|by Francis Chute, 2006|
If any of your correspondents bought a copy of The Chutes of the Vyne, I feel they are entitled to read what follows. The book tried to be factual about a variety of interesting Chutes in England and Ireland. It was aimed at readers wanting accurate information; it did not, for the most part, address Mysteries.
Since publication, however, I have made some discoveries which ought to be passed on because, in varying degrees, they help us to meet our ancestors as real people, caught up in the tangles of their times. By all means, let us trot out the tradition about Alexander and his successors as Lords of the Manor. But it contains so many falsehoods that we have to look behind it to learn anything truthful about the real people whose genes we inherit. For starters, the truth is that:
For centuries, errors in our own and only pre-1500 family tradition have been passed on and presumably believed. Factual errors in the Taunton tree, and the failure to acknowledge collateral Chutes in Bridgwater and Suffolk.
In this note, I only address two Mysteries: how did the Chutes start and finish their time at Taunton? The short answer (I find) is - because on each occasion there had just been a major rebellion against the King, and our ancestors were important enough, locally, to be affected. Once, to their gain; once, to their shameful loss. The first is told in two paragraphs. The second is deeply interesting and takes the rest of this long note.PART I: HOW DID THE CHUTES COME TO TAUNTON?
Henry III was one of few English kings to be challenged and heaten in battle by his own subjects. The Battle of Lewes in 1264 was won by an alliance of nobles and citizens under Simon de Montfort who were incensed at the King's repeated violations of the Magna Carta, signed by his father King John. Simon became a pioneer of democracy because in his year of power he forced the king to accept regular parliaments,which included not only barons and ecclesiastics (as before) but "knights of the shire", including any burgesses or merchants whom each shire might elect. Among Simon's supporters was John Gervais de Gernsey, Bishop of Winchester, who was, by virtue of that office, Lord of the six manors at Taunton. Five bishops in all sided against the king. Unfortunately for Simon's experiment, the Pope excommunicated him and some of his allies. The king then lured one baron after another away from Montfort's camp, and in August 1265, the royal forces defeated and killed Simon and his irregulars at the Battle of Evesham.
After Evesham, Bishop Gervais fled to Italy to seek papal pardon, and died in Viterbo in January 1268. The king appointed a new Bishop of Winchester, who duly took over Taunton's manors as part of his huge estate. It seems likely that he acted like a new broom to sweep out Gervais' senior staff at Taunton, who may have personally aided de Montfort's campaign in that geographical area. Hence staff vacancies arose in 1268 and, we guess, Alexander Chute was brought over from the trading port of Bridgwater to be the new bishop's manorial steward at Taunton. To be chosen for that job (since the bishop was an absentee landlord), Alexander must have been an educated and literate man, knowing how to handle people of all ranks, experienced in farming and trade, unblemished in loyalty to the king and possibly a proven soldier - though the steward of Taunton was not Constable of its castle. He was probably also a man of personal authority, who could be trusted to calm things down after a civil war and a change of bishop.
This was so important a leap forward in Chute social advancement that the date was naturally engraved on family memory. At that date, parishes had not begun to keep systematic records of baptisms and deaths, so we can't cross-check. But why would a family venerate a death-date rather than a date of achievement?PART II: WHY DID THE CHUTES LEAVE TAUNTON?
By tradition, 1502 was the year when the Chutes, after centuries at Taunton, emerged from their medieval eggshell and, helped by marriage into an influential family, became in their own right a family of national importance. They sold their Taunton estate to a "Lord Denham, from whom descended the Earl of Bridgwater", moved to Sussex, and within 50 years Philip Chute, The Standard Bearer, was (as historical fact) given by Henry VIII a sapphire from the king's own ring.
The sort of Renaissance in which every detail would be treasured in the family history, and corroborated in national records. So why is this the one period when - as explained below - our family tradition is confused and, frankly, unbelievable?
