Thursday, June 8, 2017

Elizabeth Woodville, RIP--and Bermondsey Abbey

The Queen Dowager of King Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, died at Bermondsey Abbey on June 8, 1492 and was buried with her husband in the Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle.

Of course, Bermondsey Abbey, at one time a Cluniac house, would be suppressed during the reign of Henry VIII. The British History Online (BHO) website features this commentary on the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Edward Walford from his multi-volume work Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People and its Places. Illustrated with Numerous Engravings from the Most Authentic Sources (London; New York: Cassell, Peter and Galpin, 1872-78):

Readers of English history need scarcely be told how that King Henry VIII., in his selfish zeal for novelties in religion, laid violent hands on all the abbeys and other religious houses in the kingdom, except a very few, which were spared at the earnest petition of the people, or given up to the representatives of the original founders. Before proceeding to the final suppression, under the pretext of checking the superstitious worshipping of images, he had laid bare their altars and stripped their shrines of everything that was valuable; nor did he spare the rich coffins and crumbling bones of the dead. Although four hundred years had passed away since the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, the venerated tomb was broken open, and a sort of criminal information was filed against the dead saint, as "Thomas Becket, sometime Archbishop of Canterbury," who was formally cited to appear in court and answer to the charges. As the saint did not appear at the bar of this earthly court, which was held in Westminster Hall in 1539, it was deemed proper to declare that "he was no saint whatever, but a rebel and traitor to his prince, and that therefore he, the king, strictly commanded that he should not be any longer esteemed or called a saint; that all images and pictures of him should be destroyed; and that his name and remembrance should be erased out of all books, under pain of his majesty's indignation, and imprisonment at his grace's pleasure." Other shrines had been plundered before, and certain images and relics of saints had been broken to pieces publicly at St. Paul's Cross; but now every shrine was laid bare, or, if any escaped, it was owing to the poverty of their decorations and offerings. "In the final seizure of the abbeys and monasteries," writes the author of the "Comprehensive History of England," "the richest fell first. After Canterbury, Battle Abbey; Merton, in Surrey; Stratford, in Essex; Lewes, in Sussex; the Charterhouse, the Blackfriars, the Greyfriars, and the Whitefriars, in London, felt the fury of the same whirlwind, which gradually blew over the whole land, until, in the spring of the year 1540, all the monastic establishments of the kingdom were suppressed, and the mass of their landed property was divided among courtiers and parasites. … All the abbeys were totally dismantled, except in the cases where they happened to be the parish churches also; as was the case at St. Albans, Tewkesbury, Malvern, and elsewhere, where they were rescued, in part by the petitions and pecuniary contributions of the pious inhabitants, who were averse to the worshipping of God in a stable." Of the "lesser monasteries" which were thus ruthlessly swept away was the Abbey of Bermondsey, which is now kept in remembrance mainly by the names given to a few streets which cover its site, and through which we are about to pass.

Walford comments on the suppression of Bermondsey Abbey:

At the dissolution of the monasteries, Bermondsey Abbey, with its rich manor, was seized—as was the case with other similar places—by Henry VIII. At that time the Abbot of Bermondsey had no very tender scruples about conscience or principle, like so many of his brethren, but arranged everything in the pleasantest possible manner for the king; and he had his reward. While the poor monks had pensions varying from £5 6s. 8d. to £10 a year each allowed them, the good Lord Abbot's pension amounted to £336 6s. 8d. The monastery itself, with the manor, demesnes, &c., were granted by the Crown to Sir Robert Southwell, Master of the Rolls, who sold them to Sir Thomas Pope, the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. In 1545 Sir Thomas pulled down the old priory church, and built Bermondsey House upon the site and with the materials.

BHO also describes some of the treasures lost from the Abbey Church, St. Saviour (from another author):

In June 1536 Robert Wharton was promoted to the vacant see of St. Asaph, the king sanctioning his holding the abbey in commendam. (fn. 122) The bishop apparently lent himself to the surrender of the abbey, which was accomplished on 1 January 1537-8. His compliance did not go unrewarded and he received the large pension of £333 6s. (fn. 123) Richard Gale the prior was granted £10, Thomas Gaynesborow, prior of Derby, £7, the sub-prior and three other monks £6 each, four other monks £5 6s. 8d. each, and two others much smaller sums. (fn. 124)

The work of despoliation had already begun. A special object of veneration since 1117 had been an ancient crucifix found close to the Thames in that year (fn. 125) and placed in an honourable position in the conventual church to which it drew many pilgrims. (fn. 126) The sixteenth century diary of a citizen of London, under an entry of 24 February 1538, describing the Bishop of Rochester's sermon on that day at Paul's Cross, and the destruction there of the Kent 'Roode of Grace,' adds: 'There was the pictor of Saynte Saviour that had stood in Barmsey abbey many yeres in Southwarke takyn down.' (fn. 127)

John Husee wrote to Lord Lisle 21 March, 'pilgrimage saints goeth down apace,' and instanced Our Lady at Southwick, the Blood of Hales, St. Saviour's and others. On the following day he wrote to Lady Lisle and stated that the image of St. Saviour's as well as others had been taken away. (fn. 128)

BTW: Edward Walford was an Oxford Movement convert to Catholicism. As his London Times obituary stated on November 22, 1897:

The death is announced of Mr. Edward Walford, the editor and compiler of "Watford's County Families of the United Kingdom," which took place at Ventnor on Saturday morning. Mr. Walford, who was about 74 years old, had been in bad health for some years. He was a Balliol with Matthew Arnold, Edwin Palmer, James Riddell, and other distinguished men, and showed is own scholarship by obtaining the Chancellor's Prize for Latin verse in 1843. In 1846 he took his degree with a third class in Literæ Humaniores, and obtained the Denyer Theological Prize in 1848 and 1849. Like other Oxford men of that date, he fell under the influence of the movement associated with Newman's name, and became a Roman Catholic. He devoted his life principally to genealogical and historical studies, on which subjects he was for many years a frequent contributor to The Times. Besides "Walford's County Families," which is in its 27th annual edition, he was the author of "Stories of Our County Families" and of other works of a similar character.

No comments:

Post a Comment