The will of Hester Stubbes gives valuable information about her children but very little about herself. Was Hester really the daughter of John Harington and Awdrey Malte?
This document is related to research into my family tree, in particular the pedigree of Anne Stubbes, who married Robert Codrington in 1595. For background information please read An Heiress and of a Norfolk Family otherwise things may seem a bit confusing.
Awdrey [Etheldreda] was the illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII and Joanne Dingley, a launderess, adopted by the King’s Tailor, John Malte, and the recipient of several grants of land by the king.
Awdrey married John Harington of Stepney and they had a daughter, Hester, who inherited the manor of Watchfield from her mother, married William Stubbes and lived at Watchfield until she died in 1639.
At least that is the story, but how much is actually true is unclear.
Some accounts say that Awdrey died childless and others that she died in labour.
Others that she lived to see Queen Elizabeth on the throne in 1559, but died soon afterwards, allowing her husband, John Harington, to marry Isabella Markham within a few months.
The pedigree of the Harrington family shows a daughter, Hester, alive in 1568 so it makes sense that the same Hester that owned the manor of Watchfield is the one who married William Stubbes a few years later.
But was the pedigree based on actual information from the family or on other records?
Only some of the lands granted to Awdrey and her father John Malte were directed specifically at Awdrey and the heirs of her bodie possibly as a dowry for her marriage.
St Katherines Court “Katerncourte” was one of those that was actually granted by the king to Awdrey and her father, but it is unlikely that she ever lived here as her father died a few weeks after the land was granted.
John Mault Taylor and to Ethelreda Mault also Dyngley bastarde daughter – and to the heirs of the body of Ethelreda.
Many other properties – including Uffington and Watchfield – appear to have been granted to Malte, who was quite a rich man in his own right.
Watchfield, in particular, was passed to Awdrey by her father in his will, just before her arranged marriage to Richard Southwell.
In 1541 it [Watchfield] was granted to John Malt, citizen and merchant of London, who settled it in 1546 upon his illegitimate daughter Awdrey, who by the contract then made between John Malt and Sir Richard Southwell was to marry Richard [Darcy] Southwell, bastard son of the latter.
The marriage never happened so perhaps Richard Southwell called off the marriage, after the death of the king, because she would not longer be as important or useful?
John Harington seems to have inherited most of the land from Awdrey and this has lead to the belief that his daughter Hester had died – or never existed – but perhaps it was simply that little of the land was actually given directly to Awdrey “and the heirs of her bodie” in the first place?
The Will of John Malte from 10 September 1546 shows that Awdrey was not yet 15 so she was probably born about 1532 and not as early as 1528 – or 10 Nov 1518 as shown in some family trees – and probably didn’t marry until 1547.
Also I will that my trustye and welbeloved frende sir Richard Sothewell knight shall from and after my deceas take p[er]ceyve receyve and Levye toward[es] the bringing upp of the said Awdrey Malte the yerely Rent[es] Revercions Issues and profit[es] of and in all the said Manors Londes Ten[emen]t[es] and other the premisses which I have by any meanes or con-veyannce appoynted and gevyn to the said Awdrey in forme aforsaid unto suche tyme as the said Awdrey shall com[m]e to the age of Fyvetene yeres
As John Malte died a few moths later he may not have been in good health and the age of Awdrey is likely to be fairly accurate if he was expecting to die soon.
Who is Hester?
Another suggestion is that Awdrey died childless and that Hester was a niece of John Harrington.
Hester married William Stubbes in 1574 and the record we have of Hester as “vouchee” in 1568 was a recovery action against the manor of Watchfield probably in preparation for her marriage, but more likely to enable other properties to be passed to her father.
This was the record that was used in the Harington pedigree as proof that Hester – as the daughter of John and Awdrey – was alive at this time, and this does appear to be the case.
Other investigations have now shown that Hester was the daughter of John and Awdrey and not a niece.
[See Signs of Recovery]
The Stubbes and Harington families both owned properties in Stepney, London so would have known each other, and there were also other connections through Sir Francis Walsingham.
William Stubbes of Ratcliffe – who appears to be a merchant – seems to be related to William Stubbes of Watchfield, if not his father then perhaps an uncle.
But I would have thought that John Harington – a social climber – would have gone for a much higher profile match for his daughter than William Stubbes.
[See The Fittleton Manor Mystery]
The will of Hester
The probate record and inventory for Hester is held in Reading at the Berkshire records office.
I now have a transcription of her will and although it gives useful information about her children it reveals nothing about her pedigree.
