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Politics and Piety in the Household of Lady Margaret 
Beaufort
Malcolm G. Underwood

The Journal of Ecclesiastical History / Volume 38 / Issue 01 / January 1987, pp 39 ­ 52
DOI: 10.1017/S0022046900022508, Published online: 25 March 2011

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How to cite this article:
Malcolm G. Underwood (1987). Politics and Piety in the Household of Lady Margaret 
Beaufort. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 38, pp 39­52 doi:10.1017/
S0022046900022508

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Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 38, Mo. 1, January ig8y

Politics and Piety in the Household


of Lady Margaret Beaufort
by MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD

T he sermon which John Fisher preached at the month's mind of


Lady Margaret Beaufort, on 29 July 1509, compared her with
Martha, traditionally the woman of action and counterpart of
Mary, the woman of contemplation.1 The virtues he stressed, in addition
to nobility of character and lineage, were those of good order: the
disciplining of Lady Margaret's body and manner of life through prayer
and abstinence, her hospitality and charitable dealings with her neigh-
bours. The bishop saw discipline also as the mark of her household:
statutes for its government were read four times a year, her servants well
cared for, her almsfolk regularly supported. Whenever factions arose
among her servants she applied herself with great skill to keeping the
peace and finding a solution to controversy.8 Fisher's account has recently
been compared by Retha Warnicke with other memories of her household
recorded by Henry Parker, Lord Morley.3 The same elements are found
in both descriptions, but Morley complements Fisher's portrait of charity
and able household management with a spectacle of splendid conviviality
worthy of the great ladies of the past, Queen Elfleda and Matilda, wife
of Henry 1. Morley's memories of the household he entered in the early
1490s are not all contemporary with Fisher's who did not become Lady
Margaret's confessor until 1498 or later, and the bishop allocates more
of her day to religious observance.4 But whether her piety grew more
exacting and intense in her last decade, or was simply more closely
1
The sermon was printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1509 as A Mornynge Remembraunce,
A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave (eds.), Short Title Catalogue of English Books, 1475-1640,
London 1926, no. 10891. De Worde's text was compared by Thomas Baker with that in
a register in the archives of St John's College, Cambridge (hereinafter cited as SJC),
D91.23, and reprinted with Baker's notes in J. Hymers (ed.), The Funeral Sermon of the Lady
Margaret, Cambridge 1840, 107-31. See also The English Works of John Fisher, ed.
J. E. B. Mayor (Early English Texts Society, 1876), i. 289-310.
2
SJC, D91.23, p. 101; Hymers, op. cit. 116.
3
R. M. Warnicke, 'Lady Margaret Beaufort', Moreana xix (1982), 47-55.
4
J. Rouschausse, La Vie et I'auvn de John Fisher, Collection de Babel a Salem,
Nieuwkoop 1972, 11; A. B. Emden (ed.), A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge
to 1500, Cambridge 1963, 229.

