Tag Archives: Lady Jane Grey

Remembering Syon

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The Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon

On  this day in 1415, the “Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon” was founded in Sheen (later, in 1431, moving to a nearby new location between Brentford and Isleworth).  The monastery-cum-nunnery was of the Bridgettine order, the richest and most powerful of  its time, named after its founder, the mystic and later saint Queen Birgitta of Sweden (1303-73).  One of the brothers, Richard Reynolds, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church; famously encouraging those who suffered alongside him by promising them that after their “sharp breakfast” they would have a banquet in heaven.  The monastery itself was dissolved in 1539, by Henry.  Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was confined here while awaiting her execution in 1542.  Five years later, in 1547, the coffin containing Henry’s body was accommodated overnight here on route from Westminster to Windsor.  According to one colourful account, the decomposing body burst open during the night, and in the morning dogs were discovered lapping up the liquid that had seeped from the coffin!

Syon House

Syon House was built on the site of the monastery by Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset (and Lord  Protector), sometime between 1547-1552.    After Seymour’s execution in 1552, it came to be owned by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, and it was here that his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey was offered the crown at the beginning of her short  and ill-fated reign.  After Dudley’s execution in 1553, it reverted to the monarch.  In 1594, the then Queen, Elizabeth I, granted the house to Henry Percy, the Ninth Earl of Northumberland, and it has remained in his family from that time to this.  In the late eighteenth century, Hugh Percy, the First Duke of Northumberland, commissioned Robert Adam to redesign the interior, and Capability Brown to landscape the gardens, thereby creating “one of the finest villas in Europe”.

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The fourteenth-century  “Monastery Barn”  and seventeenth-century “Ninth Earl’s Arch” still stand in the grounds of the house.

Archaeological Excavations

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In 2003, a  “Time Team” archaeological excavation in the grounds of the house unearthed the remains of the Bridgettine monastery church – which was evidently approximately twice as large as the broadly contemporary King’s College Chapel in Cambridge!  A number of burials were later unearthed within the church by a team from Birkbeck University of London. Surviving written records, including a “mortilage”, have enabled the buried individuals to be identified.  One was the order’s last recorded librarian, Thomas Betson, who died in 1517. Betson’s library catalogue shows that at one time the monastery possessed nearly 1750 books, many of them the only copies in Britain, but almost all now lost.  His notebook includes a herbal, that is to say, a list of healing plants, and a list of remedies.

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Mary seizes the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

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Henry Machyn wrote in his diary in 1553:

“The xix day of July was … Mare proclamyd qwene … , [as the] sister of the late kyng Edward the vi and daughter unto the nobull Henry  the viii … , and … ther was … song, and … belles ryngyng thrugh London, and bone-fyres, and tabuls in evere strett, and wyne and beer and alle, … and ther was money cast a-way”.

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

Meantime, Lady Jane Grey, who had acceded to the throne only nine days previously (see July 10th posting), was imprisoned in the Tower.  She was later tried and convicted on a charge of treason in November, 1553, and eventually executed on February 12th, 1554.

Lady Jane Grey accedes  to   the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

The so-called Streatham Portrait, believed to be a copy of a contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey

Henry Machyn wrote in his diary in 1553:

“The ix day of July was sworne unto the qwen Jane [Grey] … doythur of the duke of Suffolke …

The x day of July was reseyved in the Towre [Jane] with a grett company of lords and nobulls … and the duches of Suffoke her mother, bering her trayn, … and ther was a shot of gunnes … and the proclamasyon … [of] qwen Jane … and a trumpet blohyng …”.

Machyn is now best known as a diarist or chronicler (see March 17th posting).  His  Diary contains descriptions of such  important events in history as the Reformation, and the conversion of the country to Protestantism, under Henry VIII, and the reversion to Catholicism under Henry’s daughter Mary [Tudor].

Remembering Syon

The Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon

On  this day in 1415, the “Monastery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon” was founded in Sheen (later, in 1431, moving to a nearby new location between Brentford and Isleworth).  The monastery-cum-nunnery was of the Bridgettine order, the richest and most powerful of  its time, named after its founder, the mystic and later saint Queen Birgitta of Sweden (1303-73).  One of the brothers, Richard Reynolds, was hanged, drawn and quartered in 1535 for challenging King Henry VIII’s  supremacy over the Church; famously encouraging those who suffered alonsgide him by promising them that after their “sharp breakfast” they would have a banquet in heaven.  The monastery itself was dissolved in 1539, by Henry.  Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, was confined here while awaiting her execution in 1542.  Five years later, in 1547, the coffin containing Henry’s body was accommodated overnight here on route from Westminster to Windsor.  According to one colourful account, the decomposing body burst open during the night, and in the morning dogs were discovered lapping up the liquid that had seeped from the coffin!

