A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1905.
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19. HOUSE OF FRANCISCAN FRIARS, AYLESBURY
The house of Grey Friars at Aylesbury was founded by James Butler, Earl of Ormond, as late as 1386. (fn. 1) At the dissolution there were only seven friars there, (fn. 2) but it is possible that at the foundation there may have been a larger number.
At a time when friars did not rank very high in popular esteem these Minorites of Aylesbury seem to have shown something of the same independent and fearless spirit as their brethren of the strict observance in the sixteenth century. Richard II. had been a benefactor of this house, and at the beginning of the next reign a friar was accused by one of his own brethren of spreading a report that the late king was still alive. He was brought before Henry IV., but the story of his ending cannot be better told than in the words of the mediaeval chronicle, whether strictly historical or no. (fn. 3) It happened at the time 'when the people began to grudge against King Harry, and bear him heavy, because he took their goods and paid not therefore,' that the friar of Aylesbury was brought into the royal presence. Said the king to the friar, 'Thou hast heard that King Richard is alive, and art glad thereof.' And the friar answered, 'I am glad as a man is glad of the life of his friend, for I am holden to him, and all my kin, for he was our furtherer and promoter.' But the king said, 'Thou hast noised and told openly that he liveth, and so thou hast excited and stirred the people against me.' 'Nay,' said the friar. But the king went on, 'Tell me the truth as it is in thine heart: if thou sawest King Richard and me in the field fighting together, with whom wouldst thou hold?' 'Forsooth with him, for I am more beholden to him, 'replied the bold friar. 'Then thou wouldest that I and all the lords of my realm were dead?' 'Nay,' said the friar again. 'What wouldst thou do with me if thou hadst the victory over me?' 'I would make you Duke of Lancaster,' answered the friar. 'Thou art not my friend, and therefore thou shalt lose thine head,' was the king's reply: and the poor friar was 'dampned befor the justice, and drawe and hanged and beheddid.'
At the dissolution the house at Aylesbury was a very poor place, and in debt; the church however was in good condition, and had lately been repaired. (fn. 4) Dr. London reported to Cromwell that there was scarce money enough, even after the sale of the plate and lead, to 'dispatch the friars honestly.' (fn. 5) No attempt was therefore made to provide them with pensions: but London desired special capacities for them to serve cures. (fn. 6) Whether these were granted or no remains uncertain.
The guardian of the house in 1535 was Edward Ryly (fn. 7); the one who signed the surrender was Henry Meyn. (fn. 8) The Deed of Surrender, which is dated 1 October, 1538, is identical with that of the friars of Bedford, and therefore obviously not of their own composition. The acknowledgment which it contains—that, after profound consideration, the brethren had discovered that their religion consisted mainly of pharisaical ceremonies—is in consequence quite as formal and meaningless as the ordinary Deeds of Surrender.
The Valor Ecclesiasticus gives the clear income of the friars at Aylesbury as £3 2s. 5d. (fn. 9) London valued the whole property—close, fields, garden and site—at £6 2s. 4d.; the timber round the house was worth £6 13s. 4d. (fn. 10)
Pointed oval seal, red in colour and chipped at the top, attached to the Deed of Surrender dated 1 October, 1538. (fn. 11) The impression, which is somewhat indistinct, represents St. Francis to the right beneath a tree lifting up the right hand and holding in the left hand a pastoral staff. In the branches of the tree are two birds before him and on the left a friar kneeling. The whole may represent the story of St. Francis preaching to the birds. Legend: . . . COVŪNITATIS: FRA . . . UM: AYLESBURIE.