My Ancestor, Royal Servant Edmund Moody Saved the Life of Henry VIII and Changed History! 52 Ancestors, Week 16 – Should Be a Movie.

This week’s writing prompt fits quite well into the story of my ancestor Edmund Moody (aka Edmond Moodye), his life would very much make for an interesting historical, costume drama movie, or even a time-leaping Sci-Fi story!

My ancestor Edmund Moody was born about 1495 in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England, and died 15 September 1562 at Moulton, Suffolk, England. Not much is known about him prior to him saving Henry VIII’s life. We do know that he was the son of Edward Moody. For we find in the History of Hitchin, it states that, From Edward Moody, 1504, whose son twenty years after saved the great despoiler’s life when he fell head first into the Hiz, they received two quarters of malt. (1)

He was married, some say twice. The name of his wife is unproven, but she may have been named Anne. He had at least four sons.

Edmund Moody in The Tudors, Season 1, Episode 4.

He served as a royal footman in the retinue of Henry VIII. You probably get visions of footmen in later centuries similar to those found in Downton Abbey, or maybe of a footman that ran along the side of a royal carriage. But Edmund was a footman of the stable, a cadge-man, the lowest ranking servant of the hunt.

In 1525, Henry VIII, during a hawking excursion at Hitchin in Hertfordshire, attempted to leap over a clay marsh using a pole: the pole broke under Henry’s weight and Henry fell into the marsh, the clay of which closed over his head. Moody leapt into the marsh and pulled the king’s head up through the clay, thereby preventing Henry from drowning and saving his life.

These events are well chronicled by several sources, including the following:

In this yere the kyng folowyng of his hauke, lept over a diche beside Hychyn, with a polle and the polle brake, so that if one Edmond Mody, a foteman, had not lept into the water, and lift up his hed, whiche was fast in the clay, he had bene drouned: but God of his goodnes preserved him. (2)

Henry the Eighth, following his Hawk, leapt over a ditch with a pole, which broke; so that, if Edmund Moody (a Foot-man) had not leapt into the Water, and lift up the King’s Head, which stuck in the Clay, he had been drown‘d (This Foot-man was rewarded both with Means and Arms, speaking his Service done to his Prince). And the King lived to perform afterwards a Deed of grand Concern. (3)

Henry VIII, too, was a keen and active falconer. He suffered a bizarre accident when flying falcons at duck. As he leaped across a brook his vaulting-pole broke, pitching the king head-first into the mud. A quick thinking cadgeman – the lowest-ranking servant of the hunt – jumped in and pulled the king out, otherwise history might have followed a different course. (4)

The photo I posted above is of an actor playing Edmund Moody in The Tudors, Season 1, Episode 4. They do not name this servant that saved Henry VIII’s life in that TV series. I do not know who the actor is, his name is not listed in the credits. So, my ancestor gets only a small nod for a few minutes. In the limited series Wolf Hall, the accident and saving of Henry VIII is not shown, but my ancestor is mentioned by name.

The Coat of Arms granted to my ancestor Edmond Moodye.

As a reward for this valiant action, he was rewarded with a pension of a groat a day or about £6 per annum, a very fair sum when we compare it with the £5 pension which the King granted to the former prior of Wymondley a few years later. Payment of Moody’s pension was honored as we see in the following example. “The 24th day of September 1531, paied to Edmond the foteman, being in pension of a grote a day for one quarter now ended, xxx shillings.” Although he started to receive the pension right away, as well as an improvement in his station in life, and the gratitude of the King, he did not receive the lands from Henry VIII or the coat of arms until October 1540 and shortly after he left court and went to live on his lands.

It appears he remained a footman and in royal employ for some years, for it states he was one as of 1531, although he most likely would have moved up the ranks a bit. In Tudor times, working as a servant was seen as a respectable career and many masters (in this case the King of England) saw some of their staff as good friends, and some became the master’s favorite. I believe that Henry VIII looked upon Edmund Moody favorably since he did save his life, especially since he eventually gives him land and a coat of arms. When Henry VIII was drowning in the mud, Edmund was the only person around him, so it was quite advantageous for Henry that Edmund chose to act quickly to save his life.

Servants generally lived in the home they worked at and would be provided with food and clothes in addition to lodging. All servants would have also had annual contracts of employment, protected their rights and ensured that their employer treated them properly. Most domestic servants would have slept in shared chambers in either the cellars or attics of the castle buildings. There might also be simple buildings outside the castle for herdsmen, servants of the stables, mill workers, woodcutters, and other craftspeople. (6 & 7) I would venture to guess that servants of the hunt would have slept in buildings near where the falcons were kept.

Regarding the gifting of land to Edmund, Moulton is a peculiar jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, rather than the Archdeacons of Sudbury or Suffolk.

That is why Henry VIII was able to grant Edmund Moody land there; Moulton was the closest place in Suffolk to Edmund’s home which was entirely in Henry’s gift. The land was probably confiscated from a religious organization. (5)

Had Moody not leapt into the marsh to save the King, it is likely that the King would have perished: if Henry had so perished, here are just a few of the innumerable ways history would have changed if Edmund Moody had not saved the life of Henry VIII in 1524/1525:

  1. Mary I (Bloody Mary) would have become Queen at age 8. She, and her mother Queen Catherine, were devoutly Catholic and England would probably have remained Catholic as long as she reigned, presumably until at least 1558, and may have remained Catholic much longer.
  2. Neither the Act of Supremacy nor the dissolution of the monasteries would have occurred.
  3. Henry VIII would have been married to only one woman, his 1st wife Catherine of Aragon.
  4. Mary I would have married younger and probably to someone else and would have most-likely had heirs.
  5. Elizabeth I would never have been born and her long reign and bringing about what is known as the Elizabethan era would never have existed.
  6. England would have remained Catholic and there would have never been English Puritans to come to America. American history would have been different, and we would have either remained a British Colony much longer, or even could have instead been a Spanish, Portuguese, or French Colony!

