Edmund Marvyn

Edmund Marvyn M.A. Rector of Sutton 4th July 1554, deprived January 1560., Archdeacon of Surrey and last Roman Catholic rector of Sutton.

Edmund Marvyn has been one of the most interesting of the rectors of Sutton to investigate. His story is one of great change in personal belief and in public policy. He enters history as a young intellectual radical, full of the New Learning of the sixteenth century, seemingly on side with reformers like Cranmer and scandalising his university lecturers. But his career reaches its zenith in Bloody Mary's reign as a full on agent of the counter reformation before it evaporates with the accession of Elizabeth when he disappears into sudden obscurity.

The year 1520 saw the publication of three of Martin Luther's best known works: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. It was probably in this year that our Edmund Marvyn was born.

The name Marvyn variously appears as Mervyne, Marven, Marvin in the different records. He is almost certainly related to another Edmund Marvyn (later knighted) who was a lawyer and one of the King's serjeants-at-law in the 1530s and 1540s.

The Marvyn family was from the Rogate area of Sussex and they had ties to manors and lands around Durford, Liphook and Bramshott in Hampshire. Our Edmund Marvyn was probably dependent on the patronage of his namesake for his education and the gift of a living.

The age that Edmund was born into was turbulent. The old religious certainties were being challenged and the traditions of hundreds of years were rapidily being reassessed and changed. The Tudor dynasty itself was young. Henry VII had ousted the last of the Plantagenet Kings but not the last traces of the bloodline. And with his son Henry VIII failing to produce an heir the dynasty would, at times, have seemed precarious. Other families had royal blood and the politics of the time was very much tied to family ties and patronage that it provided.

Sir Edmund Marvyn's wife was Elizabeth the daughter of Sir Edmund Pakenham. Her sister Constance had married Geoffrey Pole who was the son of Sir Richard Pole and Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. Margaret Pole née Plantagenet, was considered the last member of that line. Sir Edmund Marvyn was therefore related by marriage to a possible claimant to the throne. An elder brother of Geoffrey Pole was Reginald Pole, was to become a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, and be the last Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury during the Counter Reformation against the Church of England.

In the early 1530s before his knighthood Edmund Marvyn acted (1) as the legal advisor to Arthur Plantagenet, 1st Viscount Lisle, who was an illegitimate son of King Edward IV of England, and an important figure at the court of Henry VIII. The Marvyn family therefore had strong ties to the Plantagenet line.

We can deduce that our Edmund Marvyn came from a comfortable background. Certainly he had enough family money behind him to pay for his university education. It is not known where Marvyn was educated before being sent to Oxford but was quite common for sons of the local Gentlemen and prosperous yeomen to receive an education within nearby Monastic schools. The Marvyn's local Religious Community was Durford Abbey.

Durford was a Nobertine foundation. Norbertines, also known as the Premonstratensians and in England, as the White Canons (from the colour of their habit), were a Christian religious order of Canons Regular. This meant that their work was preaching and the exercise of the pastoral office, and they served a large number of parishes incorporated in their monasteries.

There is an Edmund Marvyn listed in receipt of an Annuity from the "Late Monastary of Durforde". (2)

This may mean that our Edmund Marvyn was part of the Durford Community. Perhaps as a boy his family had decided that he would build his career in the church and he had started down the religious life, if that was so then the young teenage Marvyn may have worn a habit similar to that shown.

But monastic life was not what it had been a hundred years earlier. There was growing lay hostility to the monks and the religious orders, and the number of people entering a religious life had been declining for a generation.

And Durford was far from being a rich institution. In September 1535 Richard Layton an agent of Thomas Cromwell wrote to his master "On Friday night I came to an abbey called Durforde, in Sussex. It might better be called Dirtford,the poorest abbey I have seen, as this bearer, the abbot, can tell you,far in debt and in great decay." (3)

When Durford was dissolved in 1536 there were only 9 canons remaining. If it is possible that our Edmund Marvyn is the same as the one in receipt of the Annuity from the suppressed abbey it is also possibly too cynical to suggest that his family may have got him onto the 'books' of the obviously failing Abbey so that he could benefit from the pension following dissolution of the house.

