Nineteenth Generation

210. John FORTESCUE of Lordington Sussex28 was born in 1561. Weary of all the plottings, see below, they retired to St Omer where there was a school fro English Catholics.

About 1586, a Government informer reported his suspicions regarding re Blackfrairs House:

‘Now there dwells in it one that is a very inconformable man to her Majesty’s proceedings. It has sundry backdoors and bye-ways, and many secret vaults and corners. It has been in time past suspected, and searched for Papists, but no good done for want of knowledge of the backdoors and bye-ways of the dark corners.’ Whether the suggested daylight search was actually carried out is unknown. In 1589, a recusant from Norfolk, Edward Walpole, was licensed to visit Anne Bacon (Widow Blackwell’s daughter) there. About this time, the Blackfriars mansion came into the possession of Henry, ninth Earl of Northumberland, himself strongly suspected of papistry, and in 1590, the Gatehouse passed into the hands of Anne Bacon’s son Mathias. Bacon’s second tenant there was a Catholic named John Fortescue of Lordington, Sussex (his father, Sir Anthony Fortescue, was concerned in a conspiracy against Elizabeth in 1562; his mother was one of the Catholic Poles, related to Cardinal Pole)” (Mutschmann and Wentersdorf 136, 137).

From the Complete Shakespeare Encyclopedia re Blackfriars Gatehouse

But, rather more significantly, the document also records that previously the Gatehouse
had been ‘in the tenure of John Fortescue gent.; this was John Fortescue of Lordington, Sussex, whose uncle was Sir John Fortescue, Elizabeth’s Master of the Royal Wardrobe (the repository of royal costumery), just over the way from the Gatehouse, and for whom John the nephew seems to have worked in a minor capacity. Possibly relevantly, around this particular time, 1613, Sir John married Frances Stanley, daughter of the fiercely Catholic Sir Edward Stanley, cousin of Ferdinando and known shelterer of Catholic priests, and for whom, as we have seen, Shakespeare seems to have created the epitaphs for his and his father’s monuments at Tong. Lucy Percy, Frances’ mother, was the second daughter of Thomas, the very Catholic Earl of Northumberland. John Fortescue the nephew was a near overt Catholic, as was his wife Ellen, daughter of the recusant Ralph Henslowe of Boarhunt, Hampshire, a relative of the Earls of Southampton

During the 1590s, the height of the Topcliffe era, the Gatehouse was repeatedly reported for the
comings and goings of priests. In 1591, for instance: ‘Fennell the priest doth use to come very much to Mr John Fortescue his house.’ Richard Topcliffe, to his credit, warned John Fortescue and his uncle that they were courting trouble, culminating in a major raid one day in 1598, when John Fortescue was away, apparently due to a tip-off from an informer, one William Udall. . . . . Once again these ‘secret passages’ seem to have baffled the searchers, for no priests were found, and although under interrogation Ellen Fortescue and her two very attractive daughters (said to be ‘the fairest in London’), admitted they were Catholics but they vehemently denied harbouring any priests. This was a clear piece of equivocation if ever there was one since in a later autobiography Jesuit Oswald Greenway recorded how he visited the house the next day, only to be told there had indeed been two priests there, but these had used the hiding places to make their escape.

Ellen HENLOW of Barrald, Hants (private).

John FORTESCUE of Lordington Sussex and Ellen HENLOW of Barrald, Hants had the following children:



George FORTESCUE28 died in 1659. George Fortescue, Catholic essayist and poet, received part of his education at the English college at Douai, and also stayed at the English college in Rome (1609). he was Author of Feriae Academicae



Katherine FORTESCUE.



Elizabeth FORTESCUE.