Christopher Wren was born on the 20thOctober 1632, in East Knoyle, Wiltshire. His father Christopher Wren, was rector of East Knoyle, and later Dean of Windsor, and mother Mary Cox, daughter of Wiltshire squire Robert Cox.
His early education was under the tutorage of Rev. William Shepherd. Then between 1641 and 1646 attended Westminster School, where he received a thorough grounding in Latin, Mathematics, and learnt to draw, which led to an interest in design and construction.
In June 1650, Wren studied Latin and the works of Aristotle at Wadham College, Oxford. Whilst there became associated with John Wilkins, and the Wilkins Circle; Mathematicians, Creative Workers and Philosophers, whose works led to the formation of the Royal Society.
In 1651 graduated with a B.A. and in 1653 had attained an M.A. and elected a fellow of All Souls College, and actively pursued a period of research and experimentation.
In 1657 Wren was appointed Professor of Astronomy at Gresham College in London.
For it was in 1662, that Lord Brouncker, Mr Boyle, Mr Bruce, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Paul Neile, Dr Wilkins, Dr Goddard, Dr Petty, Mr Ball, Mr Rooke, Mr Hill and Mr Wren, proposed the formation of a socity; “For the promotion of Physico-Mathematicall Experimental Learning.” They received a Royal Charter from Charles II, and so “The Royal Society,” was formed. Wren became president of the Royal Society from 1680-1682.
In 1661, Wren was elected as Savilian Professor at Oxford, and Surveyor of Works to Charles II.
Wren’s scientific work covered, astronomy optics, longitude, cosmology, mechanics, microscopy, surveying, medicine and meteorology. It was at this time his thoughts were drawn into the world of architecture.
In 1665, Wren was asked to redesign the now ruined St.Paul’s Cathedral, but before he could submit his initial plans, two-thirds of London was destroyed by fire. As Kings Surveyor of Works in 1669, he played his part in the re-building of London, and was responsible for fifty-one new churches, and knighted on the 14thNovember 1673.
He dabbled his foot a bit in politics, and in 1680 became Member of Parliament for Old Windsor, then again in 1689 and 1690, but never took his seat.
In 1669 Wren married Faith Coghill, daughter of Sir John Coghill of Bletchingdon, and they had two children; Gilbert who died of convulsions and Christopher, who trained to be an architect. His wife Faith died in September 1675 of smallpox and was buried in St.Martin-in-the-Fields alongside her son Gilbert.
In 1677 Wren re-married Jane Fitzwilliam daughter of William Fitzwilliam, 2ndBaron Fitzwilliam. They had two children, Jane and Billy. His wife Jane died of tuberculosis in 1680, and was buried alongside his first wife Faith in the Chancel of St.Martin-in-the-Fields.
On the 25thFebruary 1723, Sir Christopher Wren died aged 90, and was laid to rest on 5thMarch 1726, in St.Paul’s Cathedral crypt. The inscription inscribed in a circle of black marble reads: Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you.
Robert Walpole was born on the 26thAugust 1676 at Houghton in Norfolk, to parents Colonel Robert Walpole a wealthy land owner and Mary Burwell.
The young Robert Walpole attended Eton in 1690, and in 1696 entered Cambridge University. His university education ended abruptly with the death of his eldest brother, and he returned to the Norfolk family estate.
On the 30thJuly 1700 Robert Walpole married Catherine Shorter, daughter of a timber merchant, and the couple had six children.
With the death of his father in the November of 1700, this helped him enter the world of politics, as he took his place as MP for Castle Rising in 1701, a seat previously held by his father.
At the 1702 general election, won his seat at King’s Lynn a seat which he held until the February of 1742, with a break in 1712 when he was a guest of the Tower of London.
Robert Walpole snr, a devout Whig member and loyal supporter of the 1688/89 Glorious Revolution, which gave Britain a constitutional monarchy. Robert Walpole jnr held similar views.
Robert Walpole’s political rise was swift. In 1708 appointed Secretary at War, Treasurer of the Navy in 1710/11. His rise came to an abrupt halt, when the Tories came to power. In 1712 he was accused of corruption, and imprisoned in the Tower of London for a few short months.
