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«Lady Eleanor Talbot’s Other Husband: Sir Thomas Butler, heir of Sudeley, and his family JOHN-ASHDOWN HILL Although King Henry VII tried very hard ...»

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Lady Eleanor Talbot’s Other Husband:

Sir Thomas Butler, heir of Sudeley, and his family


Although King Henry VII tried very hard to supress the fact, it is well known that in asserting his claim to

the throne in 1483, Richard III had cited a prior contract of marriage between his brother, the late king

Edward IV, and the Lady Eleanor Talbot. A marriage contract which, together with Edward’s clandestine

second marriage with Elizabeth Woodville, made all the children of that second marriage illegitimate. It is now also established that Lady Eleanor Talbot was, at the time of her alleged marriage with Edward IV, a young widow, having been previously married to Sir Thomas Butler. Indeed, the Titulus Regius of 1484 refers to both Lady Eleanor and Elizabeth Woodville under their married names, as ‘Eleanor Butler’ and ‘Elizabeth Grey’ respectively. In this article, however, to avoid confusion, the consistent practice is to refer to women by their maiden surnames, hence ‘Eleanor Talbot’ and ‘Elizabeth Woodville’. Previous writers have casually suggested that Richard III selected Lady Eleanor Talbot to be named as ‘the lady of the precontract’ because there were no members of her family around to contradict him. This article establishes that on the contrary there were numerous relatives of both Lady Eleanor and Sir Thomas Butler living in the Richard’s reign and that these living relatives apparently had no difficulty in accepting Richard III and in prospering under him.1

Sir Thomas Butler is a shadowy figure and only three facts seem to be generally known about him:

that he was the only son and heir of Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley, that in about 1450 he married Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of the first earl of Shrewbury, and that about ten years later he died, leaving no children. The details of his father’s career are well established and are not explored extensively here. Sir Thomas’ father, Lord Sudeley, was an important man whose name is occasionally accompanied by that of one of his stepsons, but his son and heir seems scarcely to be mentioned. Only after Sir Thomas’ death does his name occur in connection with the death of his widow, Eleanor, and the ensuing confiscation by Edward IV of the manors which Thomas had once held.2 I have speculated on a previous occasion3 that the Sir Thomas Butler who is known to have been killed on the Lancastrian side at the battle of Towton might possibly have been Lord Sudeley’s son and Eleanor Talbot’s husband, but this cannot be the case. It is clear from Lady Eleanor’s inquisition post mortem4 that Sir Thomas Butler had died, and his widow had inherited his two manors, during the reign of Henry VI, since, while impugning Henry’s right to the throne, the inquisition specifically dates Eleanor’s inheritance of the manors to year thirty-nine of his reign. Anyone writing at the time of Eleanor’s inquisition post mortem in 1468 who wanted to refer to a death at the battle of Towton would certainly have dated the event to the first year of the reign of Edward IV rather than to the thirty-ninth year of Henry VI, so we can be certain that Sir Thomas must have died before Edward IV was proclaimed king on 4 March 1461.

Sir Thomas Butler’s family, the Butlers of Sudeley, had risen from the ranks of the gentry as a result of the marriage of his great grandfather, William le Botiler of Wem, Shropshire, with Joan, the heiress of the de Sudeley family. This marriage had elevated the Butlers to the minor aristocracy. As a result, Sir Thomas’ grandfather and namesake, Thomas Butler, had inherited the title of Lord Sudeley. He had died in 1398, but his wife, Alice Beauchamp, lived on until 1443, so Sir Thomas Butler will have known his grandmother and probably also her second husband, Sir John Dalyngrygg.5 Alice Beauchamp gave her first husband three sons, who held the Sudeley title in succession, and of whom Ralph was the youngest.

1 I have previously indicated how Eleanor’s sister, Elizabeth, Duchess of Norfolk, seemed to be on good terms with Richard III, though not, apparently, with Henry VII. See J. Ashdown-Hill, ‘Norfolk Requiem’, Ricardian vol. 12, no. 152, pp. 208, 210, 212.

2 CPR 1467-77, p. 133.

3 J. Ashdown-Hill, ‘Edward IV’s Uncrowned Queen’, Ricardian, vol. 11, no. 139, December 1997, p. 188, n. 28.

4 J. Ashdown-Hill, ‘The Inquisition Post Mortem of Eleanor Talbot, Lady Butler’, Ricardian vol. 12, no. 159, December 2002, pp. 563-573.

5 Both Ralph Butler, his stepson, and Sir John Montgomery, his younger step-daughter’s husband, were among those who inherited manors previously held by Sir John Dalyngrygg. CCR 1441-47, p. 95, 12 March 1443.

