Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Cat, the Rat and Lovell, our Dog: Part one**. 'The Cat' - William Catesby.

William Catesby came from a minor Northamptonshire family - he was the son of Sir William Catesby of Ashby St Ledgers, Northamptonshire and Philippa, the heiress daughter of Sir William Bishopston and was born circa 1446. He was trained for the law in the Inner Temple and as an up and coming young lawyer, initially forged ahead in the service of William, 1st Lord Hastings. He married Margaret, daughter of William La Zouche, 6th Baron Zouche of Harringworth and the couple had three sons. William Catesby is often erroneously called Sir William, and spoken of as a knight, but was only an Esquire of the Royal Body.

Upon the death of his father he inherited a large number of estates in the English Midlands and was land-agent for many others. By a combination of useful contacts, family connections and legal astuteness he acquired posts as legal advisor, steward or councillor to a number of noble families, including his father in law, Lord Zouche, Lord Scrope of Bolton, the afore mentioned Lord Hastings and the Duke of Buckingham. He was one of Edward IV’s councillors and was a member of the council that ruled during the short reign of Edward V. After Richard of Gloucester was crowned as King, Catesby was one of the monarch's closest advisors, profiting from the fall of his sponsor, Hastings, and maybe colluding with Richard in bringing about Hastings' execution.

Immediately after Richard's accession he obtained an office which Hastings had previously held, that of one of the chamberlains of the receipt of Exchequer. On the same day (30 June 1483) Richard appointed him Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also Chancellor of the earldom of March for life. Next year he was chosen Speaker in Richard's only parliament in which he sat as knight of the shire for Northamptonshire, a position which is the nearest to being a member of parliament in that era. He also received a substantial grant of land from the king, enough to make him richer than most knights.

In July 1484, William Collingbourne, an English landowner who was an opponent of Richard III, tacked up a lampooning poem to St. Paul's Cathedral, which mentions Catesby among the three aides to King Richard,, whose emblem was a white boar:
The Catte, the Ratte and Lovell our dogge rulyth all Englande under a hogge.
(The Ratte refers to Richard Ratcliffe and the dog here refers to a Lovell family heraldic symbol.

William Catesby was one of the two councillors, the other beings Richard Ratcliffe, who allegedly told the king that marrying his neice, Elizabeth of York, would cause rebellions in the north. There is no evidence to suggest that Richard ever intended to marry her! but mud sticks...
Catesby fought with Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was captured. Alone of those of importance he was executed three days later at Leicester. The suggestion that he might have made a deal with the Stanleys before the battle comes from his will when he asked them "to pray for my soul as ye have not for my body, as I trusted in you." * 

After his death his estates were mostly confiscated by Henry VII. Catesby was succeeded by his eldest son, George, to whom the family seat of Ashby St Legers was later restored. Robert Catesby, leader of the Gunpowder Plot, was a descendant.

* A blog at a later date will go into his Will in some detail.

** Part 2 (Ratcliffe) and 3  (Lovell) to follow in January and February 2018.

© Diana Milne November 2017

We know meat rarely formed part of the average Tudor person’s diet, being expensive to procure and to roast. However this was not the case at court, where the amount of meat consumed by the Tudor aristocracy was immense. The royal court’s annual provision of meat consisted of:
• 1,240 oxen
• 8,200 sheep
• 2,330 deer
• 760 calves
• 1,870 pigs
• 53 wild boar
And these figures don’t take into account the additional requirements of lavish, one-off feasts, such as Edward’s christening!

The Tudors had other strict rules when eating at court, some of which were recorded by the Dutch Writer, Desiderius Erasmus, who published his De Civitate in 1534:
Sit not down until you have washed.
Undo your belt a little if it will make you more comfortable; because doing this during the meal is bad manners.
When you wipe your hands clean, put good thoughts forward in your mind, for it doesn’t do to come to dinner sad, and thus make others sad.
Once you sit place your hands neatly on the table; not on your trencher, and not around your belly.
Don’t shift your buttocks left and right as if to let off some blast. Sit neatly and still.
Any gobbit that cannot be taken easily with the hand, take it on your trencher.
Don’t wipe your fingers on your clothes; use the napkin or the ‘board cloth’.
If someone is ill mannered by ignorance, let it pass rather than point it out.
‘Every true Christen man sholde be mery, jocunde and glad’
(from the Paston Letters 1422-1509)

Leftovers from Henry VIII’s table, the Great Watching Chamber, and the Great Hall were collected in a ‘voider’ (a large basket) and would be distributed to the poor by the Almoner. Those who ate in their own rooms were to take their leftovers to the scullery for the same purpose. Evidence of these collections can be found in the Eltham Ordinances, a series of regulations for the royal household produced in 1526, which states:
‘all such as have their lodgings within the court shall give straight charge to the ministers and keepers of their chambers, that they do not cast, leave or lay any manner of dishes, platters, saucers, or broken meat, either in the said galleries, or at their chamber doors… and likewise to put the relics of their ale into another vessel… so that broken meat and drink be in no wise lost, cast away, or eaten with dogs, nor lie abroad in the galleries or courts, but may daily be saved for the relief of poor folks’.
Anyone who disobeyed this rule was punished, and on the third offence, any who failed to give their leftovers over to the Almoner would forfeit their allowance, lodging and ‘bouche of court’ (the permission to eat and drink at court).

Appears in: Richard III

Along with Ratcliffe and Lovell, Catesby serves as one of Gloucester's (and then Richard III's) primary supporters inRichard III. One of the more important tasks he is given is to persuade Lord Hastings to support Gloucester's accession to the throne. Hastings refuses and is subsequently executed

Ricardian says:

If the general effect of the rhyme and reading Shakespeare’s play leave you imagining Catesby, Ratcliffe and Lovell as Richard’s gang of three henchmen then have another look at the true facts of history.

Fabyan, R

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