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1492: Edmund Flower welcomes the King back to London

Contributed and researched by Malcolm Davison.

In the first of a series of over a dozen articles,  and after two years research, we look at Edmund Flower, the founder of Cuckfield Grammar School. For the first time we are able to a fascinating insight into the life and times of the man and find iis reminiscent of the TV drama 'Wolf Hall' - and brings the troubled and dangerous times of the fifteenth century into sharp fucus.

It seems quite extraordinary that, 532 years on, that we know exactly what the school founder was doing on a specific day - and with some considerable detail.

Henry Vll
Charles Vlll of France

Edmund Flower (then aged c32) was on horseback, Saturday 22 December 1492, as part of welcoming party sent by the Merchant Taylors' livery company to greet King Henry Vll (aged 35) on his return to the country.

Henry was having to deal with troublesome rebels who were plotting against his rule in England, while at the same time trying to defend England's territory in France.

Confident that he could resolve things at home and that it was in safe hands, he set off for France to sort matters out there.

In a master stroke at Étaples sur Mer, a few miles south of Calais (at the time owned by England), he received compensation from the French king , Charles Vlll, of £159,000 in return for his word that he would not support English rebels who were plotting to overthrow him.

In return Henry passed over the lands of the Duchy of Brittany to France and disclaimed all historic rights to French territory (except for Calais).

Welcoming party

After his meeting with the French king - Henry Vll triumphantly returned to London. This was when he was greeted by London's liverymen and residents with full honours and pageantry. They met on Blackheath outside London. The king had landed at Dover, 70 miles away, five days previously.

The welcoming party triumphantly escorted the king through the narrow streets of the city. People would have been cheering from the windows of the half timbered buildings as the splendid, noisy and colourful procession made its way to (the old) St Paul's for a thanksgiving service.

Each craft was represented in the procession. They had to provide ‘certeyn persones’ - the number related to the size and prominence of the organisation. The Goldsmiths sent 24, while the Merchant Taylors and Mercers [cloth merchants] were asked to field 30 each. Edmund Flowers, a representative of the Merchant Taylors' was paid 10 shillings (£300 today) - the Masters a third more. Edmund Flower, founder of Cuckfield Grammar School, would have ridden the round trip of 16 miles.

The Mayor and aldermen were clothed in scarlet and the Merchant Taylors' entourage were resplendent in their violet robes.

The King welcomed back by the merchants in London, created by Bing Image Creator

The procession arrived at the north door of St. Paul's, where they laid down three standards. One displayed the arms of St. George, another a red fiery dragon [Wales] painted upon white and green sarcenet, and the third a banner of tarteron [crab, for France] emblazoned with a dun cow [Warwick].

A service of thanksgiving for the King's safe return from his successful negotiations, for a new peaceful future with France and in honour of those who had died in former battles with France.

After the service, the King was escorted to the Bishop's Palace, where he recovered from his exertions.

Perkin Warbeck

Henry's troubles at home centred on a man named Perkin Warbeck whose actions would result in the king's meeting with the French monarch and the resulting pact.

Warbeck started causing trouble some six years after the Battle of Bosworth (August 1485) when Henry's men killed Richard lll and famously won the battle - and commenced the Tudor period. Warbeck subsequently challenged the King on his right to the throne. He did this by pretending to be Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ (as we know them now) claiming that he was the rightful heir to the throne.

In 1490 Warbeck, accompanied by an impressive army of 12,000 soldiers, was cordially received by Charles Vlll. This meeting made Henry nervous, and he realised that Warbeck could potentially combining forces with France and invade England and forcibly seize power.

Now that Warbeck no longer had France on his side, he made a series of landings on the English coast trying to gain support for a rising against Henry. His final attempt was when he tried to stir up a rebellion in Cornwall, after which he entered Exeter with 6,000 men. Then he headed East with the intention of making a move on the capital. Here he paused and camped on Blackheath.

Perkin Warbeck

This resulted in panic among the citizens of London. The king mobilised his forces, which resulted in the rebels taking fright and dispersing.

Warbeck was captured on 7 September 1497 at Beaulieu Abbey in Hampshire, imprisoned before being taken to the Tower of London. Henry initially treated Warbeck well but after an attempted escape from confinement and his execution at Tyburn followed on 23 November 1499.

Henry keen to boost international trade

Amiable and high-spirited, Henry was charismatic, but dignified in his manner. His actions showed him to be a wise and thoughtful ruler. Biographer, Professor Chrimes, credits him with ‘a high degree of personal magnetism with an ability to inspire confidence' , he steadily built a reputation for taking shrewd and decisive actions. On the debit side, he suffered from poor health, and may have appeared a little ashen-faced.

Henry engaged with City merchants to boost trade and rebuild the country’s battered economy. He actively backed the wool industry, which was a central plank of the largely rural-based economy at the time. He imposed high tariffs on the export of raw wool, which ensured that a proportion of the material remained for domestic use, while the taxed exports helped build the wealth of the country. This also led to the growth of towns and cities where the cloth weaving industry flourished and, in turn, benefited the tailoring industry and the growth of the Merchant Taylors' livery company.

Flower trusted by the King

Henry's heavy taxation was not popular, but by forming international trade alliances, such as theTreaty of Medina del Campo with Spain in 1489, he not only brought stability and peace to the country, but introduced a new prosperity that the country would experience during the Tudor period.

It was almost a decade before Henry Vll started negotiations with Merchant Taylors' for their new charter. He got to know Edmund Flower well, who was a loyal and trusted ally - and in return the king became a member of the livery company. And Flower made a promise that his livery company would take on the ongoing duty to pray for his soul after he died. A matter of huge importance to the king - and showing trust that it would be followed through.

A more detailed account of the King's dealings with Merchant Taylors', and further insight into Edmund Flower will follow in future postings.

Contributed and researched by Malcolm Davison.

Visit Cuckfield Museum, follow the link for details

Charles Vlll's marriage (tableau)


Charles VIII of France, known as the Affable, was born at Château d’Amboise on the 30 June 1470. He was the only surviving son of King Louis XI of France, called the Prudent and the Spider, and his second queen, Charlotte de Savoy.

Wikipedia relevant pages:

Picture: Tableau at Château de Langeais, Loire: Marriage of Duchesse Anne de Bretagne with Charles VIII, 6 December 1491, a year after the Treaty of Étaples.

The Merchant Taylors' Company of London 1486-1493: Court Minutes (The Merchant Taylors' Company of London: Court Minutes) edited by Matthew Davies. p43 1486-93: Reference to Flowers and the King's welcoming procession  [P43] and [P222].

The following passage concerning the Henry Vll procession is from 'Henry Vll’s London in the Great Chronicle' by Julia Boffey, Medieval Institute Publications, 2019, P36

This mayor [Thomas Hill] continued in office until 27th September, which time that was 27th of August, the king was received into London, the citizens being again clothed in violet cloth, and so was brought to St. Paul's, where at the cross by the north door he offered up three standards, one of which had the arms of St. George, the second a red fiery dragon [Wales] painted upon white and green sarcenet, and the third was a banner of tarteron [crab, for France]] emblazoned with a dun cow [Warwick]. And that done he was conveyed into the Bishop's Palace, and lodged there.


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