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Thomas Grey, Lord of Groby 1623-1657
Authors: Ian Hurst and Richard Southin
Orders of the day, Volume 32, Issue 5, Sept
The Greys of Groby and Bradgate were successors to a family of high rank and influential connections in the aristocracy of England. They claimed descent from Anchitell de Grey, who took part in the Norman invasion of 1066. The Greys first began their connection with Groby when a Sir Edward Grey married Elizabeth, the heiress daughter of the fifth Lord Ferrars of Groby. This Sir Edward was summoned to Parliament in 1446 as Lord Ferrars of Groby.
The family first moved into national prominence when his son, Sir John Grey of Groby, married Elizabeth Woodville. This lady, later made a widow by the Battle of St Albans in the Wars of the Roses, went on to marry the Yorkist King Edward IV and to mother the two ‘Princes in the Tower’. Having attained high office under Edward IV and suffered under the rule of his brother Richard III (including the deaths of Lords Rivers and Ferrars, and the exile of the Marquis of Dorset), the Greys returned to the support of Henry Tudor and their original Lancastrian allegiance. After the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 they were well established in the new regime. The head of the family, the second Marquis of Dorset, built Bradgate House in his hunting park between about 1490 and 1520. During the reign of Edward VI, Dorset’s son, the Duke of Suffolk, together with the Earl of Northumberland, endeavoured to secure the levers of national power by marrying the daughter of the former, Jane Grey, to the son of the latter, Guildford Dudley, and to bar the accession to the throne of the Roman Catholic Mary Tudor on the death of her brother Edward. The reign of the tragic Lady Jane (aged 15) lasted only nine days. This attempted coup cost the Grey family dear, with Suffolk, Guildford Dudley and Lady Jane all beheaded in 1554.
Thomas Lord Grey, of Groby.
From an origional Picture at Fawsley House, Northamptonshire.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
It was not until 1603, when Sir Henry Grey gained the title of Lord Grey, that the family saw a marked revival in its fortunes. Sir Henry Grey’s eldest son and heir, Sir John Grey, died before him, leaving his own son, another Henry, to succeed to the title of Lord Grey of Groby in 1614. He resided principally at Bradgate, the centre of his many properties. Here he worked hard to restore the position of the Greys in Leicestershire, a position that had been eclipsed by the Hastings family since 1554.
In 1623 he and his wife Ann produced a son and heir, Thomas. In 1628 Henry was created Earl of Stamford, and at the age of five Thomas became the third Lord Grey of Groby. Most of the young lord’s time would have been spent at Bradgate House or Groby Manor. By the early 1630s the Earl of Stamford had an income of around £3,000 per annum and owned a great deal of land including parts of Charnwood Forest. In 1634 Bradgate House received a royal visit, which seemed to mark a rise in and restoration of the Grey family’s fortunes in the county, when Charles I and his French wife Henrietta Maria were entertained there. At the time of the visit Thomas, Lord Grey of Groby, was aged 10 or 11.
Due to frustrations in business aspirations and differences in policy both locally and nationally, the Grey family started to turn against the King, like many others. They were a Puritan family and had a long tradition of being so. By 1640 Thomas, at 17, began to see events in his life both locally and nationally rapidly gather speed. In March 1641 the young aristocratic Member of Parliament for Leicester was admitted to Gray’s Inn like his father before him. In 1641 the Grand Remonstrance and Petition was drawn up by Parliament to protest to the King about “Oppressions in Religion, Church Government and Discipline”; the young Lord Grey was one of the twelve members of the committee selected to present it to the monarch and was referred to as “a Lord dear to the House of Commons”.
War Breaks Out
In 1642 civil war broke out due to quarrels with both King and Parliament, and the Grey family sided with the Parliament cause. On the other hand, the Greys’ sworn enemies and also a powerful family, the Hastings, supported the King. Thomas was now a young man of nineteen, while the not-yet-famous Oliver Cromwell was forty-three. As hostilities began, the Greys seized all of Leicester’s arms held at the magazine and placed them at Bradgate, much to the annoyance of Henry Hastings, who complained to both the mayor of Leicester and to Charles I. On the orders of the King a fine of £2000 was made upon the city for the ease with which it gave up the arms.
In March 1642 Parliament ordered the raising of a militia in Leicester, and the Earl of Stamford named his son Thomas as being responsible for the raising and training of all Parliament forces in Leicestershire. All the happenings over the last few months must have been very exciting for a man of his age, but also a great responsibility. Thomas’s first military encounter was at the battle of Edgehill, where with a troop of horse at his command (made up of his friends, neighbours, tenants and servants) he fought on the Earl of Essex’s right wing. It appears this regiment acquitted itself well in the action. At this first real battle of the Civil War both sides retired claiming victory.
It was at this time, with both his father away on garrison duty in Hereford and Thomas training troops in Leicester, that Lord Hastings and Prince Rupert attacked Bradgate House. Though they beat up the servants, little was taken apart from the chaplain’s clothes. “Prince Rupert and Master Hastings and many cavaliers went to my Lord Grey, the Earl of Stamford’s house, from whence they took all his arms and spoiled all his goods and some chief ones asked, “Where are the brats, the young children? God Damn them! they would be killed that there be no more of the breed of them”. But God stirred up some friends to succour them.” The ‘brats’ referred to would have been Lord Grey’s three younger brothers: Anchitell, John and Leonard, and his five young sisters.
In December 1642 Henry Grey was appointed Lord General of South Wales, Hereford, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Cheshire. With his father now stationed outside the Midland counties, Thomas Lord Grey was appointed Lord General of the Association of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Rutland and Lincolnshire, and was given the power to raise a force on behalf of Parliament. Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire were also put under his command..........
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