In the end however in 1544 Sir Edmund Mervyn (our Marvyn's kinsman) who was then a justice of King's Bench acquired the lands of the Durford abbey for a fee of £327. 11s. 8d. (£95,335 modern), with other property in Herting, Rogate and Petersfeld. (4)

Marvyn may have learnt his letters at Durford Abbey but by time of the visitation of Richard Layton in 1535, the 15 year old Marvyn was probably already a discipulus or student at Corpus Christi college in Oxford. The college of Corpus Christi had been founded in 1517, about three years before Marvyn was born by Bishop Fox in order to provide an educated clergy. By now it is therefore absolutely certain that Edmund Marvyn was destined for the Church. In entering Corpus Christi he would have been emulating Reginald Pole the future Cardinal Archbishop.

Using the college statutes as a guide it can be inferred that Edmund Marvyn would have been about between 12 and 14 when he was elected as a discipuli. In order to become a discipulus he would have been able to write Latin verse and he would have needed to have been a healthy young man. The college required that its students were without any disability or bodily defect, as described by canon law, that would stop him receiving holy orders. The statutes of Corpus Christi, lay down that the college was to consist of a President and 20 fellows (socii) and 20 discipuli, who were to be natives of certain parts of England. Marvyn probably occupied one of the 2 discipuli places that were reserved for Hampshire. (5)

So Marvyn probably went up to Oxford around 1533, the year that King Henry VIII great matter culminated with the break from Rome, the forced annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, his marriage to Anne Boleyn and the Kings excommunication by the Pope..

Marvyn's education at Corpus Christi and the expectation that he was to become a priest ran straight into the new realities that were being created on almost a daily basis. In 1534 The Act of Supremacy declared that the King was "the only Supreme Head in Earth of the Church of England" and the Treasons Act 1534 made it high treason, punishable by death, to refuse to acknowledge the King as such. In response to the excommunications, the Peter's Pence Act was passed which reiterated that England had "no superior under God, but only your Grace" and that Henry's "imperial crown" had been diminished by "the unreasonable and uncharitable usurpations and exactions" of the Pope. In defiance of the Pope, the Church of England was now under Henry’s control, not Rome's.

Marvyn as a 16 year old in 1536 would have read the 10 Articles of Religion shifting the doctrine of the Church of England in a more reforming direction. Around him he would have seen the effect of monks and nuns from the Oxford houses being ejected by the Kings Commissioners, he would have had letters from home telling him of the 9 old priests driven out from Durford Abbey as it was dissolved. The execution of Anne Boleyn would have further increased the edgy sense of the time with the turmoil of the rebellion known as the Pilgrimage of Grace ending the year. Although the rebellion in the North was crushed it did have some success, for example four of the seven sacraments that were omitted from the Ten Articles, were restored in the Bishop's Book of 1537. This marked the end of the drift of official doctrine towards Protestantism. The Bishop's Book was followed by the even more Catholic Six Articles of 1539.

An interesting document dated 8th October 1538 (6) throws light on the internal state of the college.

The 18 year old Edmund Marvyn was one of the students who complained to Archisbishop Thomas Cranmer. The complaints were that the college authorities, i.e. the President and seven seniors, who by the statutes were the governing body, would not admit 'those who be counted of the new learning (as they call it) to any office nor yet to any counsell of the college business'.

Cranmer sent a deputy to Oxford to inquire into these complaints and Edmund Marvyn was amongst the seven that came forward to support the charges; his name was taken and what he said in confirmation.