39
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
observed by her confessor, she remained until her death the centre of a
network of patronage and influence in which she took an active part. Her
household was a society with many facets, defined not merely by the
austere and charitable practices of its head, but by her importance as a
tenant-in-chief of the Crown and mother of the king. It was the combina-
tion of all these elements that placed her so high in contemporary
estimation. This article explores the life of her household not only as the
home of works of charity and a pattern of worship whose special feature
was devotion to the Name of Jesus, but also as a centre of justice and
regional influence and as a source of support for the activities of the
Crown.
Lady Margaret's efforts on behalf of religious bodies and individuals
were the result of obligations to her family and household as well as acts
of personal piety encouraged by her spiritual advisers. Her foundation of
chantries and colleges and the men she employed or protected helped to
sustain in her son's reign the practical alliance of Church and State which
her grandson was to turn into constitutional union.5 It is noteworthy that
while she.lived Margaret's inheritance was not devoted to her foundations,
which were endowed with property bought with the revenue of her
estates. Her west country patrimony had been enfeoffed since 1472 to the
uses of her will, with reversion to her son. Although a small part of it was
used to endow Wimborne chantry and its revenues were for a time used
to establish St John's, in 1515 Henry vm claimed the inheritance as his
own. Lady Margaret's partnership with his father had depended on
mutual regard for each other's interests: she shared in the royal foundations
at Westminster, the endowments for which rescued the abbey from
economic decline, and was able to secure licences at little cost to endow
her own foundations.6 She kept in her own hands or those of her feoffees
the various lands of the honour of Richmond in Lincolnshire, the Beaufort
lands in Devon, Somerset and Northamptonshire, and Colyweston in
Northamptonshire and Tattershall in Lincolnshire, both royal escheats in
which she had been granted a life interest in 1487.7
During 1498 to 1509, the period of Lady Margaret's greatest activity
as a charitable foundress, her chief residences were at Colyweston,
Croydon and Hatfield. From Colyweston, formerly the property of Ralph,
Lord Cromwell which had passed to the Crown in 1459, she had access
to the religious houses of Peterborough, Crowland, Bourne and Stamford
and to her lands in Lincolnshire where men were retained by her for the
king's service.8 In 1499 a house where her council could hear cases was
5
For this alliance see R. J. Knecht, 'The episcopate and the Wars of the Roses',
Birmingham Historical Journal vi (1957-8), 126-31; S. B. Chrimes, Henry VII, London 1972,
240; W. Wilkie, The Cardinal Protectors of England: Rome and the Tudors before the Reformation,
Cambridge 1974, 15.
6
B. Harvey, Westminster Abbey and its Estates in the Middle Ages, Oxford 1977, 67, 333.
7
Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VII, 1485-94, London 1914, i. 154-5.
8
A licence enabling her to do this is referred to by M. Condon, 'Ruling elites in the
40
POLITICS AND PIETY
built at the palace gates at Colyweston, and there was also a prison where
felons could be lodged. During 1502 to 1504 prisoners were kept there en
route to London and Northampton, and in the latter year a servant was
dispatched to Bourne to seek out felons and robbers.9 Colyweston therefore
had an importance denied to her northern property at Kendal, part of
the honour of Richmond, where a thief had once to be lodged in a private
house because Lady Margaret had no common gaol there.10 With judicial
privileges at Colyweston went the duties of piety and charity: in 1505 a
new garden was made for the almsfolk, their hall refloored and a pump
made to convey water from a nearby well. The children of Lady
Margaret's chapel, which Lord Morley recalled as in every way equal to
the king's, had a chamber equipped with desks and presses, and grammar
was taught to them. The size of the choir may be gathered from an
inventory of chapel vestments which mentions nineteen surplices for
children and twenty-four for men.11
Margaret's other chief residences, at Hatfield and Croydon, are espec-
ially interesting because they were not her own property: the old palace
at Hatfield was built by John Morton as bishop of Ely about 1480 and
was the centre of an ancient manor of the bishops,12 while Croydon
palace, built between 1443 and 1452, was the centre of a manor of the
archbishops of Canterbury. 13 Margaret's use of these palaces of bishops,
on which she carried out minor repairs, illustrates the partnership of
Church and royal house which was found also at court and in the king's
council. At Croydon partitions had to be made in 1505 for the chambers
where her almsfolk were to be lodged, and after Lady Margaret removed
to Hatfield in the summer of 1506 she maintained twelve almsfolk there,
all of whom by her will were kept at the charges of her estate until their
deaths.14 It was to his own manor of Hatfield that the bishop of Ely,
Margaret's stepson James Stanley, was summoned to discuss the foundation
of St John's College in June 1508; in August the king was entertained
there and largesse given to his servants. At Croydon in 1506 Lady
reign of Henry vn', in C. Ross (ed.), Patronage Pedigree and Power, London 1979, 137 n. 30.
Such maintenance is recorded in Lady Margaret's household accounts, 1507-8, SJG,
Dgi.ig, p. 118.
8
SJC, DiO2.9, pp. 120, 130, 136, 140-1, 145 (Colyweston building accounts,
1499-1500); mention of prisoners, D91.20, pp. 155, 159, 187 (household accounts, 1504).
10
Westminster Abbey Muniments, no. 16019 (letter from Walter Strickland to Sir
Reginald Bray, 30 March, no year).
11
Repairs for the almsfolk, SJC, Dgi.22, pp. 13, 17; children's chamber, desks in 1499,
D102.9, pp. 17, 51; grammar books bought in 1506, Dgi.21, p. 91; surplices, c. 1509,
D9I.I5, fo. 22V.
12
E. Miller, The Abbey and Bishopric of Ely, Cambridge 1951, 76-8; Victoria County History
0/Hertfordshire, London 1912, iii. 92.
13
M. Wood, The English Medieval House, London 1981, 59-60, 128.
14
The will, dated 6 June 1508, with codicils of 1509, was printed from the probate copy,
SJC, D4.6, in the college's quatercentenary volume, Collegium Divi Johannis Euangelistae,
1511-igu, Cambridge 1911, 103-26. The original will, bearing Margaret's signature, is
SJC, D6.27.
41
