Sir Adrian FORTESCUE of Salden, Knight

Born: ABT 1476, Punsborne, England

Died: 10 Jul 1539, Beheaded, Tower Hill, London, England

Father: John FORTESCUE of Salden (Sir Knight)

Mother: Elizabeth (Alice) BOLEYN

Married 1: Anne STONOR (b. ABT 1484 - d. 14 Jun 1518) (dau. of Sir William Stonor and Anne Neville) BEF 17 Oct 1499


1. Margaret FORTESCUE (B. Wentworth of Nettlestead)

2. Frances FORTESCUE

Married 2: Anne READE (dau. of Sir William Reade and Anne Warham) (w.1 of Sir Giles Greville - m.3 Sir Thomas Parry)


3. John FORTESCUE of Salden (Sir Chancellor of the Exchequer)

4. Thomas FORTESCUE (d. ABT 1608)

5. Elizabeth FORTESCUE

6. Anthony FORTESCUE (Sir)


Blessed Adrian Fortescue

Canvas, Collegio, Malta

Born ABT 1476, Punsborne, Knight of St. John, justice of the peace for Oxford, martyr, belonged to the Salden branch of the great Devonshire family of Fortescue, he was a descendant of Richard the Strong, shield bearer of William the Conqueror, who gave to his family his surname - le Fort-Escu: "the Strong Shield" - and his devise: "Forte scutum salus ducum". His father, who had followed Richmond to Paris and had landed and fought with him, became the king's stewart when Henry VII succeeded to the throne.

When Henry VIII, then still Prince of Wales, was made a Knight in 1503, a few young gentlemen shared that honour with him; Adrian Fortescue was one of them. A true country gentleman of the period, Adrian Fortescue followed Henry to Calais, in Jun 1513, in the enterprise against Louis XII of France concerning the region of Milan. Not unfrequently attending the court, and at other times acting as justice of the peace or commissioner for subsidies.

He attended the Field of the Cloth of Gold (1520); he was charged with guarding Queen Catalina of Aragon. In 1522, he fought under the Earl of Surrey in Picardy. In 1523, he took part in the capture of Bray and of Montdidier, under the command of the Duke of Suffolk. These activities had not kept him from marrying Anne Stonor (1499) and from becoming a widower. It does seem that he had finished his military career when, though no longer young, he married Anne Reade (1530).

When Anne Boleyn became Queen, Sir Adrian (whose mother, Elizabeth (Alice) Boleyn, was Anne's grand-aunt) naturally profited to some extent, but, as we see from his papers, not very much. The foundations of his worldly fortunes had been laid honourably at an eartier date. He was a serious thrifty man pains-taking in business, careful in accounts, and a lover of the homely wit of that day. He collected and signed several lists of proverbs and wise saws, which, though not very brilliant, are never offensive or coarse, always sane, and sometimes rise to a high moral or religious level. Late in life (1532) became a Knight of St. John of Jerusalem, which opposed the religious errors of the King of England.

Adrian Fortescue thus drew the lightning. All the property that the Order had in England had just been seized. Without considering the military services rendered by the pacification and policing of the Mediterranean Sea, Henry VlII destroyed as much as he could of a maritime power which dared to condemn his fancies. As a consequence, the members of the Order were not welcome at court. Although he had no office, Adrian was asked to take the Oath of Succession. Had this demand been dictated by some attitude of the Knight's who may have approved of John Fisher and Thomas More, who had been imprisoned for having refused to take that oath? Whatever may be the case, Sir Adrian was taken to Woodstock where he was questioned. Then he was removed by boat as far as Southwark here he was lodged in the prison of Marshalsea 29 Aug 1534.

The King gave the castle of Stonor, a part of the inheritance of Anne Stonor, to her brother, Sir Walter Stonor. Sir Adrian's imprisonment grew long. No doubt Thomas Cromwell wished to take time to strengthen his power; he was keeping in check a possible leader of the opposition and of the resistance. Then, for no apparent reason, our Knight was released.

All of a sudden this quiet, worthy gentleman was overwhelmed by some unexplained whim of the Tudor tyrant. On 3 Feb 1539, when he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy supporting Henry VIII' s separation for Rome, he was arrested a second time and sent to the Tower. On the 18, an inventory was drawn up of all his real and personal possessions, in London and in the country, and they were declared seized by the Crown.

There was no trial, or at least no traces of it are to be found. To condemn with certainty those whom he wanted to eliminate, Cromwell had revived the Bill of Attainder of 1459 and applied it to the Catholics, "enemies of the throne"; their property was confiscated to "pay for the insult". On the same day and under the accusation of having incited the people against the King, we find with Fortescue the Countess of Salisbury, first cousin of the mother of Henry VIII and mother of Reginald Cardinal Pole, the Marchioness of Exeter, Sir Thomas Dingaly, a Knight of Malta, and 12 other persons, priests and laymen.

In Apr he was condemned untried by an act of attainder; in Jul he was beheaded along with Thomas Dinglay, at Tower Hill, London. No specific act of treason was alleged against him, but only in general "sedition and refusing allegiance". The attainder, however, went on to decree death against Cardinal Pole and several others because they "adhered themselves to the Bishop of Rome". Catholic tradition was always held that Sir Adrian died for the same cause, and modern Protestant critics have come to the same conclusion. His cultus has always flourished among the Knights of St. John, and he was beatified by Leo XIII in 1895.

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