Monthly Archives: April 2016

Sir Henry Norris – wrong place, wrong time.

Queen Anne BoleynHenry Norris was one of Henry VIII’s friends. And so far as I can tell in my various readings the poor man had done nothing wrong other than serve his royal master for some twenty years when his chum had his head lopped off on trumped up charges of naughtiness with Anne Boleyn.

 

Like many others in Henry’s court Norris’s was an interesting family history. His father Sir Edward Norris was knighted after the Battle of Stoke in 1487 which must have caused his wife, Frideswide, a little bit of distress as she was the daughter of Francis, Lord Lovell mentioned in other posts as the friend of Richard III who refused to accept Yorkist defeat and who was last seen on his horse fording the River Trent in full armour in the aftermath of the battle.

 

Family tensions aside, Henry’s older brother John was an esquire of the body to Henry VIII but he seems to have remained firmly Catholic and was part of Queen Mary’s household in later years. Henry Norris on the other hand was also at court but hanging on to the Tudor coat tails and twisting in the wind like the proverbial weather-vane (forgive the mixing of the metaphors). He managed to survive Wolsey’s purge on the young men of the court in 1519. He was one of the twelve grooms of the Stool (yes, that’s right he had the honor of wiping the royal bottom but during those moments had the opportunity to chat with the king in the way that even Wolsey and Cromwell didn’t.) He was given grants, titles and lands as well as the very lucrative post of weigher of the common beam at Southampton which meant Italian merchants using the port paid their taxes to him. He was the keeper of the king’s privy purse. He was with Henry at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 and he wasn’t overly keen on Cardinal Wolsey.

 

He appears to have sided with Anne Boleyn and benefited from this when the Cardinal fell in 1529. He went with Henry and Anne to Hampton Court to inspect the Cardinal’s haul of belongings and went to see Wolsey at Putney. It has been argued that he was of a reforming tendency because of his links with Anne’s faction. He was probably one of the witnesses to Anne’s marriage to Henry.

 

By 1535 he was in receipt of various of Sir Thomas More’s manors and was also constable of Beaumaris Castle and Wallingford Castle. Interestingly he seems to have also acted on behalf of the king in the matter of Jane Seymour suggesting that if his friend Henry wanted a new woman then Henry Norris was going to be helpful in the matter.

 

Unfortunately it was suggested in April 1536 that Norris loved Anne. Anne jokingly said that Norris was waiting to fill dead men’s shoes which was why he hadn’t yet married Margaret Shelton. Norris objected strenuously “if he should have any such thought, he would his head were off.” And hey presto Norris was on the receiving end of a visit to the Tower.

 

On May 1 Norris was at the jousting tournament that the king suddenly left with only a handful of retainers leaving Anne to close the celebrations. Henry told Norris that he believed there was a plot before he left. Norris must have been puzzled. Henry had leant Norris his own horse and now the king was saying that all Norris had to do was to confess and his life would be spared. Norris was arrested and taken to York Place where he was interrogated by the Privy Council.

 

May 2nd Norris was taken to the Tower having said something to the imaginatively named Sir William FitzWilliam that was taken as a confession of guilt but which was not used in evidence at the trial. Warnocke and Weir suggest that he may have admitted homosexuality. The only real thing that this information is proof of is that FitzWilliam was determined to get a confession – any confession. Norris remained adamant that he was innocent of the charges. Whilst Norris was being admitted to the Tower Anne was watching a game of tennis and possibly feeling somewhat nervous.

 

11 May 1536 the Abbot of Cirencester (a man whose own world was about to be turned upside down) wrote to Cromwell to say that he’d already promised Norris’s stewardship of the abbey elsewhere.

 

Norris was tried on May 12 1536. The offences were, as you might expect when Cromwell was involved, thorough and detailed. Henry was humiliated so that he could be rid of his unwanted spouse. Princess Elizabeth would ultimately be illegitimised and have to suffer speculation over which of the men tried with Anne was her father. From the dates provided by Cromwell many people thought that it might have been Sir Henry Norris.

 

The Lisle Letters record the events of the trial and at court before the executions. There was confusion, accusation and some sympathy for Norris who appears to have been well-liked

Norris got his wish to lose his head when he was executed on May 17. Lord Rochford, Anne’s brother, died first. Norris had to watch, then it was his turn. Unsurprisingly he said very little compared to Rochford.