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
Margaret had entertained the king and members of his guest the king of
Castile's household, and a description of the visit of Castile had been made
and sent to her.15 Here she was playing the same supporting role to the
Crown as she had done in 1501, when she entertained part of Catherine
of Aragon's retinue at Coldharbour, the London house granted to her by
the king in 1487.16 We should be cautious of portraying the piety of
Margaret's latter years as a 'turning away' from the world, as one of her
biographers has done: the public and devotional strands were comple-
mentary and remained so until the day of her death. 17
The ceremonial 'supporting role' of mother to son was, like the royal
grant of lands in 1487, evidence of a long standing mutual debt. Lady
Margaret had been party in 1482 to an agreement made with her husband
Lord Stanley in the presence of Edward iv, by which she tried to safeguard
the inheritance of her son;18 she in turn owed her territorial strength to
the grants made to her in the aftermath of his victory. Service in her
household was a route to employment by the king for Reginald Bray and
Christopher Urswicke, and some, like Edward Heven her agent in
Lincolnshire, found preferment with the new king and queen after Lady
Margaret's death. 19 Her favoured position occasionally smoothed the
path for her charitable designs. In i486 at her request, Willesford priory
and other possessions of the alien house of Becheluin in Normandy were
granted to the monastery of Bourne, near her estate at Bourne Park,
Lincolnshire.20 She was able to divert funds originally destined for the
benefit of Westminster Abbey to Christ's College, Cambridge, and also
to secure for the college the abbey of Creek, without the usual payments
to the Hanaper or Chancery. Even so, Creek was not secured without a
sweetener being paid to Dudley for handling the business.21 In 1504 the
king granted his mother a general pardon, without payment, remitting
dues to the Crown from lands acquired by her.22 Lady Margaret, likewise,
was ready in 1499 to cancel her own plan for the endowment of St
15
Henry's reception in 1508, SJC, D91.19, p. 95 (household accounts); the bringing of
a 'book' describing Castile's coming is mentioned in the accounts for 1506-7, D91.21,
p. 103. A brief account of the meeting of the two kings, written for a lady addressed simply
'madam', is D105.162: this is unlikely to be the 'book'; it is roughly written, in the form
of a letter, and is only four pages long.
16
C. H. Cooper, The Lady Margaret, Cambridge 1874, 71-2.
17
E. M. G. Routh, Lady Margaret, Oxford 1924, 96.
18
SJC, D56.158, 3 June 1482.
19
C. H. Cooper, op. cit. appendix III, 215-19. A letter from Henry Hornby to John
Fisher mentioning the many servants now in the queen's household, SJC, D 105.91, 18
June (1510), is printed in the college magazine, The Eagle xvi (1891), 346-7.
20
Materials for the History of the Reign of Henry VII, ed. W . C a m p b e l l (Rolls Series lx,
1873), i- 386-7.
21
M. G. Underwood, 'The Lady Margaret and her Cambridge connections', Sixteenth
Century Journal xiii (1982), 70, 76; Calendar of Patent Rolls, Henry VII, 14Q4-150Q, London
1916, ii. 543.
22
SJC, D4.16 (exemplification of the pardon entered on the roll of the lord treasurer's
remembrancer).
42
POLITICS AND PIETY
George's Windsor, when the king decided to endow Westminster Abbey
instead.23
Lady Margaret's influence has been supposed, but not conclusively
shown, in a few episcopal elections. The one clearly recorded case of
consultation between the king and his mother shows Henry taking the
initiative: he suggests, provided she is not opposed, that her confessor John
Fisher be made a bishop.24 The king does not disclose why he fears his
mother's opposition; he admits that he has promoted unworthy candidates
in the past and now desires to elevate Fisher solely because of his virtue
and wisdom. The apologetic tone may be due to the knowledge that
Fisher would be drawn into a busier public life, by which his role as
Margaret's confessor and adviser would be limited. Yet Margaret herself,
according to Fisher's later account, tried to secure him a richer see before
death but failed to do so. Instead she gave him money which he devoted
to St John's College.25 A man of a different stamp, a curialist, for whom
Lady Margaret's patronage was sought by the pope in 1498, was Adrian
de Castello. Baulked of the see of Worcester by the fact that the queen
had promised it to another, he had been appointed the king's proctor in
Rome, but the pope wanted Margaret to continue to look after his
interests. In 1502 Adrian was promoted to the see of Hereford.26
Two other bishops, Smyth of Lincoln and Oldham of Exeter, owed
their clerical careers if not their sees to Lady Margaret. William Smyth
was made dean of Wimborne, the royal minster where Lady Margaret's
parents were buried, in September 1485 at the same time as he was made
keeper of the hanaper. In this capacity in February i486 he was
responsible for reimbursing Lady Margaret for her custody of several
royal wards and for returning to Margaret goods taken from her by Sir
Robert Brackenbury. In the same month he was associated with her, the
queen, Reginald Bray and others in the foundation of a chantry at
Guildford, Surrey.27 The king granted his mother the manor of Cheshunt,
Hertfordshire in 1487 and the next presentation and advowson of
the rectory there in 1490, and in 1492 Smyth was made rector.28
He acted as her agent in the purchase of the rectory of Swineshead,
Lincolnshire, to which Hugh Oldham was presented in 1493, and
Oldham succeeded Smyth at Cheshunt the following year.29 Both these
23
Calendar of Patent Rolls... 1494-1509, -jg.
21
T h e king's letter to M a r g a r e t is printed in Cooper, The Lady Margaret, 9 5 - 6 , a n d
Hymers (ed.), Funeral Sermon, 163, from a n early sixteenth-century copy in a St J o h n ' s
register, the ' T h i n Red Book', SJC, C7.11, fo. 45b.
25
This was recalled by Fisher in his statutes for the college in 1524 a n d 1530: Early
Statutes of St John's College Cambridge, ed. J . E. B. Mayor, Cambridge 1859, 238-40.
26
SJC, D56.165 (the pope's request to L a d y M a r g a r e t ) . See also, for t h e king's
reservations about Adrian in 1498, Wilkie, The Cardinal Protectors, 25, a n d the article on
Adrian d e Castello in the DNB, L o n d o n 1885, i. 146-7.
27 28
Campbell, Materials, i. 311; ibid., London 1877, ii. 279, 297. Ibid. 528.
29
Ralph Churton, The Lives of William Smyth Bishop of Lincoln and Sir Richard Sutton,
