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  • Anne Sauntson

Brief Lives of Famous Women - Jane Sadleir

Readers of Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies will recall Sir Ralph Sadleir, secretary to Thomas Cromwell, principal secretary to King Henry VIII, one of the Council of Regents to King Edward VI and gaoler of Mary, Queen of Scots.

His daughter, Jane, married Edward Baeshe and is remembered in the 16th century alabaster monument on the North wall of the Baeshe chapel. It is just as well that she had so much experience of dealing with royalty, as she was hostess to Queen Elizabeth I here at Stansteadbury on at least three occasions – for a week in September 1571 (with the members of the Privy Council), for another week in August 1576 and finally for two days in 1578 – perhaps to view the Baeshe Chapel, completed the year before.

Jane and her brothers and sisters were almost tainted by an illegitimacy scandal – Ralph married Ellen Barre believing her to be a widow, but eleven years after their marriage and after the birth of their children, her first husband turned up and was heard boasting that he was the lawful husband of Sadleir’s wife. An investigation found that Ellen's first marriage was valid, and Sadler was therefore obliged to have his children legitimised by a private Act of Parliament. In 1546, this was passed on his behalf. The Act set aside Ellen's marriage to Matthew Barre and made her marriage to Ralph Sadler a true and proper union. Sadler managed to prevent the publication of the Act and its details never appeared among the statutes of the period.

Ralph and Ellen enjoyed a happy marriage for many more years after this, and it seems that Edward and Jane Baeshe were equally happy – unusually she is depicted smiling lovingly at her husband on their joint monument.

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