Bodrugan Leap – a traditional Cornish story tells of how Sir Henry Bodrugan leaped from this cliff top to a waiting boat and made his escape first to France and later to Ireland.
If you are reading this then it is also likely that you have read my other various posts relating to the Coldridge theory including : A Portrait of Edward V and Even a Resting Place?
A PORTRAIT OF EDWARD V AND THE MYSTERY OF COLDRIDGE CHURCH
THE MYSTERIOUS DUBLIN KING AND THE BATTLE OF STOKE
WAS LAMBERT SIMNEL A TUDOR HOAX?
If reading any of these posts you have ever wondered who was it who could have taken the young Edward V alias John Evans over the sea to Dublin may I suggest – drum roll – step forward Sir Henry Bodrugan. Sir Henry, also known as Henry Trenowith, was one of those larger than life characters who litter history and who had done exceedingly well during both the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. He was a knight of the body of Richard and according to old Cornish tradition he may have been present at Bosworth for Richard before making his escape after the battle to Cornwall (1). Knighted by Edward on the creation of Prince Edward as Prince of Wales. he was one of the most powerful men in Cornwall during those interesting times (2).
Moving on to 1484 It has already been noted in some of the articles mentioned above that on the 3rd March two days following Elizabeth Woodville emerging from sanctuary, Richard III sent one of his loyal followers, Sir Robert Markynfield from Yorkshire to Coldridge, an isolated village in Devon, granting him the position of Parker there – Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devonshire during the kinges pleasure… (3). This was a rather puzzling move by Richard which became even more intriguing when in April Coldridge was among the slew of properties that Richard granted Sir Henry the lordship of including the manors of Trelawne and Tywardreath (4) Thus we have Coldridge, an isolated backwater, becoming quite a hotbed of activity. If the Coldridge theory is correct and we are barking up the correct tree this activity was due to Edward V being sent to live there incognito by Richard III in 1484 to what had once been the property of Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, Edward’s half brother. Further to this is speculation that Edward V, who had been living under the alias of John Evans, was the King Edward who was later crowned in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin on the 24 May 1487. But if the Coldridge theory is correct who would have accompanied the young Edward to Dublin? Certainly not fellow Yorkist rebels, Lincoln and Lovell for they arrived in Dublin after the arrival of the young lad who was about to be crowned and his supporters. And here is yet another vitally important link – for we know that none other than Sir Henry, owner of Coldridge, and his son John ‘Beaumont’, were both present at the coronation in Dublin (5). I think we need look no further for the chaperone of Edward. It is not known whether Sir Henry also accompanied the newly crowned Edward back to England and then on to Stoke but his name being left off the list of those who fought for the Yorkist cause that day we must assume he did not. However both Henry and John Beaumont would be included in the Act of Attainder against the Yorkist rebels in November 1487. We must backtrack a little to the 8 February 1487 when Sir Richard Edgecombe, who had his own axe to grind, had been sent to arrest Sir Henry and John Beaumont on the grounds that they had ‘withdrawn themselves into private places in the counties of Devon and Cornwall and stir up sedition’ (6). It should be noted that this coincided with the time the news of the ‘Lambert Simnel’ plot reached the ears of Henry VII, the ‘retirement’ of Elizabeth Woodville to Bermondsey Abbey and the arrests of Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset and Bishop Stillington. But our medieval version of Errol Flynn made his escape, and if a traditional story is to be believed, in a most spectacular way, leaping off a cliff and landing in the sea below where a boat awaited him. We will pause here to repeat the story which is too good to miss:
“… Bodrugan slipped away out of his house to the cliffs nearby, where there was a boat waiting for him. As soon therefore as he came to the cliff above an hundred feet high, he lept down into the sea upon a little grassy island there without much hurt or damage, where instantly a boat which he had prepared in the cove attended him there, which transported him to a ship that carried him into France. Which astonishing fact and place is to this day well known and remembered by the name of Harry Bodrugan’s leap’ (7).
He would make his way to Ireland where on the 24 May 1487 he attended in Dublin the coronation of the young lad who was crowned King Edward. Was this Edward in fact the true Edward V who had been living incognito at Sir Henry’s property of Coldridge under the name of John Evans? Had Sir Henry some time between his escape from arrest and the Dublin Coronation journeyed to Coldridge to escort the young Edward V/John Evans over the sea to Ireland? Did Sir Henry ever return to England or did he live out his last days in exile in Ireland? Let us hope it was not too onerous.