Edmund Moody’s life would have changed as well. He would have remained a low-ranking royal servant, he would not have become a gentleman, he would not have received the lands, the coat of arms, or the pension. His whole life changed that day when he went from being an unnoticed low-ranking royal servant, to one of the King’s favorite footmen and eventually became a gentleman, and part of the landed gentry.

Edmund Moody (Edmond Moodye) had the following children:

  1. Rev. William Moody buried 28 June 1567 at St. Peter’s, Cockfield, Suffolk, England. He was the rector of St. Peter’s in Cockfield.
  2. Rev. John Moody, buried 24 April 1567 at Benhall, Suffolk, England. He was the vicar of St. Mary’s Church in Benhall.
  3. Rev. Thomas Moody, buried 26 August 1569 in Islington, Middlesex, England. He was the rector of Lackford, Suffolk, then rector of St. Peter’s, Moulton, Suffolk, before becoming the Chaplain of Islington. He was the chaplain to Lady Worcester, the widow of Henry, 2nd Earl of Worcester.
  4. Richard Moody, born 28 April 1524 at Bury St. Edmund, Suffolk, England, and died 28 April 1574 at Moulton, Suffolk. He married 4 February 1548 to Anne Panell/Parnell. He was a Puritan and his occupation was sheep grazer. After the death of his older brother Rev. Thomas Moodye he inherited his father’s land and wealth. (My direct ancestors).

My line continues with a son of Richard Moody and Anne Parnell, George Moody, Gentleman. George was a graduate of Trinity College. He was a yeoman who took up livery of his father’s lands in Moulton. He was “famous for his housekeeping & honest & plain dealing.” George inherited the family lands and wealth. He married first to Margaret Chenery on 12 October 1581.

Margaret Chenery was the daughter of John Chenery and Elizabeth Norwich. Margaret was buried 25 January 1602/3 in Moulton, Suffolk, England, the same day that their daughter Mary was christened. After her death, George Moody married second to Christian Cramp/Knapp on 19 September 1604 in Moulton, Suffold, England.

George Moody made his will 5 August 1607, and it was proved 20 November 1607. He was buried 23 August 1607 in Moulton, Suffolk, England.

My next generation down is via a daughter of George Moody and Margaret Chenery, Frances Moody. She married Thomas Kilbourn. Frances Moody and husband Thomas Kilbourn were both immigrants to British Colonial America. In April 1635, they left London on their way to Boston in the vessel “Increase”. They settled in Colonial Wethersfield, Connecticut. Frances Moody and Thomas Kilbourn are my 10th great-grandparents.

The list of the famous descendants of Frances Moody and Thomas Kilbourn is rather lengthy. It includes Pres. Rutherford B. Hayes, Author Louisa May Alcott, Elihu Root – the 28th Secretary of State, Frank W. Woolworth – the founder of Woolworths, Gilbert Clifford Noble – the co-founder of Barnes & Noble, Vice Pres. Charles Dawes, Actress Margaret Hamilton, Aviation Pioneer Amelia Earhart, Actors Warren Beatty and his sister Shirley MacLaine, First Lady Nancy (Davis) Reagan, First Lady Bess (Wallace) Truman, Actor Clint Eastwood, and many more. You may view the full list of their famous kin here.

Photo from Rutland Outdoor Pursuits (UK)

Side note: Having a falconry experience is on my Life’s Adventures List, and when it does come to pass, I will be thinking of my ancestor Edmund Moody. 🙂


  1. History of Hitchin by Reginald L. Hine, Gresham Press, Old Woking, Surrey, 1927- Vol. I, p. 140
  2. Life of Henry VIII by Edward Hall, 1904. Republished by Forgotten Books January 2, 2019
  3. From 1682 by John Gibbon, excerpt from page 4 (on microfilm at Harvard University Library).
  4. REALM No. 96, February 2001, page 40.
  5. Edmund Moody/Modye Gentleman – Compiler: Pomala Black, 2014.
  6. Life of a Tudor Servant – The Tudor Team: Behind the scenes with Tudor House team of volunteers. May 29, 2019
  7. The Household Staff in an English Medieval Castle by Mark Cartwright. June 1, 2018. World History Encyclopedia

Image credit:

Header image is of St Peter’s Church in Moulton, Suffolk, England.

Further reading:

  1. HENRY HAWKING by Kyra Cornelius Kramer. October 27, 2012. Henry VIII and his love of Falconry.
  2. Falconry and the Tudors by Katharine Edgar. June 9, 2014. Katharine Edgar, writer of historical fiction for young adults.
  4. Tudor Entertainment & Pastimes. Ryan Gibson & Marilee Hanson.

If you’d like to learn more about the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks project, please visit here:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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If you use any information from my blog posts as a reference or source, please give credit and provide a link back to my work that you are referencing. Unless otherwise noted, my work is © Anna A. Kasper 2011-2023. All rights reserved. Thank you.

About Anna Kasper, ACDP

I am an avid Genealogist. I am currently a student at Phillips Theological Seminary (one of the few Catholics!). I am an ACDP - Associate of the Congregation of Divine Providence (Sisters of Divine Providence of Texas). If you are unfamiliar with what a Religious Associate (also called an Affiliate, Consociate, Oblate, Companion) is exactly, visit my about me page for more information. In community college, I majored in American Sign Language/Deaf Studies, and Interdisciplinary Studies when at university.
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