 

Cromwell suggested, according to Weir, that rather than being a loyal servant Norris was overcome by ambition. Weir presents some interesting arguments as to why Norris had to go. The most logical of them being that he had the king’s ear and could, perhaps, have interceded on Anne’s behalf. Warnicke on the other hand argued that all the men caught up in Cromwell’s net were promiscuous possibly with men as well as women which would have made them vulnerable to the accusations that Cromwell flourished in front of the king. They all admitted on the block that they had led sinful lives but then Norris had children from his first marriage who he would have wished to save so far as possible from Henry’s wrath.

 

Just to confuse things even more Margaret Shelton was Anne Boleyn’s cousin and possibly Henry VIII’s mistress. It would also transpire that Sir Francis Weston, another of the accused, had tried to inveigle himself into Madge’s affections.

Warnicke, Retha. (1989) The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Weir, Alison. (2009) The Lady in the Tower. London: Jonathan Cape

 

 

 

 

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1536- the year of three queens

catherineofaragon_1769901iCatherine of Aragon was ill as early as 1534.  In part it was her age, in part the stress of fighting for her husband, her crown and her daughter’s rights and in part it was a consequence of being ferried between a variety of damp dwellings where she lived, for the most part, in a few rooms with a few trusted servants regarding her ‘hosts’ as her jailers.  By 1535 she was increasingly sick but there is a letter written at the beginning of December suggesting that she appeared to be recovering.

On December 29 Chapuys, received a note from Catherine’s doctor saying that Catherine was ill and that he should come at once.  Catherine could not keep food or fluids down and had pain in her stomach. The Imperial Ambassador, asked Cromwell for a licence to go to Kimbolton to see Catherine.  Cromwell said that he would need Henry’s permission so the following day Chapuys went to Greenwich to see Henry VIII who was in excellent humour because his inconvenient Spanish princess was dying.

Meanwhile Catherine’s loyal ex-lady-in-waiting had also heard the news.  Maria de Salinas didn’t wait for a licence to see her mistress.  She’d travelled to England with Catherine in 1501.  She’d been there when Catherine married Arthur and she’d been there when Henry made Catherine his queen.  Now,  Maria tricked her way into Kimbolton and from there into Catherine’s private chambers on January 1 1536 without the prerequisite licence.

On January 2 1536 Chapuys arrived.  By the end of the week Catherine appeared to have rallied and he departed.  In the early hours of the 6th it became clear that she was dying and as dawn broke Catherine was given Holy Communion.  At 2pm Catherine of Aragon, queen of England and infanta of Spain died.

On January 3 1536, rather unbecomingly for one who considered herself a queen, Anne dressed in yellow  along with her spouse and Henry, equally unbecomingly, declared that festivities were in order, danced with the ladies in waiting and ordered a joust.  By mid January Princess Mary, who’d been denied the chance of seeing her mother for a final time in 1535 when she herself was ill and again as her mother lay dying, was told that Anne Boleyn was pregnant.  It looked as though Anne Boleyn had finally won.Queen Anne Boleyn

Cromwell arranged Catherine’s funeral, wrote of his admiration for the queen and Henry  prepared for his joust.  On the 24th January 1536 Henry VIII, aged forty-four, father of two daughters (one illegitimised) fell from his horse in full armour.  He was out for the count for the next two hours.  He’d had a near miss twelve years earlier.

Four days later on January 29 1536 Catherine of Aragon was buried in Peterborough Cathedral.  People still place pomegranates on her tomb. Catherine’s mourners included Lady Bedingfield (the wife of Sir Edmund Bedingfield – Catherine’s last ‘host’) and the Countess of Cumberland, Eleanor Brandon. The Bishop of Rochester took the sermon – Cromwell chose his man well.  Weir records that he preached, without any foundation whatsoever, that Catherine had admitted on her death bed that she’d never had any right to be the queen of England.  After so long claiming her rights she was buried as the Dowager Princess of Wales.

Meanwhile as the old queen was being laid to rest, Anne Boleyn miscarried of a baby that would have been a boy had it survived.  Anne claimed that it was the shock of Henry’s jousting accident.  Henry began to wonder if God wished to deny him male children and found solace in the company of one of Anne’s ladies-in-waiting.  Chapuys recorded that her name was Jane Seymour.

Thomas Cromwell was going to have a very busy year indeed. Anne survived Catherine by only a short season.  She was executed on May 19 1536.

