Thomas Culpeper Esquire of Bedgebery, the Elder, is my 2nd cousin 16x removed, he was a distant cousin of Queen Catherine Howard and the eldest brother of his father’s two marriages, The second marriage gave us the ill-fated Thomas Culpeper ‘the Younger’, (lover of Queen Catherine) who was tortured and executed, and his head placed on London Bridge as a warning to others.
This Last Will and Testament of Thomas Culpeper Esquire of Bedgebery, the elder – was proved on 20 October 1558, less than a month before Queen Mary I of England died. Making this one of the last of only a handful of Wills proved under a Catholic Monarch.
Thomas clearly takes pride in his religion and perhaps even concern for its future in England, he quotes
To be buried in the chapell ouer agayn where that my graundefather lieth wt in the parish church of Gowdehust [Goudhurst] [or where it please God] according to the laudable custom and vsage that shal then fortune to be had wt in this Realme of England in the Catholicke Churche.
Usually a testator would have no need to point out his religious denomination, but England during this time was fighting a battle of Religion which began in 1534 and would continue right into the reign of King James I, until England became more tolerant for change.
THOMAS CULPEPER, Will 6 August 1557
Written wt myn owne hande 6 August 1557 I THOMAS CULPEPER of Bedgebery in Kent esquier. To be buried in the chapell ouer agayn where that my graundefather lieth wt in the parish church of Gowdehust [Goudhurst] [or where it please God] according to the laudable custom and vsage that shal then fortune to be had wt in this Realme of England in the Catholicke Churche.
To Ellen my welbeloved wiffe all her apparell, jewelles &e which she hath heretofore at any tyme vsed to ware. Also all my corne and grayne and thone half of all the beofes and muttons and all my beere, wynes, all other kynde of provision at Begebery and Maytam. My wief to keep the partes of my three sonnes, George, Water and Ponyngs Colepepper till they come to 21.
Vnto my said wif my twoo dosenne of siluer plates my twoo white siluer saltes my white basinne and ewer of siluer my littill white cupp off siluer and to Ponnyngs Colepepper his cup, salte and spones that his three godfathers and godmother gave him.
Also to my said wife hir pillion, geldinge and nagge or mare that she vsithe to ryde on. To my said wif and to George, Water, and Ponyngs Colepepper our sonnes £100 egallie to be devided.
All other my cattalles, goods &e., my father, my mothers willes and myn being performed I doo geve unto Alexaunder Culpepper my eldest sonne and executor.
Ouerseers Ellen Culpepper my welbeloved wif, Sr. John baker, Knight, my most derest brother Sr. George Harper and my brother in law Maister George Vane.
To the poor of Gowdeherst, Cranbroke, Hawkeherst, Horsmonden, Lambherst, Marden, Stapleherst, Benenden and Rowenden everye of thies parrishes 20s.
And as concerning my manors, lands &e in Kent, Sussex or elswhere, whereas I have made severall feoffamentes to thuse of my sonnes severally in tayle wt diverse remaynders my will is that all other my mannors &e I will and lymyte to Alexaunder Culpepper my eldest sonne and theirs males of his bodye and for lacke to George C. my sonne and for lacke thenne to Water C. and then to Ponyngs C. and then to theires males of my body and to my right heires.
Codicill: Will my brother George Harper and my brother Vane wt my sonne Alexander be my executors.
I will my brother Harper shalhave my sorrell horse and my brother Fane another at his awne choyse and either of them £40 for their paynes taking and Henry Fane my blacke horse to make hym a horsman.
Proved: 20 October 1558 by Alexander Culpeper executor. (P.C.C. 60 Noodes)