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Said to be a portrait of Sir Piers Dutton (c1480–1545) from the National Gallery (NT 1316181), mayor of Chester (1512-1514). However the clothing seems wrong. If this is Piers Dutton then it is the earliest known portrait of a mayor of Chesterm pre-dating that of William Aldersey from the Grosvenor Museum (dated 1615, purchased 2012). It is possible this is a later John Dutton.

Beyond the control of the crown, despite the King being Earl of Chester, early Tudor Cheshire was a lawless gangland in which warring local magnates battled for power. None were more ruthless than Sir Piers Dutton. The literature about this period is at times somewhat confused as there are several Piers Duttons, several John Savages and several William and Randal Breretons.

Sir Piers Dutton (c1480–1545) of Dutton, Cheshire was an "esquire of the body" to Henry VIII in 1520 and rose to be knight (chief esquire) of the body by 1527. He was the son of another Piers Dutton and uncle of William Brereton (of Malpas) but loathed this rival for power in Cheshire and on the Welsh Marches. He also had frequent differences with another William Brereton (of Brereton). Local power was very important because the crown only had limited control of the provinces and relied on local magnates to keep order, meaning political power was more local than it is today. Cheshire was a semi-autonomous ‘palatine’ with no MPs; its own de facto parliament; its own legal system and its own head of state – the king (or his heir) in his capacity as Earl of Chester. As such, the leaders of Cheshire wielded real power, and rivalry for it was fierce. Dutton was lord of the manor of Dutton from 1527 until his death. He was involved in the closing of Norton Abbey during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. He started rebuilding Dutton Hall in 1539. The Duttons are associated with the Minstrel Court held at Chester and provide the name for a principal character in The Chester Mystery Novels.

Tudor Chester

In the early sixteenth century, as a result of its special status, Cheshire occupied a unique position in England: but it was in the sixteenth century, that Cheshire lost its independence. In 1500, Prince Arthur kept court at Chester Castle as Earl of Chester; the palatinate had its own judicial machinery; it was financially distinct and had its own exchequer (also based at Chester Castle); it had no justices of the peace, no visits from the assizes; it sent no representatives to parliament; and men spoke of crossing from Cheshire into England. The absence of any dominant noble family (such as the Norman earls) had resulted in the emergence of a powerful local gentry. The canons of the college of St Johns jealously preserved its title of cathedral and the bishops of Coventry and Lichfield continued to own a palace in Chester, retaining the additional title of "Bishop of Chester" which was used interchangeably until the formation of the Chester diocese in the sixteenth century.

By the reign of Elizabeth only the Palatine Courts were left. Cheshire accounted to the Crown, had justices of the peace, was part of the assize system and elected M.P.s like any other county. The change had not been unheralded; ever since the Crown annexed the earldom in 1237, the integration of the palatinate with the nation had been under way. But it was the sixteenth century which saw the decisive conclusion, after which the men of the county, or at least the elite, accepted that they were part of the English political nation.

Piers Duttton

The son of a gentry outlaw (the elder Piers Dutton), Dutton rose from languishing in the jail at Chester Castle for breaches of the peace, through changing Henry VIII's pants, to being a powerful mayor of Chester (1512-1514). His time in jail (1504-5) was based on several counts, including murder, and he was imprisoned by Sir Ranulph Brereton of Malpas, the chamberlain of Chester from 1504 to 1530 (and father of the "other" William Brereton as noted below). Curiously, Ranulph Brereton was married to Dutton's sister. He was made a courtier as part of an attempt to flatter local magnates and so keep the distant, lawless provinces under crown control. His strongly Protestant wife was acquainted with the Protestant Thomas Cromwell and after allying himself with Cromwell (as "esquire of the body" to Henry VIII), Dutton’s ascent began.

An important innovation in the administration of the royal chamber in the sixteenth century was the creation of the post of the Gentleman of the Privy Chamber on the French model (gentilhomme de la chambre). This post was created around 1518 by amalgamating the posts of the two earlier officers - "Esquires of the Household" and the "Knights of the Body". The duties of these gentlemen consisted primarily in giving company to the sovereign and in dressing and undressing him, though they performed a varierty of chores. The gentlemen were assisted by the grooms of the privy chamber who, under the supervision of the gentlemen ushers, attended to the cleanliness of the rooms.