On May 20 1536, Henry VIII married Jane Seymour.

jane seymour

Tremlett, G.  (2010) Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen

Weir, A. (2007)  The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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George Cavendish – eyewitness account of Anne Boleyn’s romance and wrath

00cavenish.jpgGeorge Cavendish was born in Suffolk in about 1497 and yes, he was related to the Cavendish family who became the Dukes of Devonshire and Newcastle. His brother, William, was the Cavendish who married Bess of Hardwick. And if you want further proof that everyone was related to everyone else in Tudor times then bear in mind that George’s wife was Sir Thomas More’s niece.

 

I’m looking at George today because he wrote about Anne Boleyn’s relationship with Henry Percy. Both he, William and Percy were part of Cardinal Wolsey’s household, so you could say that Cavendish had a ringside seat as events unfolded. Cavendish stayed with Wolsey until his death, in disgrace, in 1530. It was he who served Wolsey his last meal of baked pears in Leicester. He then had an uncomfortable conversation with Henry VIII about Wolsey’s last words – uncomfortable in more ways than one as Harry kept Cavendish on his knees for more than an hour.

 

George retired to Suffolk following Wolsey’s death despite being offered a job as one of Henry’s ushers. He went home to his wife and family from whom even Wolsey conceded he’d been separated for too long on account of loyal service.  He took the opportunity to write a biography of the Cardinal having made notes of events and anecdotes down the years of his service to Henry’s right hand man so it is not surprising that the ‘gorgeous young lady’ who turned Wolsey’s power on its head should feature between the pages. Cavendish claims that Anne was motivated by hatred for Wolsey and a desire for revenge when the prelate scuppered her plans to marry Henry Percy in 1522 on the orders of Henry VIII.

 

Cavendish writes of the romance;

Lord Percy would then resort for his pastime into the Queen’s maidens, being at the last more conversant with Mistress Anne Boleyn than with any other; so that there grew such a secret love between them that at length they were insured together, intending to marry.

 

Cavendish went on to describe the couple being separated and clearly believed that Henry had his eye on Anne from an early time but more modern writers think that Wolsey didn’t think that Anne Boleyn was a suitable match for the earl of Northumberland. Percy’s marriage needed to be about land, power and money not love. It can’t have helped that Anne was packed off home in disgrace and that Percy rarely came to court after that nor was his marriage to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter a very happy one. Cavendish also reports that Wolsey believed that it was Anne who turned Henry against him. He called her a ‘night crow.’

 

Clearly it would have not been wise to make any criticisms of Henry VIII during the monarch’s life time so Cavendish only made his writing available during the reign of Queen Mary. The text wasn’t published until 1641 but it is thought that Shakespeare had access to the manuscript.

Cavendish’s biography of Wolsey is still in print and is also available on the Internet at https://archive.org/stream/TheLifeAndDeathOfCardinalWosley/cavendish_george_1500_1561_life_and_death_of_cardinal_wolsey#page/n3/mode/2up.  Click on the link to open up a new page to find out about the ‘honest poor man’s son’ who became a cardinal, the day that Thomas Cromwell shed tears, the duke of Norfolk threatening to rend Wolsey with his teeth and the prophecy of the dun cow.

george cavendish.jpg

An illustration from Cavendish’s manuscript showing part of the cardinal;’s procession.

 

 

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Sir Nicholas Carew and his wife

sir nicholas carew.jpgSir Nicholas Carew of Beddington near London was a childhood friend of Henry VIII – not that it stopped the Tudor tyrant from lopping off his friend’s head in 1539 of course.   He was a champion jouster, diplomat and a bit of a naughty lad.  He was one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber who was purged from court in 1518 for being a bad influence on Henry. Hart reports that he arranged private tete a tetes for Henry and his lady friends at his home.

He wasn’t away from court for long.  He and Henry probably had too much history.  Sir Nicholas was with Henry for the Siege of Tournai and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  In 1537 he turns up as one of the nobles in charge of the font in which the infant Prince Edward was baptised.

There was also the small matter of his wife – Elizabeth Bryan.  Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn were cousins.  Their mothers were half-sisters.  So, yes, Henry was related to Elizabeth to some degree.  She was of an age with Bessie Blount who we know to have been the king’s mistress because of the arrival of Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son in 1519.  Kelly Hart draws on a letter written by the duke of Suffolk referencing both Bessie and Lady Carew.  It could have been a courtly love kind of letter which meant absolutely nothing but Hart points out that Henry gave the Elizabeth Carew very expensive New Year gifts and a very nice present when her son was born.  For those of you who are noble minded readers this was no doubt because Sir Nicholas was such a good friend.  For the more tabloid amongst you, handing over diamonds and pearls which rightfully belonged to Catherine of Aragon not to mention a nice new mink coat might sound suspiciously like gifts for a mistress.  The problem is that no one knows for sure.  There is only circumstantial evidence.

