James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye

Born: c. 1395

Died: July 4, 1450

City of London, London, England (Age c. 55)

Saye in History

James Fiennes was the epitome of a loyal Lancastrian servant and would ultimately pay the price for being such. The future Lord Saye and Sele first appears to have made an impact when he participated in Henry V's Agincourt campaign in 1415. He then took part in the Norman battles and sieges throughout the reign of Henry V and into the early reign of his successor, Henry VI. Through these services, and with the help of his elder brother Roger, Fiennes was able to build up a name for himself and held an extremely large number of positions during Henry VI's reign. He was present at Henry's coronation in Paris in 1430 and continued to establish his power base in Kent throughout the 1430s. By 1440, Fiennes was one of the more wealthy and powerful men in England, and his star would only soar higher in the following decade.

He took part in the founding of Kings and Eton colleges and was frequently the recipient of lands and titles from the crown. Controversy arose around Fiennes in 1447 after the arrest and subsequent death of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the king's uncle. Many contemporaries claim that Fiennes played a part in the murder of Gloucester, perpetrated by William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk and by far the most influential of Henry VI's advisers by this point. It is unlikely, however, that Gloucester was murdered, and the rumors were most likely spread by opponents of Suffolk. Whatever the case may be, both Suffolk and Fiennes stood to benefit from Gloucester's death. This is proven by the fact that Fiennes was given Gloucester's former office of Warden of the Cinque Ports and was created Baron Saye and Sele later that year, in addition to being made chamberlain of the royal household. The barony of Saye had been in his family many years previously, and Fienne's elder brother actually held a better claim to the title. Fiennes took the title Lord Sele from a manor he owned in Sevenoaks. To further his rapid ascent of power, Saye was awarded the office of Lord Treasurer in 1449. Unfortunately, Saye was about to fall from power at a much quicker pace than he rose to it, beginning with the downfall, exile and eventual murder of Suffolk in 1450.

As a staunch supporter of Suffolk, Saye shared a large portion of the blame for the recent English defeats in France and for the economic problems that went with them. When Jack Cade's rebellion broke out later in 1450, Saye was arrested by the royal guard and imprisoned in the tower. When the rebels reached London, they demanded that Saye personally be brought before them. He requested that he be tried for his supposed crimes, a request that only further enraged the rebels, and he was brought out to the street and beheaded. As one last insult to a man who dedicated his life to serving the crown, the heads of he and his son-in-law, William Crowmer, Sheriff of Kent (who was also executed), were made to kiss on the London streets. Being a man who became as powerful as Lord Saye, one is expected to make a number of unpopular decisions. Unfortunately, Saye paid the ultimate price for putting them into practice.

Saye in Shakespeare

Appears in: Henry VI, Part 2

Lord Saye appears briefly within Act 4 of 2 Henry VI, one that is almost completely dedicated to the rebellion of Jack Cade (which was instigated, contrary to history, by the Duke of York). When the rebellion breaks out, Saye is informed that the rebels are looking for him personally, and he is indeed captured by them. Despite Saye's pleadings to Cade and the rebels to spare his life, he, along with his son-in-law, James Cromer, are beheaded. Their heads are then paraded through the streets of London, where they are made to kiss.



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