According to the complaints Thomas Goyge, M.A. (who was created a fellow in 1526), had called Edmund Marvyn and his friend Richard Marshall heretics, and they "had heresy books, and were naught." The students complained that the king's injunctions which required preaching were not observed. The word 'papa' was not blotted out everywhere and in some church books had been restored. One of the deans said that if he saw any 'scholar' with a new testament he would burn it. 'Sir Bocher' said that all they which be of the new learning were 'naughty knaves'. A greek lecturer Mr Donne called Sir Marvin and Sir Marshall "Neo-Christianos", i.e. a new kind of Christian men.(7)

This clearly shows that in 1538 when Marvyn was about 18 years old he was caught up in the spirit of the reformation and was certainly playing for power and influence in the college over the older traditionalists. Because the document refers to him as 'Sir Marvin' this means that he had been already awarded his degree of Batchelor of Arts.

The older members of the college were not summoned to be questioned, and neither Cranmer nor the Lord Privy Seal considered the accusations to be important and no charges were brought against the President or the senior members of the college.

However enthusiastic the 18 year old Edmund Marvyn was for the reform of the church and the rejection of the Pope and the old ways of religion the older Edmund Marvyn was to change his mind. Within 17 years he would be distinguished by his support for the other side of the religious divide.

In July 1538 Edmund Marvyn (the older kinsman of the 18 year old Marvyn) as serjeant-at-law was appointed to the Commission of Oyer and Terminer for treasons that covered Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall (8)

Oyer and terminer is the Law French name, meaning to hear and determine, for one of the commissions by which a judge of assize sits. By the commission of oyer and terminer the commissioners (in practice the judges of assize, though other persons are named with them in the commission) are commanded to make diligent inquiry into all treasons, felonies and misdemeanours whatever committed in the counties specified in the commission, and to hear and determine the same according to law.

In November 1538, Reginald Pole's eldest brother Henry Pole, Baron Montague, another son and other relatives were arrested on a charge of treason, though Thomas Cromwell had previously written that they had "little offended save that he [the Cardinal] is of their kin", they were committed to the Tower of London, and in January, with the exception of Geoffrey Pole, they were executed.

Geoffrey Pole had been arrested earlier and had broken under interrogation and supplied the evidence the King required not only against his mother and his brother Henry (Lord Montague) but also against Henry Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter, Sir Edward Neville and others. King Henry had Montague and Exeter arrested and committed to the Tower on 4 Nov. Geoffrey, tried with his brother and Exeter, entered a plea of guilty and was condemned to death but was pardoned as a result of his betrayal.

As a family the Marvyns were now part of the machinery that was used to enforce the new religious policy.

Edmund was eligible for a fellowship as soon as he had his BA. Marvyn would have been very aware of the current fellows of the college who included Reginald Pole who had been made a fellow of Corpus Christ College in 1523. While Marvyn was still a disciplus waiting for a fellowship for his county of Hampshire to become vacant he would have proceeded to the degree of M.A. Marvyn's tenure would normally end according to the statutes after he had completed his 24th year.

A statute, which seems to be peculiar to Corpus Christi, lays down that no fellow was to receive any holy orders until he had taken his M.A. degree. Those who had been ordained could remain fellows for life provided that they resided in Oxford and did not acquire by inheritance wealth of £5 a year, or hold a living of £8 a year. (5)

While at Oxford he would not have been isolated from his family. Sir Edmund Marvyn his kinsman was appointed to the Oxford circuit for the assizes in January 1543. (9)

When Marvyn was 24 he took holy orders. Marvyn was ordained Subdeacon on 20th September 1544 by Robert King, the Bishop of Oxford in the Chapel of the Bishop's manor of Thame Park. At the time Edmund Marvyn already had his Master of Arts and was Perpetual Fellow of Corpus Christi, college Oxford. Marvyn was described as resident in the Diocese of Winchester.