Founder of Brasenose College Oxford, Oxford 1800, 79-81; Westminster Abbey Muniments
4691. 575-
43
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
rectories were eventually used by Lady Margaret to support her endow-
ments at Westminster Abbey and Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
After Smyth was made bishop of Lichfield in 1493 he recognised his debt
to the royal family by directing that they be prayed for at the house of
St John, a decayed hospital there which he refounded as an almshouse
with a grammar master and usher attached to it to teach the poor. Lord
Morley recalled Smyth's presence at Lady Margaret's table, and she later
numbered his palace at Buckden among those she toured with her
household. During Easter 1502 while she was there she 'played at the
blanke', not we might think a very austere occupation, and a local man
was sent as her proxy on pilgrimage. In September her council sat 'at the
bishop of Lincoln's place', the council's president, James Whitstones,
being also the bishop's chancellor.30 Close relations with the bishop did
not deter Margaret from writing from Buckden in support of a candidate
other than his own for the Oxford bedellship of divinity, evidence of her
standing in the university even as compared with its chancellor.31 For
both Lady Margaret and her friend and sister-in-law Lady Cecily, widow
of Viscount Welles, Smyth's dispensation was necessary to maintain the
pattern of worship within their travelling households: they were separately
granted permission to have masses and other divine services celebrated in
their chapels wherever they should happen to stay in the diocese of
Lincoln. This was also useful on occasions of political importance:
following an agreement between the king and the earl of Kildare, the
earl's son was married to Elizabeth Zouche a kinswoman of Lady
Margaret's with single publication of banns in her chapel at
Colyweston.32
The close co-operation which marked Lady Margaret's relations with
Smyth is seen also in the career of his executor, Hugh Oldham. When
Smyth was dean of Wimborne Oldham was placed by the king in charge
of repairing the water mills there.33 In 1492 he succeeded the attainted
John Hayes as deputy receiver under Reginald Bray for estates vested in
Lady Margaret by an Act of Parliament that year, and after becoming
receiver himself by 1500 he was serving as her chancellor in 1503.34
Hugh's brother Bernard had been appointed rector of Crewkerne in
30
Churton, op. cit. 94; SJC, D91.20, pp. 16, 43 (household accounts, 1502-3); Emden,
A Biographical Register... Cambridge, 636.
31
Epislolae Academicae Oxon, e d . H . A n s t e y (Oxford Historical Society, 1898), i. 6 6 7 - 8 .
32
Churton, op. cit. 212-13; Lady Cecily's dispensation, SJC, D 15.56 (14 September
1499); Zouche, Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VII, 1300-g, London 1963, ii. 89 (16 July
33
Campbell, Materials, ii. 262: a fact which perhaps gave rise to the supposition that
he was dean of Wimborne, A. B. Emden (ed.), A Biographical Register of the University of
Oxford, Oxford 1958, ii. 1396. For Oldham's career in general see A. A. Mumford, Hugh
Oldham, London 1936.
34
Calendar of Patent Rolls... 1485-^4, 3 6 8 ; Rotuli Parliamentarian, L o n d o n 1783, vi. 4 5 5 a ;
Oldham as receiver and chancellor, SJC, D102.10, pp. 23, 32 (book of receipts and
payments, 1499-1509).
44
POLITICS AND PIETY
Somerset in 1496, as a result of a grant of next presentation by Sir William
and Joan Knyvet to Lady Margaret and Bishop Smyth.35 The Oldhams
had flourished under Smyth's wing; when Hugh drew up his deed for
Manchester school in 1515 he ordered the adoption of the form of
grammar taught at Smyth's foundation at Banbury36, and in his will left
payments for an obit at Brasenose College, Oxford.37
Like Fisher, Hugh Ashton, Henry Hornby and others in Lady Mar-
garet's household, Hugh Oldham was a northerner given scope in other
parts of the country partly through the breadth of her lands and influence:
his administrative activity in the west country since 1488 undoubtedly
made him well qualified for the see of Exeter to which he was promoted in
1504. In his will he also remembered his northern origins, leaving pay-
ments for obits to be performed at Durham College, Oxford and at the
collegiate church at Manchester.38 He shared with the founder of
Warrington school the hope that learning in the north, especially
Lancashire which then had proportionately fewer schools than Yorkshire,
would be increased by his efforts.39 The same desire to benefit
the poor of the northern counties in the distribution of fellowships and
scholarships is evident in Lady Margaret's statutes for Christ's College
and in Fisher's, in response to her wish, for St John's. 40
The warden of Manchester collegiate church between 1485 and 1506
was James Stanley, Margaret's stepson and a bishop thought by Thomas
Baker to have owed his see to her influence. Baker deprecated her action
because Stanley's reputation as a warlike and licentious prelate seemed
out of keeping with her saintly life and charitable aims.41 He had,
however, an academic training and an important place in the Stanley
family's northern connections.42 The founders of the Manchester collegiate
church in 1421 were the de la Warr family, from whom Margaret bought
the rectory of Swineshead. In 1481 the church came into the orbit of the
Stanleys when James's uncle, also called James, was made warden by an
exchange with Ralph Langley, the previous holder of the office. After
James Stanley n succeeded his uncle he fostered a connection at
Manchester: in 1496 he was indicted for distributing the Stanley badge
there, and it was also worn by forty-eight men throughout west Yorkshire.43
Certain of Lady Margaret's household were members of the collegiate
church: Hugh Ashton, her receiver general after Oldham's promotion in
35
The Register of Oliver King, 14Q6-I§03, ed. Sir H . Maxwell-Lyte (Somerset Record
Society liv, 1939), 2 no. 8.
36 38
Mumford, op. cit. 118. »' Ibid. 151. Ibid. 151-2.
39
O n the basis of Orme's count: see N. Orme, English Schools in the Middle Ages, London
'973. 323. 325-
40
Early Statutes of Christ's College Cambridge, ed. H . R a c k h a m , C a m b r i d g e 1927, 8 0 - 8 1 ,
102-103; Mayor, Early Statutes, 386, lines 26-32 (statutes of 1516).
41
T. Baker, The History of St John's College Cambridge, ed. J. E. B. Mayor, Cambridge
1869,61.
42
E m d e n , A Biographical Register.. .Oxford, Oxford 1959, iii. 1761.
43
Third Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records, L o n d o n 1842, a p p e n d i x I I . 219.

