Friday, March 27, 2009

Question from Caroline - Adrian Stokes' Master of the Horse position

Can anyone help with WHOSE Master of Horse Adrian Stokes, second husband of Frances Brandon, was? The position is variously described in secondary sources as Frances' own, or 'at the English Court' - which makes a difference in the light of Elizabeth I's tetchy comment about him as a 'common groom.' Yet he later manages to marry Anne Throckmorton (thereby becoming stepfather not just to the Grey sisters but also bess Throckmorton) and to carve out a position of influence within Leicestershire - which implies if not certain initail status of his own at least a degree of personal charm!


  1. The office of Master of the Horse was common to any large household. The duties involved overseeing the many horses owned by the household, from buying to stabling to feeding to equipping them. The Master of the Horse was also responsible for overseeing the various transportation equipment, including carriages, carts, etc. And because large households moved about frequently among several residences in a variety of locations, the entire job was essentially the equivalent of the modern Motor Pool and Transportation Logistics Officer.

    Of course, the person appointed to the position of Master of Horse did not actually feed the horses himself, anymore than a Lord Chamberlain swept the floors. The Master had several employees working under him who performed the actual duties ... even dozens of employees in a larger household. And Frances Brandon Grey's household was indeed a large one, even after her husband's execution.

    Elizabeth's comment that Stokes was "a common groom" was a deliberate exaggeration intended as a gross insult. It is comparable to calling Camilla Parker-Bowles "a common country housewife." Masters of Horse for the nobility were generally chosen from at least an upper-middle-class (upper gentry background, while those for the royal household were often titled nobility. Robert Dudley, then simply Sir Robert Dudley, became Elizabeth's own Master of Horse in 1558, and one might have easily and rightly referred to him as "the son of a common traitor."

  2. My notes have him as Master of the Horse to the Grey Family as PhD historian notes. I also have this charming quote from the Complete Peerage, vol. IV, p.421 note (d):

    ‘According to a book called ‘The Sisters of Lady Jane Grey’, by Richard Davey (1911), Stokes was “a ginger headed lad... of fairly good yeoman family and had been appointed some two years earlier secretary and groom of the chambers... had his first child been born alive... it might have claimed the paternity of the Duke of Suffolk.” According to the same writer “well within the first weeks of her widowhood, regardless of the tragic fate of her daughter, her husband and her brother-in-law, this heartless woman put aside her mourning robes and gaily attired allowed herself to be led to the hymeneal altar,” &c. Exigencies of space, alas! compel the present Editor to substitute, as a general rule, for gorgeous passages like this the somewhat dry equivalent, “she m.”. Queen Elizabeth’s indignation at the match was expressed in the words, “Has the woman so far forgotten herself as to marry a common groom?”’

    The best stuff in the the Complete Peerage is in the footnotes.

    Elizabeth was always upset when a woman of rank married beneath her own and an insult of this nature would have been most typical of her.

    There were many elite widows who married a senior male member of their staff. For example, Christopher Blount was a 'one of the Gentlemen of the late Earl's Horse' when he married Lettice Knollys Devereux Dudley countess of Essex and Leicester. And Catherine Willoughby Brandon, duchess of Suffolk married Richard Bertie who had been Steward to the family.

  3. KB, I am compelled to point out that Richard Davey's books on the Greys are utter rubbish. In my own research on Jane Grey, I have found that Davey tended to let his late-Victorian imagination run wild. He was notorious for making claims with no evidentiary basis whatsoever.

    His claim that Stokes was "ginger headed" was almost certainly based on the Eworth portrait long thought to depict Frances Brandon Grey and Adrian Stokes. The portrait has recently been definitively re-identified as Mary, Lady Dacre and her son.

  4. Speaking of wisecracks about horsey lovers, Mary Queen of Scots is supposed to have made the catty remark about Robert Dudley after the death of Amy Robsart, "The queen of England is to marry her horsemaster, who has killed his wife to make room for her."

    I wonder if there was perhaps a certain cultural stereotype about men who dealt with horses as being virile and irresistible to ladies ... not to get graphic, but perhaps terms like "riding" and "ridden" may have been bandied about.