The following day (21st September, St Matthew's day) he was ordained deacon, and the day after that (22nd September) he was ordained priest. There is an interesting note that reads "24. Ordination celebrated by virtue of a certain dispensation out of time from statute. Perpetual fellow of Corpus Christi; ad tit same college. Dispensation, p. 25, 18 Aug. 1544, from Cranmer, renders the surname MERVYNE, and describes him as of the diocese of Winchester." (10)

It looks like he was still enough 'on-side' with the reformation for Cranmer to provide the dispensation for his ordination. Robert King the Bishop who ordained Marvyn was the first Bishop of Oxford. Originally King had been a Cistercian monk, of Thame Park Abbey, and was the last Abbot there. King became abbot at Oseney Abbey in 1537. Both Thame Park and Oseney were dissolved in 1539 and in 1541 King was made Bishop of Thame and Oseney. The next year his diocese was changed into the Diocese of Oxford. So many of the Church hierarchy seemed to have been like reeds that bent in the wind, many of them were able to adjust their beliefs and practices according to who ever was on the throne. Robert King was no exception and during the reign of Mary Tudor he reverted to the Old Religion, and was a judge in the trial and condemnation of Cranmer. He was spared the challenge of further change brought by Mary's successor, Elisabeth by dying in 1557.

Marvyn may have found the experience of being an academic during Edward VI's reign discomforting. Edward became King in 1547 and the pace of reform picked up dramatically. Although Henry VIII had severed the link between the Church of England and Rome, it was during Edward's reign that Protestantism was fully established for the first time in England, with Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury, implementing the first Book of Common Prayer 1549.

In 1549 at the age of 29 Edmund Marvyn was appointed Rector of St Mary's Church, of Bramshott in Hampshire. This appears to have been his first living. The appointment would have been been the gift of the Mervyn family that by then held Bramshott manor and the surrounding land. (11)

Bramshott is in the diocese of Winchester and our Marvyn should have been approved and licensed by the bishop. The Bishop of Winchester at the time of Marvyn's apppointment as Rector of Bramshott was Stephen Gardiner. In 1539 Stephen Gardiner had taken part in the enactment of the severe statute of the Six Articles, which led to the resignation of Bishops Latimer and Shaxton and the general persecution of the Protestant party. If Marvyn was acceptable to the reformer Cranmer in 1544 had something happened before 1549 to make him and acceptable to the conservative Gardiner? Unfortunately the elderly Gardiner had resisted Cranmer over the issue of a general visitation of his diocese which resulted in his being imprisoned in the Fleet, and the visitation of his diocese was held during his imprisonment. Though soon released, he was soon called before the kings council, and, refusing to give them "satisfaction", was thrown into the Tower of London, where he remained for the rest of the reign, a period of over five years.

Gardiner's bishopric was given in 1551 to John Ponet, a chaplain of Cranmer's who was previously Bishop of Rochester. The records seem quiet about Edmund Marvyn during this time. Perhaps he remained quietly in his parish, but more likely he was engaged in activities that brought him closer to the jailed Gardiner.

Edward VI died on 6th July 1553. At the accession of Queen Mary and at her first entry into London Gardiner along with other prisoners were set free. Gardiner was restored to his Bishopric and appointed Lord Chancellor, and he placed the crown on the queen's head at her coronation. He also opened her first parliament and for some time was her leading councillor.

Gardiner had the reputation of favoring learning and promoting university men of promise. Marvyn was to benefit rapidly from Gardiner's return to office. Marvyn was 33 years old when Mary came to the throne. He had seen the upheavals of Edward's church reforms and he would now be part of the counter reformation.

Marvyn was made a prebend of Winchester cathedral in April of 1554. The vacancy had been created by the appointment of John White as Bishop of Lincoln 1554. White had been appointed Prebendary of Winchester in the foundation charter 28 March 1541 and had been "informator" or schoolmaster of Winchester College. It is clear that Marvyn was promoted into a position that had a track record as training grounds of rising stars. If he had been an ambitious man then he may have had strong expectations of eventually being appointed Bishop. (12)

On the 4th July 1554 Marvyn became Rector of St Nicholas, Sutton. The living was de jure vacante when Marvyn was instituted in 1554, which is traditionally interpreted that the previous Rector Miles Braithwaite was deprived for marriage. But early 1554 had seen Wyatt's rebellion. The rebellion had been serious in Kent and Wyatt's army reached Southwark on February 3. Mary's supporters occupied London Bridge in force, and the rebels were unable to penetrate into the city. Wyatt was driven from Southwark. Refusing to give up, the rebels marched to Kingston. The bridge there was also destroyed, but the rebels repaired it and crossed over. They met little resistance as they marched through the outskirts of London, but were stopped by the inhabitants of Ludgate when the rebel army then broke up. (13)

