Honor Grenville: Life Story

Chapter 18 : Arrest

Lisle had been so vindicated by the Commission’s original report that it was rumoured he was being called to London to receive an earldom. Lisle returned to England and was home in time to attend the Garter Ceremony at Windsor on 23rd April. He took his place as assistant to the Earl of Cumberland, who was deputising for the King

Lisle then attended all of the Parliamentary sessions that were held in late April and early May, before the Parliament was prorogued for Whitsuntide. On 17th May, he had a private audience with the King. What was discussed is unknown, but on 19th May, he was taken to the Tower of London, from which, in the words of the French Ambassador, Marillac, ‘none escape save by miracle.’

Lisle was not brought to trial, so we have no idea of what could have been brought against him. None of the interrogations of Botolf or his accomplices mentioned Lisle as in anyway involved. Muriel St Clair Byrne in her detailed analysis of the evidence concludes that the only solution to the mystery is that Cromwell, seeking revenge for the Commission, but unable to attack Norfolk, whose niece, Katheryn Howard was likely to be Queen within weeks, deliberately associated Lisle with Cardinal Pole, who was Henry’s bete noir.

On 20th May, the King’s messenger delivered an order to Sussex for the arrest of two of Lisle’s servants. Honor was imprisoned in the Castle, and her daughters imprisoned in various houses in the town. The Treasurer took possession of all the Lisle’s goods, including their clothes on behalf of the King.

Whilst we have no witness account of Honor’s reaction, we can reasonably assume she was devastated at the news of Lisle’s imprisonment in the Tower, as well as terrified on her own and her daughters’ behalf. The immediate rumour in Calais, was that she was responsible for the family’s disgrace because she had hoped to marry her daughter, Mary, to a Flemish gentleman.

Mary, during her time in the family of M. de Bours, had become attached to the son. The feeling was mutual, and after Mary returned to Calais in 1538, the families continued to correspond. In Easter of 1540, young M. de Bours (who had now inherited from his father) visited the Lisles and he and Mary secretly entered into a contract for marriage. Mary did not tell her mother that they had made binding promises, only that de Bours and she wished to marry.

The de Bours family then made a formal request for Mary, to which Honor replied that she could make no answer in her husband’s absence. She immediately wrote to the Commission, and to Lisle, who had left a few days before for England. This was right and proper, as Mary ought not to marry without consent of Lisle, and possibly the King. Honor also wrote to her daughter, Anne Basset, so that Anne could give the King any information he wanted to have about M. Bours.

In the panic following the news about the arrest of Lisle, Mary and Mary Hussey, Honor’s gentlewoman, threw various letters into the ‘jakes’ (W.C.). When this came out, suspicions were aroused, and Mary and her sisters were again questioned. However, no charges were brought.

The next we hear from a letter to Cromwell, is that on 5th June Sussex and Sir John Gage had dismissed the Lisle household with a quarter’s wages, and committed Honor with a gentlewoman and a couple of servants into the care of Francis Hall, one of the Spears. John and Frances were sent to England, and orders were requested as to what was to be done with Lisle’s daughter, Bridget. Honor was allowed to keep a taffeta cloak and gown; two kirtles, one of black and the other of tawny velvet and two black nightgowns (informal evening wear, not nightclothes in the modern sense.

Events in England were moving fast. Before Cromwell had time to pursue the matter of Mary’s secret marriage, he had been arrested himself and executed. The French ambassador reported that 

there is good hope in respect of the Deputy of Calais…the King hath said…he cannot believe the said Deputy hath erred of malice, but that in those things of which he stands accused he hath proceeded rather by ignorance…

 Honor Grenville

Honor Grenville

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