Thursday, March 22, 2012

The "other" Katherine Swynford & the Importance of Remembering our Roots

Though Katherine Roet Swynford didn't live long enough to see her namesake granddaughter, her son Thomas Swynford and first wife Joan Crophill did indeed produce a daughter whom they named Katherine, after his famous mother.

In 1404, Thomas Swynford, Hugh and Katherine's son, became Captain of Calais under the authority of his half-brother, John Beaufort. This was apparently an appointment of trust for Beaufort; the previous year had witnessed the treachery which has arisen between the lieutenant and the soldiers there….

He would stay overseas for the next couple of years as one of two negotiators appointed by step-brother Henry IV seeking a treaty with Flanders. By 1406, son Thomas would be born with daughter Katherine following in 1410. Katherine's birth seems to have come at a difficult time for her father, who by 1409 had been relieved as Sheriff of Lincoln and been declared an outlaw due to indebtedness to a London draper. By 1411, he seems to be desperate to claim an inheritance in his mother's father's lands in Hainault; the occasion was accompanied by letters patent issued by Henry IV in which he declares his step-brother's legitimate birth.

It's an odd document. Thomas' legitimacy was not questioned at his birth, nor in his father Hugh's inquisition post mortem, nor was it questioned when he took possession of his patrimony of Kettlethorpe and assumed his father's arms. Even if Lindsay Brook of the Foundation for Medieval Genealogy is correct in his proposition that Paon Roet was identical with the known Giles du Roeulx of the same era, there simply would not have been any Hainault lands to inherit as the last Lord of Roeulx -- Eustace -- and surviving brother, Fastré, were forced to sell back their patrimony to their Count due to economic circumstances. Regrettably, many secondary genealogy sources state that the House of Roeulx died out for lack of heirs; however, this is clearly not the case as the last generation of Roeulx and certainly the two preceding it had no lack of heirs or heiresses.

But such is the stuff of family remembrance and legend, and what had occurred 3 or 4 generations previously is likely to have escaped Thomas' notice, and thus memories of a long-disposessed patrimony were forgotten in favor of remembering the family's possible glory days. Such is the power of ancestral memories, the key to a person's identity. For the family of Swynford, these were enshrined in heraldic remembrances, several of which no longer exist but were once established with pride and taken note of by passers-by.

By 1421, Thomas' wife Joan Crophill had passed away and he remarried a widow, Margaret Gray, first the wife of John Lord Darcy. His son was 15 and his daughter 11, and added to his financial responsibilities were the many minor children of his new wife, later joined by the addition of Thomas and Margaret's own son, William Swynford, last Swynford owner of Kettlethorpe. Thomas himself evidently alienated Kettlethorpe before his death as his IPM does not show him owning any lands in Lincolnshire.

His daughter Katherine, however, was to be married into the ancient (as in, living in England as of the Conquest) Drury family of Rougham, Suffolk. She married William Drury, knight, son and heir of Sir Roger Drury and Margaret Naunton. The marriage would have had to have taken place at some point prior to 1429 when their eldest surviving son, Thomas, perhaps named for his ailing grandfather, was born; Thomas, son of Hugh and Katherine Swynford, died in 1432. Other children followed: Roger (who appears to have survived until at least 1475), George (Parson of Wolpitte; also alive as late as 1475), and at least three daughters, one of whom was also named Catherine. Daughters Ann and Catherine Drury took the veil, but third daughter, Mary, married into the Grimston family.

Living to the ripe old age of ~67 years, Katherine Swynford Drury died in 1478. Many internet sources place her internment at Lincoln Cathedral but this seems unlikely. Her husband William, who predeceased her in 1450, requested to be buried in the Church of the Friars Minor of Babewell in his will. This building is no longer extant. Other Drury relatives were buried in the Rougham Church in Suffolk, and her daughter Mary's monument was once to be seen in a Thorndon, Suffolk church:

in the chancel of a stone is the portraiture of a woman above whose head are these arms per pale france and Ingland qtrly a label of 3 points and azure a chevron charged with 3 boars heads coupd, about the arms these words, these be the arms of dame Katherine Swinford.

Mary Drury took the memory of her famous heritage to her death. As the great-granddaughter of Katherine Roet Swynford, the memory of her grandfather's arms were still fresh in her mind (the the label of three points has been noted elsewhere as being the arms of Thomas, son of Hugh and Katherine), and she knew that her family was closely related to the royal family itself, as indicated by the inclusion of the royal arms, just as happened in her grandfather's time at the church of Ss. Peter and Paul at Kettlethorpe. Sadly, the Thorndon monument seems to have disappeared in the remodeling efforts that destroyed many medieval relics, including most of Kettlethorpe's.

Mary likely had another sister who tends not to be found in Drury genealogical accounts but whose existence seems confirmed by the 1471 Bylaugh, Norfolk, brass to her and her husband, Sir John Curson/Curzon. Her name was Joan and she outlived her husband, and though many accounts give her family name as Bacon, the heraldry on her husband's brass clearly allude to her Drury-Swynford heritage:

Finally, the family Swynford and Roet were remembered in the mid-15th century tomb of Lewis Robessart in Westminster Cathedral. Swinford, Thomas Swynford, and Katherine Roet were remembered on Robessart's tomb emblazonings. What we don't know is why. Robessart was a Hainaulter, like Katherine Roet Swynford's father. He may have served abroad with Thomas Swynford. In any case, the relationship was clearly worth remembering for one reason or another that may well be lost to us now.

We only know about some of these otherwise obscure relationships because tombs were the vehicle for immortality. There was a time when it was important to know from whence we came and our relationships with our relatives and close friends.

Further Reading:

THE ROBESSART TOMB IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY. Cecil Humphery-Smith, Foundations (2004) 1 (3): 178-192.

Humphery-Smith, C R (1957). The Blount Quarters. The Coat of Arms. 4: 224-227

Humphery-Smith, C R (1964). The Robessart Tomb in Westminster Abbey. Family History. 2 (11): 142-149.

Engravings of Sepulchral Brasses i N orfolk and Suffolk..., John S. Cotman, Vol. 1 (London: 1839).

KATHERINE ROET'S SWYNFORDS: A RE-EXAMINATION OF INTERFAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND DESCENT. Judy Perry, July 2003, Foundations 1 (2): 122-131.]; Foundations (2004) 1 (3): 164-174.

1 comment:

tudorcrazy said...

Read Wheel of Fortune Susan Howatch. Modern adaptation of Katherine and John..