Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Research, A Fascinating Way to Get Distracted in Little Details

As I begin in earnest my research into the life of the Marchioness of Exeter I find myself constantly being led down winding pathways. Today I began looking into the life of the Marchioness' first stepmother. Inez de Venegas was one of Queen Katherine of Aragon's Spanish attendants and thanks to the wonderful information in one of my favorite Tudor research websites I was able to track her movements with Queen Katherine.

That website is  Kate Emerson, under the name Kathy Lynn Emerson, wrote a wonderful book published in 1984 entitled Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth Century England. This very comprehensive book, whose information is now in the aforementioned website, gives short biographies of hundreds of women in 16th century England. She includes photographs of paintings and tomb monuments. If you are interested in the lives of any of the women who served the Queens and Princesses of England, Ms. Emerson's website should be your first stop.

Another resource available on her website is a series of lists of the women who were named as members of the households of the Tudor royal family. Eventually I will be delving into the English archives and the various letters and papers, foreign and domestic in my search to find the real Marchioness of Exeter and trace her comings and goings. However, Ms. Emerson's lists give me some very good basic information so that I can research not only darling Gertrude, but some of the other women in her life.

As I looked for the court life of stepmother Inez de Venegas, Ms. Emerson's lists showed me that she was a member of Katherine of Aragon's household from her arrival from Spain.  She is also listed as one of the ladies of the Princess Dowager of Wales' household who was given "manteletts and kercheffs" for the funeral of King Henry VII.  A mantelet is a short shawl and a kerchief is a head covering.  Inez is listed as a Lady of the Bedchamber in 1509 as Lady Mountjoy.  Since Inez died about five years later, the next Lady Mountjoy that appears is her successor and Gertrude's second stepmother Alice Kebel. This third Lady Mountjoy is listed by Ms. Emerson as a lady at table and participating in court revels. Alice, Lady Mountjoy joins her stepdaughter in attendance upon Queen Katherine at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.

While looking at these lists I find other women I am interested in researching more thoroughly. Jane Neville, Lady Montague appears in the Field of the Cloth of Gold list.  This is the wife of Henry Pole, Baron Montague, the eldest son of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.  Henry Pole's life is very much intertwined with his cousin Henry Courtenay. They joust against each other at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Sadly they die together, caught up in the so-called Exeter Conspiracy.  Jane Neville, Lady Montague (or Montagu) was the daughter of George Neville, Baron Abergavenny.   I find it interesting that she is listed as dying in 1538 or 1539.  It will be interesting to see whether she died before or after the arrest of her husband and young son.

Another woman I look forward to researching further is Gertrude's half sister, Katherine Blount.  She was born in 1518 a year before Gertrude's marriage, married twice and named a daughter after her sister.

Last is the mysterious sister of Gertrude's husband Margaret Courtenay.  Margaret has a contradictory biography.  When Horatia Durant wrote her biography Sorrowful Captives: The Tudor Earls of Devon in 1960 she related the local story that Margaret Courtenay died as a child when she choked on a fishbone.  This was a case of mistaken identity and the tomb in question, located in Colyton Church is that of Margaret Beaufort, a granddaughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford who married a different Earl of Devon.  Instead it appears that our Margaret Courtenay was married, sometime between 1514-1520 (sources conflict) to Henry Somerset, Lord Herbert, but she died in 1526.

I hope that this rambling discourse shows how an afternoon of preliminary research can lead one down a lot of intriguing pathways.  I have a long journey ahead of me, but it is a journey that I hope will lead to a better understanding of the life of Gertrude Blount, the Marchioness of Exeter.  In the meanwhile, check out Kate Emerson's website and, while you're at it, pick up one or two (or more) of her historical fiction novels.

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