45
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
1504, Christopher Urswicke and Ranulph Pole. Pole was presented by
Lady Margaret to the rectory of Hawarden, Cheshire, and came of a
family well established as servants of the Stanleys. His brother William
was gentleman usher to her chamber and became a king's sergeant after
her death. 44 While warden, James Stanley 11 rebuilt part of the choir at
Manchester, co-operated with Richard Beswicke to provide choir stalls
and in 1506 licensed Beswicke's foundation of a guild chapel of St Saviour.
Beswicke also endowed a chantry in the chapel, one of the priests of which
was to teach grammar, and Oldham's subsequent foundation replaced
this more modest effort. Later, as bishop of Ely, Stanley licensed the
appropriation of a rectory in his diocese to Jesus College, enabling its
school to be converted into a properly staffed grammar school.45
Stanley was elevated to the see of Ely in July 1506. On 29 October the
king appointed Robert Cliff of St Clement's hostel, Cambridge,' for special
reason' to be warden of Manchester.48 In 1515 Mr Alday, Stanley's
chaplain and confessor, was called warden in the bishop's will and
appointed to carry out the erection of Stanley's tomb at Manchester. In
the same year Oldham associated Alday and the fellows of the college with
the king, Hugh Beswicke and others in the appointment of the schoolmaster
of his foundation. Manchester had thus for a while come under the direct
influence of the Crown but in 1516, after Stanley's death, patronage
reverted again to the de la Warr family. Meanwhile, although Stanley
remained evidently deeply attached to Manchester, he was conveniently
serving the aims of Lady Margaret for her next foundation in Cambridge.
His first gesture towards her, shortly after receiving his temporalities in
November 1506, was to surrender to her the next presentation at East
Derham in Norfolk, but a more significant one was soon to be made.47
Fisher and Lady Margaret were pursuing plans for the conversion into
a college of the hospital of St John the Evangelist at Cambridge, of which
the bishops of Ely were founders. Stanley was therefore called upon to
surrender an ancient right belonging to his see. His reluctance to do this
is shown by his unwillingness to honour the agreement made with her
for the conversion, once she had died and he was dealing with her
executors.48 There are indications that Lady Margaret herself had claims
upon her stepson other than those of kinship: he is found in a list of her
44
F . R . R a i n e s , Lives of the Fellows and Chaplains of the Collegiate Church of Manchester, e d .
F. Renaud (Chetham Society, NS xxi, 1891), i. 23-5, 27-9, 37-8; C. H. Cooper, The Lady
Margaret, appendix, 215, lines 28-36.
45
J . G . Sikes a n d F . J o n e s , 'Jesus C o l l e g e ' , Victoria History of the County of Cambridge and
Isle of Ely, Oxford 1959, iii. 4 2 1 .
46
See F. R . R a i n e s , The Wardens of the Collegiate Church of Manchester ( C h e t h a m Society,
NS v, 1885), 44-6, for the succession of wardens at this period.
47
B a k e r , History of St John's College, 6 1 .
48
See a memorandum attributed to Fisher on the difficulties of founding St John's,
printed in The Eagle xxvii (1906), 8-12, from the'Thin Red Book', SJC, C7.1 i.fos. 38-403.
See also Stanley's letter to the brethren of the hospital, SJC, D105.96, printed in The Eagle
xvi (1891), 342-3.
46
POLITICS AND PIETY
debtors drawn up before his elevation, bound in an obligation to her for
200 pounds; the obligation was still in force at her death.49 Stanley himself
died six years later at Manchester and was buried in a tomb to the north
of the chapel built by him and his natural son John, in the name of Jesus
and in honour of St John the Baptist.50 Despite his failings, his career at
Oxford, Manchester and Ely had fitted him better than Baker supposed
for a place in his stepmother's undertakings.
John Fisher in his sermon at Lady Margaret's month's mind made a
clear connection between those undertakings on behalf of education and
her faith, especially her devotion to Jesus: as evidence he singled out her
readerships and preachership in the universities and the foundation of
Christ's College.51 In this devotion she was not alone among con-
temporary patrons of education: the founders of Rotherham College and
Jesus College, Cambridge intended training in grammar to go side by side
with chantry duties in foundations dedicated to Jesus. Oldham's school
at Manchester grew out of Beswicke's foundation of the guild chapel of
St Saviour, and the bishop erected a chapel with the same dedication in
his cathedral at Exeter. Lady Margaret's family chantry at Wimborne
Minster, for which she obtained a royal licence in 1497, was dedicated to
the Blessed Jesus and the Annunciation. She directed the establishment
of the chantry and a free school for grammar there in her will, and this
was carried out by her executors in 1511. A neglected clause in the statutes
for this foundation gives Christ's College, Cambridge the nomination of
two candidates when a vacancy shall next occur for the post of the chantry
priest who is also to teach grammar. 52 Christ's was notified of a vacancy
in or about 1513, but there is no evidence of a later connection between
school and college.53
Lady Margaret and her household played a significant part in the
diffusion of one form of the devotion to Jesus: the Feast of the Name of
Jesus. Henry Hornby, her chancellor and one of her executors, whom she
had presented to the living of East Deeping, Lincolnshire in 1481, is
considered the likely author of the office for the feast which was approved
by the Canterbury convocation in 1488. In 1494 a papal bull in response
to her petition sanctioned the observance of the feast throughout the
realm.54 In 1504 her household accounts include payments to an unnamed
49
S J C , D102.10, p . 158 (book of receipts a n d p a y m e n t s , 1499-1509); D 9 1 . 1 5 , fo. 60
(book of the revestry).
50
G . O r m e r o d , The History of the County Palatine and City of Chester, L o n d o n 1882, iii. 6 4 1 .
51
See also A. H . L l o y d , The Early History of Christ's College Cambridge, C a m b r i d g e 1934,
35O-1-
52
Dorset Record Office, P 2 0 4 / G N 1 / 1 / 1 , lines 5 1 - 7 ; cf. J . Hutchins, The History and
Antiquities of the County of Dorset, 3 r d edn, L o n d o n 1861-74, iii. 270-4, w h e r e t h e passage
is omitted.
63
S J C , D57.34, fo. I2r ( p a y m e n t for a certificate of notification, in t h e accounts of
Henry Hornby, one of Margaret's executors).
64
R. W. Pfaff, New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England, Oxford Theological
Monographs, Oxford 1970, 77; the bull is SJC, D56.184.
47
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
London printer for twelve masses 'in nomine Jesu', and to Leonard Delese
for eight primers and ten books 'in nomine Jesu', suggesting that her
household was using both mass and office.55 Shortly before this a bull of
non-residence en bloc had been secured for the priests serving her chapel,
and with Hornby as dean it was established as a centre of the devotion.56
Bishop Smyth's 'quire of parchment of the name ofJesu, in secundo folio
miserere' was listed in an inventory of books in the revestry and restored
to him after her death. 57 This strand of devotion common in the fifteenth
century thus left its mark in Lady Margaret's life and endeavours: it was
expressed in her educational foundations as well as her interest in the
Observants, an order under the king's patronage which admitted her to
confraternity in 1497, and in the enclosed orders of Brigettines and
Carthusians.58
Under an article of a bull of 20 May 1504 granting various indulgences
to the king and Lady Margaret she was permitted to visit houses of the
Carthusians and other enclosed religious, 'cum sex matronis honestis et
habitu honesto indutis', and to converse and dine in them.59 Her
household accounts show her visiting and providing alms for the Charter-
house at Sheen and the Brigettines of Syon; on one occasion she received
a gift of books, unnamed, from a monk of the Charterhouse.60 We do not
know for certain the composition of her retinue during her visits, or who
were her closest companions, but we have the names of a few ladies who
served her and stayed with her, to whom she gave or bequeathed objects
and books for devotional use. To Mistress Parker who, like Henry Parker,
was her personal servant, she left a gold collar in which were fourteen
'Jesus' (presumably the sign IHS), with twenty-six 'hearts'. 61 Elizabeth,
Lady Scrope, daughter of John Neville, marquis of Montagu, and niece
of Warwick the kingmaker, received a primer and psalter from her,62 and
Lady Shirley, wife of her bailiff at Ware, was given her book of hours.63
A 'heart of gold with a fair sapphire', was noted in the inventory of her
revestry, and the name of Lady Powis added beside it, apparently by
Fisher.64 Lady Powis, at the time of Lady Margaret's death, was Margaret,
daughter of Edward Sutton, lord of Dudley, a prominent supporter of
Henry vn, who had acquired the wardship of the heir of Sir John Grey,
lord of Powis. Lady Anne Powis, her mother-in-law and wife of Sir John,
was the daughter of William Herbert, created earl of Pembroke by

