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Sir Edward Brampton

Cecil Roth

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Sir Edward Brampton: AN ANGLO-JEWISH ADVENTURER DURING THE WARS OF THE ROSES1 By Cecil Roth, M.A., D.Phil., F.R.Hist.S. The extraordinary figure of Sir Edward Brampton, the Portuguese apostate who came to England during the Wars of the Roses and achieved the dignity of Governor of Guernsey under Edward IV, has been a subject for mild controversy among Anglo-Jewish historians during the last quarter of a century. To explain the origins and circumstances it is I am afraid necessary to embark into a highly personal account. The earliest paper which I read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, as an Oxford undergraduate not long since returned from what we then naively considered the Great War, was entitled " Sir Edward Brampton : an Anglo-Jewish Adventurer during the Wars of the Roses 55. It was based on the assumption, supported by numerous documents, that Edward Brandon, godson of King Edward IV, who was an inmate of the Domus Conversorum in London in 1468-1472, was identical with Sir Edward Brampton, godson of King Edward IV, who later received a succession of military and naval commands and in due course had in his employ? ment the youthful Perkin Warbeck ; the latter making ample use of this training when, under Henry VII, he made his theatrical bid for the throne of England. The argumentation was obviously tenuous though, as it seemed to me, irrefrag? able. It presupposed however that an undergraduate had noticed what his elders and betters had overlooked. H. S. Q,. Henriques, the eminent K.C., who was in the Chair when I read my paper, remained unconvinced. In the audience the Rev. Michael Adler, the greatest expert on the Domus Conversorum and everything connected with it (with whom my relations later on were so close and so cordial), was more than sceptical. Lucien Wolf, whom I had consulted previously, was neutral : Israel Abrahams told me later that he advised me not to add another mare's nest to the more than adequate supply in Anglo-Jewish historiography ; Hilary (not yet Sir Hilary) Jenkinson, who had been so helpful to me while I was pursuing my inquiries at the Public Record Office, now became hesitant. My slender armament could make little headway against this massed artillery. It was only, I believe, with great difficulty that the Council was persuaded to authorize the publication of my lecture, and even so only on condition that I changed the title to something rather less challenging (we ultimately fixed on Perkin Warbeck and his Jewish Master) and appended a note to the effect that " the writer of this paper hopes to find an opportunity of making further research into the history of Brampton, with the object of possibly discovering documentary evidence in support or refutation of the identification suggested." (I hope it is unnecessary to add that the phraseology was not mine.) The study was thus published in due course in the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society 2?my earliest serious contribution to historical research. Its recep 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 17th January, 1946. 2 Vol. IX, pp. 143-162. It is perhaps a tribute to the consideration with which the Society is regarded in the world of scholarship that the data ultimately found their way?presumably via Berlin ?into the earnest but languid anti-Semitic propaganda published in Japanese in the Far East in 1942-5.</page><page sequence="2">122 SIR EDWARD BRAMPTON tion was mixed In subsequent years I managed somewhat unfairly to procure the insertion of articles on Brampton in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and other standard works of reference. Moreover, Professor A. F. Pollard, the outstanding authority on sixteenth century England, spoke of my study as an exemplification of the fact that it is possible to elicit startling new information in printed sources as well as from manuscripts, and referred to it flatteringly in a leading article (the authorship of which was obvious) in the Times Literary Supplement. On the other hand, Michael Adler refused to be convinced, and when he reprinted his Domus Conversorum mono? graph in 1939 in his Jews of Medieval England pronounced (in a note to p. 327) that " my own verdict upon the evidence given in support of Dr. Roth's conjecture is that it is ' not proven ! ' " Here the matter remained. I did not know in what direction I could make the further inquiries into the subject which I had been compelled to promise; and though I examined certain of the original records (especially Privy Council warrants, etc.), in the Public Record Office, and found one or two fresh allusions to Brampton in scattered sources, and from time to time received communications about him from students of the period (some of whom attached I think rather more significance to his activities than they deserved) my researches remained much where I left them in 1920. However, while Mr. A. M. Hyamson was in Oxford in 1944, working on the new edition of his Dictionary of Universal Biography, he called my attention to an entry in the antiquated Le Grand Dictionnaire Historique by Louis Moreri (Paris, 1759) which vaguely seemed to refer to the same person, but for some reason or the other (perhaps because