Both keen to eliminate William Brereton, Thomas Cromwell helped ensure that Dutton inherited a huge estate from a distant cousin to which William Brereton's allies (see below) had a better claim. Lawrence Dutton, the head of the senior branch of the family living in Dutton, had died and left no male heirs: however, Lawrence was survived by several sisters. He was buried at Norton Priory in 1527, as were many of his family in the senior Dutton line, who had been benefactors of Norton ever since its foundation. Subsequently there was a dispute between the sisters of Lawrence: Alice, Eleanor, Anne, Margaret and Isabel on one side and Piers Dutton, who was judged the next male heir, on the other. To resolve the suit (which lasted seven years) the Dutton land was settled to Piers Dutton, with some small portion of the other lands settled to the sisters of Lawrence. As heir at law Piers gained possession of the Lordships and lands of Dutton, Weston, Preston on the Hill, Bartington, Little Leigh, Ness in Wirral, Little Mouldsworth, Acton, Hapsford, and lands in Clifton, Dunham, Stoke, Picton, Halton, Thelwall, Onston, Middlewich, Stanthorne and Runcorn. The co-heirs were awarded Dutton lands in Kingsley, Norley, Cuddington, Barnton, Budworth, Whitley, Helsby, Frodsham and Chester.

Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the younger. See Cowper for more on the Cromwells and Chester.

Thomas Cromwell is believed by many historians to have engineered the downfall of Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn (c. 1501 – 19 May 1536) was Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 as the second wife of King Henry VIII. Henry's marriage to her, and her subsequent execution by beheading, made her a key figure in the political and religious upheaval that was the start of the English Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Thomas Boleyn, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Howard, and was educated in the Netherlands and France, largely as a maid of honour to Queen Claude of France. Anne returned to England in early 1522, to marry her Irish cousin James Butler, 9th Earl of Ormond; the marriage plans were broken off, and instead she secured a post at court as maid of honour to Henry VIII's wife, Catherine of Aragon (see Leche House for her rather dubious connection with Chester). Henry and Anne formally married on 25 January 1533, after a secret wedding on 14 November 1532 (William Brereton of Malpas was a witness). On 23 May 1533, newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer declared Henry and Catherine's marriage null and void. Anne was crowned Queen of England on 1 June 1533.

In 1535, King Henry VIII had crossed out other candidates suggested to him for sheriff of Cheshire, insisting Dutton was reappointed. Dutton put down a supposed pro-monastery rebellion, plundered the abbeys and had enemies murdered, boasting that he was above the law because he was so intimate with the king.

Norton Abbey

In fact Dutton undertook two attempts to have the abbot of Norton removed. Early in 1535 Dutton arrested the Abbot (Thomas Birkenhead), Robert Jannyns (the bailif of the abbey), two of the abbot's servants, Randal Brereton (the King's exchequer at Chester), John Hale (a Chester merchant) and "a stranger, a cunning smith". The charges were forging coins (a capital offence). William Brereton (of the Brereton branch of the family) reported the arrests, via a letter to Thomas Cromwell on the 3rd August 1535. The abbot and his associates were aquitted when Henry Broke (an informant) admitted to William Brereton's deputy sherrif that he had only repeated heresay evidence and Dutton's "star witness", a certain Piers Felday (himself a convicted forger) later revealed to William Brereton that he had been put up to it by Dutton. Felday did not survive long, he was snatched from Chester Castle and executed at Boughton while trying to denounce Dutton.

Thomas Dutton (1506/7-1581) last of the direct male line.

Dutton's second attempt to have the abbot of Norton removed came when the commissioners Combes and Bolles arrived to close Norton Abbey as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in October 1536. They faced opposition from around 300 local citizens who turned-up as Combes and Bolles were packing the jewels and goods of the abbey. The commissioners locked themselves in the tower and sent a letter to Sir Piers Dutton, who arrived in the middle of the night and arrested the abbot (again) and three (some say more) of his canons, committing them as "rebels" to the King's castle at Halton. Dutton then sent a report of the incident to Henry VIII. Sir Piers also managed to secure the ancient priory door which became the imposing entrance to his newly rebuilt home at Dutton Hall. King Henry was outraged that priests had attempted to stop his men from closing Norton Priory. On 19th October he demanded the abbot be hanged, disembowelled and then chopped into four pieces with his body parts displayed 'around the country' in a warrant written to Dutton and William Brereton (of Brereton) under dictation from King Henry to a secretary at Windsor. It is possible that Piers Dutton, who reported the "rebellion" (another capital offence) at Norton, was deliberately exaggerating the situation and provoking the King to further his own political goals. Intervention by the Earl of Derby, Sir William Brereton and others prevented the abbot being hanged. As the letter was addressed to both Dutton and Brereton, Brereton simply avoided Dutton. The Earl of Derby wrote to Dutton on the 20th October advising him that the Yorkshire rebels involved in the "Pilgrimage of Grace" had been scattered and as a consequence he should do nothing to "hurt or molest the commons" lest he spark further revolt.