My book, The Chutes of the Vyne aimed to disentangle truth from fiction in our European traditions. I was never happy with the 1502 account, but only now (since publication) have hit on a clue which could explain what really happened. Buyers of the book are entitled to this addendum; apologies for its late arrival. This is not an attempt to be clever and re-write the past; it is an honest historical deduction to replace manifest error. The story will take a few pages to tell, but it leads us into the minds and emotions of a group of our Somerset ancestors, who until now have been mere statistical names on the family tree.Background to the Investigation
Our traditions, as in Lionel's parchment, are "unbelievable" for 1480-1502 for these reasons:
The traditional family tree for that period is shown below. (The only parts which are independently confirmed are Philip's parentage (1) and the descent from Anthony and Philip. (2)
Charles Chute (an only child) married a Cheney lady in 1480, with descendants: | Edmond, who "sold Taunton Manor to Lord Denham in 1502"; his wife is not named, but Kempe arms are given her on a 1698 roll | Robert, who married Jane Lucas |
Oliver Charles Lyonell William m. Miss Redd m. Miss Cripps m. Miss Butler m. Miss Badlesmere | |
Anthony, ancestor of Line Philip, the Standard Bearer, 1 of the North American 1505-1566, ancestor of the Chutes and the Chutes of Chutes of Bethersden, Stockwell, the Vyne Ireland and Irish-North American lines
On top of those errors, our tradition looks wrong for other reasons:
In 750 years of history, the Chutes could not avoid the occasional disaster. On several occasions they were involved in a conflict of loyalties - Conscience vs. Expediency - in which we today find it possible to share the emotions of our ancestors(3). On finding (by accident) the original of the fictitious "Lord Denham", I see that in 1497 the Chutes had another criss of loyalty which could explain why a section of our family tree was corrupted. From that date on, I deduce, the Chutes had something dangerous to hide, but our different family branches could not agree on a story for public consumption. But first: the Earls.The Earldoms of Bridgwater
Our earliest surviving family record, the Bethersden Chutes' Heraldic Roll, says that from Lord Denham "descended the Earle of Bridgwater". Note that the "Earle" is singular, not plural.
The 1607-1829 Earls of Bridgwater were famous pioneers of canal building; their family name was Egerton and no Lord Denham was their ancestor. In any case, their Somerset connection began a century after the Chutes left Taunton. There was, however, one earlier Earl of Bridgwater, with immense power across Somerset, from Bristol in the north to Wincanton in the east and Barrington in the south, whose father had dominated the Chutes' lives in Taunton, around 1500. (Why has nobody spotted this until now?)
In Westminster Abbey you can see the alabaster effigies of Giles, Lord Daubeney (4) (1452-1508) and his wife Lady Elizabeth. He became King Henry VII's Lord Chamberlain, having also been the king's leading military general, Governor of Bristol Castle, Constable of Taunton and Bridgwater Castles, Knight of the Garter and Lord Lieutenant of Calais. His family's home since 1236 was in Somerset at Barrington Court, South Petherton, not many miles from the Cheyney's at Up-Ottery or the Chutes at Taunton. (His long career can be read in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). His son Henry was created 1st Earl of Bridgwater, but died childless, extinguishing this earldom in 1538. Giles, Lord Daubeney, therefore, is the original of our fictitious "Lord Denham".
The other prominent family in this story is Cheney, that of Charles Chute's bride in 1480. From Normandy, named de Caisned, they spread widely in England; many are in the D.N.B. Some were mavericks - heretics and Lollards - but after 1500 Sir Thomas Cheney (of Kent) was high at court, and his patronage started Philip Chute on his public career. They ranked, however, as knights and gentry, so that in the 1490's they had less clout than Lord Daubeney.
Having uncovered Daubeney, which is satisfying, one might leave it at that, on the grounds that the Chutes with a Cheney wife were top-drawer gentry and might naturally sell land to the noble Constable of Taunton Castle. But Daubeney's activities in the 1490's open up a very different scenario, and we still have to explain the other Errors and Problems.The main questions which puzzled us were:
Half the answer is surely that, instead of following Charles, Sr., as son and grandson in a single file, Messrs Edmond and Robert were probably his brothers. In the next generation we have no independent guidance to the parentage of Oliver, Lyonnell and William; from his name, Charles, Jr. was probably the son of Charles, Sr.
But we still have to explain why the record was wrong, and never corrected.
We must deduce that, though the land sale was prestigious enough to be recorded in family history, the cash it raised was not used to buy a new estate.
Since the pack of errors in our tradition is stacked round a brief period, it is logical to look for a single cause. So was there an event in Somerset around 1500, connected with Daubeney, which could have:
A False Family Record: Covering Our Tracks?
(a) given rise to a false family record (b) forced the Chutes out of Taunton (b) somehow deprived them of their wealth?
In the Tudor period, people might invent a remote Norman ancestor, but it was risky to falsify a more recent record; someone might notice and laugh at you! The only reason to accept the risk was if some event in your history had been seriously shameful or politically dangerous. (But NB in our case it would not have been so bad as to stop the courtly Cheneys from giving valuable patronage to the Chutes).
