Monday, May 02, 2011

Question from RW - Henry VIII quote on Lincolnshire

I have read so many times that Henry VIII called my home county, Lincolnshire, "the most brutal and beastly in the realm." Did he really? Every book I've seen it in doesn't back it up with a reference, just states it as generally accepted fact.

Also, was it worse than other counties? In what way?



Foose said...

The quote comes from Henry VIII's "answer to the petitions of the traitours and rebelles in Lincolnshire," found in the State Papers. It dates from 1536, when Henry was pretty enraged about the rebellion in the North. The Lincolnshire rebels were demanding an end to the suppression of the religious houses and the persecution of the Church by Henry's unpopular agents and ministers.

The quote actually runs: "How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beestelie of the hole realme, [emphasis mine] and of leest experience, to fynde faulte with your Prynce, for thelecting [sic, "the electing"] of his Consailleurs and Prelates ..."

Marilyn R said...

During the Lincolnshire Rising in 1536, Thomas Moines, Member of Parliament for Lincoln, was captured by the rebels and forced to serve with them for a few days. When Henry VIII’s negative reply to their demands was sent, Moines was forced to read it out in the chapter house of the cathedral. He missed out a sentence he saw as dangerously inflammatory,

'How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly in the whole realm and of least experience.'

After the uprising was quelled most of the gentlemen involved were pardoned, but Moines was hanged, drawn and quartered.

Foose said...

Great detail, Marilyn.

Regarding Lincolnshire's reputation, note that Henry doesn't say "brutal," but rather "brute." I defer to language specialists, but I think that in conjunction with the following adjective, "beastly," Henry was berating Lincolnshire's population for being dumb, simple animals incapable of reason, easily led and culpably driven.

I couldn't find a contemporary source that suggested Lincolnshire had a generally bad or contemptible reputation. Many Tudor servants came from Lincoln and I didn't come across any examples of them being mocked for their origins. One 19th-century source mentioned that the heavy Danish settlement under the Anglo-Saxons may have given Lincoln a certain reputation for coarseness (the author indignantly refuted this slur on the Danes) and another identified the fenlands in Lincoln as traditional nests of insular and retrograde behavior.

One source cited the 1470 Lincolnshire rebellion against Edward IV, and suggested Henry VIII was harking back to that episode in his "answer to the petitions, etc." This suggests that he would have addressed almost any county similarly had it been involved in rebellion against him, since I think most of them must have participated in some kind of uprisings over the centuries. (Even Kent, often presented as the most "civilized" county, took a leading role in the 1381 rising.)

There is one book, however, that might offer more information, although it's not scholarly. It's Anya Seton's Katherine, a generally praised reconstruction of the life of Katherine Swynford in the 14th century. The book features a vivid and unflattering portrayal of Lincolnshire, the home of Katherine's husband Sir Hugh Swynford. I can't find my copy, but I know that the author cited her sources for the book, many of them from the period she described. Possibly there is a source she cited in reference to her portrait of Lincolnshire, that might have fed contemporary prejudice. Perhaps someone could take a look?

Guy said...

L&P, volume XI, number 463 has the original

Foose said...

I found a copy of Katherine at a bookstore and Anya Seton's source on Lincolnshire was Medieval Lincoln by "W.F. Hill." This is a source also used by modern historians. The scholar's name is spelled variously as James WF Hill, J-WF Hill, and J.W.F. Hill. I couldn't find the book under these names on Google Books, but found Medieval Lincoln by Sir Francis Hill, which could be the same author.

The book is available only in Preview on Google Books, so I had limited access. But I didn't come across anything that suggested Lincolnshire had a reputation of brutishness or simple-minded animality. Seton also used sources about life on English manors during medieval times for her background and also visited Kettlethorpe Hall, the modern incarnation of the manor of Katherine's husband Hugh Swynford. She may have touched up her portrait of Lincolnshire life to make it seem as depressing as possible for her heroine after Katherine's sojourn at the Plantagenet court.