Born c.1463 Died 1497
James Tuchet was the second, but eldest surviving son of John Tuchet, 6th Baron Audley and his wife Anne Echingham. Although his grandfather the 5th Baron was a Lancastrian who was killed fighting at the battle of Blore Heath in 1459, his father had soon afterwards become a supporter of the Yorkist Edward IV. Indeed James's elder brother, Edward was a godson of Edward IV and later became a member of the household of Edward, Prince of Wales before his death in 1478, whilst his younger brother John was married to an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV, and James himself was created a knight of the Bath in 1475.
However despite the fact that his father became Lord Treasurer to Richard III in 1484, the family appears to have avoided any involvement in the battle of Bosworth and thus escaped any retribution when Henry Tudor was crowned as Henry VII. In fact the Tuchets appeared to have happily accepted the new Tudor regime and James subsequently appeared at the baptism of Prince Arthur in 1486, when he helped to bear the child's train, and then fought on behalf of Henry at the battle of Stoke on the 16th June 1487.
James duly inherited the title of Baron Audley at his father's death on the 6th September 1490 and became a Justice of the Peace shortly afterwards. He attended the parliaments of 1491, 1495, and 1497, took part in the military expedition to France in 1492, and was appointed as a member of the royal vanguard to serve in the planned campaign against James IV of Scotland in 1497. James therefore appeared as a perfectly loyal supporter of the Tudor regime.
However it was in order to pay for the upcoming war with Scotland that the government decided to levy some new taxes. The resentment caused by these financial demands was at least one of the factors that inspired the outbreak of a rebellion in Cornwall in May 1497, which was led by Michael Joseph the Blacksmith (an Gof), who was soon joined by a Bodmin lawyer named Thomas Flamank, and then by the Baron Audley himself. The rebels marched into Somerset and established their headquarters at Wells. There they attempted to secure further support, but having failed to do so, marched on London, arriving at Blackheath on the 16th June 1497 with a force of between 8,000 and 10,000 men. On the next day the rebels faced the very army originally raised for the Scottish campaign at the battle of Blackheath where they were "cut to pieces and put to flight" according to Francis Bacon, whilst all three of the rebel leaders were captured.
In James's case he was tried at Whitehall on the 27th June where he was very naturally found guilty of treason. He then spent the night in Newgate Prison before being marched through London on the following day, wearing a paper surcoat featuring his coat of arms cut to shreds, on his way to Tower Hill where he was executed, with his remains then buried at Blackfriars Church in Ludgate. In one sense he got off rather lightly, since as a peer he was only beheaded; as commoners both Michael An Gof and Thomas Flamank were taken to Tyburn where they suffered the full rigours of being hanged, drawn, and quartered.
It has have never been entirely clear as to why James Audley.
Suggestions that he did so out of poverty have been dismissed as unfounded, but he may well have been annoyed at the favouritism shown by the king towards John Cheyne, Baron Cheyne in the disbursement of local offices. However given the connections that existed between the Tuchet family and the prior regime of Edward IV, it is possible that James was attempting to engineer a coup in favour of either Perkin Warbeck (who was supposed to be Richard, Duke of York) or Edward, Earl of Warwick, who was otherwise the nearest Yorkist claimant for the throne. He may well have done so in the belief that success would transform the family's fortunes, although as events proved, this proved to be something of a miscalculation.
James Tuchet's first wife was Margaret Dayrell who was the mother of his only son and heir John, who was later was restored in 1512, but the price demanded was so high that he was later forced to sale much of the family lands in 1535 to clear his debts. James's second wife was Joan Bourchier, daughter of Fulk Bourchier, 10th Baron FitzWarin. Left in poverty by her husband's treason, she was so impoverished by 1510 that she was forced to seek the support of her mother-in-law. Joan was later determined to have gone insane in 1515, and later died in 1532.
- Ian Arthurson, ‘Tuchet, James, seventh Baron Audley (c.1463–1497)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)