Thame Local History
Baron Williams of Thame

The young King Edward VI was never of good health, and he died in 1553.

Lady Jane Grey was placed on the throne of England, but King Henry VIII's older daughter Mary raised an army to challenge her. In Oxfordshire, Sir John Williams, as Sheriff, was very quick to declare the county in favour of Mary, raising a militia to support her.

Following her assent to the throne in 1553, Queen Mary Tudor made Sir John Williams Baron Williams of Thame.

It is because of his ennoblement to Baron that we now refer to John Williams as Lord Williams of Thame.

Mary was a staunch Catholic and reversed many of the religious changes made by her father. She is known as "Bloody Mary" because of the number of people she put to death for religious reasons.

In 1555-6 Mary Tudor brought about the burning at Oxford of Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worcester, Nicholas Ridley, Bishop of London and Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. There is today a Martyrs Memorial in Oxford to commemorate their deaths.

As Sheriff of Oxford, Baron Williams of Thame supervised the execution of Bishops Latimer and Ridley in 1555 and of Archbishop Cranmer in 1556.

Mary's half sister Elizabeth had been resident at Hatfield, and around the time of the Oxford martyrdoms, the Queen charged Baron Williams with bringing her to London from Hatfield, and then with conveying her to Woodstock, where she was to be kept in semi-confinement.

Rycote Palace was a natural overnight stop for such a party undertaking the four day journey from London to Oxford. Lord Williams however laid on a lavish welcome for the young Elizabeth at Rycote, at which many local dignitaries, including Robert King, Bishop of Oxford, were present.

Queen Mary was none too pleased with this, and thereafter appointed Sir Henry Bedingfield as Elizabeth's guardian whilst she was at Woodstock.

Nonetheless, Elizabeth visited Rycote several times during her stay at Woodstock, and was always treated well by Baron Williams. So much so that she is said to have called him "my favourite uncle".

Once on the throne, Queen Elizabeth appointed her "favourite uncle" to the position of Lord President of the Council of the Marches of Wales. In this role, he was given an official residence at Ludlow Castle.

It was at Ludlow Castle that Baron Williams died on October 14th 1559, a matter of months after taking up his appointment. His health had been failing for some time.

He was buried in Thame's St Mary's Church, his tomb occupying a central position within the body of the Church, where the effigy of him and his first wife Elizabeth can be seen today.

Elizabeth Williams, formerly Elizabeth Bledlow, had died in 1556 and is buried in Rycote Chapel, although her effigy lies beside that of her husband in Thame Church.

John and Elizabeth Williams had five children, three sons and two daughters. All three sons died before their father, leaving only his daughters Isobel and Marjorie to inherit.

Johh Williams had married again in the last years of his life. His second wife was Margaret Wentworth, who died in 1588.

Marjorie Williams married Sir Henry Norreys, whose father had been executed along with Anne Boleyn. Her share of her father's inheritance was the Rycote estate and the manors of Thame.

Isobel Williams married Sir Richard Wenman, a wealthy wool merchant from Witney. Her share of the inheritance was Thame Park, which remained in the hands of the Wenman family for many generations.

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  Thame, Oxfordshire, England