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Walter Hungerford, 1st Baron Hungerford
His father died in 1522 when Sir Walter was nineteen, and soon thereafter Sir Walter was made a “squire of the body” to Henry VIII. In feudal times, the squire of the body was responsible for carrying his lord's arms and also assisted his lord in donning his armour. By Tudor times, the position was that of a close attendant to the King.
Sir Walter was married on three occasions. His first wife was Susan, daughter of Sir John Danvers of Dauntsey. They produced a son (Sir William Hungerford of Farleigh) and a daughter (Susan Hungerford).
Sir Walter's third wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Hussey, Lord Hussey whom he married in 1532. Elizabeth was a woman who allegedly endured remarkable abuse and brutality at the hands of her husband. in 1536, she was driven to appeal to Sir Thomas Cromwell for protection, claiming that she had been kept a prisoner at Sir Walter's estate at Farleigh for four years. Sir Walter also apparently attempted to divorce his wife, and she claimed that he even went so far as to attempt to poison her on a number of occasions. Cromwell ignored her plea, seeking to protect his friend.
Sir Walter and his third wife had two children, Sir Edward and Eleanor Hungerford.
In 1532, his father-in-law Sir John Hussey wrote to Thomas Cromwell recommending Sir Walter as Sheriff of Wiltshire, a position granted to him the following year.
Sir Walter proved to be valuable to Cromwell, who suggested to King Henry that he be rewarded. Accordingly, in 1536 Sir Walter was made Lord Hungerford of Heystesbury, with the right to sit in the House of Lords.
However, his favour at Court did not last long. He was arrested in 1540 along with his chaplain William Bird. Bird was accused of sympathising with the 'Pilgrimage of Grace', a large insurrection against King Henry in the north of England.
Sir Walter was charged with employing Bird in his house, knowing him to be a traitor. He was also charged with soliciting two others to use witchcraft in order to find the year of the King's death and the outcome of the northern uprising.
His patron, Cromwell also fell from power in this year, and it is likely that Sir Walter was arrested more as an ally of Cromwell than as a major participant in the uprising. With Cromwell's fall, Sir Walter's wife was free to pursue her vengeance and Sir Walter was also charged with “unnatural vice”, becoming the first person executed under the Buggery Act of 1533.
Both Sir Walter and Thomas Cromwell were beheaded on Tower Hill, next to each other, on 28 July 1540.
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