In 1714, George I came to the throne, and had an utter distrust of the Tories believing they opposed his right of succession. By 1715 the Whigs had regained power and Walpole became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1717 Walpole resigned from the Whigs, and in 1720 became Paymaster General. His return to office coincided with the collapse of the South Sea Company. He regained his posts as First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Following the death of George I in 1727, a new monarch called for a new administration and Walpole was replaced by Spencer Compton, the preferred choice of the new King. With the support of Queen Catherine, he regained his position.
Walpole was given 10 Downing Street as his home of residence by King George II. Yet he insisted it be the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury, which became the permanent residence for all future British Prime Ministers.
Trade disputes with Spain, and issues with critics within the party, forced his hand into declaring wat in 1739. In February of 1742 Walpole faced much opposition by Whig politicians over the war with Spain, forcing him to resign his post.
King George II awarded Robert Walpole with a peerage as the Earl of Orford, and he remained a confidant of the King until his death in 1745.
The “Lord Strange’s Men” was an early group of actors, which were the forerunners to the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”
So who were the Lord Chamberlain’s Men?
They were a group of actors who performed the plays as written by William Shakespeare, and he was in the early day’s one of its shareholders, and often stepped in, to play secondary roles, for he was no actor in the true sense of the word.
It was founded in 1594, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England with Henry Carey the 1stBaron Hunsdon, the Lord Chamberlain as their patron.
When their patron died on the 23rdJuly 1596 his son George Carey the 2ndBaron Hunsdon took over the position as their patron, and under his direction they were no longer known as “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” but “Lord Hunsdon’s Men.” When George Carey was appointed to Lord Chamberlain on the 17thMarch 1597, they reverted their stage name to that of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.”
With the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1603, having been on the throne for 45 years, and served her people well. King James IV of Scotland became the new King James I of England when he ascended to the English throne in 1603. He became the new patron to the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” who duly changed their name to the “Kings Men,” in honour of their new patron, and King.
Lord Chamberlain’s Men, came about by way of a former group known as “Lord Strange’s Men.” For it was James Burbage an impresario who ran the company till his death in 1597, when sons Richard and Cuthbert took over ownership, with little involvement in the early days.
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men consisted in the early times with eight shareholders, who would share between them the profits and debts of their company.
One of the most remembered would be William Kempe who played the part of the clown, in Shakespeare’s plays; Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing and a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and by 1601 he had left the company.
George Bryan, a former member of the “Leicester’s Men” in the 1580’s and friend of William Kempe performed with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, until his retirement from the stage between 1597-1598. Later he became Groom of the Chamber, within the household of King James.
Thomas Pope, a former member of the “Leicester’s Men,” also performed with the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and retired from the stage in 1600, and died a few years later in 1603.
Augustine Phillips, formerly a member of the “Lord Strange’s Men,” remained with the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” until his death in 1605.
Henry Condell and John Heminges, two young actors, with a vision, who also came from the former “Lord Strange’s Men,” and onto “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” They made a name for themselves, when in 1623, for they were responsible for producing “Shakespeare’s First Folio,” of his works.
Two shareholders of the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” who would be remembered for their contributions: William Shakespeare as a secondary actor and playwright and Richard Burbage as lead actor, who performed in Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, and would go on to become a famous Renaissance actor.
It is known a number of boys within the group went on to have distinguished careers in their own rights. Alexander Cooke, played female roles in many of Shakespeare’s plays, whilst Christopher Beeston became a wealthy 17thcentury impresario.
The original members of the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” changed much over the years, as members died off, got old, or left to pursue other directions.
For one of those was William Kempe who was replaced by Robert Armin an author, offering the group an alternative to the works of William Shakespeare. He had been credited with creating originality to the characters; “Feste” in Twelfth Night, “Touchstone” in As You Like It and the “Fool” in King Lear.
Yet, the majority of the work performed by the company was that of Shakespeare’s. However, the earliest production of a non-Shakespearean play was performed in the summer of 1598. “Every Man in His Humour,” by Ben Jonson’s and in 1599 its sequel “Every Man out of His Humour.”
