Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Question from Courtney - Tudor business ventures

I'm looking for information and examples on the types of business ventures a Tudor nobleman could try. The main character in my book is the second son of an earl, and I've realized that I need to give him something to do rather than just run around London drinking, gambling and whoring. My story starts in 1558, but before Mary's death. Any ideas would be really helpful - thanks!


Mary R said...

Second sons (provided they couldn't find an heiress to marry) usually went into the military or embraced the clergy. Since your novel starts during the reign of Mary Tudor, the latter option obviously won't work:)

Perhaps he could dabble in shipping ventures or captain his own ship without disgracing the family too much!

PhD Historian said...

Sons of earls and other upper aristocracy did not engage in business. Even as second or third sons, they would have owned property, and would have devoted a portion of their energies to managing and increasing those properties. The military/clergy option emerged in the 18th century and was not yet operative in the 16th, despite the story that Henry VIII was initially destined for the church.

Mary R said...

I have always read that Henry VIII was intended to become Archbishop of York. Is this not the case? I've often wondered why Henry VII, who was trying to start a dynasty, would have gambled everything on the sickly Arthur by dedicating his only other son to the church. How did this legend (if it is one:) begin and become so pervasive?

I do still think, though, that an aristocrat could captain a ship. Thomas Seymour was Lord High Admiral of England. (PhD Historian, please don't disillusion me completely by telling me that this was just an honorary title and that he seldom set foot on a ship:)

Also, weren't many of the privateers during Elizabeth's reign aristocrats?

It occurs to me that part of the reason there were so many intrigues at court was that the nobles would have died of boredom otherwise! Courtney, perhaps you could make your hero a spy?

Marilyn R said...

Sir Robert Dudley (1574-1649) was an interesting character. He was the son of Elizabeth’s favourite Robert Dudley earl of Leicester and Lady Douglas Sheffield, daughter of Lord William Howard, later Lord Howard of Effingham, and should not be confused with Leicester’s son by Lettice Knollys, who died in infancy and was also called Robert.

Douglas’s son was regarded as illegitimate and could not prove his right of inheritance, although it had been Dudley senior’s intent that his son should inherit not only his estates but also substantial parts of those of his childless brother, Ambrose. He was very fond of the boy, always acknowledged him as his son, and gave him the best education money could buy.

His mother, however, although insisting she and the boy’s father had secretly married, could not produce the documents or witnesses needed to prove her son’s claim, nor could she remember the date of the wedding or the name of the clergyman, so young Dudley saw his inheritance go to the Lisle family.

He became an explorer and engineer and is remembered for his contribution to cartography and the development of navigational instruments. His most famous work is ‘Dell'Arcano del Mare’ (Secrets of the Sea) published in Florence, where he had made his home. I am kicking myself because I have just spent a week in Florence staying almost next to his burial place at the Church of San Pancrazio, and I forgot to go to look for his tomb! The church is deconsecrated, though, and has been used for all sorts of activities, so perhaps there is nothing left to see.

tudor princess said...

The belief that Henry VIII was destined for the church, was first mentioned by Lord Herbert of Cherbury who was Henry's first biographer in the seventeenth century.

According to David Starkey, this snippet has come down via an entry in one of William Parron's almanacks which he used to present to the Royal Family as gifts.

He says: "Undoubtedly, Henry will be devout and a good cleric".

Parron's words should be taken with a pinch of salt since he also predicted Elizabeth of York would live until she was eighty!

Incidentally, at the National Portrait Gallery, there is a rather lovely portrait of Robert Dudley on display as part of the "Imagined Lives" exhibition.

PhD Historian said...

Mary R, see Tudor Princess's response on what is probably merely a legend that Henry was destined for the church.

And yes, I am going to burst your bubble by confirming that the Lord Admiral was often (though not always) a figurehead. Holding that office did not entail sailing around on a ship all the time. In times of peace, a Lord Admiral might never set foot on a ship for anything other than ceremonial purposes. Even in wartime, they often directed things from shore, or worked through deputies. Only in times of grave national threat (e.g.: the Spanish Armada) would a Lord Admiral actually take personal on-site command of ships. Because England was not engaged in any naval wars during Seymour's tenure, I would be surprised if he spent any real time on a ship.

Consider that the holder of the office of Lord Admiral from 1525 to 1536, Henry Fitzroy, was a mere child!

To my knowledge, no, English privateers were never "aristocrats" (titled nobility). Yes, some privateers were knights ("Sir"), but knights are not aristocrats. The nobility ("Lords") might invest (buy stock) in ships that were used by privateers, but they did not themselves do the actual work or sail on the ships.

Mary R said...

Well, Courtney, the experts have spoken. It's back to wenching and gambling for your hero, providing you want him to be respectable:)

Courtney J. Hall said...

Thank you so much for all the info! I had already given him his own property, but he had to sell it in the beginning of the story, so he doesn't have it anymore. I suppose I could have Queen Mary give him some kind of duty to keep him hanging around. Thanks again - very informative :)

shtove said...

Military. Alot of them started off in Ireland and led extraordinary lives.

Thomas Lee is a good example - related to the courtier Henry Lee, but he was prosecuted as a highwayman before he left for Ireland to make his fortune as an army captain.

Privateers tended to have connections with merchant families, since they were the ones who owned ships.