15th century stained glass image of Edward V in the Evans chapel at Coldridge Church. This image has been verified as being of Edward V by stained glass experts Brooks and Cherry as well as the Keeper of Ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Photo Photo Dale Cherry
Later in 1503, Sir Henry’s heirs, John Reskymer and Richard Antron, made a somewhat cheeky attempt to have the Act of Attainder reversed. They claimed that Sir Henry had ‘departed into Ireland to (visit) a kinsman of his when he soon afterwards there deceased’ and furthermore he ‘was never in the company with the said Earl (Lincoln) nor never spake with him nor never sent him message by writing, nor none otherwise, nor never committed treason’(8)
Predictably this attempt failed but nice try. It does beg the question though was Sir Henry ill, perhaps even mortally, around time of the coronation and too unwell to make it back to England with the other Yorkist rebels and the newly crowned King Edward. Bodrugan Barton, from where Sir Henry made his escape, would be amongst the clutch of Bodrugan manors later granted to Sir Henry’s arch enemy, Sir Richard Edgecombe on the 26 April 1488 although Coldridge would be returned to Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset.
The choir Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Here Sir Henry Bodrugan and his son John Beaumont attended the coronation of the ‘Dublin King’. Photo with thanks to Diliff @ Flikr.
What else is known about the indomitable Sir Henry? He came from an ancient Cornish family of high status. His father, another formidable figure, was Sir William Bodrugan of Newham, Cornwall (c.1398-1441) and his mother was Philippa, daughter of Sir John Arundel of Lanherne, Cornwall. He married in 1454 Joan Beaumont nee Courtney, widow of William Beaumont. Her son, John Beaumont, would later prove to be not the son of William but indeed the son of our Sir Henry and conceived before the death of William who at the time was estranged from Joan (9) This young man would be brought up at Bodrugan, nr Mevagissey and would ‘become a partner in his father’s later misdeeds’ (10). His father who died in 1441 when Henry was 15 left his son a sizeable inheritance including 21 manors. He became the ward of Thomas Courtenay, Earl of Devon, until 1447. Courtenay would pay the Earl of Suffolk for this privilege.
Sir Henry who can be safely described as having led rather a chequered career has been described by historian David Baldwin as a ‘lawless and rumbustious individual who was pardoned on at least four occasions between 1467 and 1480. He and his associates seem to have terrorised Cornwall, breaking and entering, engaging in piracy, extracting and misappropriating money under cover of the King’s commission and corrupting wills. His victims complained they could obtain no common law remedy against him ‘for if any person would sue the law against the said Henry … or against any of his servants, anon they would should be murdered, slain and utterly robbed and despoiled of all their goods…’ (11).
This was not all. 1472 found him doing a stint in the Fleet Prison for debt. On Ist May 1476 he was yet again in trouble for not paying his tailor, Nicolas Mills to whom he owed the enormous amount of £150 18s 7d. Really Sir Henry! But this pales into insignificance when compared to attacks, piracy, threats to burn houses down – with the occupants still at home – forcibly entries into houses and taking away goods, chattels, horses, cattle, even featherbeds and bedding etc., etc., The list goes on. What’s not to like? But still, it should be remembered, as the historian A L Rowse pointed out, Sir Henry left behind him ‘a popular memory in Cornish tradition’ and Charles Ross’ statement that half the gentry of Cornwall’ petitioned against him in the 1473 Parliament can be dismissed as a rather generous over egging of the pudding (12).
But stop! Enough of the negativity for surely he must have had some worthy attributes to gain the trust of the two aforementioned kings? His name can be found on numerous commissions to investigate acts of piracy on ships, commissions of array, he was sent to arrest notable Lancastrians who were involved in acts of insurrection, playing an every growing part in the affairs of the country. He played an active role in supporting Richard III during the Buckingham Rebellion which led to him seeking and hunting down Sir Richard Edgecombe who only just managed to escape by the skin of his teeth, who then made his way to Brittany and the court of Henry Tudor. After Bosworth Sir Henry’s previous staunch loyalty to the Yorkist kings would make for an uncomfortable time for him within the new Tudor regime and a target for his former enemies such as Sir Richard Edgecombe, who in the reign of the new Tudor king, found himself in the ascendancy. In a reversal of roles it was Richard Edgecombe who once Sir Henry had hunted now became the hunter arriving at Bodrugan Barton to arrest him and John Beaumont on the orders of Henry VII. As told above, Sir Henry, expecting no mercy made his daring escape and the rest is history.