65
SJC, 091.20, pp. 166, 171 (household accounts, August and September 1504).
56
Ibid. p. 87 (household accounts, April 1503, recording payment for the bull).
57
SJC, D 9 H 5 , fo. 22. 58 SJC, D56.208 (grant of confraternity). 59 SJC, D56.20.
60
SJC, D91.17, pp. 24-5 (July i498);Dgi.2i,p. 19 (May 1505); D91.19, p. 18 (May
1507, reward for books).
61
Collegium Divi Johannis... igit, 122, line 128.
62
M e n t i o n e d in L a d y Scrope's will, Testamenta Vetusta, ed. N . H . Nicolas, L o n d o n 1826,
ii. 5 8 8 .
63
M. R.James, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of St John's College
Cambridge, Cambridge 1913, no. 264. " SJC, D91.15, fo. 56V.
48
POLITICS AND PIETY
Edward iv. When Anne died in 1506 funeral expenses for her were
charged to Lady Margaret's household.65 Similar expenses were met at
the death of Lady Cecily Woodville, daughter of Edward iv, the widow
of Lady Margaret's uterine brodier, John, Viscount Welles. In 1503
Cecily had received from Lady Margaret the gift of'a fine image', while
eighteen small images in parchment were commissioned at the same time,
and presumably distributed in the household;66 the revestry held 'a
printed legend bought of my lady Cecill'. Cecily had a room reserved to
her at Croydon, and at Colyweston rooms were appointed for the queen
and Catherine the wife of Reginald Bray, Elizabeth, Lady Scrope, Anne,
Lady Powis and Mary, Lady Rivers. The last was related to Lady
Margaret as she was the grand-daughter of Edmund Beaufort, duke of
Somerset, Margaret's uncle. Her sister was a nun at the house of
minoresses near the Tower of London and received occasional payments
from the household.67
Lady Margaret's wide personal connections therefore spanned interests
which had been opposed during the Wars of the Roses: besides her own
retainers, the Shirleys, Parkers and Brays, there were Cecily Woodville;
Mary, the widow of the Woodville earl of Rivers; lady Powis, the
daughter of a Yorkist earl of Pembroke; and Lady Scrope, whose father
died in the Lancastrian cause in 1471. Lady Margaret's own marriage
with Thomas Stanley, steward of King Edward's household, in 1472
brought her a life interest in Stanley lands in north-west England and the
borders of Wales, as part of a settlement intended as a reward by King
Edward for his supporter; eventually it helped Henry vn's influence in the
region. After 1485 Lady Margaret and her husband restored the shrine
of a local saint, Winifred, at Holywell in Flintshire, and a chapel was also
built in her honour. The development of this cult in the creation of a
confraternity at Shrewsbury has been seen as part of Henry vn's efforts
to gain the loyalty of the marcher town;68 if so, the ground was already
prepared by his mother's local standing and by the united piety of herself
and her husband. In 1478 they had already been joined, with members
of the Stanley family including his deceased wife Eleanor, in confraternity
with the Carthusian order.69
The blend of personal connection, piety and local influence is shown
strongly in Lady Margaret's relations with the towns and religious houses
of Lincolnshire, whence came the bulk of her revenues. She owed her
confraternity with the Benedictines of Crowland to the suggestion of her
mother, the duchess of Somerset, also a confrater, whose marriage with
the duke had brought her the lordship of Deeping. The continuation to

