BLAGGE, George (1512/13-51), of Westminster, Mdx. and Dartford, Kent.
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Family and Education
Chief steward and bailiff, manor of Maidstone, Kent 1544-d.; comptroller of petty custom, port of London 1546-d.; esquire of the body by 1547; j.p. Kent 1547-d.; commr. relief. Kent and Mdx. 1550.3
On his death in 1522 Sir Robert Blagge, a baron of the Exchequer, left to the use of his younger son George all his lands in Somerset and Bristol, copy-hold lands at Holloway, Middlesex, and two houses in Dartford. The elder son inherited Sir Robert Blagge’s copyhold lands in Westminster, but George, who was then living with his mother in London, moved there later, for in 1546 he was officially described as George Blagge of Westminster. In 1550 he was granted a dissolved chantry in Dartford and other property in Kent.4
Blagge travelled in France and Germany in the winter of 1535-6, probably with Sir Thomas Wyatt I. He was a close friend of Wyatt and accompanied him to Spain and France when Wyatt was appointed ambassador to the Emperor in 1537, returning from Toledo in February 1539 with despatches from Wyatt to Henry VIII. When Wyatt, early in 1541, had to defend himself against charges of misconduct of his embassy, he named Blagge as one who could testify to his innocence. Wyatt died in 1542 and some 18 months later the stewardship of Maidstone, which he had held, was granted to Blagge, who was described as the King’s servant.5
After the death of Wyatt Blagge attached himself to the Earl of Surrey, but seems never to have trusted overmuch in his judgment. When Surrey and the younger Thomas Wyatt (Sir Thomas Wyatt II) rioted in London one night in February 1543, Blagge rebuked Surrey for it the next day. More seriously, discussing the succession problem with him in 1545, Blagge (so he said afterwards) told him that if his father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, were to rule Prince Edward after the King’s death, the boy would be but evil taught, and ‘rather than it should come to pass that the prince should be under the government of your father or you, I would bide the adventure to thrust this dagger in you’. But in 1543 he accompanied Surrey to the siege of Landrecy, where he narrowly escaped death when inspecting a forward trench with (Sir) George Carew, and was apostrophized as ‘my Blagge’ in one of Surrey’s poems.6
In 1546 Blagge was suddenly arrested on a charge of heresy. He was walking in St. Paul’s after the sermon on Sunday, 9 May, when—so he declared—he was tricked into denying the efficacy of the mass. At once he was sent for by Chancellor Wriothesley and the next day was taken to Newgate prison, tried at Guildhall, where Sir Hugh Calverley and Edward Littleton testified against him, and condemned to be burned on the following Wednesday. According to Foxe, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, the lord privy seal then appealed to the King, who hearing for the first time of this sentence on one of his servants was ‘sore offended’ and ordered Wriothesley to draw up a pardon for Blagge. Six months later Blagge was appointed comptroller of the petty custom in the port of London.7
Blagge had been elected to Parliament by the borough of Bedford in 1545, perhaps owing his return to his fellow-courtier Sir Francis Bryan who had also been a friend of Wyatt. At the time of his arrest, therefore, he was a Member, although Parliament not being then in session, nor about to sit, no question of privilege could arise. On 30 Oct. 1547 he was elected for the city of Westminster, possibly with the support of the Protector Somerset with whom he had a few weeks earlier been campaigning in Scotland. During the expedition against the Scots, Blagge was knighted by the Protector.8
In the Parliament of 1547 Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, tried to collect supporters for his attempt to limit the powers of the Protector. Blagge, examined on this matter in 1548, related a conversation he had had with Seymour:
The Lord Admiral ... said unto me, ‘Here is gear shall come amongst you, my masters of the Nether House, shortly’. ‘What is that, my Lord?’ said I. ‘Marry’, said he, ‘requests to have the King better ordered, and not kept close that no man may see him’, and so entered with sundry mislikings of my Lord Protector’s proceedings touching the bringing up of the King’s Majesty ... I said, ‘Who shall put this into the House?’ ‘Myself’, said he. ‘Why then’, said I, ‘you make no longer reckoning of your brother’s friendship if you propose to go this way to work’.
Blagge’s testimony was used in evidence against the admiral, and the Act of attainder of the following session (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.18) accused Seymour of having ‘laboured, stirred and moved’ some of both Houses to support a bill which he intended to introduce himself in both the Commons and the Lords. Blagge was also examined as a witness against Bishop Gardiner in 1551, and deposed that he and others were offended by a sermon on the eucharist preached by Gardiner three years earlier.9
Although Blagge had famous literary friends in Wyatt and Surrey and collected their poems, he was himself a poor poet. The half dozen of his poems which survive include one written while he expected ‘this life to leave through fire at Smithfield’, two on Catherine Parr and Jane Seymour and a savage epitaph on Wriothesley:
Picture of pride; of papistry the plat:
In whom Treason, as in a throne did sit;
With ireful eye, aye glearing like a cat,
Killing by spite whom he thought good to hit.
This dog is dead ...
Yet to his friends Sir George Blagge was ‘gentle Blagge’, and his death in 1551 was a great loss to the court. Many died then of the sweating sickness, and Blagge may have been one of them: he died at Stanmore on 17 June, without making a will, leaving a two year-old son as his heir. His widow married Richard Goodrich, who had obtained a separation from his first wife.10