Katherine Ferrers and the English Civil War

Katherine Ferrers and the English Civil War

Katherine Ferrers - the Wicked LadyThese pages on Katherine Ferrers and the legend of the Wicked Lady form the basis for a longer essay now available as an eBook for just US$0.99 (see below). For ease or reading it has been split into four chapters.

Introduction – early life and background to the legend

Katherine Ferrers and the English Civil War

The Wicked Lady in English folklore

Evidence for and against Katherine Ferrers

Continued from Introduction:

The teenagers were married in April 1648 and went to live at Markyate. Soon after the marriage was finalised property vested in the Ferrers family was slowly turned into cash. Bayford had already been mortgaged by Knighton Ferrers and although much royalist property had been sequestered, Markyate Cell appears to have been spared.

However, the liquidation of assets continued apace. Ponsbourne was conveyed by Katherine to Thomas Fanshawe jnr who sold it to Stephen Twee of Watford in 1653 for £5000. Markyate Cell itself was sold in 1657 to Thomas Coppin – John Edwin Cussan’s History of Hertfordshire says ‘and they joined in selling it to Thomas, son of Sir George Coppin of Kent.‘ Although Cussans makes no mention of the date 1657 is given in other records.

CADDINGTON, Bed, Markyate Cell
Coppin – Pittman – Howell – Adey med-Bought by Thomas Coppin 1657. Originally Markyate Priory. John R. Coppin died 1781; passed to Rev John Pittman [= Coppin] (d. 1794). Sold ca. 1795 to Joseph Howell; 1825 to Daniel G. Adey. Adey family to 20 cent. VCH Bedfordshire. J.B. Burke, Visitation, I, 1852, 122

If this is so, then Katherine was not living at Markyate at the time when she was supposed to have been terrorising the countryside using the old Priory as a base. In 1661 her husband disposed of other properties, Flamstead, Agnells and Bayford; and eventually in 1669 was forced to sell Ware Park itself to recover the family fortunes.

In 1658 Sir George Booth initiated a Presbyterian uprising in the north; the younger Thomas Fanshawe was implicated and imprisoned in 1659; although released the next year in February 1660. In May Charles II entered London.

This helps to determine Thomas’ whereabouts in 1660; but where was Katherine?

Anne Fanshawe (wife of Richard) lived abroad for much of the Civil War but frequently returned and mentioned in her memoirs that she and her husband were forced to return to England in 1648 for the marriage of her nephew. (Thomas to Katherine). However she was also pregnant and gave birth to her son Richard in June of that year. The latter would seem to be a more pressing reason to return although the importance of the joining of the two families in marriage should not be understated.

The Manor of Ware also included properties in Bengeo, Thundridge and Wadesmill and it was in Bengeo that Richard and Ann Fanshawe were living in 1651 (when their daughter Elizabeth was born) against a surety of £4000 from Thomas Fanshawe.

In 1648 Ware Park was worth £800 but by 1650 its contents and furniture had been sold to fill Parliament ‘s coffers and much of the surrounding woodland had been chopped down. In 1650 Thomas snr requested the release of his properties, both in Hertfordshire and Essex. They were returned but financially he was ruined. According to Ware church records he was residing at Ware Park on July 12 1655. At this time the Fanshawes still owed £600 of the £1200 for making Katherine a ward of court.

It appears that just like the rest of his family Thomas jnr was still active in the royalist cause. The Ferrers family home at Markyate had been sold and Katherine could well have been living with her in-laws at Ware.

Katherine Ferrers was buried on 13 June 1660. The Fanshawe family vault, according to Ann Fanshawe was in the village church of Dronfield, Derbyshire. My original notes have been lost so I cannot speculate on this but Lady Ann did have a family vault specially built at St Mary’s Ware and had her husband’s remains transferred from All Hallows (now All Saints) Hertford to there. Her memoirs state that the family was buried at Ware. Many of the Fanshawe’s are buried here. If this was her final resting place then Katherine was given the same respect as other members of the family, including at a later time her husband Thomas and much later a monument was erected to the memory as he was by then, of Sir Richard Fanshawe.

However searches by various authorities can find no trace of Katherine’s grave or stone in Ware.

The nature of Katherine’s death is unknown. At the age of 26 she was still childless. As seen above this would have given a family of landowners such as the Fanshawe’s good cause for worry. With Katherine’s death, the Ferrers line died out and a year after her death her husband had disposed of the bulk of the property. Would this alone have been enough cause for local people to have nicknamed her ‘wicked ‘ for having disposed of property granted to her ancestors by Edward VI.

Anne Fanshawe found little to write about Katherine other than she was the heiress of George and Knighton Ferrers and married the son of her brother-in-law. How then did she become the highwayman of legend?

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