#52ancestors (Wk20): Bearded – Thomas Arundell, First Baron Arundell of Wardour

Top billing for a triumphant beard on the face of a nobleman. Thomas Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour (c1560-1639) cuts a fair dash and secured himself quite a reputation in the annals of the history of England some 450 years ago.

Arundell had to be included for the #52Ancestor Week 20 theme of ‘Bearded’ because his story is so strong and it’s a thrill to finally strike noble blood in my genealogical searching, although his place on the face of my family tree could find itself ‘shaved off’. He provisionally secures a spot as my 12x great grandfather. The question mark arises as to whether we share an ancestor in his grand-daughter and my 10x great grandmother, Mary Philpot (1612-1652). Many people, like me, have come to the same conclusion that she is one and the same, but there are discrepancies in some of the records. I’ll return to consider the story of Mary and husband James Swayne (or Swaine) in a post in Week 43. There are also a couple of others like Thomas from beyond her, way back on my family tree who I want to include in future weeks, simply because their stories are a matter of historical note, and who provide a good yarn too, even if in the end they don’t end up eventually being related to me.

Arundell was steeped in noble blood. He was the eldest son of Sir Matthew Arundell (c1532-1598) of Wardour Castle in Wiltshire (England) and Margaret Willoughby (1538-1591).

His father was a member of the ancient Arundell family of Cornwall, and had inherited many former monastery lands and collected a plethora of high administrative positions, including the Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset. Thomas’ grandmother on his father’s side was Margaret Howard (c1515-1571) – sister of Queen Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII!

His mother came from family roots in Nottinghamshire. As she grew up, those around her were keen for her to secure a position in the court of Queen Mary I, but she actually spent much time with the future Queen, Princess Elizabeth at Hatfield House. Some speculate that she may have been reporting back to Mary, although when it came to it, under Elizabeth I once Queen, she became a Gentlewoman of the Privy Chamber until around 1583.

Thomas Arundell’s story appears to be one of great ability or talent that at times went untapped, leading to boredom, mischief and trouble. He was said to be gifted and scholarly, but when he failed to find an outlet for that talent, he sank into melancholy.

He was a devout Roman Catholic throughout his life, but the fervour of his religion first got him into trouble when he was imprisoned in 1580. He was married by a licence dated 18 June 1585, to Mary Wriothesley (1563-1607). His wife Mary was the daughter of Henry Wriothesley (2nd Earl of Southampton) and Mary Browne (herself the daughter of the 1st Viscount Montague).

His wife was the sister of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Thomas had been said to be fond of Henry as a teenager. In correspondence he said, “My [own] love and care of this young Earl enticeth me.” Quite the ‘Heartstopper’ moment!

By his thirties, Thomas Arundell was said to have well and truly sunk into a melancholic existence. A solitary life, swinging between time on the Wriothesley estates in Hampshire, or family apartments in Southampton House, London. In 1595, his father is said to have put up £1100 plus horses so that he could leave the country and fight as part of the Imperial forces (Holy Roman Empire) against Turkish forces fighting for the Ottoman Empire. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have recommended him to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

Thomas fought with great aplomb, for which he was made a Count of the Holy Roman Empire on 14 December 1595, and became known as ‘the Valiant’. This obviously was not enough for Thomas. He had to go and spoil it.

Against his father’s wishes, Thomas took leave of the Imperial court to return home in mid-December 1595. However, his ship was caught in violent weather in the North Sea, and was wrecked on the East Coast at Aldeburgh. He lost all his belongings. If that wasn’t enough, his recognition by a foreign power caused jealousy/suspicion amongst his peers in the nobility, and resentment from his father, who disinherited him, unimpressed by his son’s now superior rank. The Queen too was unimpressed, feeling that a title bestowed by a foreign power could leave Thomas open to more influence from them than from her. She threatened to make him renounce the title, and committed him to Fleet Prison in Central London, where he stayed until mid-April 1597. Although he was released, he was forbidden to appear at court. He made many appeals to the Queen, but she would not budge and continued to deny him her favour.