Obviously, we will never know exactly how our family tree came to be written in manifestly impossible terms. It is past belief that anyone would solemnly sit down and draw four generations in 25 years; laughable and pointless. It is perhaps more likely that:
(a) the family conspired to censor the life stories and personal documents of Charles, Sr., Edmond and Robert, and not to admit Lord Daubeney's impact on their family history;
(b) Philip's generation and their sons had an interest in continuing the deception and not stirring up trouble by writing down the family history, and;
(c) after the death of the last Tudor monarch in 1603, a secretary or scribe was told to examine all of the Chute records and draw a "tree", but found them so confused that he wrote down what he could, warts and all, and hoped for the best.
Suppose that Sir George Chute wanted to display his pedigree in 1610 on his appointment as Cofferer to the Prince. By then the Bethersden Chutes had lived separately from those of Suffolk; each had their chests of letters, deeds and keepsakes. Sir George's scribe, sent out to Suffolk to delve into their memorabilia and collate the two sets of records, would not have been warned of any skeleton in the family cupboard. If he found (perhaps in different places) the centuries-old names of George, Edmond and Robert and a mysterious Lord D., all without personal histories or back-up data, he might innocently write the names as father, son, grandson and guess the wrong name for Lord D. Even if Sir George noticed the errors, he was probably aware that the family had wanted to hide something long ago, decided to let sleeping dogs lie, and - if questioned - blame the secretary.
Whatever the details, there must have been some degree of censorship for false conclusions to be drawn later and never corrected. But why? Presumably the truth would have endangered the family. Why were the Chutes careful to hide the past during the lives of the Tudor monarchs? Well, if it implied that the Chutes were not loyal to their Tudor kings, this was a matter of life and death, which could at least have undermined Philip's whole career. So what might it have been?Forcing the Chutes Out of Taunton: Guilty Secret - 1497
The flesh and blood Chutes in times past cannot have been insulated from conflicts which affected the Court and higher gentry. The higher your status, the less you can escape involvement in national conflicts. The significant event in Somerset in the 1490's was the "Warbeck Rebellion" in 1497, a confrontation between the 'new king' Henry VII and the pretended Richard, Duke of York, who appeared in Somerset to claim the throne as rightful heir of the 'old king'. Some of the Bridgwater Chutes are known to have been involved; I believe that the Chutes of Taunton also were, but more seriously so. This in brief is the story.Tudor Vs. Yorkist
In 1483 the popular "Yorkist" king Edward IV died; his brother Richard grabbed the throne and reputedly murdered the 'Little Princes in the Tower' who had the natural claim to kingship. In two bloodstained years Richard III sealed his reputation as England's nastiest king. By 1485 there was a movement in support of his distant cousin Henry Tudor, who had a dynastic, though weaker, claim to the throne. Henry landed, faced King Richard at Bosworth, defeated and killed him, and declared himself King Henry VII. Daubeney and the Cheney family were among those who fought at his side.
In order to win popular support Henry was studiously conciliatory and married a Yorkist bride. But this was still a period of deep-grained personal loyalties - to a man or a blood-line rather than to an idea(5), and the Yorkist faction, who damned Henry as an usurper, had sympathizers in many ranks of society. They produced from nowhere a Pretender who claimed to be an escaped 'Prince in the Tower', a son of Edward IV and thus rightfully King Richard IV in place of Henry. (Actually, he was Perkin Warbeck, a commoner from Flanders, who had been put up to the imposture on the strength of some facial resemblance to the Plantagenets, and was taught English in Ireland in Earl Desmond's entourage).
After winning European royalty to his cause, including James IV of Scotland who gave him a noble Scottish lady for his bride, the pretender landed in Cornwall on September 7, 1497, hoping for a great popular uprising. He had chosen a good place to land."The Lunatic Fringe"
Many countries contain areas in which politics are obstinate, independent and unfashionable in their loyalties. In France, the Gascons and Bretons traditionally hate Parisians. In England to this day, the far West Country and East Anglia are regarded as political 'lunatic fringes'. The West has supported many revolts, notably the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 where Taunton was the centre of rebel support. Warbeck's insurrection in 1497 had a similar motive - a rival claim to the English throne - and it also involved Taunton.Warbeck's Campaign
By chance, Warbeck arrived only a few weeks after there had been a local uprising of Cornishmen, led by a local blacksmith. This had simply been a protest against tax, and the poorly armed Cornish force reached London, hoping to stage a demonstration. But it was treated as a military threat and routed by Henry's army under Lord Daubeney. So when Warbeck came ashore at Land's End soon after, and called himself Richard, Duke of York, thousands of angry Cornishmen were glad to join him, although they were merely "harnessed on the right arme and naked all the body, and never yett exercised in war nor martial feates, but only with the spade and shovell". As Warbeck advanced towards Exeter, some 8000 men gathered to his Standard.
