Clare Avery - A Story of the Spanish Armada
by Emily Sarah Holt
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Forty years after the death of Elizabeth, the son of James of Scotland was struggling for his crown, with half England against him. Five years later, there was a scaffold set up at Whitehall, and the blood royal was poured out. There were comparatively few who stood by King Charles to the last. But there was one—who had headed charges at Marston Moor "for God, and King, and Country"—who had bled under his banner at Edgehill—who lived to welcome back his most unworthy son and successor, and to see the monarchy re-established in the Stuart line. His name was Arthur Basset. [He died January 7, 1672. See Prince's Worthies of Devon.]

Ay, there had been "the making of a true man" in Colonel Arthur Basset. The fit representative of that earlier Arthur, he had adopted in his life the motto which, a hundred and fifty years before, the son of Edward the Fourth had embroidered on his banner—"Dieu l'a voulu."

God had not written the name of Arthur Basset on the roll of the Kings of England. And Arthur Basset bowed his noble head to the decree, and fell back to the ranks like a hero—no king, but a true man.


Note 1. The date is fictitious. The Atherington register has been vainly searched for the burial of Philippa Basset, and the Heanton register is marked in the return "illegible."

Note 2. The evidence in the earlier case (of Joan Plantagenet) seems to have rested entirely on the oaths of husband and wife; in the latter (of Elizabeth Lucy) the contract was known to the entire family of the bridegroom.

Note 3. Prince states that "in consequence of his pretensions to the Crown, and of his extravagance," Sir Robert was obliged to sell Heanton and Whitechapel, which last was the old seat of his family. If he did sell Heanton, his son must have bought it back; for it was the family residence in the year after Colonel Basset's death. Umberleigh had been deserted for Heanton on account of the low, damp situation of the former, and the thick trees which crowded round the house.



The strength of the Spanish fleet is differently represented by various writers, whose accounts disagree to the wide extent of—ships, from 128 to 176; men, from fourteen to twenty-nine thousand. I append the tabulated statement given by Speed, which is neither the highest nor the lowest, and is the carefully-prepared account of a generally accurate compiler.

Vessels:—Galliasses and gallions, 72; ships and hulkes, 47; pinnases and carviles, 11:—130.

Men:—Soldiers, 18,658; sailors, 8094; galley-slaves, 2088:—28,840.

Munition:—Great ordnance, 2843; bullets, 220,000; powder, 4200 quintals, each one hundredweight; lead for bullets, 1000 quintals, ditto; matches, 1200 quintals; muskets and calivers, 7000; partizans and halberts, 10,000; cannon and field pieces unnumbered.

Provision:—Bread, biscuit, and wine laid in for six months; bacon, 6500 quintals; cheese, 3000 quintals; fresh water, 12,000 pipes; flesh, rice, beans, peas, oil, and vinegar, unestimated.

General items:—Torches, lanterns, lamps, canvas, hides, lead to stop leaks, whips, and knives.

Army 32,000 strong, and cost 30,000 ducats every day; 124 noblemen on board as volunteers.

Speed's Chronicle, page 885.


I think the following account of the Basset family will be more convenient for reference than a number of explanatory notes interspersed throughout the narrative, and will also avoid frequent repetition. Owing to further research, it will be found fuller and more accurate than the corresponding notes in Isoult Barry and Robin Tremayne.

Sir John Basset of Umberleigh, son of Sir John Basset and Joan Beaumont, died January 31, 1528 (Inq. 20 Henry Eight 20). The "Heralds' Visitations" appear to be mistaken in giving Sir John four wives. Jane Beaumont, whom they call his second wife, was his mother: while Elizabeth, the third wife, seems to be an imaginary person altogether. He married:—

A. Anne, daughter of John Dennis of Oxleigh and Eleanor Giffard; widow of Patrick Bellewe of Aldervescot; buried with husband in Atherington Church, Devon.

B. Honor, daughter of Sir Thomas Grenville of Stow and Isabel Gilbert; born about 1498, married about 1515, died probably about 1548. Buried in Atherington Church. [The burial register of this church previous to 1570 has perished.] She married, secondly, Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, son of Edward the Fourth and Elizabeth Lucy.

Issue of Sir John Basset

(A) by Anne Dennis:—

1. A son, whose only memorial is on the sepulchral brass of his parents at Atherington probably died young.

2. Anne, married Sir James Courtenay of Powderham. (Issue,—James, and John.)

3. Margery, (Harl. Ms. 1149, folio 13, b.) married Edward Marrays of Marrays, Cornwall. (Issue,—Margaret, married George Rolle, Lady Lisle's solicitor.)

4. Jane, born about 1505; apparently died unmarried.

5. Thomasine, born about 1512, died unmarried, March 19, 1535—(Lisle Papers, Three 1.)

(B) By Honor Grenville:—

6. Philippa, born about 1516; probably died unmarried.

7. Katherine, born about 1518; married, after 1542, Sir Henry Ashley of Ashley and Wimborne Saint Giles (Shaftesbury family); date of death not known. (Issue,—Henry, and Edward, who probably died young.—Harl. Ms. 888, folio 40, b.)