She was still living at West Mill in Watchfield when she died but no longer owned the manor which was transferred to Thomas Tatton, her grandson, after the death of William in 1630, or possibly before.
She confirms her eldest daughter as Anne Marshe widow, which shows that Anne’s second husband Ralph Marshe was deceased by 1639 – her first husband was Robert Codrington, who died in 1618.
I give and bequethe unto my eldest daughter Anne Marshe widowe the som[m]e of twelve pence and to each of her Children twelve pence a peece.
Youngest daughter Theophilia first married Thomas Garrard of Inkpen, Berkshire and her children from that marriage are identified in the will – he died in 1617.
She remarried “Cowper” at some point – as she is named in the will – but I can find no record of the marriage or any further children.
I give & bequeathe unto my daughter Cowper one Fether bed, one payre of sheetes, one Rugg & my laste made gowne, and to her sonne Will[ia]m Garrard twelve pence, to her sonne Roger Garrard tenn powndes to her daughter Marye tenn powndes and to her sonne John five powndes, & I will that my daughter Cowper shall have all those garment[es] & Clothes w[hi]ch are in her owne truncke w[hi]ch standeth att my bed[es] feete.
Susan married Robert Tatton and had at least two sons, Thomas and George.
I give unto everye one of my daughter Tattons Children twelve pence a peece.
[See The Will of Thomas Tatton]
Initially I had Hester’s birth as about 1548 but I do not think this is correct having now seen the will and other evidence.
John Malte died in December 1546 shortly after writing his will, and there is no mention of Awdrey being married at this time. She was betrothed to Richard the illegitimate son of Richard Southwell, but this arrangement was formally broken sometime after December 1546 when John died.
Why John Harington married the daughter of a tailor and a laundress is still a bit a mystery, unless he was aware of who she really was – or how much property she was endowed with.
His branch of the Harington family had been impoverished after the wars of the roses and John was crawling his way back into favour – and had done a pretty good job so far under Henry and in the service of Sir Thomas Seymour. But he was a poet and a romantic – and quite often in trouble – and perhaps he was in love with Awdrey, at least for a while.
And after all she was an attendant to princess Elizabeth – a position for which she had no real credentials – and would be in good standing when Elizabeth became queen.
If Hester’s birth was as early as 1548 then she would then have been 20 years old when she is known to have been alive in 1568. This seems a little old to be sorting out property for a dowry and it is more likely that she was about 15 – as her mother had been when she was engaged – and therefore born after 1553.
This means she would have married at the much more reasonable age of 21 [and not 26].
In March 1554 Awdrey was in the Tower of London with Elizabeth and I think Hester was born sometime after this period. Her husband, John was also in the tower – in relation to the Lady Jane Grey affair – and wrote about his wife saying:
My wife is her servant, and doth but rejoice in this our misery, when we look with whom we are holden in bondage.
Hester is likely to have been born after Elizabeth was released from the tower – possibly as late as 1556 if she was only 18 when she married – but then she would have only been 12 during the recovery of Watchfield in 1568 – it doesn’t seem likely.
Awdrey does not seem to have been an attendant of Elizabeth’s before the Tower (or after) and it is suggested by Kate Emerson that she was placed there by her other half-sister, Mary but I doubt this would have been the case if she was pregnant or just given birth.
On the 19th May 1554, the future Elizabeth I was released from the Tower and escorted to Woodstock, where she was put under house-arrest so it is possible that Awdrey may also have been with Elizabeth as late as October 1554, during her period of house arrest.
John Harington, was held in the tower until January of the following year and if Awdrey was pregnant this would explain why she is not recorded as an attendant of the Queen after this period.
The portrait of Hester as a young child seems to have existed, but is now in a private collection and it is not possible to investigate if this is indeed genuine.
Some excellent detective work was done on a portrait thought to be of princess Elizabeth which was later proved to be Mary Rogers, the wife of John Harington’s son, Sir John (the writer) so we cannot take the identity of the sitter for granted.
Another piece of new evidence regarding Watchfield comes from a document of complaint between Hester Stubbes and Richard Tomelyns dated 1630.
This was shortly after the death of her husband William Stubbes, but refers to other documents dating from 1612 and 1617 – even mentioning Robert Codrington (Hester’s son in law) who died in 1618.
Hester is the complainant in this case and in response Richard replies:
… that he Conceiveth it to be true that the Complainent is Seased of some estate of inheritance to her owne use by discent from her anncestors of and in the said Manor of Watchfeild in the said bill of Complaint mencioned …
This is all about a missing document, but it does indicates that Hester inherited land in Watchfield from her ancestors rather than it being purchased or given to her.