The had rebels explained that the reason for the rebellion was "to prevent us from over-running by strangers." This was a reference to the planned marriage to Philip of Spain. Nevertheless, all the rebel leaders were committed Protestants, and it was convenient for Mary to blame the rebellion on religious issues as this allowed her to label the rebels as heretics. It is not impossible that Miles Braithwaite had been deprived not for marriage but for sympathy with the rebellion.

In the November of 1554 Cardinal Pole came to England to receive the kingdom back into the Roman fold absolving the kingdom of schism in a service on Advent Sunday. Gardiner preached the sermon.

Pole's return was followed by an Act of Parliament, the Revival of the Heresy Acts. This revived three former Acts against heresy; the letters patent of 1382 of King Richard II, an Act of 1401 of King Henry IV, and an Act of 1414 of King Henry V. All three of these laws had been repealed under King Henry VIII and King Edward VI.

On 13 November 1555, Thomas Cranmer was officially deprived of the See of Canterbury.

On 18th December 1555 Marvyn exchanged his parish of Bramshott to become Archdeacon of Surrey. The archdeacon acted as the bishop's representative with the duty of supervising parish churches, for example ensuring they had proper training in how to lead Mass and use the proper equipment. Although is likely that he would have been based at Esher or from the Archbishop's Palace in Croydon, most of Surrey is within a day's ride of Sutton. He would have been busy making enquiries and investigations about what people had said and what they had written. He would have been choosen for his zeal in rooting out heresy and encouraging traditional Catholic worship and practices. The 35 year old Marvyn riding out from his parish of Sutton was 12 miles from Lambeth Palace, 9 miles from both Esher Palace and Hampton Court, 6 miles from Croydon Palace and 2 miles from Nonsuch Palace.

1555 was this year that Mary began burning Protestants for heresy, executing 220 men and 60 women before her death in 1558. It has been so far difficult to find Marvyn directly responsible for the persecution of heretics. He no doubt approved of the revival of the heresy laws. What is interesting is that in Winchester diocese no victim of the persecution is known to have suffered till after Gardiner's death at the end of October 1555.

Pole was raised to Archbishop of Canterbury in the March of 1556, an office he would hold until his death in November 1558. As well as his religious duties, Cardinal Pole was in effect the Queen's chief minister and adviser.

John White, Bishop of Lincoln, and former prebend of Winchester was appointed Bishop of Winchester in May 1556, after Stephen Gardiner's death.

Mervyn's associations and friendships from college would have shaped his career and his promotion. As they turned back to catholicism so did he. The complaint about the 'papist' seniors at college in 1538 had been made in consort with friends like Richard Marshall and George Etheridge.

Richard Marshall was to rise to become Dean of Christ Church, Oxford who in his furious and zealous spite at the reformation caused Peter Martyr's dead ex-nun wife to be tried for heresy and her body to be dug up and thrown on his stable manure heap. Marshall also was one of the witnesses against Cranmer at his trial in September 1555.

George Etheridge became professor of Greek. He had changed his views from reform to reaction and in discussions at Oxford in 1555 proposed that Ridley should be gagged. Bishop Nicholas Ridley was was burned at the stake along with bishop Hugh Latimer, as a martyr for his teachings and his support of Lady Jane Grey on October 16, 1555 in Oxford. George Etheridge also spoke in the proceedings against Cranmer in the same year.

As Marshall and Etheridge had changed so did Mervyn. Edmund Marvyn would have praised the faithful and condemned the heretic to God's judgement and the Queen's flames.

Marvyn's work of faith would last for another two years. Bloody Mary died in November 1558. Her sister Elizabeth was a very different Queen. After Easter 1559 the government of Queen Elizabeth entered two new bills into the Houses of Parliament the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity.