What we do know is that Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Bryan were ladies-in-waiting at the same time.  Harris records their appearance in court masques and dances.  She also notes that Henry often let them keep the costumes and jewels that they wore during their performances (2002:236).  We also know that Elizabeth was very young at this time.  She wasn’t yet thirteen when she gave birth to her first child. The pair were married by December 1514.  Henry gave the happy couple 6s 8d according to his accounts of the period.  This was a standard gift.  The gift of £500 to Elizabeth’s mother is harder to explain.  It also ought to be pointed out that Lady Bryan was appointed to be Princess Mary’s governess two years later -so once again we are back to making of the evidence what we will. It was either a generous gesture or something more sordid.

Sir Nicholas’s wife might have been rather too friendly with Henry and Sir Nicholas might have offered his home as a Tudor love nest but he drew the line at royal mistresses becoming queen.  He wasn’t keen on Anne Boleyn at all.  In part this was because he was a staunch Catholic. It was also because he was loyal to Catherine of Aragon.  He wasn’t fool enough to cross Henry about Anne but he did tell the imperial ambassador Chapuys about his sympathy for both Catherine and Princess Mary. It led him to join forces with Cromwell, not known for his Catholic sympathies (it’s more the enemy of my enemy is my friend school of thought), in order to topple Anne Boleyn. Sir Nicholas was said to be behind some of the rather dodgy rumours about Anne’s love life.

Unfortunately for Sir Nicholas having sent Anne off to the block he and Cromwell parted company.  Carew continued to champion Princess Mary and it looks like Cromwell took the opportunity to stitch Carew into the Exeter Plot of 1538 which sought to get rid of Henry and replace him with Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Valentine’s Day 1539 Sir Nicholas was found guilty of treason and executed on March 3 1539.  Chapuys wrote of the event in a letter to Charles V dated 31 December 1539 :

The grand Escuyer Master Carew was taken prisoner to the Tower, and the moment his arrest was ordered, Commissioners went to seize all his goods and his houses.  It is presumed that the King will not have forgotten to charge them to take the most beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels which he formerly gave to the said Escuyer’s wife, the greater part he had taken from the late good Queen.

It would also have to be said that Chapuys didn’t have a good word to say about Henry by this point in proceedings. What we do know for certain is that Sir Nicholas’s land was confiscated by Act of Attainder.  Henry’s papers for 1546 reveal that some of his lands were given to Anne of Cleves for her life time. Sir Francis Carew was ultimately able to retrieve much of his father’s estates including Beddington

Elizabeth died in 1546 but Sir Nicholas lives on in his portrait by Hans Holbein.  He’s wearing full jousting armour. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that Sir Nicholas was framed by Thomas Cromwell and that Lady Elizabeth Carew had once been the king’s mistress.  Of course, you could also argue, equally effectively, that the virtuous  Lady Carew was at court in her youth and that Sir Nicholas, increasingly, dissatisfied with his master’s religious viewpoint turned to treachery.  No wonder there’s so much historical fiction out there!

 

Harris, Barbara J. (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers Oxford: Oxford University Press

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

Pemberton- Child (1013) Elizabeth Blount and Henry the Eighth, with some account of her surroundings. https://archive.org/details/elizabethblounth00chiluoft accessed 20/April/2016 at 17:03

 

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Anne, Lady Hastings – royal mistress?

Portrait_of_Anne_Stafford.jpgAnne Stafford was Henry VIII’s cousin.  Her mother was Katherine Woodville and her father was the Duke of Buckingham who was executed in 1483 by Richard III. Incidentally Anne was born in 1483 so she was somewhat older than Henry VIII.  The Staffords were the premier noble family in the country.  There was  rather a lot of Plantagenet blood flowing through Anne’s veins and ultimately it would get her brother Edward executed in 1521 when he listened to prophecies that suggested that Henry VIII would fail to have sons and that Edward would himself be crowned.

We don’t know for sure that Henry had an affair with Anne Stafford or Anne, Lady Hastings as she was by that time but we do know that it caused a huge scandal and that Catherine of Aragon lost her temper with Henry as a consequence.

