Chapter 4 : At Court
Honor became part of court circles just at the time when Henry’s court was changing out of all recognition. The King was attempting to have his marriage to Katharine of Aragon annulled after nearly twenty years. Katharine had been Queen of England all of Honor’s adult life, and, as a country-dweller with no exposure to new religious ideas before her marriage to Lisle, it is unlikely that Honor would have responded with enthusiasm to the change around her.
There is no record of her opinions – we do know that she was one of a party who visited the Princess Mary in April 1532. This was before Henry’s marriage to Anne when Mary, although forbidden to see her mother, was still officially the King’s legitimate daughter and heir and it may have been no more than a courtesy visit, carried out whilst Lisle was attending the festival of the Garter at Windsor.
For Lisle, whatever his or Honor’s personal opinions might have been (and it is difficult to imagine that a man of at least sixty would have welcomed the turmoil in the country) his loyalty to the King was paramount and the couple came to be considered as supporters of the ‘Boleyn Party’. This was manifest when Honor was one of the six ladies chosen to accompany Anne to Calais in October 1532 for a meeting with King François.
For Anne to have the King’s aunt-by-marriage in her train was a mark of social acceptability, but it probably also suggests that there was some degree of personal liking between the two women although Honor was around eight years older.
The other women at the meeting were Lady Mary Howard (Anne’s cousin), the Countess of Derby, Lady FitzWalter (daughter of the Earl of Derby), Lady Rochford (Anne’s sister-in-law) Lady Wallop, wife of one of Henry’s envoys to France and Eleanor Paston, Countess of Rutland. Lisle took 24 men in his retinue, and Honor presumably took a number of female attendants with her. Lady Wallop and Lady Rutland became friends of Honor’s and feature in the Lisle letters.
It is tempting to speculate on Honor’s feelings as she danced with the King of France, splendid in a doublet set with jewels said to be worth £100,000. She had come a long way from Stowe!
The royal party were trapped at Calais for some time with ferocious storms in the Channel, during which time they entertained themselves with supper parties. Honor and Lisle were the guests of Thomas Cromwell on 1st November.
Eventually, the winds died down, but Honor later observed, when she was back home at Soberton, that she and Lisle had been in great danger on their return home for ‘lack of a pilot’. This suggests that rather than returning to Dover with the King’s party, the Lisles had sailed to Southampton as being closer to home.
Rubbing shoulders with royalty did not for distract Honor from the management of her estates – letters passed to a fro with her various stewards, who informed her of the most minute details, such as the selection of a reeve at Umberleigh and the state of the Umberleigh mill.
As well as managing the estates she already had, Honor commissioned a ship sometime in 1532, called the ‘Sunday of Portchester’ which she used for less for trading per se, than to purchase foodstuffs for her own household, with some profit on the remainder. In 1532, the ship mainly purchased salt herring from Carlingford in Ireland.
She also had time to attend to her other friends and dependents, writing to Cromwell in January 1533 to complain about the behaviour of one of his servants, Lawrence Courtenay, who, she said, was attempting to deprive a young widow of her lands.
Lisle was not quite so fortunate in his management – he received a stern rebuke from the King in January 1533 about his management of the deer park at Clarendon. Apparently, his slackness was the cause of the deer and game being ‘much decayed’. He would lose his post as Keeper of the Park if matters did not improve.