, happier findings at Laycock Abbey ‘. The house is well ordered. The ladies there have their rules written in the French tongue, which they understand well, and are very perfect in the same.’
The Abbot of Bristol, however, contested a number of new restrictions and wanted them relaxed to meet his desire, "to have some poor honest woman to keep us, if any pestyfer plague or distress of sickness do fall amongst us," as has been usual. `
The following spring Thomas Legh, John Tregonwell and Richard Layton were all active against Anne de Boulogne during her trial, but it was Layton who stood out as the moat zealous of them.
To quote Knowles. ‘His reckless and wholesale charges against monastic communities, together with his inquisitional methods and salacious anecdotes, show well enough his own moral outlook.’
At Wolf Hall Anne de Boulogne would have agreed with that.
There had been festivities at Wolf Hall that night, raucous, she did not attend, the music had stopped only a couple of hours ago.
Early September, dawn came later now, six o’clock, she wore a light gown, dark blue, hair tied in a ponytail, Anne slipped out of a back door, even at this hour this day was humid, the clouds were heavy but thankfully, in this summer of endless rain, it was dry – for now at least.
The morning after the night before – for that lot – but she had a clear head, most of that lot lay comatose, in that house with daylong hangovers to look forward to. Empty barrels stacked high, spent wine flagons discarded in the flowerbeds.
She walked away from the house.
Over on the other side of Wolf Hall in the fields beyond the buildings were hundreds of tents, the summer progress entourage, away yonder fires were being lit in preparation for the daybreak feast.
Anne followed the arbour path, peace and solitude, but then in a moment of loathing, she looked back at the house, that Seymour place, Wolf Hall. If she never saw it again that would be too soon.
The Queen of England reached the garden wall, redbrick contrasted with a green gate, recently painted, a dead fly was stuck in the remnants of thick dried brush strokes –a lazy painter’s work. Anne clicked the latch and drew the gate open, silent, recently greased hinges. She stood on the threshold and stared across the field to the barn, red brick which this time contrasted against lush green fields, she drew a deep breath. Sweet morning air, even if it was that Wolf Hall air.
The rain began again, a few drops at first and then it began to lash, thrash down, her dark gown, now wet through, clung to her body.
Then there were footsteps behind her, a voice. a man’s voice. a familiar man's voice.
He shouted. ‘Shelter! Quick! I’ll race you to the barn!
The voice belonged to Sir Francis Weston.
Index - Visits...so far