Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Plantagenet, Arthur

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PLANTAGENET, ARTHUR, Viscount (1480?–1542), born about 1480, was a natural son of Edward IV by one Elizabeth Lucie. As an esquire of Henry VIII's bodyguard he received a quarterly salary of 6l. 13s. 4d. from June 1509 (cf. King's Book of Payments). He married, in 1511, Elizabeth, widow of Edmund Dudley [q. v.], and daughter of Edward Grey, viscount Lisle, and obtained a grant, on 13 Nov. of that year, of lands in Dorset, Sussex, and Lancashire, which had come to the crown by the attainder of Empson and Dudley in 1510. On 8 Feb. 1513 he obtained a protection (from his creditors) on going to sea with the expedition to Brittany. The ship in which he sailed struck upon a rock, and he and his companions were saved from death almost by miracle. ‘When he was in the extreme danger [and all hope gone] from him,’ wrote Admiral Howard to the king on 17 April, ‘he called upon Our Lady of Walsingham for help, and of[fered unto her] a vow that, an it pleased God and her to deliver him out of that peril, he would never eat flesh nor fish till he had seen her.’ Accordingly, although Howard was reluctant to dispense with his services, Plantagenet was granted permission to return to England to fulfil his vow. In the summer Henry VIII himself crossed the seas, and Plantagenet went with him as one of the captains of the middle ward. He seems to have won his spurs in this campaign, for in November the same year ‘Sir’ Arthur Plantagenet was chosen sheriff of Hampshire, and in May following ‘Sir’ Arthur Plantagenet appears in the paymaster's books as captain, with 18d. a day, in the vice-admiral's ship, the Trinity Sovereigne. On 12 May 1519 he and his wife had livery of the lands of Edward Grey, viscount Lisle, his wife's brother John and his daughter, the Countess of Devon, having both died without issue. This grant was confirmed on 28 Feb. 1522. Plantagenet accompanied Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold, and to the meeting with Charles V. In a household list of 1521 he is named as one of the carvers who shall serve the king in his privy chamber. On 25 April 1523 he obtained a grant of the title of Viscount Lisle, with remainder to his heirs male, by Elizabeth, his wife, on surrender of a patent conferring that title on Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk (see Report III of the Lords' Committee on the Dignity of a Peer; also Nicolas, Peerage). On 23 April 1524 Lisle was elected a knight of the Garter (Anstis, Register, p. 366), and on 26 Nov. 1524 keeper of Clarendon Park. Next year, 16 July 1525, Henry VIII made his natural son, the Duke of Richmond, at the age of five, lord admiral of England, and the boy seems in turn to have nominated Lisle his vice-admiral. This office he held till the duke's death in 1536. On 22 Oct. 1527 he was appointed chief of an embassy sent into France to present the insignia of the order of the Garter to Francis I. In the parliament of 1529 he was one of the triers of petitions.

His wife had died after 1523, and in 1528 he married again. His second wife was Honor Grenville, widow of Sir John Basset, who died 31 Jan. 1528 (Inq. post mortem, 20 Hen. VIII, No. 73). Lisle and his wife accompanied Henry VIII to the meeting with Francis I at Calais in October 1532; Lady Lisle was one of the five ladies who, with Anne Boleyn, danced with the French king and his gentlemen. On the return voyage he was again in danger of shipwreck. On 24 March 1533 Lisle was nominated successor to John Bourchier, second baron Berners [q. v.], as deputy of Calais. Before going to Calais he acted as ‘chief panter’ at the banquet which celebrated the coronation of Queen Anne Boleyn. He took the oaths at Calais before the council there on 10 June 1533, and continued to reside there, harassed by debt, by disputes among the soldiers under him, and by religious controversies among the townsmen, until affairs became so unsettled that commissioners were sent to take over the government, and Lisle was summoned home (17 April 1540). Shortly after, 19 May, he was sent to the Tower on suspicion of being implicated in a plot headed by one Gregory Botolph, who had been his chaplain, to betray Calais to the pope and Cardinal Pole, and a new deputy was appointed on 2 July 1540. It was found that Calais had been very carelessly kept, but, the king is reported to have said, through ignorance rather than illwill. Lisle remained a close prisoner until 1542, when, in January, his collar of the Garter was restored to him, and early in March the king sent his chief secretary to give him a diamond ring, as a token, and to announce that, as he was proved innocent, the king restored him to liberty and favour. His excitement on hearing the news was so great that he died in the Tower the same night (cf. Foxe, Acts and Monuments, ed. Townsend, v. 515). He was buried in the Tower. ‘His wife, immediately upon his apprehension, fell distraught of mind, and so continued many years after’ (Foxe). Foxe (p. 505) describes her as ‘an utter enemy to God's honour, and in idolatry, hypocrisy, and pride, incomparably evil.’ Both his wives, who were widows when he married them, had by their former husbands children, who called him father. His first wife had three daughters by him: Bridget, who married Sir William Carden; Frances, married, first, John Basset, and, secondly, Thomas Monke, ancestor of George Monck, duke of Albemarle [q. v.]; and Elizabeth who married Sir Francis Jobson.

Some valuable papers were seized in Lisle's house at the time of his arrest. They were mainly letters to him and his wife, ranging in date between 1533 and 1540, from ambassadors, princes, governors of French and Flemish frontier towns, with whom, in virtue of his position at Calais, he was brought into contact, as well as from friends and agents in England. There was also a correspondence between him and his wife during visits of one or the other to England. All the papers are now in the Public Record Office. Most of them were collected by one of the early record commissions, and bound into nineteen volumes, and some are printed in Wood's ‘Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies.’ They throw valuable and almost unique light upon the domestic life of the period, and occasionally upon great historical events.

[Calendar of Letters and Papers of Henry VIII; Dugdale's Baronage; Herbert's History; Kaulek's Correspondence de M. de Marillac, 1885.]

R. H. B.