it was so obviously fantastic) had failed to pass, as is normally the case, into the common store of subsequent biographical dictionaries. Relying on the MS. Memoirs of the Conde d'Ericeyra, it told of a certain English gentleman named Edward Brand?o or Brandon, of the family of the subsequent Dukes of Suffolk, who flourished in the reign of Edward III (!), became Governor of the Isle of Wight (!), and Knight of the Garter (!) and served with distinction in the foreign wars, first in the English and then in the Burgundian service. The incidental similarity between this story and the career of my hero of a quarter of a century before, Sir Edward Brampton, was sufficient for me to make an attempt to trace the Memoirs of the Conde d'Ericeyra, which Moreri quoted as his source. This proved impossible : even now they have not been published, and if still extant they are untraceable. I casually mentioned my difficulty one day to Dr. Charles Singer, who put me in touch with a distinguished Portuguese research worker, Dr. Amando Cortes ao, who in turn set in motion independent inquiries in Lisbon. These resulted in a mass of fresh information. As further details came in it became obvious that Sir Edward Brampton and this Duarte (= Edward) Brand ao are identical ; that my conjecture of long ago that the former was of Portuguese Jewish birth was correct, beyond any peradventure of a doubt; and that his career was far more remarkable and his mendacity greater than even I had previously imagined. It is now possible for me to resume the threads of the tapestry where I laid them down in 1920 and at length put the last touches to the article which I began so long ago. The story as it has emerged from the Portuguese sources is confused indeed. Nevertheless, it dovetails not unsatisfactorily with what can be recovered from the English records, and a consistent picture emerges. It is best to go back to the beginning.</page><page sequence="3">SIR EDWARD BRAMPTON 123 The date of my adventurer's birth cannot yet be ascertained. However, he was said to be advanced in years at the time of his death in 1508, and cannot have been born much (if at all) later than 1440. He was a native it seems of Lisbon, where his mother lived in the Rua de Valverde, the wife of a Jewish blacksmith. He was nevertheless conceived out of wedlock (so at least he said ; though his mendacity was such that he was I think quite capable of impugning his mother's morality in order to claim noble descent), his father being one Rui Barba, a scion of a well-known family of Leiria1: that he was brought up as a Jew is, however, absolutely certain. Tiring of Judaism, or perhaps getting into a scrape (there is some dark story of homicide in which he had been involved), in or about 1468 he left his native country and made his way to England (clearly, not yet, as the Portuguese sources say, to Bruges in Flanders). We are now able to resume the story from the English end.2 The Domus Conversorum or Home for Converted Jews was still functioning in London, although the Jews had been expelled two centuries before, and in order to qualify for its benefits he became baptized. The King, Edward IV (who had not long since established himself on the throne) acted in the conventional fashion in such cases as his godfather ; he thus assumed the baptismal name of Edward. I suspect that he already styled himself Brand?o, this being perhaps the name of a family connected with the Barba clan (unless, as is conceivable, he had not yet fixed on the identity of the putative parentage he proposed to adopt). This was naturally anglicized as Brandon, later being modified into the more characteristic form of Brampton ; and it is as Edward Brampton that he was ultimately known in this country. He remained in the humdrum atmosphere of the Domus Conversorum for some four years, living on a pittance of three-halfpence a day. But adventure was surging in his blood, and in those troubled times could easily find its outlet. Moreover, the fact that he had been the King's godson probably gave him some sort of entree at Court ; and I suspect that his magniloquent account of his origin and his past, which is unlikely to have erred on the side of moderation, may have helped him. Possibly, he first served in a subordinate capacity, but there is no record of it. However that may be, in June, 1472, he and certain others were appointed to the command of an armed force which the King sent to sea " to resist his enemies and rebels ", and henceforth figured constantly in a similar capacity in a succession of patents. He must have distinguished himself as a fighting-man, for later in 1472 he received an independent command?again, the first of many. In 1473, when the Lancastrian Earl of Oxford was being besieged in St. Michael's Mount, Brampton together with one William Fetherston was put in charge of a squadron of four ships, carrying six hundred men, and instructed to proceed to Cornwall, there to keep as close as possible to the beleagured fortress and to do all feasible " hurt and annoyance " to the garrison.3 Thus the Earl's chance of escape 1 Gustavo de Matos Sequeira, 0 Carmo e a Trinidade (Lisbon, 1935), i, 114-15. (This author, over? estimating Brampton's mendacity, goes so far as to say that he was never in England !) 2 From this point the details are from my article in Transactions, IX, 143-162 ; so for all the other English data, where no other reference is given. 