8. John, born October 26, 1519 (Inq. 20 Henry Eight 20); died Apr. 3, 1545 (Inq. 2 Philip and Mary, 10). Married Frances, eldest daughter of Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle, by his first wife Elizabeth Grey; married at Calais, February 17 to 22, 1538 (Lisle Papers, Eleven 40, 41); died about 1560. She married, secondly, Thomas Monke of Potheridge, county Devon.

9. Anne, born about 1520; Maid of Honour from 1537 (Lisle Papers, Eleven 110) to 1554 (Tallies Roll, 2-3 Philip and Mary); married, probably between July 7 and October 27, 1555, Sir Walter Hungerford of Farleigh Castle, son of the last Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury; died childless, probably in 1558-9. (Hungerford family papers).

10. George, born about 1522, died in London, 1579. (Harl. Mss., 757, folio 214; 760, folio 322.) Married Jaquit, daughter and heir of John Coffyn of Portledge, county Devon. She married, secondly, Henry Jones.

11. Mary, born about 1525, married at Atherington, June 9, 1557 (Register), John Wollacombe of Combe, county Devon. (Issue,—John, Thomas, and Honor.—Harl. Ms. 3288, folio 49.)

12. James, born 1527 (Foxe's Acts and Monuments, Pratt's Townsend's ed., Six 231), proctor of Bishop Gardiner, 1543 to 1555; Gentleman of Chamber to Queen Mary, about 1556-8; died November 1558; buried Black Friars' Church, London. ("Machyn's Diary," page 179.) Married Mary, daughter of William Roper and Margaret his wife, daughter of Sir Thomas More.

Issue of John Basset and Frances Plantagenet:—

1. Honor, born at Calais, about May 10, 1539 (Lisle Papers, One 72; Eleven 97; Twelve 85), probably died young.

2. Sir Arthur, born 1540 (Inq. 1 March—2 Philip and Mary, 10), probably at Calais; died of gaol fever, caught at the Black Assize, Exeter (Stow's "Chronicle," page 719), April 2, 1586 (Epitaph); buried at Atherington, April 7 (Register). Married Eleanor, daughter of John Chichester of Raleigh, county Devon, and Gertrude Courtenay of Powderham; buried at Atherington, July 8, 1585 (Register).

Issue of Sir Arthur Basset and Eleanor Chichester:—

1. Sir Robert, born 1574 (Matriculation Books, Queen's College, Oxford); living 1620 (Anderson's. "Royal Genealogies," page 745). Claimed the Crown on death of Queen Elizabeth, as legal descendant of Edward the Fourth. He married Elizabeth, daughter and coh. of Sir William Periam, Judge of the King's Bench; married November 21, 1591 (Register of Saint Dunstan in the West, London); died 1633.

2. Anne, married after 1585 Sir John Chichester of Hall, county Devon; died 1665; buried at Marwood. (Left issue.)

3. Margaret, under ten years old in 1585 (Will of Sir A. Basset).

4. Arthur, under fourteen years old in 1585 (Will of Sir A. Basset).

5. William, born 1583 (Matriculation Books, University College, Oxford).

6. Francis, baptised at Atherington, May 8, 1584 (Register).

7. John, baptised at Atherington June 1, 1585 (Register).

Issue of Sir Robert Basset and Elizabeth Feriam:—

1. Arthur, baptised June 6, 1593 (Register of Saint Dunstan in the West, London); buried February 3, 1595 (Register of Saint Bartholemew the Less, London).

2. Anne, baptised October 16, 1594 (Register of Saint Bartholemew the Less, London); married Jonathan Rashley of Fox (Harl. Mss. 1091, folio 122; 1538, folio 280).

3. Ellen, married George Yeo of Hushe (Harl. Mss. 1091, folio 122; 1538, folio 280).

4. Arthur, born at Heanton (Prince's "Worthies of Devon," page 113), 1598 (ibidem, Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 343, b.); Colonel in King Charles's army; died January 7, 1672; buried at Heanton (Prince, page 116). Married Anne, daughter of William Leigh of Burrow, county Devon.

5. Eleanor (Harl. Ms. 1091, folio 122).

6. Mary (Harl. Ms. 1091, folio 122).

7. William, born March 28, 1602-3 (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 343, b.; Matriculation Books, Exeter College, Oxford).

Issue of Colonel Basset and Anne:—

1. John, of Heanton, living [?] 1673. Married Susannah, daughter of (unknown).

2. Arthur, entered at Oriel College, Oxford, 1652, (Matriculation Books.)

3. Francis, entered at Oriel College, Oxford, 1652 (Matriculation Books.)

Issue of John Basset and Susannah:—

1. John, born February 26, 1653 (Atherington Register).

2. Arthur, born 1656 (Matriculation Books, Exeter College, Oxford).

3. Francis, born April 13, 1657 (Atherington Register). Married (unknown), daughter of (unknown).

Issue of Francis Basset and (unknown):—

John, born 1688 (Matriculation Books, Exeter College, Oxford).

