Sir Anthony DENNY, Knight

Born: 16 Jan 1500/01, Howe, Norfolk, England

Died: ABT Feb 1549 / 10 Sep 1559, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England

Father: Edmund DENNY of Cheshunt (Sir)

Mother: Mary TROUTBECK

Married: Jane CHAMPERNOWNE 1525, Modbury, Devonshire, England


1. Honora DENNY

2. Anne DENNY

3. Mary DENNY

4. Arthur DENNY

5. Douglas DENNY

6. Charles DENNY

7. Edmund DENNY

8. Henry DENNY

9. Anthony DENNY

10. Mary DENNY

11. Edward DENNY (Sir Knight)

Associated with: Ώ?

12. William DENNY

Denny,Anthony(Sir)01.jpg (39277 bytes)

Portrait of Sir Anthony Denny 

(putative portrait, somes believes it΄s of Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey)

Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Born 16 Jan 1501, 2nd surv. son of Sir Edmund Denny of Cheshunt by his second wife, Mary, dau. and heir of Robert Trouthbeck of Bridge Trafford, Cheshire. Kntd. 30 Sep 1544. Servant of Sir Francis Bryan by 1531; ?groom of stole by 1535, groom of chamber by 1536, keeper, Whitehall palace 1536, Westminster palace Sep 1537, other royal properties, Essex and Herts., inc. Hatfield House and Waltham abbey 1538-d.; yeoman of robes by 1537; gent. privy chamber by 1538, chief gent. by 1544; collector of tonnage and poundage, London 1541-d.; 1546: Groom of the Stool; PC 1547-d.; j.p. Essex, Herts. 1547-d.; high steward, Westminster by 1548.

He had an elder brother, Sir Thomas Denny of How, Norfolk, who married Elizabeth Mannock or Monoux, the daughter of Sir George Monoux, Lord Mayor of London, as well as two younger brothers and ten sisters. By his will of 1519 Sir Edmund Denny left his second son Anthony £160 to purchase land and the income from property in Kent for his ‘exhibition and finding’, presumably at Cambridge. A contemporary of Leland at St. Paul's school, Denny later studied at St. Paul's and at St. John's Cambridge but apparently did not graduate. According to Leland he accompanied Francis Bryan on visits to the Continent, and there acquired a knowledge of languages. It may had been as a servant of Bryan that in Oct 1532 he attended the meeting between Henry VIII and Francois I at Calais. By Aug 1535 he was in the royal service and his first return to Parliament probably followed hard on his establishment at court. A letter from the King to the town of Ipswich recommending his election in place of Thomas Alvard, who had perhaps been Denny's subordinate at Whitehall, can almost certainly be dated Dec 1535 (the month being given, but not the year), and if acted upon would have brought Denny into the Commons for the last session of the Parliament of 1529 and probably also for that of 1536 in accordance with the King's general request for the re-election of the previous Members.

Member of the King's Privy Chamber; 1536 Hertford Priory was dissolved and the property passed to Anthony Denny; in he was 1538 one of the 2 chief gentlemen of the chamber; in 1543 intervened to protect Cranmer from heresy charges and sent his nephew John Denny to study in Venice under the care of Edmund Harvel; he was Knighted in 1544 by Henry VIII; he controlled access to Henry in his final years; allied himself with Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford; Aug 1546: given control of the 'dry stamp', which allowed him to act independently of the King; barred Gardiner and other conservatives from royal presence; used the 'dry stamp' to sign royal will after Henry's death; patron of new learning and Protestant reform at court.

