From Basingstoke to Easthampstead (21 miles) on Thursday 16 Nov
Thursday included optional memorials of St. Margaret of Scotland, the secondary patroness of Scotland, and St. Gertrude, virgin. Since St Margaret was related to Edward the Confessor, Henry may have been interested in this celebration.
Henry’s destination at Easthampstead has to have been the Royal Hunting Lodge. It was built at “Easthampsted Parke” 150 years earlier for Edward III and was a sub-division of the larger “Easthamsted Walke”. The Lodge was situated south of the current mansion on what is now the golf course. There are records of visits to the Lodge by many of Edward III’s descendants including Richard II, Henry VI and Richard III – with many orders and decrees issued here.
Today the way to get there from Basingstoke is on the A30, which runs parallel to the M3 and goes through Newnham and Hook, before taking the Bracknell road at Bagshot.
However, consider this:
- We know that when Henry VII took his son Arthur to meet Katherine of Aragon on the same road, four years later, they rode out from the Royal hunting lodge at Easthampstead and met her at Finchampstead Ridges.
- No bridge spanned the Blackwater until Eversley Bridge was erected in 1819, apart from the one at Swallowfield, marked on Saxton’s 1576 map, hence Henry cannot have crossed at either Finchampstead Bridge or Eversley.
Hence, it seems that in 1497 Henry would more likely have started on the modern A33 towards Reading. Either he crossed the river at Swallowfield (since replaced), or possibly he used the two fords where the Roman road known as The Devil’s Highway crosses the Blackwater.
In 1501, Henry used the Royal Lodge at Easthampstead Park just prior to the marriage of his eldest son Arthur to the King of Spain’s daughter, Catalina de Aragón (Katherine of Aragon). Arthur had been writing numerous letters over the past two years to his bride-to-be, although at this stage they had never met. It was from the Lodge that Henry VII and Arthur rode out to meet Katherine in person for the first time at either Finchampstead Ridges, around 4 miles away or possibly Dogmersfield, Hampshire. Spanish etiquette would not allow the Prince to see his bride unveiled at first, but this was apparently overcome as they danced together later in the evening. Arthur was a mere 15 years old and she was barely nine months older. Arthur’s younger brother, the future Henry VIII, her future husband, also first saw the face of Catherine at Easthampstead Park whilst dancing with her on the same evening.
Norden’s 1607 map of Windsor Forest, above, shows that Easthampstead Walk included the main Park with the Lodge, the parish and some neighbouring parishes. The area of the park at this time was 265 acres of “very mean land, well-timbered, stocked with between 200 and 300 fallow deer, in the walk were about 60 red deer”.
Henry stayed here two nights, Thursday and Friday, and surely his intention was to enjoy some hunting.
The other thing I’ve wondered about is the origin of the name of the hamlet near Turgis Green called Spanish Green. Could this have been connected with Katherine’s progress along this same road in 1501?