HENRY VII (1457-1509). King of England and lord of Ireland. Father of Henry VIII.
Handsome large document bodly signed ('HR') at the head and written and sealed at Calais, 220 x 310½ mm. (ca 9 x 12½ inches), in English, 16 November 1492. One vellum membrane with red wax impression of the Royal Signet Seal (central shield with the Royal Coat of Arms intact), contemporary papering to seal on verso, two small holes.
Letters under the Signet addressed to all Mayors, Sheriffs, Escheators, Bailiffs, Constables and all other officers, ministers and subjects, calling on them to assist in proceeding against various ecclesiastical establishments ('abbeyes priouris colleges parish churches chapelles Gildes and chauntres') in the counties of Warwick, Northampton and Worcester for taking over royal lands and for creative accounting ('colourable Wayes of amortisement') 'in defraude and abusion' of the Crown and 'the manifest & open Wrong of our prerogative royal', 25 lines, IN ENGLISH, 'Yeven Under our signet at our town of Calais' during 'our great Voiage into the parties of fraunce', 16 November 1492
Documents by Henry VII are usually half the size of the present one; and as often as not they tend to be in Latin. It is rare for any Tudor royal document to be written aboard - only Henry VII and Henry VIII made brief visits out of England, both of them to France. It was of course during the reign of Henry VII's grandchild Mary I that Calais passed out of Englsh hands and she is said to have been so grieved by its loss that she swore 'When I am dead you will find Calais written on my heart.'
Styling himself, interestingly, given where he was, 'King of ffraunce and of England and lord of Ireland' in that order, Henry VII instructs local ministers, officials and officers in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Worcestershire to cooperate with John Meautis ('our Secretary for the frenshe tong') and John Wylde and Benet Medley (Clerks of the Signet) who are given 'ful power and auctorite' to investigate the lands and by which ecclesiatical officials they have taken and 'soo usurpantly touched' the royal interest. He orders the three officers to seize the lands and account to him with details of where the lands lie ('certificat of every parcel of the said landes') and who had alienated them and also gives them for their labours and for their faithful service in France £20 per year from the lands, appurtenances and tenements they are to look into.
Henry had sailed to Calais with 25,000 foot soldiers and 1,600 cavalry in October 1492 and laid siege to Boulogne. A treaty was signed with Charles VIII of France at Etaples on 3 November by which peace was agreed for a year after the death of whichever monarch should live the longer. The present document would have been signed at Calais on his return journey; he re-entered London on 22 November.
The legislation of Henry VII's reign relating to ecclesiastical matters included several measures to declare void letters patent granted in the past to abbots, priors and other church officials whereby they had been exempted from paying various taxes and other obligations. He also enacted an Act to curtail abuse of benefit of clergy. His son Henry VIII was to sweep away such establishments and officers in his systematic Dissolution of the Monasteries and Religious Houses.
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