Later Duttons

Sir Piers Dutton became High Sheriff of Cheshire on 22 November 1542 and died on 17 August 1545. The Dutton estate passed to his grandson John who married Elinour, daughter of Sir Hugh Claveley, of Eaton. The portrait shown above and often said to be Piers Dutton may well be John. John died in 1609 and his son Thomas inherited the estate. Thomas had two children. His son John was to be married at the tender age of 14, but was killed as he fell from a pony on his wedding day. He had married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Egerton, "whose father was the Lord Chancellor of England" (it was Thomas who was the Chancellor, so this story is suspect). Thomas Dutton’s second child was a girl named Elinour. At the age of 13 Elinour married Gilbert, the second Lord Gerard of Gerards Bromley. On her father’s death in 1614 she inherited the Dutton estate. She became a widow in 1622, and later married Robert Needham, 2nd Viscount Kilmorey. Lord Kilmorey died on the 12th September, 1653 at Dutton Hall. Elinour outlived her husband by twelve years. She died on the 12th March, 1665, the day after the death of her daughter Katherine. They were interred together in the Lady Chapel in Great Budworth Church. When the funeral cortege bearing lady Kilmorey and her daughter left Dutton, it brought down the curtain on 600 years of family life and tradition. Kilmorey left his mark in modern Hoole as lands belonging to his descendants became developed as Kilmorey Park and Shavington Avenue.

Dutton Hall prior to its 1935 relocation to Grinstead, Sussex, on the estate of John Arthur ("Lucky") Dewar (the whisky magnate).

The English antiquarian and historian Peter Leycester records the end of the Duttons, and his own relation to the family, as follows:

  • Elinour, sole Daughter and Heir of Thomas Dutton, married Gilbert Gerard, Son and Heir of Thomas Gerard, Lord Gerard of Gerards-Bromley in Staffordshire, 7 Jacobi, 1609, she being then but thirteen Years old: Gilbert was afterwards Sir Gilbert Gerard Knight of the Bath, 30 Maii 1610, at the Creation of Henry, eldest Son of King James, into the Title of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester: And after the death of Thomas Lord Gerard his Father, he was then Gilbert Lord Gerard 1618, and had Issue Dutton Lord Gerard; and Thomas who died in his Infancy:11 Also Alice, eldest Daughter, born in Chester 12 Junii, and Baptized 18 Junii, 1613. She married Roger Owen, Son and Heir of Sir William Owen of Cundor in Shopshire, who died 1660, and Alice his Wife after married Henry Heylyn of Oxfordshire, 1663, nephew to Dr. Peter Heylyn. Frances, second Daughter, married Robert Nedham, Son and Heir of Robert Viscount Kilmorey, by whom he had only one child, called Elinor, which died young, 1643. Frances, was Buried at Great Budworth, 25 Maii 1636. She died in Child-bed: And Elizabeth, third Daughter, born at Gerards-Bromley in Staffordshire, Anno Christi 1620. married Peter Leycester of Nether-Tabley in Cheshire, Esquire, 6 Novembris, 1642, afterwards Sir Peter Leycester Baronet 1660, the Author of this Book. After the Death of Gilbert Lord Gerard who died 1622, Elinour his Lady married Robert Nedham of Shenton in Shropshire, Viscount Kilmorey in Ireland: She was second Wife of Robert, and had Issue by him Charles Nedham, afterwards Lord Kilmorey, who died at London 1660. George, second Son, died at Chester without Issue 1644. Thomas Nedham third Son, now living 1669. Arthur, another Son, died an infant, over-laid by his nurse: Anne died in her Infancy: Elinour first married Peter Warburton, Heir to Arley Estate, 1638. She was then but eleven years old: But Peter dying without Issue, and under Age, of the Small Pox, at Oxford, Anno 1641, she married afterwards John Lord Byron of Newstede in Nottinghamshire, Anno 1644, then Governor of Chester, who died in France, without any Issue by her, Anno, 1652. This Elinour (a Person of such comely Carriage and Presence, Handsomness, sweet Disposition, Honour, and general Repute in the World, that she hath scarce left her Equal behind) died at Chester the twenty sixth day of January, 1663, about the Age of thirty six Years, and was Buried in Trinity Church in that City. Susan, third Daughter, married Richard Scriven of Frodsley in Shropshire, Esquire, 1652. She died in August 1667, at Frodsley. Katharine, the fourth Daughter, died unmarried at Dutton, 11 Martii being Sunday, 1665. Mary, fifth Daughter, now living, and unmarried 1669. Penelope, sixth Daughter, married Randall Egerton of Betley In Staffordshire, Esquire, 1653. Dorothy seventh Daughter, died unmarried at London in June, 1669. And Elizabeth, youngest Daughter, now living, and unmarried, 1669. Robert Viscount Kilmorey, died at Dutton 12 Septembris, 1653. So that the Lady Elinour Kilmorey survived both her Husbands; in whose Custody Hudard's Sword, as Tradition hath it, now remains, whereof I made mention in the beginning. This Lady Elinour died at Dutton the twelfth day of March, 1655, aged sixty-nine Years; and her Daughter Katharine also dying at Dutton the day before, were both Interred at Great Budworth together on the Fryday following, being the sixteenth day of March, 1665. So ended the Family of Dutton of Dutton.

