· 10 June 2016 ·
Once upon a time, King Edward IV had an illegitimate son named Arthur Plantagenet, who grew up to become the 1st Viscount Lisle in the reign of his half-nephew Henry VIII.
Arthur’s first wife was Elizabeth Grey (not King Edward’s wife the Woodville one*). Arthur and Elizabeth had a daughter, Frances Plantagenet.
Arthur’s second wife was Honor Grenville, who had first been married to John IV Basset. Honor and John IV had had a son, John V Basset.
Keeping things in the blended family, John V Basset married Frances Plantagenet. They had a son, Arthur Basset.
Arthur Basset and his wife Eleanor had a son, Robert Basset.
Robert was therefore a great-grandson of King Edward IV’s baseborn son Arthur on his paternal grandmother’s side, and also a great-grandson of Arthur’s second wife Honor on his paternal grandfather’s side.
Clear as mud? Pedigrees resembled pretzels in these days of early death and serial marriage.
Here’s where the fun really begins. When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 without an (acknowledged) heir, Robert Basset believed that his diluted drop of bastard Plantagenet blood was enough to qualify him for the throne, over the legitimate descendant of Henry VII, King James VI of Scotland.
Robert Basset was delusional.
James was the candidate backed by the Cecils – both the late minister William and his son Robert, who stepped into his deceased father’s shoes at the end of Elizabeth’s reign.
Nicholas Hill, our man from Merchant-Taylors’ and my ex-factotum, supported Basset in his fantasy. In the highlighted text above you can see that Basset was another of Hill’s favourite sort: a rich man with liberal spending habits. Of course Hill was going to go along with his meal ticket’s whim.
I’ve given the Lame Plot its name because it has no other, it’s a forgotten, nameless bastard. (Arthur Plantagenet, though illegitimate, was acknowledged by his father.) The Lame Plot is notable only for its lack of notability.
James VI/I faced other plots, legitimate ones with real names, at the beginning of his reign. The Main Plot, the Bye Plot, the Gunpowder Plot – but all came a cropper, as did the the Lame Plot.
When the the Lame Plot failed, Basset found it wise to flee to France, and Hill to Rotterdam. Basset was hit with fines that cost him most of his patrimony, before he was eventually allowed to return to England. Hill remained an exile until he took his own life in about 1610.
Lessons to be learned from this:
(1) Don’t be delusional.
(2) Never cross a Cecil if you know what’s good for you.
* More Pedigree Pretzels: Elizabeth Woodville Grey was the Lancastrian widow who married the Yorkist king Edward IV and became the unpopular Queen of England, mother of the Princes in the Tower, and Henry VII’s mother-in-law. Arthur Plantagenet’s wife Elizabeth was a Grey by birth. Same family though.
Still hungry? Arthur’s Elizabeth had previously been married to Edmund Dudley, Henry VII’s hated henchman. That marriage ended when Dudley got the axe at the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign. Elizabeth was therefore grandmother to Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, Bess’s favourite and my sometime rival.
Elizabeth Grey Dudley Plantagenet lost her first husband Edmund, her eldest son John (1st Duke of Northumberland), her grandson Guildford (John’s son and Leicester’s older brother), and her granddaughter-in-law Jane Grey (Guildford’s wife the Nine Days’ Queen, who was a great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Woodville Grey!), all to the executioner’s blade. Perhaps fortunately for Elizabeth, she predeceased all but her husband.
Those Dudleys were an ambitious bunch. Makes your head spin. Hopefully not all the way off.
Source: Danmonii Orientales Illustres: or, The Worthies of Devon