Richard Clement - Ightham Mote's Royal Courtier

Detail of Richard Clement's funerary brass

If you were to write a novel about Richard Clement you would not need to create fiction. This man, an owner of 'the Mote' for just 17 years from 1521 until his death in 1538, led quite a life. Two wives, at least two mistresses, three illegitimate children and a career at court; he made himself known in the area.

Who was Richard Clement?

A self- made man, with a lot of influential friends that saw him move from a ‘gentry’ birth in East Sussex, to the courts of Henry VII and Henry VIII.  As a page in the Privy chamber of Henry VII he was paid ‘rewards’ and  was buying and accepting merchandise and gifts on behalf of the King. One such example in 1506, showed that he received 30 shillings for ‘vij yerdes of crimosyn sarcenett at iiij s the yerde’, making a profit in the process.

He was listed as a page at the funeral of Elizabeth of York in February 1503, but by the time that  Henry VII died in April 1509, he was not only present at the deathbed, but was named at his funeral as ‘a gentilman of the household’. With the accession of Henry VIII, he lost his post at court, but before July 1509, his financial future was assured by marrying a rich older widow – Anne Whittlebury, from Northampton.

Life after marriage:

In Northampton, Clement took the role of landowner and was also a ‘Commissioner of Sewers’. Back at Court he was a ‘Gentleman Usher’ and he fought at the Battle of the Spurs in 1513.  By 1521, he was back in Kent, purchasing Ightham Mote for £400, with the assistance of a consortium of local friends and important names of Kent.

During the 1520s he embarked on a frenzy of building work at The Mote, stained glass windows,  the painted ceiling in the guest suite, all to show allegiance to Henry VIII, or perhaps to expect a Royal visitor?  Who knows?

In November 1528, his wife died, but by 1530 he had acquired the hand of the Lady Anne Grey – widow of Lord John Grey, hoping to gain further connections at court.

A force to be reckoned with:

An ambitious man, he was keen to react to any local disturbance or disorder.  He used his knowledge of the law throughout his land purchases and sales, always to try to gain his advantage. And make his name known, so by 1529 he had done sufficient notable works to ensure that he was knighted by Henry VIII

He was appointed ‘Commissioner for the Peace’ a number of times, firstly in 1531.  Something of an irony, when in 1534, he summoned 200 men to ‘peacekeeping’ duties at Shipbourne, ending up in the Star Chamber as a defendant and being dispatched to the Fleet!  He was also present at the magnificent Coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533, then had a hand in her demise in 1536.

He died in 1538, making provision for his ‘bastard’ daughters, and others, leaving the residue of his estate to his wife, the Lady Anne Grey, and was buried next to his first wife in Ightham Church