In 1601, the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” tried to avoid involvement with the Earl of Essex and his insurrection; his attempt to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I.
It is a known fact that some of Essex supporters commissioned a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard II, hoping to get the public on their side, so they could overthrow the Queen, but they were thwarted by their actions.
Witness statements provided by the actors, claimed they had been offered forty shillings more than their standard fee for a performance … how could they refuse.
No charges were laid against the members of “Lord Chamberlain’s Men,” and they performed for Queen Elizabeth I on the 24thFebruary 1601.
On the 25thFebruary 1601, the Earl of Essex was executed for his crime, against the monarchy.
So what was William Shakespeare doing before he made his debut in London?
It was a known fact, that he had often poached deer from Charlecote Park, the lands of Sir Thomas Lucy. According to Nicholas Rowe and Archdeacon Davies, he had often been whipped for stealing venison and rabbits.
William Shakespeare’s performances on the London stage …
In the latter part of the 1580’s, Shakespeare arrived in London, hoping to make a name for himself. By 1592 he had several plays being performed on stage, including “As You Like it.”
Out of utter disgust, Robert Greene the university – educated writer attacked his words in print. “There is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is well able to bombarst out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake – scene in a country.”
Scholars agree it was Greene’s way of saying William Shakespeare was reaching above his rank, and matching those trained in the art of writing.
By the early part of the 1590’s William Shakespeare had become a partner in an acting company who performed in London, known as the “Lord Chamberlain’s Men.” In 1603 they changed their name to that of the “King’s Men” following the crowning of King James I.
One thing we have to note, is that during the 16thcentury, the theatre was not frequented very much by those of mobility or those of high ranking in society. They showed their appreciation in other ways, by being patrons to the performing arts.
For William Shakespeare to make his mark he needed to attract somebody of importance to his works. He was fortunate, that the Earl of Southampton; Henry Wriothesley liked what he read and saw, written and produced by this virtual newcomer.
Shakespeare dedicated his first two published poems to the Earl:
“Venus and Adonis” was published in 1593. The story within the poem, tells the reader that Adonis was being seduced by Venus the goddess of love, by all means possible to her. Adonis rejects her advances, and is killed by a boar, whilst out hunting, and where his blood falls upon the ground, a flower sprouted in his memory.
“The Rape of Lucrece” was published in 1594, and the story contained within the poem, tells of how Lucrece was raped by Tarquin a family friend. She tells her father and husband of the event, and they promise to avenge her, then out of guilt she stabs herself to death.
Each poem was designed to show the guilt and moral confusions from lustful acts. These poems proved to be very popular during the life of William Shakespeare, being re-printed many times.
A question I put forward is, what do we know of the greatest playwright and poet: William Shakespeare, who walked this earth and whence he came from. It is my intention to answer some of these questions in my blog … so enjoy the ride.
William Shakespeare has been credited as England’s greatest playwright and poet of all times, having written thirty-eight plays, one-hundred and fifty-four sonnets and countless other poems and verses. His works have been performed worldwide, and his poetry read by countless millions.
His exact date of birth is unknown, but research has found he has been credited with the same date as St.George’s Day. It was a common practice at that time to perform the baptism of a child within a few days of birth.
William Shakespeare was born on the 23rdApril 1564 to parents John Shakespeare an Alderman and Mary Arden in Stratford – upon-Avon, and baptised on the 26thApril at Holy Trinity Church.
We know little of young Shakespeare’s schooling, other than we believe he attended King’s New School in Stratford, for the school was only a few hundred yards from the family home. Based upon the teachings during the Elizabethan era, he would have received a grammatical education based upon Latin classical works.
When Shakespeare was 18, he married Anne Hathaway aged 26, and pregnant at the time, on the 27thNovember 1582 in Worcester. She gave birth to a daughter; Susanna on the 26May 1583.
It is stated that the marriage had been by mutual consent according to locals, but you have to wonder. For the old age custom of marriage banns being read out three times, never took place, only one reading in their case. All the signs were there, of pushing the marriage through quickly.