3 Cf. G. L. Schofield, Life and Reign of Edward IV (London, 1923), II, 87, with further information in note 3 ; a lad who had served under him, Druot Curtoys, petitioning in 1482 for a pardon for manslaughter, tells the King that he had been in the royal service " eversithens he was of lawful age upon the sea, as Edward Brampton your godson . . . can well report ". For further details of the operations of 1473-4 see Scofield, The early life of John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford, in English Historical Review, 1914, pp. 240-1.</page><page sequence="4">124 SIR EDWARD BRAMPTON by sea was cut off, and his ultimate surrender, on 15th February, 1474, became inevitable. Brampton now began to receive a succession of marks of distinction. In October, 1472, he was endenizened, and about the same time granted by the King certain property in London as a reward for his services, his rights being safeguarded in an Act of Parliament of the following year. He was enabled to marry a wealthy widow, who died not long after and left him her estates in Northamptonshire. He became in short a person of some note in the realm. At this stage the newly discovered sources inform us of an entirely new and highly dramatic chapter in his career. When in 1475 Edward IV invaded France, Brampton accompanied him. It was perhaps at this period that, as he afterwards boasted, he distinguished himself frequently in single combat, on one occasion defeating a German champion in the presence of the King and his court1 : an enterprise for which (with other services) he received a grant of arms from his admiring sovereign.2 The campaign was, however, only a nominal one, Louis XI offering to treat for peace almost as soon as the English set foot in France. An interview between the two monarchs, followed almost immediately by the conclusion of a treaty, took place at Pecquigny. On this occasion, Brampton afterwards boasted, he sat at the royal table 3 ; certainly, not (as he implied) the only person to be so distinguished. At this point there was previously a hiatus in Brampton's record, so far as it could be reconstructed from the English records. The gap can now be filled. It was as ally of his brother-in-law Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, that the English king had made his expedition to France, and his enthusiastic follower had made the Duke's acquaintance too. It proved to be a profitable one. He was honoured with the Ducal favour, of the solid type that was usual in the fifteenth century, and set up an establishment at Bruges,4 then one of the most prosperous towns of northern Europe. Here, it appears, he began to improve his fortunes by trade?presumably with the Peninsula, and (as it would seem) very successfully. For when he next emerges into the limelight it is as a man of means. In 1476 King Alfonso V of Portugal, after his unfortunate encounter at the Battle of Toro with the forces of Isabella of Castile, came to France to seek assistance from its wily ruler, who in turn suggested that he should apply to Duke Charles. In November therefore he paid a visit to the Burgundian court. It proved fruitless, for the Duke had no faith in the French king. In his entourage, apparently, Alfonso met the one-time Portuguese, who was glad to have the opportunity of ingratiating him? self. On Charles' death before Nancy on 5th January, 1477, he was left without a patron. On the other hand, a most unhappy period now began for King Alfonso, virtually a prisoner in French hands, and dragged back in contumely when he tried to slip away on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Brampton now came to his assistance and advanced him money to defray his expenses : and as a result, when the King 1 Cf. Moreri, Le Grand Dictionaire Historique, II, 234, using the (now untraceable) Memoirs of the Conde d'Ericeyra spoken of above. 2 Bisconde de Sanches de Baena, Archivo Heraldico (Lisbon, 1872), p. xxxiii ; Antonio de Villas Boas, Nobiliarchia Portugueza (Lisbon, 1676), p. 247. The arms (two fighting dragons on a field of gold, etc.), bore a certain similarity to those of the English Brandons, with whom relationship was sub? sequently claimed, but were purported to symbolize his victorious single combat. 3 Ibid. ; cf. also Moreri, Dictionnaire Historique, ut supra. I assume that the improbable data go back ultimately to Brampton's personal account. 4 Moreri, ut supra.</page><page sequence="5">SIR EDWARD BRAMPTON returned to Portugal, was able to accompany him.1 He had left the country, not more perhaps than ten years before, as a Jewish fugitive ; he returned as a royal favourite. In return for the assistance which he had given the sovereign in his hour of need, favours were lavished upon our Duarte Brand?o, as he was now styled. In 1479 he was naturalized, or rather renaturalized, a Portuguese subject ; a formality which was presumably rendered necessary by his endenization in England seven years previous. (This was renewed by KingsJo?o II in 1485 and Manoel in 1495.2) The grant of arms received in England was confirmed. (They are duly recorded in the Livro de Anna Rias preserved in the Torre de Tombo at Lisbon.) He had bestowed upon him the Lordship of Noudar : no great guerdon, indeed, if we are to identify this place with the fortress