Linda, from Transcription Services has kindly provided the following interpretation:
The bill of complaint seems to concern the conveyance document for property ‘of and in’ the manor of Watchfield, (valued at £200 per year, so a significant property), which was given amongst other papers to the safe keeping of Richard Tomlyns at some time in the past. Richard delivered back to Hester’s husband all the other paperwork, but later sent the conveyance to her son in law, Richard [Robert] Codringon, to be given to William. Hester would appear to not have this document, which would be necessary to prove her ownership of the manor property, and the dispute is whether Tomlyns/Codrington or William Stubbes had it in their possession.
Robert Codrington died early in 1618 so the documents may have been misplaced at this time.
The following is an extract from Neil Maw’s excellent Watchfield Chronicles and shows more about the ownership of the manor.
The first document in what I have called the ‘Luker Papers’ is dated 17 April, 1649. It is an indenture made between Sir Humphrey Forster, Baronet of Aldermaston, Berks, and William Weekes, a Yeoman of Watchfield. There are others mentioned within the document such as William Fairthorne, Thomas Joyner, Robert Weekes the elder and Robert Weekes the younger, concerning property and land within Watchfield. The document also includes an indemnity to the new occupiers against whatever Thomas Tatton or Mrs Hester Stubbs may have agreed to previously. So, we now know that Sir Humphrey Forster was holding the Manor in 1649. Two more documents from the Luker Papers show that he was still holding it in 1650.
From this extract it seems certain that both Thomas Tatton and Hester were previously owners of the Manor, despite not being mentioned in either of their wills and of Hester “losing” ownership in a Common Recovery action of 1568.
Hester may have transferred the manor to Thomas – her grandson – sometime after the death of her husband in 1630 – probably about 1635 or earlier. Because it was not mentioned in the will of William, nine years earlier, it is possible that Hester still owned the manor in her own right – or that the manor have been transferred before the death of her husband.
Maybe the missing document [mentioned above] was what she needed in order to convey the property and that was why it took so long after her husbands death for the property to be passed to Thomas.
Thomas Tatton wrote his will in 1653 and had already sold the manor to Humphrey Forster by then, possibly due to the death of his wife, Margaret.
There is little doubt that Joanne Dyngley was the mother of Awdrey Malte – and therefore my 12x great-grandmother – whoever was her father.
She has been identified as a laundress [or other servant] working in the Royal Household or possibly a minor noble down on her luck.
Some family trees assign a birth of 1472, based on a death record for a Joanne Dingley in 1567, but this cannot be correct as she would have died as Joanne Dobson, and would be far too old to have had a daughter in 1532 or to be attractive to the King (or John Malte) at the age of 60.
She could be the widow of James Dyngley (daughter of Sir John Moore) or the daughter of Sir Thomas Dyngley, but if this was the case then I would have expected her to have been married off to another minor noble, and there would be no need for Awdrey to be adopted.
Of course if Awdrey was simply the daughter of John Malte then it may have been more convenient to both parties for John to take charge of their daughter. If Joanne was just a servant – which I suspect she was – then she would probably not have the time and resources to care for a bastard daughter. John, on the other hand, was a very rich man – and a very benevolent one.
In his will he leaves provision for a foundling boy left on his doorstep and many other good causes, such as poor prisoners, and repairing the roads, and perhaps it was this good nature that made the king look to him to care for his daughter?
Joanne was married off to someone named Dobson, possibly a minor palace official, but perhaps a better match than she could have otherwise expected as a laundress.
My personal observation, based on his will, is that John does not seem to have been the sort of person to have considered an affair with a servant, whereas the king’s habits in this area are quite well documented.
If John Malte was actually the father of Awdrey then I am quite proud of him even if he isn’t royalty.
I have recently found a document in the National Archives, Tatton v Stubbes . This document is quite badly damaged and feint but it is important as it confirms the identify of Hester.
The document is between William Stubbes, Hester’s husband and son in law Robert Tatton and a large part of it is legible. Most of it is regarding money loans but it also drags other family members into the document including Bartholomew and George Stubbes and, most importantly, the reference below:
this Deffendant & [the] said Sir John Harrington, this Deffendants Brother in lawe
William is the defendant in this case and this document proves that Hester is therefore the daughter of John Harington and Awdrey Malte, and the half-sister of Sir John Harington, his son by his second wife Isabella Markham.
She could also be the grand-daughter of King Henry VIII
18 June 2015
Chris Sidney 2015