Between 1535 and 1545 Denny became the most intimate of Henry VIII's few friends. As keeper of Westminster palace and of the royal household there he acted as receiver and paymaster of the King's personal spending money, much of which was kept in the jewel house in the palace. His own income from offices has been estimated at some £200 but royal grants of land were the chief source of his wealth; in his will he acknowledged that ‘by the princely liberality’ of Henry VIII he had gained ‘all that I leave or can leave to my posterity’. The most important of these grants were, in 1536, houses in Westminster known as Paradise, Purgatory and Hell, and Cheshunt priory with its lands in four counties; in 1538, Hertford priory; in 1540, Amwell manor, Hertfordshire and Waltham rectory, Essex; in 1542, Mettingham college, Suffolk, with six East Anglian manors; and in 1547, in the distribution of crown lands after Henry VIII's death, the freehold reversions to most of Waltham abbey's estates, with over 2,000 acres of land elsewhere. An exchange of lands with the King was confirmed by an Act (35 Hen. VIII, no. 23) in 1544. Denny also leased property from the crown and made extensive purchases in Essex and Hertfordshire from private individuals. At his death he owned about 20,000 acres in Essex and Hertfordshire alone, his annual income from land being probably as much as £750. With the possibility of raising considerable sums from his Londoncustoms office, and from a licence granted him in Dec 1546 to export wheat, beer and leather, he was undoubtedly a wealthy man.

As a groom of the chamber Denny attended the reception of Anne of Cleves at court and shortly afterwards the King confided to him his disappointment in the new Queen. Denny was sent abroad several times to pay money to English soldiers or Ambassadors, and served with 140 or 180 men in the expedition which resulted in the capture of Boulogne in 1544, receiving a knighthood for his services. According to Ascham's eulogy, delivered as public orator at Cambridge, Denny's whole time was occupied by religion, learning and affairs of state; as to the last, his part under Henry VIII was probably limited to private discussion with the King. Foxe named him with Anne Boleyn, Cromwell, Cranmer and the royal physician William Butts as a supporter of Protestantism who influenced the King. It was to Denny and Butts that Richard Morice wrote in 1544 ‘defending the case of Master Richard Turner, preacher, against the papists’, and to Denny that Cranmer in 1546 sent the ‘letters of reformation’ of religion for the King's signature.

He was present at Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine Parr in Jul 1543 and in the last two years of the King's life he was one of the three men who regularly witnessed the signing of bills and documents with the King's stamp, himself preferring many of the bills at the instance of suitors. A witness and an executor of Henry VIII's will, he received a legacy of £300 which was not paid until 1550, after his own death.

In 1544, the valuable wardship of George Dacres of Cheshunt was granted, as his father had wished, to his mother’s brother-in-law Sir Anthony Denny, and in 1545, the year after the grant of the wardship, the boy’s marriage with Elizabeth Carew was arranged.

Lady Denny was one of the female courtiers that Wriothesley, Gardiner, et al were trying to implicate in their interrogations and torture of Anne Askew. Obviously, both Denny and his wife were deeply intwined with the Reformed religion.

Lady Denny

In Diarmaid MacCulloch's book, THOMAS CRANMER, it's related how it was Denny who was sent in secret by Henry to warn Cranmer and summon him to Henry's presence so Henry could warn him about the Privy Councillors' plan to present heresy charges on Cranmer and give him the king's ring for protection (this was when Henry was playing both sides of the coin: he granted permission for the Council to proceed against Cranmer, then warned Cranmer of the danger and gave him the ring to save himself). Denny was also apparently the one who informed the King of his impending death on his death bed. The last service that he performed for Henry VIII is thus described by Foxe:

"[The King's] physicians ... not daring to discourage him with death for fear of the Act passed before in Parliament that none should speak anything of the King's death ... moved them that were about the King to put him in remembrance of his
mortal state and fatal infirmity; which when the rest were in dread to do Master Denny ... boldly coming to the King told him what case he was in, to man's judgment not like to live, and therefore exhorted him to prepare himself to death ..."