Daubeney again led the king's forces, but by now his personal unpopularity had become a political factor. D.N.B. says, "In Somerset his virtual monopoly of benefits in the king's gift left many of the gentry sufficiently discontented with Tudor rule to assist the rebel cause."
These malcontents of Somerset were, by accident, in distinguished company. The supposed "Richard, Duke of York" was backed by no less than Maximilian, the Holy Roman Emperor, and by every crowned head in Europe except Spain. Before the revolt:
"...senior figures at the English court were drawn into plotting on Warbeck's behalf: John, Lord Fitzwalter, Sir Robert Clifford, Wm. Worsley, Dean of St. Paul's, and even the chamberlain of the king's household Sir William Stanley. Old loyalties to the house of York ... sustained the conspiracy across a wide geographical area and social range." (D.N.B.)
When the pretender landed, most Englishmen believed him to be Richard Duke of York. The truth only emerged later. Given this extraordinary support for him among the great and the good, it is not surprising that we find two Chute names from Bridgewater in the record of those who 'gave the rebels countenance', plus at least 10 others spelt Ched, Cheke, Shute, Shete, Shudde, Thutte, Huett, etc., who look suspiciously like a major family involvement, even if the different clerks got the spelling awry. It cannot be far-fetched to deduce that other Chutes, gentry at Taunton, were also involved in what amounted in the King's view to treason against the throne.Pros and Cons
As the Chutes married into the Cheneys, and Sir John Cheney was Daubeney's right hand man in fighting Warbeck, surely our forbears were above suspicion? Well, West Country gentry were compromised far beyond the lunatic fringe. Even Lord Daubeney's brother John, we read, was sympathetic to the Pretender, so the conflict of loyalty could divide even a senior family at court.
Charles Chute and his Cheney wife had a house on the Taunton lands; his young(6) brothers probably lived in another. All had grown to manhood under good king Edward IV. So if there was residual loyalty to the Yorkist blood, or mere high spirits and sibling jealousy, who knows what indiscretions any of the Chutes might have committed (or been maliciously denounced for committing) in the excitement of September 19th-20th when "Richard, Duke of York" reached Taunton with his banners and armed men, occupied the Castle, and called for the support of all true Englishmen against the Welsh usurper?An Event to Deprive Them of their Wealth: Retribution
The insurrection, of course, was crushed, and within days Warbeck was brought before the King in Taunton Castle and confessed his true identity. Henry was careful not to make more enemies by ordering widespread executions. But in order to deter future plots, he heavily fined thousands of gentry, clergy and commoners in the West Country. He sent a commissioner, Lord Darcy (a cousin of Daubeney), to impose fines "not only on the insurgents, but upon those who had given them countenance." Bacon asserts that the commission ... proceeded with great strictness, and the extant figures suggest that this was so. From the counties of Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire ... the total collected reached £14,699 when the last payment was made ... Successive commissions were appointed lest anything be lost, and the last payment was made in 1507." (Mackie, 'The Early Tudors' p. 146, OUP).
The list of men and women fined by the Commissions is in the British Museum: William Chute and John Chute of Bridgwater were each fined 40 shillings - say £2000 each in today's money. John Huett of Taunton and Robert Thutte of Bridgwater (probably of our family) were each fined 60 shillings, equivalent to some £3000 - a serious fine.
In Taunton one John Toose, merchant, was fined the phenomenal sum of £100 (in 1500 money) for aiding the rebels. But, oddly enough, hardly any gentry are named on that list. Sir John Speke of White Lackington must have been so blatantly involved that he was fined £200; and many abbots of religious houses were fined as much as £60. These are probably named on the list of money fines because they could afford to pay, and stay put. What of those property-owners who were fined but could not pay without selling their homes? These probably had their lands confiscated in part or full payment; if the Taunton Chutes were among them, that might be why we do not see them named among persons whose fines were in money.