Syon House

Syon House was built on the site of the monastery by Edward Seymour, the First Duke of Somerset (and Lord  Protector), sometime between 1547-1552.    After Seymour’s execution in 1552, it came to be owned by John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland, and it was here that his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey was offered the crown at the beginning of her short  and ill-fated reign.  After Dudley’s execution in 1553, it reverted to the monarch.  In 1594, the then Queen, Elizabeth I, granted the house to Henry Percy, the Ninth Earl of Northumberland, and it has remained in his family from that time to this.  In the late eighteenth century, Hugh Percy, the First Duke of Northumberland, commissioned Robert Adam to redesign the interior, and Capability Brown to landscape the gardens, thereby creating “one of the finest villas in Europe”.

The fourteenth-century  “Monastery Barn”  and seventeenth-century “Ninth Earl’s Arch” still stand in the grounds of the house.

Archaeological Excavations

In 2003, a  “Time Team” archaeological excavation in the grounds of the house unearthed the remains of the Bridgettine monastery church – which was evidently approximately twice as large as the broadly contemporary King’s College Chapel in Cambridge!  A number of burials were later unearthed within the church by a team from Birkbeck University of London. Surviving written records, including a “mortilage”, have enabled the buried individuals to be identified. One was the order’s last recorded librarian, Thomas Betson, who died in 1517. Betson’s library catalogue shows that at one time the monastery possessed nearly 1750 books, many of them the only copies in Britain, but almost all now lost.  His notebook includes a herbal, that is to say, a list of healing plants, and a list of remedies.

Mary seizes the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

July 19th – On this day in 1553, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“The xix day of July was … Mare proclamyd qwene … , [as the] sister of the late kyng Edward the vi and daughter unto the nobull Henry  the viii … , and … ther was … song, and … belles ryngyng thrugh London, and bone-fyres, and tabuls in evere strett, and wyne and beer and alle, … and ther was money cast a-way”.

Queen Mary - quite scary

Queen Mary – quite scary

Meantime, Lady Jane Grey, who had acceded to the throne nine days previously (see  Lady Jane Grey posting on July 10th) was imprisoned in the Tower.  She was later tried and convicted on a charge of treason in November, 1553, and eventually executed on February 12th, 1554.

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

Lady Jane Grey accedes to the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

(July 10th ) Henry Machyn wrote in his diary in 1553:

“The ix day of July was sworne unto the qwen Jane [Grey] … doythur of the duke of Suffolke

The x day of July was reseyved in the Towre [Jane] with a grett company of lords and nobulls … and the duches of Suffoke her mother, bering her trayn, … and ther was a shot of gunnes … and the proclamasyon … [of] qwen Jane … and a trumpet blohyng …”.

The so-called Streatham Portrait, believed to be a copy of a contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey

The so-called Streatham Portrait, believed to be a copy of a contemporary portrait of Lady Jane Grey

Machyn is now best known as a diarist or chronicler (see March 17th posting).  His  Diary contains descriptions of such  important events in history as the Reformation, and the conversion of the country to Protestantism, under Henry VIII, and the reversion to Catholicism under Henry’s daughter Mary [Tudor].

Mary Tudor seizes the throne (Henry Machyn, 1553)

July 19th – On this day in 1553, Henry Machyn wrote in his diary:

“The xix day of July was … Mare [Tudor] proclamyd qwene … , [as the] sister of the late kyng Edward the vi and daughter unto the nobull Henry  the viii … , and … ther was … song, and … belles ryngyng thrugh London, and bone-fyres, and tabuls in evere strett, and wyne and beer and alle, … and ther was money cast a-way”.

Queen Mary - quite scary

Queen Mary – quite scary

Meantime, Lady Jane Grey, who had acceded to the throne nine days previously (see  Lady Jane Grey posting on July 10th) was imprisoned in the Tower.  She was later tried and convicted on a charge of treason in November, 1553, and eventually executed on February 12th, 1554.

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche

A romanticised view of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, by Delaroche