Tuesday, January 30, 2007

William Morgan (d.1569) (10)

Perhaps the 'Jolly Roger' is not the ideal image for William Morgan of Tredegar, and, yes, I probably should have saved it for when I got to Sir Henry Morgan, but, it's there now, and it isn't totally inappropriate.

William succeeded to Tredegar in 1518. The Tudors were by this time reorganising the political structure in Wales and the Morgans of Tredegar (who had proved themselves staunch Tudor supporters - give or take a little bit of embezzelment) gained greatly as a result. William owned Tredegar during the time of the Act of Union between England and Wales and the Reformation. The Reformation allowed the Llantarnum branch of the family to purchase the Cistercian Abbey and although William himself did not obviously benefit from the dissolution of the monasteries, the seeds had been sewn for future advancement.

The local power of the Morgan family had reached new heights. As the historian Kyrle Fletcher states: "The Squire of Tredegar was like a king in a country." In the Great Hall (probably the present day 'Servant's Hall') lay the Justice Chair, where William would sit and pass judgement on vagabonds brought up before him. If the authorities were concerned about a local matter they would often first approach Tredegar about it. A good example of this is the plight of the Bristol merchants. They were getting heartily sick of their ships being attacked by pirates as soon as they left Bristol. The finger of suspicion pointed directly at Newport, where they suspected the pirates were being harboured. The Privy Council began an investigation. When their men turned up at Tredegar House to ask the Squire questions they found William to be uncooperative. This isn't too surprising. William had a hand in the piracy.

With William getting a fat share of the pirate's Bristolian haul, with the respectability of being an executive officer of the Tudor crown (he served as MP for the County of Monmouth between 1555-1558 and Sheriff in 1565), and with hawks being kept in Tredegar Park for sport, life was good for the Morgans of Tredegar. Perhaps the one fly in this rich ointment came in William's family life. He had married Catherine Bodenham, the daughter and heiress of the wealthy Thomas Bodenham from Hereford, but the marriage produced no children, and William became unfaithful to his wife. William had fathered an illegitimate son from one of his dalliances who went by the name of John Morgan. He was set up at the Cross House in Newport, and William appears to have looked out for his son's interests above all things.

With no legitimate children of his own, the legal heir to the Tredegar Estate on the death of William was to be his cousin Rowland. Rowland was a Roman Catholic, and using this pretext, William arranged for the estate to bypass his cousin, and go instead to William's (illegitimate) grandson, Miles Morgan, the son of John of the Cross House. William died in 1569 and the scene was set for a legal battle and much uncertainty in the years to come.

William Morgan (d.1569)
Son of John Morgan of Tredegar and Lettice Herbert
On Throne when at Tredegar: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I
Married: Catherine Bodenham of Co. Hereford
No Legitimate Issue (but had a son, John Morgan of the Cross House, Newport)

Click to view previous chapters in this series:

9. John Morgan d. 1513
8. Sir Morgan ap John d. c1504
7. Sir John Morgan d. c1492
6. Ieuan ap Llywelyn ap Morgan
5. Llywelyn ap Morgan (lost Tredegar in 1402)
4. Morgan ap Llywelyn d. c1384
3. Ifor Hael of Gwern y Cleppa
2. Llywelyn ap Ifor and Angharad
1. Sir Morgan ap Maredudd d. c1331

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