Dutton Hall

The hall was built around 1150 by Sir Geoffrey de Dutton and at one time formed part of a larger quadrangular structure. It was subsequently rebuilt several times following its partial destruction by warfare. Oliver Cromwell ordered it rebuilt when his roundheads wreaked havoc upon it during the English Civil War in the 1640s. In describing Dutton Hall, Peter Leycester, baronet, wrote the following in his "Leycester's Historical Antiquities," published in 1673:

  • "The Mannor-house of Dutton is well seated, and hath great store of meadowing by the River [Weaver] side belonging to the Demain, which is accounted the largest and best Demain within our County, comprehending 1400 Statute Acres by Survey. This House standeth upon a pleasant Prospect to the opposite Hills of the Forest; and hath in it an ancient Chappel built first by Sir Thomas Dutton towards the end of Henry the Third's Reign; unto whom Roger de Lincoln then Prior of Norton, and the Convent there, did grant liberam cantariam in Capellis suis de Dutton & Weston infra Limites Parochiarum nos- trarum de Budworth & de Runcorne; id est Free liberty of Reading Divine Service, or Singing the same; so as the Mother-Churches receive no detriment either in their greater or lesser Tythes. That of Weston is long since vanished but this Chappel at Dutton yet remains, and is now a Domestick Chappel within the Mannor-House of Dutton, unto which Sir Piers Dutton, of Hatton, after he was adjudged next Heir Male to the Lands of Dutton by the Award of Henry the Eighth, did annex his new Buildings at Dutton, Anno Domini 1539, as appears by the Inscription round about the Hall of Dutton yet extant adjoining those unto the Chappel and so making it as one continued Building; before which time the old House stood a little distance from the Chappel aforesaid."

Much of the Hall built by Sir Piers Dutton was demolished in the 18th and 19th centuries. What remained became a farmhouse, the home of a succession of tenant farmers. In 1935, what remained of the house was dismantled stone by stone and beam by beam, each carefully numbered, hauled by steam wagon to Sussex and reassembled on the estate of John Arthur ("Lucky") Dewar (the whisky magnate) in East Grinstead where it became a part of Dutton-Homestall Manor. At the present time it is part of the Stoke Brunswick School in Ashurst Wood, just south of Grinstead. The original site of the hall in Dutton, Cheshire, is now occupied by a stud farm.

A later Sir William Brereton (13 September 1604 – 7 April 1661) was involved in the Civil War, commanding the Parliamentary forces besieging Chester.

The other William Brereton

William Brereton (c. 1487 – 17 May 1536), the son of a Cheshire landowner who was also the chamberlain of Chester, was a Groom of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII. In May 1536, Brereton, the queen's brother, George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston and a musician, Mark Smeaton, were tried and executed for treason and adultery with Anne Boleyn, the king's second wife. Many historians are now of the opinion that Anne Boleyn, Brereton and their co-accused were innocent. This was not the same William Brereton who was the enemy of Piers Dutton in the Norton Priory business, although the two are often confused in the literature.