65
SJC, D91.21, p. 124 (August 1506).
66
SJC, D91.20, p. 113 (August 1503); D91.19, p. 18 (funeral expenses, May 1507).
67
SJC, D91.19, p. 7 (February 1507); p. 8 (May 1507).
68
M. Lowry,'Caxton,St Winifred, and Lady Margaret Beaufort', TheLibrary, 6thser. v
6
(1982), 101-17. » SJC, D56.185 (grant of confraternity).

49
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
the Crowland Chronicle says frankly that confraternity was granted to
Lady Margaret 'that she might be rendered more benevolent to us
hereafter and more complacent in every respect'. Her inheritance of
Deeping and connection with Crowland gave her sympathy with both
sides in the long-standing quarrel over boundaries between the inhabitants
of Kesteven and Holland, a dispute which had frequently ranged against
each other the abbey and the men of Deeping. Through Lady Margaret's
initiative a royal commission was appointed which arbitrated in 1501, the
agreement being certified in Chancery under her seal.70 She also intervened
in matters of wider local concern in the fens. When Thomas Welby, a
member of one of the leading families of Moulton died, she wrote to Sir
Reginald Bray urging him to claim for the guild of Corpus Christi in the
town the lands which Thomas had bought for it.71 Lady Margaret was
a member of the guild of the same name at Boston, one of the manors
granted to her by the king in 1487.72 There she actively supported the
well-being of the town: her household accounts for 1499 record forty
pounds lent to Sir John Huse (Hussy) and other men of Boston for work
on the dykes there, and in 1508 sixty pounds was expended on the sluice.
Hugh Ward, a Boston merchant who supplied her household with wines,
was able to transfer money through her officers to the purser of his ship,
then at Exeter.73
Margaret's personal influence in the region was shown in contacts with
religious houses and persons apart from Crowland. She endowed Bourne,
near her estate at Bourne Park, and gave funds to the Augustinian friars
of Stamford in 1504 towards the building of their church. She visited an
anchoress called Margaret White who lived at Stamford and contributed
to her maintenance and the costs of her profession as a nun there. On this
occasion the anchoress's sister, a nun at Sheppey, Kent, was brought to
Colyweston at Lady Margaret's charge. By her will trustees were appointed
to hold land in her lordship at Maxey to support Margaret White and
an attendant during the anchoress's life.74 While Lady Margaret's officers
were attending to fen drainage and rewards were given to the master
carpenter of the Boston sluice, other payments were made to the white and
grey friars and to the guilds there, to the nuns of Sempringham one of
whom was clothed at her expense, and to the shrine of St John the Baptist
at Bourne.75
Personal influence, rather than territorial lordship, accounts for Lady

