Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When We Were English, Part XIL

by Glenn N. Holliman

Return to England, Part 3, The John Holyman Will of 1533

In my last post, we examined the will of the person I believe to be my generation's 12th great grandfather, John Holyman of Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, England.  With this article, we begin a review of his elder son, my very probable 11th great grandfather, John Holyman's will.  Here is a portion of the 1533 will, with other sections to follow in my next articles.

Each line of the will is numbered and the explanations refer to the numbered lines.  Genealogist Anne Holmes of Buckinghamshire is due the credit for her transcription and interpretations of a will almost 500 years old! (Although any errors are mine alone.)

This will is markedly different from John's father's which we examined in my last post.  The Reformation is sweeping Europe and is engulfing England.  King Henry VIII has fallen in love with Anne Bolyen and in early 1533 married her, she several months pregnant with a child who would become Queen Elizabeth I.

The Pope had refused Henry a divorce from his still living first wife, Catherine of Spain and mother of Mary Tudor.  When a conservative Archbishop of Canterbury died, Henry appointed Thomas Cramner, a supporter of the growing Protestant tide.  Cramner hastily granted Henry his divorce and conducted the rites of marriage for Henry and Anne.

Into this gathering maelstrom which divided the clergy and laity of England, strode a monk, Brother John Holyman of Cuddington, baptised in 1495 at the same font from which his probable uncle and cousin, the John Holymans, d 1521 and d 1533, had been sprinkled with holy water.  As I have written earlier Brother John Holyman boldly stood at St. Paul's Cross in London and on several occasions decried the divorce, the remarriage and the growing radicalism of many English concerning their faith.

With this background of the early 1530s, we can better understand the will of John Holyman of 1533.  The first 20% is a homage to the Roman Catholic Church.  The will of John's son Thomas Holyman in 1558 will read very much differently, much more Protestant.  Again my thanks to genealogist Anne Holmes for this transcription taken from the original will in the Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire archives.

Line 1 - John identifies himself as a husbandman, a term to describe a free tenant farmer or small landowner.  A yeoman farmer, higher up in social status, would have had more acreage than a husbandman.  As the Oxford Companion to Local and Family History (1996) states the words yeoman and husbandman were gradually replaced in the 18th and 19th centuries in England by 'farmer'.  Interesting that this John describes himself as a husbandman, as the Holymans rose economically and socially in the 1500s.

Line 6 -  He directs, as did his father, to be buried in the St. Nicolas church yard, Cuddington.

Line 8 - He leaves a bequest to the Diocese of Lincoln cathedral.

Lines 9 -18 - John Holyman leaves bequests, bushels of malt barley, for the holy lights on the High Altar and for the altars of St. Mary, St. Margaret, St. Nicolas, St. Christopher, our Lady of Bethlehem, St. Antony, St. Laurence, our Lady of Peter's light and St. Erasmus or Elmo.  This tells us the parish is still Roman Catholic with numerous altars and chapels for various saints.  In 1534, Henry VIII will have himself proclaimed the head of the English Church replacing the Roman Catholic pope. English churches will soon change.

It is not unusual to find in English parishes even today the posting of legacies to the local church.  This one in Cuddington, Buckinghamsire recognizes one Nicholas Almond for his bequests in his will.  However, no sign hangs for John Holyman whose bequests were made when the parish was Roman Catholic and not Anglican. Photograph November 2012.

Line 19 - Bells remain to this date in St. Nicolas in Cuddington.

Line 20 - He leaves funds for the purchase of a pair of vestments or cope, another indication of John's support of the Roman faith, then under growing criticism in an England in political turmoil due to Henry VIII's 'Great Matter' - the divorce of Queen Catherine and remarriage to Anne Bolyen. 

His cousin, nephew or in-law, Brother John Holyman, later Roman Catholic Bishop of Bristol, would have approved mightily of this will! 

Next post, more of John Holyman's will of 1533....

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