  5. PhD Historian - Agree about the Davey book. I should have included my own caveat in the post. I was just so taking with the editorializing by Gibbs. I once presented a paper titled 'It's all in the footnotes' because of passages just like this one.

  6. Adrian stokes married Frances Brandon in 1555 and became master of horse to the familly.That being the Brandons and the Greys also he master of horse to the tudor court.
    she married him three weeks after her husbands execution.Master stokes was her steward and fifteen years her junior.He would have been responsible for taking care of the king and courts horses.

  7. I am afraid you are mistaken, TudorRose, regarding Adrian Stokes's position with the Tudor Court. He had none. He was never Master of the Horse to any Tudor monarch or royal court, and was never responsible for taking care of "the king and court's horses."

    Adrian Stokes was Master of the Horse only to the Greys' immediate household, and he served in that position prior to his marriage to Frances Brandon Grey, not after. Husbands of dowager duchesses do not hold positions of servitude in their own household.

    Mary I's Master of the Horse was Sir Henry Jernyngham, and he served in that capacity througout her reign. Philip had his own Master of the Horse. Initially Sir Anthony Browne (later Viscount Montague) served in that office, but he was replaced in mid-1554 by one of Philip's own Spanish followers.

  8. I know Adrian stokes wasn't a master of horse to Henry VIII and his familly.My mistake.He only worked for the Brandon/Grey familly.Thanks for your information.Also to add to it Henry VIII's master of horse was Thomas knyvet.first one though.Elizabeth's master of horse was Robert devereux the earl of Essex.

  9. And as far as Elizabeth goes...

    Her first Master of the Horse was Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester. He was appointed Jan 11 1559.

    Robert Dudley arranged for his step-son Robert Devereux Earl of Essex to succeed hm in the office. Essex's appointment was December 23 1587.

    After Essex's ill-fated rebellion and subsequent execution in 1601, I am not sure who was her Master of the Horse. But I wouldn't be surprised if Charles Howard took over the duties, or used his patronage to put someone in the spot.

  10. KB, it seems that Edward Somerset, Earl of Worcester was Master of the Horse from 1601 to 1616.

  11. Thanks, everyone, for the insights and information, especially for the 'ginger headed lad' source which I'd come across (annoyingly without citation) in an old article on Beaumanor. How frustrating that it seems based on the Eworth portrait after all! However... I took delivery today of my copy of Leanda de Lisle's book, and find some fascinating leads on Stokes at notes 35 & 36 on p335. She points out, for example, that Stokes (b. 4/3/1519)was actually less than two years younger than Frances (b.16/7/1517). Stokes is described as 'a mature soldier and highly educated Protestant' having served as Marshall of Newhaven in 1546 alongside Henry Grey's (then still mere Marquess of Dorset) brother, Lord John Grey - further links with the family. LL also points out that as the Tudor new year began on 25th March, Frances and Stokes could actually have married up to about a year after Suffolk's execution rather than within weeks (a point I have seen made elsewhere). De Lisle also debunks the 'common groom' sneer made by Elizabeth - which LL has instead made by Catherine de Medici about Elizabeth and Dudley (E's own eventual Master of Horse of course) though thanks for some interesting additional examples from the posts. According to LL (source not cited) Elizabeth 'is known to have expressed only envy at the happiness of Frances found with Stokes.' - perhaps pining for her own inferior, Robin Dudley. So it seems much of the opprobrium attached to Frances and Stokes' marriage can be atttributed to the smear job on Frances in her subsequent role as archetype of wicked mother to the spotless princess. (Why am I so interested in Stokes? - because he took the lead off a church and allowed a manor to fall into disrepair, both of which I am researching...and because it's always fun to retrieve the somewhat lesser personalities from obscurity and obfuscation! If I find out more I'll let you know...)

  12. Is it true Adrian Stokes is buried in westminster abbey? I have that from someone who claimed to have seen his tomb.

  13. I checked my Westminster Abbey guide and it doesn't mention him being buried there, only that he put up his wife's tomb and effigy there. I couldn't find where he was buried, although I only did a quick check.


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