Denny was described by the Imperial Ambassador in 1547 as the most trusted of any of the gentlemen of the chamber. He rode with the Queen's brother-in-law Sir William Herbert in the carriage with Henry VIII's body at his funeral, and the two men were the pall-bearers at Edward VI's coronation; they were also deponents with Sir William Paget as to the late King's intended awards of land and honours. Denny's court connexion and his standing in Hertfordshire ensured his election as first knight of the shire for his county in 1547. On 12 Feb 1549 he was one of those appointed by the Commons to try a petition brought by private bill against Sir Nicholas Hare. He attended Privy Council meetings regularly in 1547 and 1548. He served in Northampton's expedition against Ket and the Norfolk rebels in Aug 1549, among his companions on this occasion being his fellow-knight for Hertfordshire and his successor, Sir Ralph Rowlett and Sir Henry Parker respectively, as well as his brother-in-law Sir John Gates.

Princess Elizabeth spent much of her early life at Cheshunt or at Hatfield, where Denny was keeper; Kate Ashley, his wife's sister was governess to the Princess. After the deat of Henry VIII, Princess Elizabeth went to live with Queen Dowager Catherine, but left her household after an incident with the Lord Admiral, Thomas Seymour, who was now Catherine's husband. Just what occurred between these two will never be known for sure, but rumors at the time suggested that Catherine had caught them kissing or perhaps even in bed together. Catherine was pregnant at the time of the incident, and Elizabeth was sent from May to Oct of 1548 to Cheshunt, the house of Sir Anthony Denny. Elizabeth Jenkins, in her book ELIZABETH THE GREAT, tells how Denny broke the news of the Lord Admiral's, Thomas Seymour, arrest. Denny was the one to arrest Thomas Parry and Kate Ashley after interviewing Elizabeth at Hatfield.

Some books mentioned that Denny was dead by 1548 which seems to contradict the account of the arrest of Parry and Ashley mentioned above (a couple of my books indicated the arrest happened in Jan 1549) unless this happened right before his death. (Seymour was executed in Mar 1549). If Denny did die right after arresting Parry and Ashley and before Seymour's execution, this would explain why there is no information on him afterwards. Maybe the confusion over dates is due to the common practice of using regnal years to mark dates; Henry's regnal years were from Apr 22 - Apr 21 of the following year. It seems likely then that Denny probably died around Feb 1549. Others mentioned 10 Sep 1549 as the date of his death.

Denny was probably buried at Cheshunt. A codicil states that his will, made four years earlier, was read over to him ‘lying sick but of good mind and memory’ on 7 Sep. His death was probably natural, for none of the verse epitaphs contains any reference to wounds such as might have been received in the fighting around Norwich a month earlier. Almost half of the will, drawn up on 3 Aug 1545 consists of a homily on religion and education. The widow was to take care in bringing up the children all minors at the time, the eldest son Henry being nearly ten at his father's death and to see them well educated, so that ‘the commonwealth may find them profitable members and not burdens as idle drones be to the hive’. Marriages planned by Denny for two of them, and mentioned in the will to a daughter of Thomas, Baron Audley, and a son of Sir Richard Rich did not take place. Each of Denny's sons was to have £20 and each daughter 20 marks, annually during their minority; the daughters were also to receive legacies of 600 marks each. The lands were disposed of in a testament made on 7 Sep 1549; apart from some left to the widow for life, most were entailed on his legitimate sons. The other son William received a £20 annuity. Edward VI was to have a ‘token or device’ worth £50, ‘some such thing apt for a learned King’. Lady Denny and Richard Morison were named executors and John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, Rich and William Paulet, Baron St. John, supervisors.

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Holbein design for a Clock that Sir Anthony Denny gave to the King for Christma΄s present

His sister married William Walsingham and was the mother of Elizabeth's minister Sir Francis Walsingham, while Denny himself was a friend of her tutor Roger Ascham and of her first Archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker. He combined zealous Protestantism with patronage of literature; among other services to learning he interested Henry VIII in the Latin English dictionary of Sir Thomas Elyot. Thomas Langley, author of an English abridgement of Polydore Vergil's History, described Denny as ‘a very Maecenas of all toward wits’ and praised his opposition to ‘painted holiness’ and his support for ‘the blessed word of God and the sincere setters forth of the same’.