Bodrugan Barton, home to the Bodrugan family is long gone with a just few grassy knolls where once it stood. It has been erroneously described as a castle but was actually a manor house although it’s possible it could been fortified and probably had a park attached to it. Borlais who visited the site in the 18th century when some of the ruinous walls still stood left us an interesting description –
‘As you come from Mevagissey to the house on the right hand lies the largest barn I have ever seen. You pass through a large gate way into the stable yard where that which remains of the stables is vastly larger than any I have seen in Cornwall. The chapel lyes on the left hand but is now converted into a very large barn and having been often alter’d one should scarce know what it had been but for a nich us’d for holy water which is been of the same stile as the remains of the ancient house I there copy’d as well as I could in a darksome place. The house you enter by a small porch on this side which makes me conclude that the great front must be to the south and that this was the back inferior entrance. The ancient hall makes a pretty large hall, a dining room over and a very large kitchen but when formerly in one room must have been very magnificent. In the kitchen the timbering of the roof work appears and is very great and curiously carved and disposed in parabolick curves above and supported by pillars of oak which descend visibly thro’ the wall to the bottom of the room. No remains in the County come near what Bodrugan can show…'(13).
In 1786 the last remains of Bodrugan Barton were demolished. An ancient wall, which includes a 14th century doorway of Pentewan stone, that may have been either part of the main house or chapel is incorporated into a property now known as The Chapel. So sadly the back entrance that Sir Henry made his escape from that day in 1487 now no longer exists. There is no way of knowing whether the story of Harry Bodrugan’s Leap is true however we do know that Sir Henry did indeed make his escape to end up in Dublin for the coronation of the ‘Dublin King’. Nothing is heard of him after that and it’s possible he may have died soon after that event or perhaps lived out the last few years of his life in Ireland perhaps on the land that was once owned by a 13th century Bodrugan ancestor. But he had survived into his 60s, a good age for those turbulent times, long enough for one last shout and what may have been a bold albeit futile attempt at returning Edward IV’s son to his throne. After the battle the young lad who had been crowned ‘King Edward’ was discovered. The heralds recorded that although the young King Edward was taken, his real name was ‘John’ : ‘And there was taken the lade that his rebelles called King Edwarde (whoos name was in dede John) – by a vaylent and a gentil esquire of the kings howse called Robert Bellingham’ (14). If the theory is correct, perhaps Sir Henry gained some comfort in the knowledge that Edward V survived the carnage of Stoke and was returned to Coldridge where he lived out his life quietly as John Evans.
1. The Parochial History of Cornwall, 4 Vols. Gilbert Davies. London: J B Nichols and Son, 1838
2. Ross p.411.
3. Harleian Manuscript 433. Vol.1.
5. Oxford DNB. Philippa Maddern 23 September 2004.
6. Cal.Pat.Rolls 1485-94
7. The Parochial History of Cornwall, 4 Vols. Gilbert Davies. London: J B Nichols and Son, 1838
8. Star Chamber Proceedings. Henry VIII vol 23 folio 305.
9. Cal.Pat.Rolls, 1461-1467, p.539.
10. The Turbulent Career of Sir Henry de Bodrugen. A L Rowse 1944.
11. Stoke Field, The last Battle of the Wars of the Roses p.p.25.26. David Baldwin.
12. ODNB Bodrugan (Trenowith), Sir Henry. Philippa C Maddern 23 September 2004.
13. The Bodrugans: A Study of a Cornish Medieval Knightly Family p..p 50.51 1995. From the Borlaise MXX in Gorran. Records of Early English Drama (REED).
14. Chroniques de Jean Molinet ed. G Doutrepont and O Jordogne Brussells 1935. Translation taken from Michael Bennett’s Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke. See also Heralds’Memoir 1486-1490 pp.116-17 E. Cavell.
If you have enjoyed this post you also might like :
WAS LAMBERT SIMNEL A TUDOR HOAX
THE MYSTERIOUS DUBLIN KING AND THE BATTLE OF STOKE
PERKIN WARBECK AND THE ASSAULTS ON THE GATES OF EXETER