Monday, April 12, 2010

Question from Bron - Practicalities of Fleeing Protestant England

I have been reading about Doctor John Clements, who married Sir Thomas More’s adopted daughter, Margaret Giggs, in 1526. Margaret and John seem to have lived at Bucklersbury in London and, from 1545, to have also had a country house at Hornchurch in Essex. They had one son, Thomas, the godson of More; and five daughters, Winifred, Bridget, Helen, Dorothy and Margaret. The eldest girl, Winifred, married Thomas More's nephew, William Rastell.

Following the accession of Edward VI in 1547 Clement left the country for Louvain in July 1549, being joined there by his wife in October. Clement was one of those who were specifically exempted from the general pardon later granted by Edward.

There are two fascinating inventories of the Clement’s family possessions resulting from various court cases he undertook to regain them, after returning during Mary’s reign. The library at Bucklersbury alone contained 302 books.

It appears the Clements just walked out. That got me thinking about the logistics of such departures.

I note also that in 1550 the wealthy Italian merchant and More family friend, Bonvisi, with his family, "against his allegiance," as the inquisition taken shortly after recites, "went and departed out of England into the parts beyond the sea, without license, and against the force, form and effect of a statute and certain proclamation in that behalf made, published, and proclaimed.'' It would appear also that at the same time Bonvisi’s leaseholders in Crosby Place, the Rooper and Rastell families, were likewise "departed beyond sea," by which means, and ‘in pursuance with the effect of the above-mentioned statute and inquisition, their estates and effects became forfeited.’

So, my questions are as follows:

Was absolute secrecy essential? What would you do with your moveable possessions in such circumstances? (There don’t appear too many options.) How would you survive financially while you were overseas? Obviously you could only carry so much coin and jewellery. Were you searched on your departure? Alternatively, were there ‘letters of credit’ redeemable at your destination? Why the tendency to go to Louvain, and why was Portugal not a popular destination?


kb said...

This is a good question - or series of questions. I hope someone who knows more about it than I will answer.

It occurs to me though that this is a question about fleeing religious persecution - regardless of religion.

I know that under Mary, a senior court official (sorry I don't have my research with me and so am just vaguely remembering some of the details) said that it was easy to rid the country of reformists as you only had to drop a hint they might be persecuted for them to leave the country.

A library of books may not have been considered 'movable goods'. Books were fairly expensive still and some people collected them as investments.

There were some banking systems in place. And with a little notice you could arrange he equivalent of a letter of credit in another country through a branch bank or affiliate banking house.

If you were wealthy enough to have a steward, they could continue to collect your rents and forward the proceeds on to you presuming your property had not been seized by he crown.

I suspect that the level of secrecy was dependent on the level of pursuit. If the crown really wanted you as either an example or for agitation against the monarch, I suspect more secrecy was appropriate.

Mary Ann said...

This is just a guess but Louvain was a university town. There was an association between Erasmus and the univerisity. There was a long friendship between Thomas More and Erasmus. So perhaps the More family went there because they knew people there.