Early Life

Brereton, born between 1487 and 1490, was the seventh son of Sir Randle Brereton of Ipstones, Shocklach, and Malpas, Knight Chamberlain of Chester, knight banneret and "knight of the body" of Henry VII. His mother was Eleanor, daughter of Piers Dutton of Halton, Cheshire (father of the Piers Dutton mentioned above and hence a nephew). Along with three of his brothers, William entered royal service. There were many Cheshiremen in the household of the early Tudors, several Breretons among them, but given his own record, Sir Randle would have needed little help in putting a son of his to royal service. Indeed, no fewer than four of his sons obtained posts in the household, not only William, but the third son Peter, as a royal chaplain, the fourth son, Roger, as a sewer of the chamber and the youngest, Urian, who, like William, became a groom. By 1521 (under Henry VIII) William Brereton was a groom of the king's chamber, and from 1524, groom of the privy chamber.

The chance to exert on the great some influence of a negative and malicious kind, and five pounds a year, was not enough to make gentlemen compete eagerly for a post where menial tasks such as warming the royal shirt were relieved by running errands and playing games. The real advantage for a groom or a gentleman of the privy chamber was the contact he enjoyed with the king and the consequent possibility of obtaining benefits, not simply for himself but for his friends and clients.

In 1529, Brereton married Elizabeth, daughter of Charles Somerset, 1st Earl of Worcester, widow of Sir John Savage (III), and second cousin to Henry VIII (albeit illegitimate). He and Elizabeth had two sons: Henry Brereton and Thomas Brereton. Elizabeth's first husband was the grandson of the Sir John Savage (I), who had been a commander under Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. When the grandson had fallen into debt, and was also being held in the Tower for murder, all his lands were forfeited to the crown, and Brereton, as the king's man in Cheshire, was granted jurisdiction over them. After Sir John Savage (III)'s death, Brereton's marriage to his widow established a family relationship with the king and thus further cemented his position as a royal servant.

Getting Rich / Making Enemies

William Brereton's ability to manipulate the favour of the king is amply demonstrated by his remarkable success in securing offices of profit under the crown and of avoiding serious censure for crimes. In 1518, he had been called before the council on charges of:

  • "mayntenaunce of murderers, theves and misruled persons and bering of ill factes and dedes."

Specifically, a pair of men who had murdered another while playing bowls. One of the killers was a relative of Brereton's, and the other was one of his servants. Brereton was accused of obstructing the justice sought by the dead man's family. Brereton was assessed a fine of five hundred marks for his actions, but kept his office and position. In 1523 he was granted custody of the records of Cheshire and Flint, and for the next eight or ten years the flow of honours was continuous. In 1525 the reversion of the stewardship of Longdendale, in 1526 the post of serjeant of the peace in Bromfield and Yale, and in 1527 the other offices of that lordship and control of the adjacent lordship of Chirk came to Brereton. The same year brought the reversion of the posts of escheator of the county palatine and ranger of the Forest of Delamere. The keepership of Merseley Park and the post of sheriff of Merioneth in fee were acquired in 1528. At various unrecorded dates, probably in the late 1520s, William Brereton secured life appointment as sheriff of Flint, steward and controller of Halton and constable of Chester castle, while 1530 brought the pinnacle of his success in North Wales and the county palatine when, on the death of his father, he succeeded as chamberlain of Chester. And as a final cherry on the cake came the appointment, after the king's breach with Queen Catherine, as receiver-general to the Dowager Princess of Wales in Cheshire and Flint. Brereton's array of local lands and offices made him the dominant political figure in Cheshire by the mid 1530's.

These and other honours eventually brought him more than £10,000 a year. However, he wielded power ruthlessly, on one occasion, in 1534, engineering the judicial murder of John ap Gryffith Eyton. Eyton had complained that Brereton was complicit in several offences, including a murder by one of Brereton's servants and his release of a monk of Valle Crucis Abbey arrested for treason, but the real ground of Eyton's attack on Brereton (which might be thought to reflect as much or more on Eyton's role as William's lieutenant) appears in the account of two other killings, the one of Eyton's uncle William Edwardes, an ex-soldier and for thirty-four years constable of Chirk, and the other of Henry Eyton, 'a true harmeless man' related also to the plaintiff. Henry's murderers 'walk at pleasure in harness after the manner and facion of warre', and when the murdered man's aged father complained, William Brereton's deputy at the Holt Randolph Lloyd incarcerated him for six months. The final straw came with the murder of William Hanmer at Bromfield, when Lloyd and John Puleston conspired to put the blame on John Eyton, imprisoning a first jury which refused to cooperate and then empanelling a second jury, half of Brereton's servants and half of his bondmen. Despite attempts by Thomas Cromwell to save him, Eyton was found guilty and hanged at Holt. Not for nothing did the English writer George Cavendish summarize Brereton thirty years later with the lines:

  • “Although in office I thought myself strong / Yet here is mine end for ministering wrong.”