But where is the name of John Daubeney - who must have actually done something to be recorded by historians as having sympathised with the rebels? Where are all the hundreds of other gentry who, as historians agree, did likewise?
There probably was a double standard; one law for the ruling class, another for the plebs. The former did not get off scot-free; they were merely dealt with behind closed doors. The King, after all, demanded his pound of flesh. He got most of what he wanted by terrorising the people with swingeing fines; indeed for nearly 200 years there was no further such rebellion in Somerset. But he also needed to punish knights and gentry, a job he delegated to his loyal agents Daubeney and Darcy. (They after all would answer to him if any unrest continued.) But the ruling class is a self-serving club with its own rules for settling problems. Deals can be cut in private; scapegoats can be designated, and nothing said outside the club. We read that Daubeney was embarrassed during the fining by the number of his neighbours and relatives who had favoured the rebellion. This may have disposed him to hush up some people's behaviour. But secrecy breeds corruption, and Daubeney could still fix matters to his own advantage.
Like Daubeney's brother, the Chute gentry seem not to have been publicly accused. We can never know whether they were repaid the difference between their fine and the market value of their lands, or summarily kicked out of their ancestral home and told to move far enough away so that no questions need be asked. In either case, Lord Daubeney seems to have taken the Chute lands - whether for himself or for the king's nominees.
In this private conference among grandees, the Cheneys had their own divided loyalties - to the king from allegiance and hope of advancement, to the Chutes from marriage ties and friendship. We will never know details of their arrangements with the Chutes, but it is surely significant that the Cheneys of Pinhoe & Up Ottery had distant relatives living in Suffolk and Kent - the counties to which the Chutes retreated. In the next generation, Sir Thomas Cheney of Kent gave Philip Chute his start in public life, and both of them were careful never to let Henry VIII know that the Chutes had once been (however secretly) penalised for treason.
Is it mere coincidence that the Chutes did not reconstruct their family tree until after the last Tudor monarch had died? Philip had been happy to use the Chute heraldic shield as basis for his more glorified coat of arms with canton, mullets, motto and crest; but there is no record of his writing down his pedigree. After Elizabeth's death, the cover-up had gone on so long that no living person knew the historical facts.
By 1610, Sir George Chute's time, the last Daubeney (the Earl of Bridgwater) had been dead more than 70 years and our Chutes had moved far away from the old "Daubeney country"; so it was easy for someone living in the London area to garble his unusual name into the simpler Denham. Burke's Commoners and even Lionel's scroll (drawn up c. 1630) name "Lord Denham" as the buyer, but do not mention that he was ancestor to the Earl of Bridgwater. We do not yet know how the Bridgwater ancestry came to be discovered and inserted later, and how/whether the vital words were added without anyone realising their significance(7).Conclusion
Warbeck's rebellion was the only notable event which took place in Somerset in the period 1480-1500. But it evoked so many conflicts of interest, often of a life-or-death nature, that we cannot expect objective truth, in every detail, to have become common knowledge. Therefore, we may never find proof of our Taunton forbears' involvement. But it could explain their abrupt and wholesale move from there, and the family's censorship of that section of their history. There was, however, no dishonour in moral terms.
It was indeed a conflict between Conscience and Expediency. Since the whole rebellion from start to finish only lasted a fortnight, there was no time for Somerset folk to make careful inquiries as to Warbeck's identity. If Edward IV's long-lost son had indeed come to claim the throne, then right was on his side. Englishmen of that era saw a royal blood-line as divinely anointed to rule. They distrusted usurpers (whether William I, Henry IV or Henry VII) who took the throne by force. Therefore Henry VII's confrontation with "Richard Duke of York" was settled by military, not moral, superiority; Henry was the one with the big battalions. If the Chutes gambled, they did so honourably; their only fault was to be on the losing side.Summary of Events
The proposed revision to the 10th Generation Line of Descent was published on the Chute website in 2006, allowing Chute family members a certain period of time to comment on the change. As of Saturday, August 14, 2010, no comments or objections had been raised, leading me to believe that Chutes had read the well-reasoned rationale behind the change and had found no fault with it. Until this point, both original and revised lines of decent were posted side by side. As every change to anyone in that generation had to be made to both groups simultaneously, maintainance of the groups became somewhat cumbersome. The side-by side structure has been eliminated and the Revised Line of Descent appears in the website as the only line of descent. However, for purposes of review and historical documentation, all information, rationale and diagrams regarding the Original Line of Descent will appear on this page only. Comments are still welcome.
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