Tudor Intrigues and Intricacies - A Royal Guard’s Journal

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Encounter between Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor and Henry VIII. In the background is depicted the Battle of the Spurs against Louis XII of France. (Public Domain)

Tudor Intrigues and Intricacies - A Royal Guard’s Journal

The journal of a certain Edward Underhill offers a rare insight into the intrigues and intricacies of the Tudor court, for as a member of the monarch’s personal guard, he interacted with all the Tudor monarchs except Henry VII. His journal showcases the interlacing between royalty, nobility and gentry. Edward’s grandparents were John Underhill and his second wife, the heiress Agnes Porter of Nether-Ettington, whom he married during the mid-1480s. In 1500, for 200 marks, they purchased the Manor of Hunningham in a beautiful setting a few miles outside of Leamington Spa and the couple leased for a term of 80 years from John Shirley his Manor of Ettington about six miles (10 kilometers) from Stratford-on-Avon.

John and Agnes had four sons and three daughters: Thomas (born 1484), Edward (born 1486), Robert, William, Elizabeth, Susan and Dorothy. When John died in 1518, his second son, Edward, retained Ettington Manor and lands. The manor-house was described in 1556 as having large rooms including a Great Chamber, a parlour, other chambers/bedchambers, a study, a day-house, kitchen, bake-house and storehouse. Edward married Margaret Middlemore and they had three sons and seven daughters. Their eldest son, Thomas married Elizabeth Congreve and according to a tablet in Ettington church they lived happily together for over 65 years. Their son Humphrey, after his first wife Ursula Congreve died, married Dorothy, sister of Sir Christopher Hatton and widow of John Newport. Ursula and Humphrey had a son William who lived in Stratford as an adult and who sold New Place to William Shakespeare in 1597.

The final concord between William Shakespeare and Hercules Underhill is the confirming title to Shakespeare's New Place house in Stratford-upon-Avon, signed Michaelmas 1602. Shakespeare originally purchased New Place in May 1597 from William Underhill II. Folger Shakespeare Library (Public Domain)

The final concord between William Shakespeare and Hercules Underhill is the confirming title to Shakespeare's New Place house in Stratford-upon-Avon, signed Michaelmas 1602. Shakespeare originally purchased New Place in May 1597 from William Underhill II. Folger Shakespeare Library (Public Domain)


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