of Noudal, an appanage of the Master of Avis, which had been captured not long since by the Gastilians.3 Presumably he took advantage of the opportunity to secure, too, various trading privileges which, with his contacts in London and the Low Countries, could be exceptionally profitable. Activity of this type brought him back in due course to England : we may perhaps link this second migration with King Alfonso's retirement in 1479 into a monastery and the assumption of power by his son, who became King as Jo?o II two years later. On the other hand, it may be that his return was in consequence of his wife's death and the formalities which this entailed, for in May, 1480, he was confirmed by Letters Patent issued in London in the possessions of Isabelle Peche, " his late wife." In any case, we now find him in England again, and engaging it seems on a large scale in the Peninsula trade : acting as royal agent for the payment of relatively considerable amounts to various Spanish merchants, and shipping large quantities of wool, duty free, through the Straits of Gibraltar. To be sure, his political ambitions were not submerged by these profitable sidelines. In 1482 he was appointed to the very responsible office of Captain, Keeper and Governor of the island of Guernsey and its appurtenances.4 (Later, in Portugal, the Isle of Wight 5 was specified : either through confusion or, more probably, in boastful retrospect.) On Edward IV's death in 1483, Brampton's progress was uninterrupted. Under the child-king Edward V he once more was associated in an important naval com? mand, this time of the force sent against Sir Edward Woodville, the late King's brother-in-law. He attached himself in due course to Richard III, received from him too various appointments and grants, and in 1484 was created a knight. It was a high enough distinction for a Portuguese Jewish adventurer, but in retrospect not high enough : for he subsequently boasted apparently that he was a Knight of the Garter.6 It is enough to say that his name appears on no published roll of the members of the Order. An annuity of ?100 a year, for twenty years, made to him a few months later, 1 So Matos Sequeira and Moreri, loc. cit. 2 Archivo Heraldico, p. xxxiii. 3 Ruy de Pina, Chronica de el-rei D. Affonso V. ed. Bibliotheca de Classicos Portuguezes (Lisbon, 1901), III, 121. I have derived from this important contemporary work other details regarding the background. 4 Patent Rolls, Edward IV, etc., p. 194 ; Transactions, IX, 159. I may mention at this point that my original paper was the occasion for my getting into touch for the first time in 1922 with that distinguished Guernseyman, Dr. James Parkes, a fellow under? graduate, then of Ripon Hall, Oxford, now (1951) President of the Jewish Historical Society. 5 Villas Boas indeed (who terms Brampton " one of the greatest cavaliers of his time ") gives the form " Garnace ", which is converted by the Gonde de Baena (who repeats the phrase, thus betraying his source) into " the islands of Granache 8 So in Moreri, Villas Boas, and all the Portuguese sources, as well as Brampton's epitaph (to be cited later).</page><page sequence="6">I 26 SIR EDWARD BRAMPTON together with a rich Northampton manor formerly belonging to the Duchess of Somerset, suggests yet further important services to the sovereign, of which we know no details. It does not appear that he fought at the battle of Bosworth, apparently being out of the country at the time. Nevertheless, as an adherent of the lost king and the lost cause he inevitably suffered ; he was superseded as Governor of Guernsey, and his estates?largely the confiscated property of Lancastrian supporters ?reverted to the rightful owners by virtue of the Act of Resumption. Obviously it was safest for him to be out of England. He is now back in Portugal, this amazing chameleon of a man, as an English knight : the reason perhaps why in 1485 the new King, Jo?o II (who by now had suppressed the incipient revolt of the nobles in which Don Isaac Abrabanel too was implicated) confirmed his Portuguese naturalization. He now became a prime favourite. In exchange for the uninviting fortress of Noudal he was given the Lordship of Buarcos (with which his descendants long remained connected) together with Tavarede in Beira and the commenda of S. Verissima de Lagares.1 As a loyal Christian he could be made Administrator of the Chapels founded in memory of the former King Alfonso IV (1325-1357). He became a member of the royal council. He married as his second wife Dona Caterina de Bahamonde.2 The nobility did not hesitate to enter into marriage alliances with his family. He built some fine houses in Lisbon facing the Serro dos Almirantes. At the same time he did not give up his business interests in Northern Europe, with which Lisbon was in close connection, and on one occasion at least paid a visit to his former haunts. It was this that brought him into contact with the main stream of English history, in an extraordinary episode. In 1487,3 after spending some time apparently in the Low Countries, he embarked at Middleburg for Portugal. Before his departure, he took into his service, as attendant upon his wife, a lad from Tournai named Perkin Warbeck.4 It was thus that the latter obtained such intimate details about the court of Edward IV, which subsequently were to serve as the basis for his preposterous claim to be the son of that monarch, and thus enabled him to shake Henry VIFs throne.5 There is some evidence that in the course of the next year Brampton paid a fleeting visit to England, trying to escape notice by taking up residence again in the Domus Conversorum, among the inmates of which his name again occurs. But it is unwise to lay too much stress on this, as the record may well be a careless, or fraudulent, entry. 