There was apparently an enduring faction struggle in Tudor Cheshire between the various Brereton clans and the Dutton family. In 1538, Bishop Roland Lee complained to Cromwell that the Brereton-Dutton feud "was destroying all order in the county". The protagonists were then Sir William Brereton of Brereton, the deputy-chamberlain, and Sir Piers Dutton of Halton, but thirty years earlier Dutton had been quarrelling with Sir Randolph Brereton, a quarrel which had ranged behind the chamberlain the Savage family, Sir William Pole, Richard and William Bone and the abbot of St Werburgh's. William Brereton complained that Sir Piers Dutton was, in 1531, impeding his duties as steward of Halton. Brereton was the one who gave Urian the greyhound to Anne Boleyn, and named the dog after one of his brothers. Urian was the dog which escaped its keepers while the court was on progress and ripped out the throat of a cow grazing beside the road. Henry VIII's accounts record compensating the owner of the cow.

It seems likely that Thomas Cromwell felt that Brereton was getting far too powerful and impeding the adsorbtion of Cheshire into the rest of the national political system. However, an opportunity to dispose of Brereton was soon to present itself.

The Boleyn Trial

In May 1536, Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery with Mark Smeaton, a musician of the royal household, and the courtiers Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, William Brereton as well as her brother, George Boleyn, Viscount Rochford, all of the privy chamber. The king's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, "authorised and commissioned by the king," masterminded the proceedings against the queen and her co-accused. The allegation against Brereton, who had been arrested on 4 May at dawn, was that Anne solicited him on 16 November 1533, and "misconduct" took place on 27 November at Greenwich and on 8th December at Hampton Court. His whereabouts in November are unknown, but for the alleged December offence there is a cast-iron alibi. Historian Eric Ives argues that Cromwell added Brereton to the plot against Anne to end the troubles he was causing in the Welsh Marches, and to reorganise (and centralise) the local government of this area. Sir Anthony Browne, assisting Cromwell in the “investigation,” had his own fish to fry in this matter. He was a religious conservative who championed the cause of Princess Mary. He had disputed with Brereton over ownership of some land. The foreman of the jury owed Brereton a small fortune - a debt which would vanish if he just so happened to be found guilty.

The trials of William Brereton, Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, and Mark Smeaton took place at Westminster Hall on 12 May. They were charged with high treason against the king, adultery with the queen and plotting the king's death. The Crown left nothing to chance to secure convictions. The Middlesex grand jury which took the lead had Thomas More's son-in-law as its foreman; every petty juror was 'a royal servant or hostile to Anne Boleyn or committed to Thomas Cromwell. Having been found guilty, they were all sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The queen and her brother were tried separately on 15 May within the Tower.

On 17 May, William Brereton, George Boleyn (Anne's brother and Viscount Rochford), Henry Norris (groom of the stool), Sir Francis Weston and Mark Smeaton, were led from the Tower to a scaffold on Tower Hill. George Constantyne, an eyewitness to their executions, recorded their last words. Brereton's words as he faced the executioner's axe, "The cause whereof I die, judge not. But if you judge, judge the best," may be interpreted as a cautious declaration of his innocence which would avoid the forfeiture of his estates. An indication of his wife's continued trust in her husband is provided by her bequest to her son nine years later: "one bracelet of gold, the which was the last token his father sent me."


Cromwell had already appointed Dutton to Cheshire offices, which Brereton of Malpas had held. When Brereton was executed in May 1536 Dutton took over even more of his nephew’s offices and Cromwell had a man in charge of once fiercely independent Cheshire who would do anything he wanted. Cromwell's statute of 1536 continued the process of laying the Marcher lordships to rest barely a month before the convenient death of William Brereton of Malpas. The first 'Act of Union', a title not used until the early 20th century, was passed in 1536. The March was divided into seven counties: Denbigh, Flint, Montgomery, Radnor, Brecon, Monmouth, Glamorgan and Pembroke. Thus ended the distinction between the principality and the March. The law of England was to be the only law of Wales and, to administer it, justices of the peace were appointed in every county. Wales was to be represented in parliament by 26 members. Despite the efforts of Thomas Cromwell and others and the imposition of the assizes on Cheshire, power still remained in the hands of local magnates for many years (see: Amicia), and there is something to be said for the theory that Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries and re-distribution of their lands in some ways made the problem worse by creating a class of land-owning genrty who held land in their own right rather than through royal favour.

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