70
R . G o u g h , Observations on Croyland Abbey and Bridge and other additions to the History of
the Abbey, L o n d o n 1784, 172; Ingulph's Chronicle of Croyland, with continuations, ed. H . T . Riley,
London 1854, 440.
71
Westminster Abbey Muniments, no. 16017 (letter to Bray, no date).
72
C o o p e r , The Lady Margaret, 8 7 .
73
SJC, DiO2.io, pp. 2, 4, D91.21, p. 80 (1505); D91.19, p. 124 (1508); DiO2.io,
pp. 4-5 (Hugh Ward).
74
S J C , D 9 1 . 2 0 , p . 183 (anchoress), Collegium Dim Johannis...igi 1, 115—16.
75
SJC, D91.20, pp. 30, 32.
5O
POLITICS AND PIETY
Margaret's dealings with the city of Coventry, a place where she had no
land or revenue, but where the duchy of Cornwall had estates and the
Crown was vigilant for signs of treason after 1485. She wrote more than
once to the civic authorities commanding them in hers and the king's
name to hear the complaint of Owen Birch, a collector of the fifteenth for
one of the city wards in 1492.76 Margaret Clerk, widow of Richard Clerk
another citizen, willed that part of estates bought jointly with her husband
should be left in trust for Christ's College, Cambridge." Lady Margaret
and the bishop of Coventry were named the trustees and joint overseers
of the will. By the time her will was made Margaret Clerk had married
Piers Warton, yeoman of the Crown and formerly keeper of the park of
Chelismore, part of the neighbouring duchy estates. In December 1507
the bishop of Coventry announced Margaret Warton's death and her
bequest to Christ's in a letter to Lady Margaret's chancellor. The bearer
of the letter, probably the prior of the Coventry charterhouse to which
other lands were left and where the testatrix was to be buried, was to
explain Margaret Warton's motives at greater length.78 The full story of
these events in thus hidden, but they illustrate once again the diversity
of Lady Margaret's connections: she is the common link between the royal
household, a burgess's and his widow's bequest to their local religious
house and the acquisition of remote estates by Christ's College,
Cambridge.79
The range of Lady Margaret's religious patronage is summed up in her
will. Her generosity to the two universities is well known, and more
scholars than bishops can be shown to have stood in her debt.80 Her
educational interests must always be seen, however, as part of her concern
with various aspects of religious life: the statutes of Christ's College added
few innovations to those of the earlier Godshouse, and the college was
specifically envisaged as an extension of the work of her uncle, Henry vi. 81
Christ's received books and furnishings from her chapel along with
Wimborne Minster, Tattershall College and the parish church at
Colyweston.82 Durham priory and the house at Bourne were given mass
books of the Salisbury use and Westminster Abbey a breviary. The
charterhouses at London, Richmond and Mountgrace Yorkshire, and
the houses of friars at Stamford, Richmond, Northampton and Greenwich,
76
City of Coventry Record Office, A79/12 (letter signed by Margaret). Cf. Cooper,
The Lady Margaret, 229, where O w e n Birch is transcribed as ' O w e n , burchis of the citie'.
77
SJC, D22.35.1, Christ's College Archives, box B13 (copies of the will of Margaret
Warton).
78
SJC, D105.107 (letter, 20 December), D91.19, p . 70 (reward to the prior of the
charterhouse at Coventry, J a n u a r y 1508).
79
Christ's College Archives, Allesley deeds, box D : conveyance, 12 F e b r u a r y 1512.
80
Underwood, ' T h e Lady M a r g a r e t ' .
81
Lloyd, The Early History of Christ's College, 137, 3 5 1 .
82
F o r a list of books recorded i n a catalogue c. 1650 as the gift of L a d y M a r g a r e t to
Christ's College, see N. M c L e a n , ' Books given to the library of Christ's College, C a m b r i d g e ,
by t h e L a d y M a r g a r e t ' , The Library, 2 n d ser. viii (1907), 2 1 8 - 2 3 .

51
MALCOLM G. UNDERWOOD
received bequests of money, as did several anchoresses apart from White,
who was specially endowed. One of the anchoresses lived at Faversham,
in Fisher's diocese and near the royal hospital of Ospringe which he was
later to have appropriated to St John's College. Her remembrance of these
women, like the payments made by her household to individual religious
and for the well being of her almsfolk, balances the more famous picture
of her educational charity. Fisher's sermon at her month's mind celebrated
her as a religious and social exemplar, both the society of her household
and the pattern of her own piety corresponding with his vision of an ideal
discipline. When we consider her resources, in terms of landed wealth and
personal connections, another aspect of her life begins to claim attention:
the bridge made by her activity between contemporary piety and the
interests of the new dynasty.

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