William and Anne had two more children on the 2ndFebruary; a daughter Judith, and son Hamnet who died aged eleven.
In 1485, the last Plantagenet King of England; Richard III dies in Battle at Bosworth Field. The Tudor Dynasty began in 1485, with Henry Tudor, victorious in battle and founder of the Tudor line.
Who would have believed that the young Thomas Cromwell, born on the back streets of London in 1485, would grow up and take his place in Tudor history? He would be the architect of England’s break from the Roman Catholic Church, and responsible for the “Dissolution of the Monasteries.”
So who is the real Thomas Cromwell, and what do we know about him and the legacy he left?
Thomas Cromwell was born in London of 1485 to parents Walter Cromwell and Katherine Meverell. He had two sisters; Katherine who married welsh lawyer Morgan Williams, whose son Richard changed his name to Cromwell, and his great grandson was Oliver Cromwell, who became England’s Lord Protector during the Stuart Dynasty. His other sister Elizabeth married William Wellyfed a farmer.
His father Walter Cromwell by trade was a blacksmith, cloth merchant, owner of a hostelry and brewery. His father may have had prosperous business ventures, yet he was often brought up before the court, on many a drink problem.
By the time, the young Thomas Cromwell had reached fifteen, he was wild and out of control and lacked good judgement. Father and son did not get on, which led to him running away from home to seek his fame and fortune.
Cromwell stowed away on a ship and wandered around France, later he became a soldier and fought at the “Battle of Garigliano” on the 28ThDecember 1503. As the French Army is defeated by the Spanish, Cromwell flees the battlefield and travels to Italy.
In 1504, the penniless Cromwell, had taken to begging on the streets of Florence, when Francesco Frescobaldi, a member of a prominent banking family takes pity on him. His luck had changed; he had a roof over his head, good clothes and money in his pocket. He learns quickly and becomes a loyal servant.
His master, who had lifted him out of the gutters of Florence, had put Cromwell on a new destiny…
He went to the Netherland’s working as a cloth merchant. In Antwerp and Bruges learned a trade, living amongst English merchants and learnt several languages including, German, French and Italian.
Cromwell returns to England, a better man than the wild teenager who had left years earlier. He works as a cloth merchant and studies law.
Thomas Cromwell marries Elizabeth Wykys a widow in 1517, and they have three children; Gregory, Anne and Grace. Henry Wykys his father-in-law proves to be a good contact in business, having served under Henry VII, and a significant figure in London’s cloth trade.
Later that year Cromwell is approached by Geoffrey Chambers seeking assistance to obtain an audience with Pope Leo X, for funding the “Guild of Our Lady,” in St. Botolph’s Church in Boston, Lincolnshire. Cromwell’s reputation grew, as a fixer.
In 1521, he was employed by the London baker’s guild to draft petitions to the government. In 1523, becomes a member of the House of Commons.
In 1524, Thomas Heneage recommended Cromwell to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and by the end of the year was working for Thomas Wolsey. In 1525 Wolsey selected Cromwell to sell the lands and goods of greedy monasteries and corrupted landlords to pay for the Cardinal College in Oxford (now known as Christ Church College).
In 1528, Thomas Cromwell’s life was shaken to its foundation, when his wife Elizabeth and their daughter’s died during the sweating sickness epidemic.
King Henry VIII wanted a divorce from his wife: Catherine of Aragon who had not given him a male heir, so he could marry Anne Boleyn. Henry wanted an annulment to his marriage with Catherine.
Cardinal Thomas Wolsey had to get the Pope’s permission for an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He claimed Henry married Catherine, his brother arthur’s wife following his death.
Catherine opposed the split and petitioned Rome to block it.
In 1529, Henry VIII lost faith in Wolsey abilities, and had him arrested and charged with acting against his King’s wishes. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died on the 29thNovember 1530 before he could be brought to trial.
By 1531, Thomas Cromwell had taken control of the King’s legal and parliamentary affairs.
In January of 1532, Cromwell calls into question the right of the church, to make laws of its own.
