On April 22, 1587, pursuant to an order of Master Clement Colemore, Doctor of Laws, Thomas King, notary public, took statements from several “humbler witnesses” upon the marriage of Sir Thomas Gray of Chillingham, Constable of Morpeth Castle, and the Lady Katherine Neville.
The case was brought in the ecclesiastical court of Durham by John Rodham, but who he was and why he disputed the validity of the marriage, we do not know. The problem appears to have been that the marriage was held in private and they then lived apart for about a year, she in London and he in Northumberland.
The witnesses, all in some way dependent upon Sir Thomas, were at pains to say how public the wedding was.
It took place at a house called Battersby Manor, near Darlington. This may seem very private to us, but perhaps wasn’t. Even a great house might have connecting rooms, rather than corridors, and be full of servants and poor relations passing to and fro.
The first was Arthur Gray, gent, aged about 25. He had known Sir Thomas since childhood, and Lady Katherine for three years.
“He saith that this examinate haith divers tymes, before the solemnizacion of the marriag... hard the said Sir Thomas and Lady Katherine, with others their friends, conferre of matrimonie to be had betwixt them two; and, namely, about halfe a yere before the said solemnization, the said Sr. Thomas Gray and Katherine Ladie Nevell, now Ladie Gray, did in a gallerie, within the said manor or place of Battersby, in the presence of Roger Graie and this examinate, and Mr Christofer Vavisour, Mrs Breerton and Mrs Marie Thwaites two of my Ladie Constable hir gentlewomen, contract themselves togither in lawfull matrimony; and the said Sr. Thomas toke the said Lady Katherine to his wife, and she likewise toke him to hir husband.”
Calling Lady Katherine ‘my Ladie Constable’ was only like calling a mayor’s wife Lady Mayoress, while calling her two gentlewomen ‘Mrs’, i.e. ‘Mistress’, does not mean they were married.
The word ‘articulate’, below, means ‘as before’.
“He saith that (he) was present in a chamber within the manor, castle, place, or house, called Battersbey, articulate, the 7th day of November, in the yere of our Lord God one thowsand five hundreth fowerscore and five, betwixt the houres of six and nyne of the clock.
“And there did see Sr. Thomas Middleton, clerke, curat of Morpeth... publiquely and openly solemnize matrimonye betwixt the said Sr. Thomas Graie and Katherin Ladie Nevell, now Ladie Gray, according and after the order sett down in the booke of Common Prayer articulate; which boke the said curate had then before him, and red the words of marriag forth of the same, and used all such ceremonies of the marriadg as is there sett down.
“And the said Sir Thomas Graie and Ladie Katherine did repeete respectively the words of mariage... the doore of the said chamber being then open... for any person to resort thither; then and ther being present, and hearing and seing the premisses, the said Christofer Vavisour, gent., this examinate, William Maire, Christofer Ogle, one John (blank), servant to my Ladye Constable, and others.
“He saith that, since the solemnizacion of the mariag aforesaid (they) have contynually taken and reputed themselves for man and wif together, yet did they not contynually since that tyme cohabit together, for that the said Lady Katherine did remayne at London for the most part since the said mariag, until or about St Andrew daie last; and the said Sir Thomas Gray remained in Northumberland, since which tyme they have contynually cohabitted and dwelt togither as man and wife, and yet do.
“He verie well knoweth that the said Sir Thomas Gray and the said Lady Katherine his wife doe and have, since St Andrew day last or thereabout, nightly laid in one bed, as becometh man and wife. He is the natural brother of Sir Thomas Gray — Arthur Gray.”
“Thomas Middleton, clerk, curate of the church of Morpeth, aged about 40 years.
“He saith that he haith known the said Sir Thomas Gray for seven years and the said Katherine Lady Nevell, alias Gray, from the 7th Nov. 1585.
“He saith that this examinate, being requested by Sir Thomas Gray, did come to the manour or house of Battersbey articulate, on Satterday and there, at the request of the said Sir Thomas Gray and the said Katherine Ladye Nevell, now Ladie Gray, this examinate did, in a chamber within... openly and publiquelie solemnize matrimony betwixt (them) accordinge (to) the booke of Common Prayer... before which solemnizacion this examinate did aske the said Sir Thomas Gray if bannes of matrimony were openly published in there parish churches, and he answered, upon his creditt, that the same were thrise done openly, both in the church of Topclif in Yorkshiere, and in the church of Chillingham in Northumberland.
“(And that) about Januarie last, Sir Thomas Gray and the said Lady Katherine, now his wife, came from London into Northumberland, since which tyme this examinate knoweth they have contynually cohabited and dwelt together. — Thomas Mydleton, Clerke.”
Christopher Ogle, of Chillingham, gent, aged about 28, servant to Sir Thomas Gray, had known him for 16 years and Lady Neville for two. He confirmed what the previous witnesses had said.
William Maire, or Meyar, of Chillingham, gent, aged about 55 years, said that he “being then servant to my Lady Constable” was present.
James Smalshankes and Edward Standlay, parish clerk, both of Chillingham, confirmed that the banns had been read there by the curate, Sir John Graye.
It seems to have been a love match. He was 36 and a rising man, she about 20, the daughter of the attainted 6th Earl of Westmorland. She was probably not rich, but Queen Elizabeth would likely have seen to it that the young noblewoman was not reduced to absolute poverty.
Sir Thomas died in 1590; they had no children.