In July 1597, Thomas was allowed to move home to his father’s, but his wife was not allowed to join him. He was arrested later that year on vague suspicions of Catholic espionage, but after some investigations, nothing could be proved and he was released back to his father’s custody.

Thomas Arundell succeeded his father in December 1598. Trouble was never far away. In March 1605, he teamed up with his brother-in-law Southampton to send Captain George Weymouth on the ship Archangel to found a colony in Virgina, in what was to become the USA. The colonists arrived back in the country in mid-July the same year. It appears to have been a first attempt to set up an American colony that would be an asylum for English Catholics. It had instead explored the coast of what is now Maine. The behaviour of Weymouth and his crew was despicable. Some of the indigenous people they met on landing were eventually tricked, kidnapped, and brought back to Europe, which did little for future relations. Arundell had previously planned a venture to the East Indies in 1596 and it was pretty clear that he was the principal mover behind the colony project, although he was soon to cut all ties with the entire endeavour as its character became clear.

Thomas Arundell was created Baron Arundell of Wardour by King James I on 4 May 1605. One of his first tasks was to serve as colonel of the English regiment serving the Archduke of the Holy Roman Empire in Spanish Flanders. However, at some point, he disobeyed royal orders and incurred the King’s anger. A few months later, he was named by Guy Fawkes under torture as a co-conspirator in the Gunpowder Plot, but the suspicion did not last long. He had always remained loyal to the Crown.

His first wife died in 1607. They’d had three children together: Thomas (the eldest, who went on to become the 2nd Baron); William and Elizabeth Mary (who, if the ancestry is correct, was my 11x great grandmother).

Thomas married for the second time to Anne Philipson (1585-1637) on 1 July 1608. They continued to live at the seat of the Arundell family – what is now called Old Wardour Castle, at Tisbury, Wiltshire. They had a further nine children together.

In 1623, he was committed to custody for championing the cause of recusants – people who refused to attend Church of England services – of whom he was one. It caused maximum embarrassment as he did so on the occasion of the visit of the Spanish envoys. In 1625, all arms were removed from Wardour Castle. After the accession of Charles I on 27 March 1625, Thomas was pardoned. He continued to get into a number of minor scrapes and disagreements which gained him minor notoriety and caused friction.

His second wife Anne died on 28 June 1637, while Thomas himself died two years later on 7 November 1639. They were both buried at Wardour Castle, at Tisbury, Wiltshire.

There was no question that when the theme of ‘Bearded’ was set for Week 20 of #52Ancestors, my potential links with Thomas Arundell, First Baron of Wardour had to get an airing. I’m under no illusion that the ancestral ground on which my claim to be a relative of his is not concrete. I’m on firm ground as far as my 9x great grandmother Barbara Swayne (1652-1680) goes, who gets her story in Week 29. I’m also sure on her father, that’s my 10x great grandfather, James Swayne (1613-1694), a churchwarden at my local church in Yateley, Hampshire (England), St. Peter’s. The question mark comes with her mother, that’s my 10x great grandmother Mary Philpot (1612-1652), who, if all this is to work out right, would be Thomas Arundell’s grand-daughter.

In future weeks, I’m including a couple of posts on figures in similar positions to Thomas Arundell who are also yet to be confirmed. These are my 13x great granduncle Archdeacon of Winchester, Sir John Philpot (1514-1555) in Week 30; and my 14x great grandfather Thomas Wriothesley, 1st Earl of Southampton (1505-1550) in Week 37.

The questions, researching and turning the ground over and over again has meant that, regardless of the question marks over whether or not I am related to him, Thomas Arundell, 1st Baron Arundell of Wardour feels like a member of my family, regardless of which way it ultimately goes.

Thank you for reading this week’s post. If you have any queries, feel you can clear anything up or add anything to what I have written, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am sure the time machine will return closer to today next week!


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