Henry VIII insists that the church should abandon its claim to make laws without royal permission, and he had Cromwell’s support in the House of Commons, who manipulated its members, encouraging clerical grievances.
William Warham, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, opposed the idea, and in August of 1532 died, only to be replaced by Thomas Cranmer, a man who believed in royal supremacy over the church.
On the 23rdMay 1533, Cranmore pronounced judgement at the Dunstable court, that King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, had not been valid, thus the request to annul the marriage was granted.
Thomas Cromwell was rewarded for the part he played in acquiring the annulment for Henry, by being appointed the new Chancellor of the Exchequer.
On the 1stJune 1533 King Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn. On the 7thSeptember his daughter Princess Elizabeth was born, not the male heir he desired.
In December of 1533 Henry gave Cromwell all the resources of the state in discrediting the papacy. In March of 1534, Pope Clement VII announced that Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn was invalid. Henry replied, stating the Pope no longer had any authority in England.
In April of 1534, Cromwell was confirmed as Henry’s principal secretary and chief minister.
In November of 1534, Parliament passed an act, proclaiming Henry VIII was now head of the Church of England. In January of 1535, Thomas Cromwell was appointed Vicar-General, making him the King’s deputy as Supreme Head of the Church.
When Henry VIII realised how much wealth could be attained for the royal coffers, by closing of monasteries, and the seizure of goods and lands, and selling said land to nobles and merchants.
So it was, during the years 1536-1540 some 250 monasteries were closed by order of Henry VIII, and undertaken by Thomas Cromwell. The effects of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries,” can still be seen to this day; ruins standing in our countryside.
Henry VIII’s marriage showed all the signs of disaster, one daughter and no son and heir to carry on the Tudor dynasty. Henry needed new blood, and had chosen his new Queen. It had now fallen on Cromwell, to find a way of releasing his King from this marriage.
Cromwell saw it as an opportunity, to remove Anne from her courtiers by twisting the language of courtly love, to support accusations of adultery and conspiring against the King’s life.
Cromwell used intimidation and torture forcing those in her close circle, into making false confessions. Anne Boleyn was tried for treason and adultery with five men, found guilty and executed in 1536.
In 1536 Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour who died in 1537, weeks after giving birth to a son and heir; Edward VI.
Cromwell searches Europe for a fourth wife for Henry. He suggests Anne of Cleaves; it was more of a political move, an alliance with German princes against an ongoing Catholic threat. Upon her arrival, Henry was disappointed, but persuaded by Cromwell to go through with the marriage, which took place on the 6thJanuary 1540.
Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleaves was a disaster, and to get it annulled Henry had to give evidence in front of a court of his failings in the bedroom. Henry was embarrassed and angry with Cromwell for setting up such a marriage.
This marriage proved to be a mistake for Thomas Cromwell, for he had angered his King and left the door open for his enemies within Henry’s court to make their move against him.
Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester saw Cromwell as a heretic for the introduction of the Bible in the native tongue. He opposed Cromwell’s attack on the monasteries and religious shrines.
Cromwell allowed radical preachers in England. On the 28thFebruary 1540, Robert Barnes preached a sermon attacking Bishop Gardiner. On the 3rdApril was arrested and taken to the Tower of London.
Quarrels in the Privy Council continue, it was clear either Cromwell’s party or that of the Bishop of Winchester must succumb. On the 10thJune 1540, things came to a head in the Privy Council. Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, called Cromwell a traitor and ripped the chains of authority from his neck. Cromwell was arrested on charges of treason and heresy, taken by boat from Westminster to the Tower of London.
Thomas Cromwell, he who had risen from the gutters of Putney in London, to hold high offices in the court of King Henry VIII, was found guilty of treason and heresy by Parliament on the 29thJune 1540. The sentence handed down, was that his body was to be hung, drawn and quartered. Henry commuted the sentence to decapitation.
On the 28thJuly 1540, Thomas Cromwell was led out to Tower Green to meet his executioner, but the executioner bungled it, taking two strokes to sever body and head. The final act was placing his head on a pike on London Bridge for all to see.