Shakespeare gave Sir Anthony a significant role in his production of KING HENRY VIII (Act 5, Scene 1).

Among those who wrote epitaphs on him were Sir John Cheke, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (who himself died before Denny) and Ascham. No adverse criticism has been found of him a surprising fact when his wealth and long court career are considered. Perhaps his character really was that described in 1539 by Thomas Paynel:

"For what I consider your sincere affection to God and his holy word, your great fidelity and diligence towards our most gracious sovereign lord the King, your pure, honest and lowly behaviour to all men in word and deed, your faithful, wise and
friendly counsels, your continual exhortations and persuasion to virtue, your liberal and most gentle nature, I cannot choose but vehemently love you

Abbey of Waltham Holy Cross

Throughout the Middle Ages, Waltham Abbey continued in favour and both it and the towns clustered around it were granted during the reign of Richard I, and the fairs became great trading events with the Sep fair the annual time for hiring servants.

Monarchs were frequent visitors to both town and abbey, and their visits became more numerous. Theobolds, in nearby Waltham Cross, became a Royal estate and the King and his Court dwelt there.
The Dissolution, however, saw the first major changes in forest life, for the Abbey lands passed to Sir Anthony Denny and the monastic buildings were pulled down, leaving only the original Norman nave. Lord Denny later built Abbey House on the north side of the churchyard, and this was a feature of the town until it, too, was demolished – in the 18th century.

The land in Nazeing was held by the Abbot of Waltham until 1540, when Henry VIII dissolved the abbey, and sold or gave its land to one of his courtiers, Sir Ralph Sadler, who later sold it to Sir Anthony Denny.

The Abbey was assessed at a gross annual value of £1079 2s. 1d., and was the richest religious house in Essex. It outlasted every other abbey in the country, and was only formally surrendered on 23 Mar, 1540, by its last abbot, Robert Fuller, who retired with a pension of £200 and with several manors and church advowsons. The abbey lands were leased to Sir Anthony Denny, and were subsequently purchased outright by his widow in 1549. The choir and transept were destroyed, but the west end of the abbey church was set apart as a parish church for the new service of the Church of England, and remains to this day as a place of worship for Anglicans. Sir Anthony also became the proprietor of 20,000 acres including the Abby of St. Albans and Butterwick Castle.

The village of Lyng starts its recorded history with a gentleman called Alfah. Alfah was a freeman in the reign of Edward the Confessor (who reigned from 1042 - 1066). Alfa was loyal to the King, so when at 1066 William the Conqueror took control, Alfah lost all his lands (on which Lyng stands today) to Alan, Duke of Richmond. Alan was the son of Geoffrey, Earl of Brittain in France and came over to England with William, Duke of Normandy. Alan was in favour for successfully commanding part of the Battle of Hastings and was rewarded with an Earldom, the honour of Richmond (which Edwin, Earl of Mercia and likewise loyal to Edward was deprived of) and plenty of lands.

During the 13th Century, Ralph de Caineto of Cheyneys was Lord of the Manor, succeeded by his son, John. Stephen de Cressi became Lord in 1280, followed by his son, Roger. In 1293, Sir Alexander de Clavering was Lord. In 1307 Dame Joan de Clavering granted Lordship to Sir Walter de Norwich for life. If she died before him, he could pass the lordship to his heirs. If he died first, she got it back (an unusual arrangement you'll agree but then perhaps she liked him, or maybe he was a bit of a tyrant - who's to know!).

In 1344, Sir Walter obtained permission to fortify the manor house in Ling (as it had then become spelt), turning it into, for all intents and purposes, a castle complete with moat! In 1374, Sir John de Norwich - last in line of the family, passed ownership of the manor over in his trust to Sir John de Plays, Sir Robert Howard, and Sir Roger Boys who set up a religious College of Mettingham there. The college was dissoluted by Henry VIII who granted it on 8th Apr 1542 to Sir Anthony Denny. It was sold by his family to the Earl of Yarmouth and was purchased in 1757 by Lord Anson.

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