Emmeline Fiennes Lady Say and Cade's Rebellion of 1450

I've spent the two years  researching forgotten women of the fifteenth century, and one of them I came across was Emmeline Fiennes. 

The wife of Sir James Fiennes, Baron Say and Sele, she would have spent her married in life in some comfort and wealth, her husband one of the premier advisors of Henry VI from early on in his reign. There was an age gap between the couple, Cokayne placing Fiennes' date of birth in 1395, and Emmeline's in around 1428. Sir James had fought in France for Henry V and was later awarded responsibilities under Henry VI including Constable of Dover Castle and Warden of the Cinque Ports, Constable of the Tower of London, and by 1450, Lord Treasurer of England. Emmeline had been rewarded for her own loyalty to the crown in 1448, when she received the Order of the Garter from Henry VI in 1448 at the Feast of St George. Evidence from surviving effigies suggest that the garter ribbon was secured around the left arm, and Emmeline would have received hers with pride. Unfortunately the reason for this honour was not recorded. 

Nothing could have prepared Emmeline however, for the heartbreak and tragedy she would face as spring skies turned to summer in the warm July of 1450. 

James was an unpopular statesman, having been a close adherent of the recently murdered William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. His association with the duke put him in the firing line of Jack Cade’s rebels who blamed him for the loss of French lands. He also found himself linked to rumours surrounding the death of the king’s popular uncle, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester. James was imprisoned in the Tower, but the rebels, hungry to vent their fury on someone linked to Henry VI’s distracted rule, had him released into their custody. On 4th July 1450, the Chronicler Bale wrote that they ‘despoiled him of his array, bound his legs with a rope to a horse and drew his body on the pavement through a great part of the city’. He was beheaded at Cheapside, his head, along with that of Emmeline’s murdered son-in-law William Cromer, paraded through the city on spikes, gruesomely being pressed together as if to kiss. He was buried at Greyfriar’s in London. 

Lord Say being presented to Jack Cade, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Emmeline’s thoughts or reactions to this sudden attack on her husband have not been recorded. She must have felt a great sense of fear, especially with the rebels targeting those who had gained titles and honour under Henry, their eyes casting about for scapegoats and revenge. Emmeline would also have felt the humiliation and injustice of his death, condemned and murdered without proper legal judgement, while Henry VI, instead of asserting his power and restoring order, fled the capital. Emmeline's life changed drastically on that July morning. Cokayne noted that she would have been around just 24 years old as they lowered her husband’s mutilated body into the ground. Emmeline died just under two years later, in her mid-twenties, on 5 January 1452, athough the cause was not recorded. 

You might also like: The Queen of Beauty, Jane Georgiana Seymour Duchess of Somerset, Lady Mary Bankes and the 1643 Siege of Corfe Castle  and Visiting the Tomb of Alice Chaucer Duchess of Suffolk at Ewelme

Find out more stories about history's forgotten women here. You might also like my book, Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses, where I share many other stories of women involved in the fifteenth-century conflict. 

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Notes and Sources 

Cokayne, The Complete Peerage, vol. 7, p64-65

Bale's Chronicle, Six Town Chronicles of England, 1911 p133

Beltz, G. F. Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (1841)