The eldest son, John, died childless and unmarried in 1410. William, the second son, then held the Sudeley title for seven years, but he also died childless. His widow, Alice, however, was a lady of some importance (although nothing is known of her family) because in 1424 she was appointed the governess of King Henry VI, with leave to chastise him when necessary. A right which she must have used sparingly, for Henry VI seems to have been fond of her and periodically made her gifts when he was grown up.6 In addition to his two elder brothers, Ralph Butler also had at least two sisters, and they and their children, who were Sir Thomas Butler’s cousins, will be mentioned later.

The name of Sir Thomas Butler’s mother can also be ascertained, as can details of his maternal family connections. Ralph Butler, Lord Sudeley, was married twice. His second marriage was to Alice Lovel, née Deincourt,7 and took place on 8 January 1463, when Thomas was already dead. Thomas’ mother was Ralph’s first wife. Her name has been given by most earlier writers as Elizabeth Hende8 but, like Alice Lovel, Elizabeth had also had a previous husband, and Hende was not her maiden name, but rather the surname which she had acquired by that previous marriage, her first husband having been John Hende II (as numbered on the Hende pedigree given here), a draper of the company of Drapers of London from 1367,9 and at various times sheriff, alderman and mayor.10 Elizabeth’s maiden name was Norbury, which is a toponym. Her family had for several generations held the manor of Norbury in Cheshire, and under their earlier surname of Bulkeley, had been domiciled in that county for even longer. Two sons were born of Elizabeth Norbury’s marriage with John Hende II: John Hende III (‘'the elder’), and John Hende IV (‘'the younger’). The name of the latter sometimes figures together with that of his stepfather, Lord Sudeley. John Hende III and IV were the half-brothers of Sir Thomas Butler.

Sir Thomas’ mother was the daughter of the wealthy Sir John Norbury I of Norbury, Cheshire, Treasurer of England. The career of Sir John Norbury I is well documented, although the fact that he was Sir Thomas Butler’s grandfather has not previously been recognised. He is first encountered as an esquire in the service of the house of Lancaster, being specifically attached to John of Gaunt’s son, Henry (the future Henry IV). John Norbury accompanied Henry into exile in France when he was banished by his cousin, King Richard II, and returned with him to England in 1399, when, shortly before his abdication, Richard II was forced to appoint Norbury as treasurer of England, a post which he then held for the entire reign of Henry IV, and which brought him into close contact with the rich businessmen in the city of London whose loans, together with loans from Sir John Norbury himself, were to finance Henry IV’s government. Prominent among these businessmen was John Hende II, a very wealthy widower to whom, in about 1408, Sir John Norbury was able to marry his young daughter, Elizabeth.11 Elizabeth Norbury had at least one sister and two half-brothers. Her father married twice. His first wife, the mother, if chronology is any guide, of both Elizabeth and her sister, Joan, was called Petronilla, but her maiden surname I have not discovered. Petronilla was still living in August 1401, when she is named with her husband as the recipient of Henry IV’s grant of the manor of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, but by 1412 Sir John was married to Lord Sudeley’s sister, Elizabeth Butler, and they already had two sons. Probably Petronilla died in about 1404 and Sir John’s marriage with the widowed Elizabeth Butler, Lady Say, took place in about 1405.12 Sir John Norbury’s second marriage was into a family which in 6 The fact that ‘Dame Alice Boteler’ was appointed Henry VI’s governess in 1424 is well known but no-one seems previously to have thought about who she might have been. There are two obvious contenders: Ralph Butler’s mother and his sister-in-law, both of whom were called Alice. Henry’s gifts to his former governess are recorded: CPR 1436-41, pp. 46, 127, 367, 434, 534.

The fact that the former governess is called ‘the King's widow’ means that Ralph Butler’s sister-in-law is almost certainly the right candidate, as his mother had remarried, and figures in November 1440 as ‘Alice Dalyngrrege’ (CPR 1441-46, p. 458). On the other hand Ralph Butler’s sister-in-law, Alice, never remarried, as is shown by the fact that in October 1442 she is called ‘Alice, late the wife of William Botiller’ (CPR 1441-46, p. 116).

7 Alice Deincourt was the grandmother of Francis, Lord Lovel, by her previous marriage.

8 Complete Peerage, vol. 12 part 1, London 1953, p. 421.

9 C.P. Boyd, Roll of the Drapers’ Company of London, Croydon 1934, p. 91.

10 S.L. Thrupp, The Merchant Class of Medieval London 1300-1500, Chicago 1948, p. 349. John Hende was mayor of London twice: 1391-92, when he and the city council fell foul of Richard II and Hende was dismissed by the king and imprisoned in Windsor Castle, and again in 1404-05. His name occurs in association with Richard Whittington’s on several occasions in the patent rolls, for example 20 June 1407 and 29 May 1411. CPR 1405-08, p. 335; CPR 1408-13, p. 292.