1 Archivo Heraldico, ut supra. 8 Margaret Boemond, according to Moreri?an even more distinguished family. 8 Possibly (pace the contemporary statement) a little later, in 1488 or 1489, according to a detailed study which need not detain us here. 4 So Perkin's own confession in Gairdner, Memorials of Henry VII, p. 72. 5 Lucien Wolf wrote to Mr. Wilfred Samuel on 29th September, 1923 : "... I have obtained from Antwerp, in connection with my Mendes researches, most valuable information reaching back to Vasco da Gama. It explains why so many Marranos came to England to embark in the India trade. ... I have come across one or two references to Jews at Tournai which lead me to believe that there is a good deal to be added to Roth's story of Per kin Warbeck. I think, after all, that Perkin was of Jewish birth. ... If he was a son of Warbeck then his mother was certainly a Jewess, but I am disposed to think he was a son of Edward Brandon himself." Sir Charles Oman, on the other hand, in a letter to me of 20th January, 1943, wrote : " Your paper on Brandon-Brampton is one of the most interesting things that I have read lately. . . . This has really given me ideas. Was Perkin really a bastard of Edward IV, when the latter was in exile in Flanders in 1470 ? And did Brampton merely put him up to the possibilities ? " The information now discovered makes it clear that Brampton could well have been the link, not only between Warbeck and Edward IV, but also between Warbeck and the Duchess of Burgundy, Edward's sister, who in due course recognized him as her nephew.</page><page sequence="7">sir edward brampton 127 When an embassy from Henry VII arrived in Lisbon in 1489, they were much charmed by the ingratiating manners of this English knight, " misr. Eduar Brandon " who " during the time they were in the said city accompanied them about and did them all the honour that was in his power and entertained them at his house twice or thrice most honourably ".1 No doubt in consequence of their representations, when they got home King Henry issued under the privy seal a general pardon to " Edward Brampton, Knight, alias of Portingal, alias of London, merchant, alias gentleman, alias godson to the most illustrious King Edward IV " : and in 1500 his son was in England and was knighted by the King at Winchester. By this time the old adventurer (he had continued to enjoy the royal favour under King Manuel of Portugal who had again confirmed his naturalization in 1495) was getting on in years. He died on nth November, 1508, in Lisbon, and was buried in the Chapel of Our Lady of Pleasures (dos Prazeres) in the Carmelite Convent (" Carmo ") of Lisbon. The inscription which was placed over his grave was typically magniloquent and mendacious : Here lies Duarte Brand?o Knight of the Garter an Honour which he earned through his many and famous services to King Edward : who was of the Council of the Kings of Portugal, and died on the i ith day of november of i508.2 Later, it seems, his remains were transferred to a burial chapel established in 1515 by his son, Henrique Brand?o?that same son, probably, who was knighted by Henry VII fifteen years before. The chapel no longer exists ; but the votive tablet commemorating its foundation, bearing the coat of arms and a simple inscription with the date 1515 (?),3 may still be seen in the Archaeological Museum at Lisbon. No other relic now survives of this bizarre, extraordinary character?Sir Edward Brampton, Knight, an Anglo-Jewish adventurer during the Wars of the Roses, whose idle talk nearly sufficed to establish an imposter on the English throne.4 But his memory lived on, amazingly enough, in Portuguese literature. The great poet of the period, Garcia de Resende, in his rhymed miscellany,5 passing in review the outstanding personalities and episodes in the history of the time, devotes a verse to him and his career. None reading it could imagine?indeed, it is hardly likely that the poet did?that the subject was a New Christian, of questionable birth, who had passed some years on a pittance of three-halfpence a day in the Home for Converted Jews in Chancery Lane, outside the walls of London :? vijmos duarte brandam tarn valente capitam, e valer tanto na guerra em ho Reino de Ingraterra que honrou a geeragam.6 1 Journals of Roger Machado apud Gairdner, Memorials of Henry VIII, p. 195, and in Transactions, IX, 161. 2 Afonso de Dornelas, Historia e Genealogia, I, 179. 8 Esta capela e sepuljtura de Anrique/Brandam/DIS. 4 On the other hand, Brampton's progeny was long traceable, apparently, in the Portuguese family of De Lima Brand?o. His last wife survived him and remarried. 5 Reprinted as appendix to his Chronica de el-rei D. Joao II (ed. Classicos Portuguezes, Lisbon, 1902), III. 1 cu. 6 " We saw too that captain bold Duarte Brandam, heart of gold : So valorous a man in war, Who our name to England bore And honoured thus our native fold."</page></plain_text>