The Act of Supremacy validated ten Acts of Henry VIII that Mary had repealed and confirmed Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Use of the term Supreme Governor as opposed to Supreme Head pacified many who were concerned about a female leader of the Church of England. Elizabeth's changes were more wholesale than those of her half-brother, Edward VI. All but one of the bishops lost their posts, a hundred fellows of Oxford colleges were deprived; many dignitaries resigned rather than take the oath. The bishops who were removed from the ecclesiastical bench were replaced by appointees who would agree to the reforms.

Marvyn's fall was inevitable. Marvyn had been deprived of his Prebendary of Winchester Cathedral by 13th October 1559 (12), by 20th September of the same year he had been deposed as Archdeacon of Surrey (14). There was no room in Elizabeth's Church men like Edmund Marvyn. There was too much blood about him. His disgrace was completed when he was expelled from the Rectory of St Nicholas in the January of 1560.

He had lost so much. There is no record of him after 1560. It maybe that he went like others to exile on the continent. Perhaps he hoped that there would be a new day when restoration of the true religion would be possible. But that hope was false, while Mary had been able to impose her programme for a mere five years, Elizabeth had more than forty. The pope in England would be defeated by the passing of the years.

Edmund Marvyn was 39 years old when his career came to an end. The hardest aspect of a fall can be the damage that is done to those innocents surrounding the chief player. Marvyn would have brought with him to Sutton members of his family to act as housekeeper or manager of the glebe lands. His disgrace seems to have impoverished part of his family.

There is a reference to a woman called Johann Marven of Cassalton (Carshalton). (15) According to this book it is probable that Johann Marven was some poor relation of Edmund Marvyn.

"The xixth february (1572) Gyven to Johann Marven of cassalton a poor womane burdened with children as by here accquitance appearethe."

12 years after his fall the consequences of Marvyn's choices still remained.


(1) Henry VIII: June 1534, 26-30, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: 1534, Volume 7 (1883), pp. 326-357.
(2) URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=7jgSAAAAIAAJ&q=%22edmund+marvyn%22&dq=%22edmund+marvyn%22&ei=v-XuR6nyMpO0yQTorPWXCg&pgis=1
(3) Henry VIII: September 1535, 26-30, Letters & Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: August-December 1535, Volume 9 (1886), pp. 143-165.
(4) Henry VIII: May 1544, 26-31, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: January-July 1544, Volume 19 Part 1 (1903), pp. 358-388.
(5) A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3: The University of Oxford (1954), pp. 219-228.
(6) The Remains of Thomas Cranmer, Ed. Henry Jenkyns, Oxford University Press, Volume 1 (1833).
(7) Henry VIII: October 1538 6-10', Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: August-December 1538, Volume 13 Part 2 (1893), pp. 211-227.
(8) Henry VIII: Grants in July, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: January-July 1538, Volume 13 Part 1 (1892), pp. 561-589.
(9) Henry VIII: January 1543, 26-31, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII: January-July 1543, Volume 18 Part 1 (1901), pp. 53-69.
(10) Data held on the The Clergy of the Church of England Database (http://www.theclergydatabase.org.uk/).
(11) URL: http://www.liphookchurch.co.uk/about/bramshott/
(12) Canons: Twelfth prebend, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: volume 3: Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester dioceses (1974), pp. 105-106.
(13) Rectors and vicars of Surrey parishes (supplementing and correcting the lists in "Manning & Bray's History of Surrey").Surrey Archaeological Collections, 27, Malden, Henry Elliot. (1914).
(14) Archdeacons: Surrey, Fasti Ecclesiae Anglicanae 1541-1857: volume 3: Canterbury, Rochester and Winchester dioceses (1974), pp. 88-89.
(15) The spending of the money of Robert Nowell of Reade hall, Lancashire: brother of Dean Alexander Nowell, 1568-1580. Grosart, Alexander Balloch, 1827-1899.