11 For Sir John Norbury’s career, see M. Barber, ‘John Norbury’, English Historical Review, vol. 68 (1953), pp.66-76; B. Burke, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, London 1984, p. 736; CPR 1396-99, p. 470; CPR 1399-1401, p.541; CPR 1408-13, pp. 65, 144, 283, 404, 405, 410; CPR 1413-16, pp. 161, 162, 419; C.W. Previté-Orton & Z.N. Brooke, eds., The Cambridge Medieval History, vol. 8, Cambridge 1964, p. 363, p. 376; E.F. Jacobs, ed., The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485, Oxford 1961, p.1, p.18, p.429; A. Steel, Richard II, Cambridge 1962, p.269. For Elizabeth’s first marriage see Thrupp, Merchant Class, p. 349.

12 CPR 1399-1401, p. 541; CPR 1408-13, p. 404.

origin was similar to his own, but which, by the early fifteenth century, had risen to somewhat higher social rank than his. The Butler (Botiler) family originally held land at Wem in Shropshire but, as we have seen, the advantageous marriage of William le Botiler to Joan, heiress of the Sudeley family, had raised him to the lower ranks of the aristocracy. Like the Butlers, the Norbury family began by holding one or two manors. Their family surname had originally been Bulkeley, which was derived from the name of the manor they first held in Cheshire. Various pedigrees for the Norbury family have survived, of varying degrees of accuracy.13 It had been Elizabeth Norbury’s great grandfather, Roger, who had changed the family surname from Bulkeley to Norbury on inheriting the manor of Norbury. The Bulkeley coat of arms: ‘sable, a chevron between three bulls’ heads cabossed argent’,14 was borne by Elizabeth’s father, but with a fleur de lis sable on the chevron for difference (see below). Sir John Norbury, however, inherited no manors to go with his coat of arms, and was left to make his own way in the world.15 As we have seen, thanks to her father’s business connections, in about 1408, Elizabeth, who was then probably about fifteen years of age, was married to the much older but very wealthy widower, John Hende II, draper and past mayor (1391-92 and 1404-05). John was probably aged about fifty-eight at the time of the marriage, and seems to have had no surviving sons by his previous wife, Katharine Baynarde,16 whom he had married in about 1380. Elizabeth, however, bore John two sons, one in 1409 and one in 1412. Both were christened ‘John’ after their father, and they were later known as ‘John the elder’ and ‘'John the younger’ respectively.

John Hende II died in 1418, leaving £1000 to Elizabeth and £1500 to each of his sons. About a year later, Elizabeth married Ralph Butler, who, on the death of an elder brother, had recently inherited the title of Lord Sudeley, and who was already a connection by marriage, since Elizabeth’s father, Sir John Norbury had, in about 1405, married Ralph’s sister, Elizabeth Butler (see above). John Norbury and Elizabeth Butler had two young sons, the elder of whom, Henry, was the godson of King Henry IV, after whom he was named.17 About four years before his daughter’s marriage to his brother-in-law, however, John Norbury seems to have died. He was buried in the church of the Grey Friars in London, beside his first wife and the epitaph upon his tomb described him as Valens armiger, strenuus ac probus vir.18 Probably within a year or two of her second marriage, Elizabeth Norbury gave Ralph Butler a son and heir, the future Sir Thomas Butler. Elizabeth’s Norbury arms can be clearly seen, impaled by the arms of Butler of Sudeley, on the Sudeley pedigree roll which was made in 1449 to celebrate Sir Thomas Butler’s forthcoming marriage to Lady Eleanor Talbot.19 Although Elizabeth’s marriage to Ralph Butler lasted for more than fifty years, Thomas was to be their only surviving child. If other children were born they must have died young, but it seems quite likely that there were none, as Lord Sudeley spent the greater part of the 1430s and 1440s serving in France (where, presumably, he made the acquaintance of John Talbot, future Earl of Shrewsbury, the father of 13 See, for example, Library of the Society of Genealogists, unpublished volume, Cheshire Pedigrees 1613, from Harl. MSS 1535 & 1070 & from C6 in the College of Arms, f. 337. This genealogy states that Sir John Norbury married Eleanor Butler, the sister of Ralph, and that Elizabeth Norbury was their daughter, but this seems to be erroneous. Better pedigrees are published in J. P.

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