Knight of the Garter

Many of our ancestors may have been obscured from the public stage of world history, but they still played an important part of it.  Then there are the others that took the stage, front and center, and many times it was not because of their need to be famous or infamous.  It was the mere fact that our more well-known ancestors happened to be present at or involved in well-known and well documented historical events or they made a name for themselves through notoriety.  My distant cousin Wyatt Earp is a prime example of this. 

In 2018, I did a post regarding the discovery of my Morgan family.  The Morgan family was also well documented because of their connection going back to the Kings of Wales.  In that lineage, I discovered a connection to a knight of the 16th century, Sir John Gage. My 12 times great-grandfather, William Morgan married Elizabeth Thatcher, the daughter of John Thatcher, Esq., and Agnes (Ann) Gage.  Sir John Gage was the father of Agnes.  Below is the tree of the Thatcher family: 

From The History and Antiquities of Lewes and Its Vicinity. … With an Appendix Containing an Essay on the Natural History of the District, by G. Mantell. [With Plates and a Supplement.] 

Volume 2 

By Thomas Walker HORSFIELD · 1827 

From Notices of Pencoyd castle and Langstone, by O. Morgan and T. Wakeman Volume 7 

Sir John Gage, KG (1479-1556) 

Portrait of Sir John Gage. Black and colored chalks, reinforced with pen and brush and Indian ink and with metalpoint on pink-primed paper, 39.8 × 29.1 cm, Royal Collection, Windsor Castle. The drawing has been reworked in pen and ink and (on the gown) in metalpoint by other hands. In the words of art historian K. T. Parker: “The work in Indian ink is devoid of skill or sensitiveness, and is certainly not by Holbein. But traces of left-handed shading appear in the hat, and there can be little doubt that the drawing, in spite of its injuries, is fundamentally an original of the master” (K. T. Parker, The Drawings of Hans Holbein at Windsor Castle, Oxford: Phaidon, 1945, OCLC 822974, p. 57). Sir John Gage (1479–1556/57) was a military commander and politician under Henry VIII and Edward VI. 

The many different official positions and titles bestowed upon Sir John Gage are as follows: 

Esquire of the Body of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII 

Comptroller in 1524, Pale of Calais 

Knighthood in 1525 

Vice Chamberlain of the Household in 1526 (left court in 1533) 

Represented Sussex three times (1529, 1539 and 1542) in the parliaments of King Henry VIII 

Returning to favor in 1540, he saw his appointments as Comptroller of the HouseholdConstable of the Tower, and as Privy Counsellor 

In 1541, he became a Knight of the Garter 

In 1542, he succeeded as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 

In 1544, he organized transport and supplies to the army for the invasion of France and became a knight banneret 

Present at the funeral of King Henry VIII, he was appointed one of the executors of the King’s will and a member of Edward VI’s Regency Council. 

In 1547, Sir John Gage was kicked off the Regency Council and lost his posts as Comptroller and Chancellor when differences arose between John and Edward Seymor, Lord Protector at the time 

John re-joined the council, before resigning upon the accession to power of The Earl of Warwick, later Duke of Northumberland. He was suspended as Constable for not supporting Northumberland’s attempt to install Lady Jane Grey as Edward’s successor. The accession of Mary I saw his restoration as Constable and appointment as Lord Chamberlain. He bore her train at her coronation and at her marriage to Philip of Spain. As Constable, he guarded Princess Elizabeth in 1555; he was described by Heylyn as “her bitter enemy, but more for love of the Pope than for hate of her person”. 

One notable moment that stands out that involved Sir John Gage is during the ascension and the deposing of Lady Jane Gray as queen, as she was a committed protestant.  She was also known as the “Nine Days’ Queen”, as that was how long she held the throne.  Her half-sister Mary, a devoted catholic gained support from the Privy Council and was ushered in as queen.  Lady Jane was held in the Tower of London and was convicted of high treason in November of 1553.  Since Sir John Gage was suspended as Constable when he did not support Lady Jane Grey as King Edward VI’s successor, but was later restored as Constable and Lord Chamberlain when Mary I ascended to the throne. 

Sir John Gage, being the Constable of the Tower, was responsible for the care of Lady Jane Grey prior to her execution.  She was only 17 years old.  Just before her execution, Sir John Gage accompanied Jane to the place of her execution and based on the following etching, Lady Jane Grey handed Sir John her table- book: 

Courtesy of the British Museum – Lady Jane Grey is led to her execution, handing over her table-book to Sir John Gage. Line engraving with etching by Warren after W. Hamilton, 1802. 

So, you may be asking yourself, what is a table-book? 

Well, as it was explained to me by John Cooper, Reader of History, University of York and Director, Society of Antiquaries of London, “a table-book is something we would call a notebook, or perhaps a commonplace book. The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1582 as the first citation, so it’s a Tudor term (also a reference in “Hamlet”).  My sense is that one writes in a table book – for Lady Jane Grey, it would have been full of (Protestant) prayers and extracts from improving humanist writings.  If such a book were found, it would be a sensational discovery”. 

Just three years after Lady Jane Grey was executed, Sir John Gage passed on 18 April 1556 at the age of 77.  His daughter, Agnes (Gage) Thatcher had passed in 1540 at about the age of 38.  Sir John Gage left a rather large and detailed will.  See the links below: 

National Archives (United Kingdom) 

Sussex Archaeological Collections (archive.org) 

Documentary evidence exists as well that five chairs of the type as seen above are described in the will of Sir John Gage of Firle Place in Sussex in 1556 (Courtesy of metmuseum.org). 

The Tudor Manor House built by Sir John Gage of Firle Place: 

Courtesy of Wikipedia 

Tomb of Sir John Gage and his wife, Phillipa at Firle Church 

Courtesy of geograph.org.uk 

Links to Firle Place including stunning photographs are here on Facebook and the County Estate of Firle Place. 

As you research your family, digging deep into your ancestral family trees won’t always give way to discoveries like these, but you never know unless you really dig in hard. 

Remember, these types of ancestors could be out there just waiting for you to discover them. Happy hunting! 

Sources: 

The National Archives of the U.K. 

Ancestry© 

Google EBooks 

Archive.org 

The Royal Collection at Windsor Castle 

The British Museum 

The County Estate of Firle Place 

Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, Volume 47 

Oxford-Shakespeare – The National Archives Probate 11-17-381 

Featured Image: Shield of the Garter – Coat of Arms of Sir John Gage

Acknowledgements and Special Thanks: 

Turtle Bunbury – noted Irish Historian and Author.  Seen on the well-known show “Who Do You Think You Are?” – Turtle connected me with John Cooper…thank you Turtle! 

J.P.D. Cooper, MA, D.Phil., FSA, FRHistS, Reader in History, University of York, Director, Society of Antiquaries of London 

Cheryl, my wife, whose love and support never waivers and helps drive my passion for genealogy 

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