Long before he became Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley had been Master of the Buckhounds. At the court of Edward VI he followed his elder brother, John, Viscount Lisle, in the position. What did the Master of the Buckhounds do? Obviously he had to organize the supply of hunting dogs for the royal hunting parties.
Anne Boleyn’s brother, George, had also served as Master of the Buckhounds. Henry VIII loved his hunting dogs and George regularly received sums in the order of three or four pounds to feed them.1 The animals were also valued presents to foreign rulers, so English diplomats abroad had to be supplied with them on a fairly regular basis. Sir Philip Hoby was the English ambassador at the Imperial court of Brussels in late 1549 when a political crisis gripped his homeland. The Lord Protector was imprisoned and removed from office in a coup under the leadership of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and other councillors. The use of fine hunting dogs as a diplomatic tool continued uninterrupted, though, and the Earl of Warwick’ son, Lord Lisle, who had just turned 19, showed promising signs of a Master of the Buckhounds, although he did not as yet hold the post. Richard Scudamore, Hoby’s regular correspondent, updated the ambassador on 5 December 1549:
I have put my Lord Lisle in remembrance for the chase dog that he promised you, who said that he marvelled much that the dog had not been sent unto him before this, alleging further that if it came not shortly that then he would send a servant of his own for him.
In February 1550 the imprisoned ex-protector, the Duke of Somerset, became a free man again, while the Earl of Warwick became Lord President of the King’s Council and Great Master of the Household, effectively ruling the country. A while before another coup – against the lives of both Somerset and Warwick – had been rebuffed by the latter, Scudamore writing in January:
I fear me lest there may [be] more trouble a brewing, for this evening being of the 11th of this month my Lord of Warwick and my Lady his wife were carried in a litter from his house in Holborn to York the Sherriff and as yet my Lord came not at the court, the which thing maketh men to judge that he dareth not to remain in his own house.2
Meanwhile, on 6 February Hoby was still waiting for his hunting dogs:
My Lord Lisle showed me that he looketh for the chase dog within these few a days. And when the dog cometh I know not how he shall be conveyed unto you, but in the mean time he shall be well kept. I have three fair young mastiffs for you, the which I leave in keeping in Paris Garden until I may have shipping for them.
Paris Garden, a Southwark manor, was in the keepership of Scudamore’s cousin. A week later, Hoby received the next update:
My Lord Lisle looketh every day for the chase greyhound. And your mastiffs stayeth for the coming out of the ships.
And on 23 February:
My Lord Lisle looketh every day and hour for the chase dog, marvelling much that he is not brought before this unto him. My Lord of Warwick, Lord Great Master, hath been this sevennight at the court already metely well amended.
The elder John Dudley was suffering from some ailment which often kept him away from the court. Hopefully, about the end of February, the chase dog finally materialized, as we hear no more about it. The Duke of Somerset’s rehabilitation became complete in April when he returned to court, where “all men seeketh upon him”.3 His eldest daughter, Anne, was to marry Warwick’s eldest son, on 3 June 1550:
On Tuesday next my Lord Lisle shallbe married at Sheen where there is great preparation made for the same; howbeit my Lord of Warwick will not be there at the same time but is already removed to Hatfield and well amended, therefore God be praised.4
In April 1551, Lisle finally became Master of the Buckhounds and a year later, Master of the Horse. His brother Robert on the same occasion became Master of the Buckhounds.
The Young Earl of Warwick
1 Fox 2007 p. 72
2 Brigden 1990 p. 108
3 Brigden 1990 p. 130
4 Brigden 1990 p. 134
Brigden, Susan (1990): “The Letters of Richard Scudamore to Sir Philip Hoby, September 1549 – March 1555”. Camden Miscellany. Volume XXX. Royal Historical Society.
Fox, Julia (2007): Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford. Ballantine Books.
Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.