The male line of the Basset family died out with Francis Basset, Esquire, in 1802; but the family estates remain in the hands of the descendants of his eldest sister Eustachia, who married (Unknown) Davie of Orleigh, and her posterity bear the name of Davie-Bassett.

The Younger Branches of the Family:—

Issue of George Basset and Jaquit Coffyn:—

1. Mary, baptised December 11, 1558 (Atherington Register); probably died young.

2. John, baptised February 8, 1559 (Atherington Register), probably died young.

3. Katherine, baptised January 11, 1560 (Atherington Register).

4. Blanche (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

5. James (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344). Married Jane, daughter of Sir Francis Godolphin and Margaret Killigrew (ibidem).

Issue of James Basset and Jane Godolphin:—

1. Thomas (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

2. Sir Francis, of Tehiddy, Cornwall; born 1594 (Matriculation Books, Exeter College, Oxford); knighted 1620 (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344). Married Anne, daughter of Jonathan Trelawney of Trelawney.

3. Arthur (Harl, Ms. 1080, folio 344).

4. Nicholas (Harl, Ms. 1080, folio 344).

5. James, born 1602 (Matriculation Books, Exeter College, Oxford).

6. Margery (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

7. Jane, married William Courtenay (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

8. Grace (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

9. Margaret (Harl. Ms. 1080, folio 344).

Issue of James Basset and Mary Roper:—

Philip, appointed Receiver of Revenues in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, October 1, 1584 (Rot. Pat. 25 Elizabeth, Part 7). Married (unknown), daughter of (unknown) Verney (Harl. Ms. 1091, folio 122).


Two daughters, names and alliances unknown (Harl Ms. 1080, folio 344).

I owe especial thanks to various persons who have most kindly helped me in the elucidation of the above pedigree: in particular to Colonel Chester, the Reverend G. Whitehead of Atherington, and Charles Chichester, Esquire, of Hall.


The extracts which follow will show the reasons for the belief that Lord Howard was a Protestant, possibly at the time of the Armada, and certainly at a later period.

1559. December 17.—He was an invited guest at the consecration of Matthew Parker at Lambeth, as Archbishop of Canterbury, "and many years after, by his testimony, confuted those lewd and loud lies which the Papists tell of the Nag's Head in Cheapside."—(Fuller's "Worthies," quoted in Notes and Queries, 1st S. Three, 244.)

1604. February.—He was "at the head of a commission to discover and expel all Catholic priests."—(Memorials of the Howard Family, quoted ibidem, Three 309.—The quoter adds that Howard "was certainly a Protestant in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.")

1604. May [?] "Only we forewarn you that in the performance of these ceremonies [ratification by King of Spain of treaty of peace with England], which is likely to be done in the King's Chapel, you have especial care that it be not done in the forenoon, in the time of Mass, to the scandal of our religion, but rather in the afternoon, at what time their service is more free from note of superstition."—(King James the First to Lord Howard, then Earl of Nottingham and Ambassador to Spain. Biographies Brit, page 2679; quoted in Notes and Queries, 1st S., Three 244.)

1604. "On Friday, the last of this Month, His Catholick Majesty ratified the Peace upon Oath in a great chamber of the Palace... It was pretended that the Clergy would not suffer this to be done in a Church or Chapel where neglect of reverence of the Holy Sacrament should give scandal."—(Collins' Peerage, Four 272, quoted ibidem.)

[It may be urged that Lord Howard, as Ambassador of a Protestant King, would feel himself obliged to act on behalf of his master, showing no more nor less reverence than James would have done himself. But is it at all likely that, had such been his wish, James would have selected for this office a man who could not act according to the belief of his master without committing sacrilege according to his own? The want of reverence must have been expected from Lord Nottingham or his suite, for there was no one else present who was not a devout Romanist].

1605. When Lord Monteagle delivered the anonymous letter winch revealed the Gunpowder Plot to Lord Salisbury, the second person to whom the latter confided the transaction was Lord Nottingham.—(Baker's "Chronicle," page 508.)

1605. He sat as one of the Commissioners for the trial of Garnet and other conspirators, after the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot—(Archaeologia, volume fifteen.)

1613. He stood sponsor for the Countess of Salisbury's daughter. (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1611-1618, page 170; quoted in Notes and Queries, 2nd S., Seven 364.)

1623. May 20.—"John, son of Sir William Monson, is a dangerous Papist; neither Garnet, Constable, nor Tobie Mathew is comparable to him. He asserts openly that the King is a Papist at heart ... and delights in striving to pervert people... Thinks it his duty, as Lieutenant of the Shire, to inform against him."—(Lord Nottingham to Archbishop of Canterbury, Calend. State Papers, Domestic, James the First; quoted ibidem, Seven 405.)

He married two Protestants; the first, a daughter of Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon; the second, of the "Bonnie" Earl of Moray.


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