The story is as follows.  Catherine was pregnant with her first child.  Caring royal husbands did not, apparently, sleep with their wives.  They showed their love and consideration by getting themselves a mistress.  Both Anne Stafford and her sister Elizabeth were ladies-in-waiting which turned out to be Henry’s preferred hunting ground for mistresses. Elizabeth, who was one of Catherine’s favourite ladies, became suspicious and notified her brother, the duke of Buckingham, that Anne was involved with the king.

Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, tells the tale that the duke of Buckingham did not take kindly to the king pawing his sister even if he was the king, after all he was only a jumped up Tudor whilst Anne had good Plantagenet blood.   The duke of Buckingham arrived on the scene and took up his argument with Sir William Compton who is thought to have been acting as an intermediary for the king. At the very least there were harsh words.  There were certainly raised voices. Henry was not amused by the furore, especially when Buckingham took himself off in a huff and Lord George Hastings, Anne’s spouse, was summoned by his brother-in-law to deal with his errant wife.  Hastings’ response was to send Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court whilst Sir William Compton was forced to take the sacrament swearing that he hadn’t had his way with Anne. Clearly Hastings didn’t feel it appropriate to accuse his monarch of any underhand behaviour and let’s remember this Lord Hastings was the grandson of the man who Richard III had summarily executed.

Henry in the meantime seems to have had a bit of a major sulk as he reacted by  banishing Elizabeth Stafford from court.  It was this exile of her favourite snooping lady-in-waiting that caused Catherine of Aragon to become “vexed” with her husband.  According to Chapuys she “wept and ranted.” She might not have been terribly amused about his infidelity either but kings weren’t noted for their uxoriousness in those days.

Just to complicate things even further it would appear that Anne Stafford and Sir William Compton did have something of an understanding.  He left her land in his will and required that she be included in the prayers said for his family.

And yet, it would appear that whatever was going on behind the scenes that Anne and Lord George Hastings were happy enough in their union if their exchange of letters is anything to go by.  They also had seven children.

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

 

 

 

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Catherine of Aragon – queen of England

catherineofaragon_1769901iHistory might have been very different had the baby boy born on New Year’s Day 1511 survived beyond the first perilous months of infancy. Starkey records that two hundred and seven pounds of gunpowder were used to celebrate the child’s birth.

 

Little Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall lived for fifty-two days. He was buried at the end of February. Catherine although she became pregnant readily enough either miscarried or produced infants who died: seven in all. Sir Loyalheart still wore lover’s knots on his jousting armour but the much needed heir had yet to make an appearance.   By 1514 the first rumours of a possible divorce were bandied about but in 1516 Princess Mary was born and there was renewed optimism.

 

In the meantime Henry went to war with the French and Katherine became regent of England and Wales. It was she who was in charge of England when the Earl of Surrey fought and won the Battle of Flodden. Meanwhile Henry’s father-in-law let him down with regard to France. Ferdinand signed a peace deal with the French having inveigled Henry into a war against them. It cannot have helped his daughter’s marital relations. Ultimately Henry would marry his youngest sister to King Louis XII of France. Spain went from being an ally to an enemy. Later Henry would propose that his daughter Mary, should marry to cement a French alliance when all Catherine wanted was for her daughter to marry her nephew, Charles, the son of Juana and Philip.

 

Charles V was a disappointment to his aunt. Catherine worked carefully after Princess Mary’s proxy marriage to the French dauphin in 1518 to bring her own plans about. He visited England and in 1523 launched an invasion of France along with the English but he failed to fulfil his side of the deal. Then Charles won the Battle of Pavia against the French and dropped the English because he no longer needed them. He deserted his aunt as well.

 

There had been other changes over the years. Henry came to rely on Wolsey during his time in France in 1513. He didn’t turn to Catherine so readily for advice when he returned to England. In 1515 Wolsey became Lord Chancellor. He would remain at the heart of Henry’s government until his fall in 1529.

 

If Catherine was finding life difficult with Henry and with shifting European politics she gave no sign of it. In fact she became increasingly popular with her English subjects. There had been riots in May 1517 and Catherine had interceded on behalf of the condemned apprentices.

 

Catherine’s last known pregnancy occurred in 1518. By 1523 her good looks had faded and she’d become somewhat on the fat side. Francis I of France described her as “old and deformed.” Then, to add injury to insult, in 1525 Henry unveiled a son. Henry Fitzroy was Henry’s son with Bessie Blount and he was six years old. Catherine was not amused. The row was tremendous. If only she’d realised it, things were about to get worse.   In 1525 Henry stopped sleeping, it would appear, with Catherine. He may also have put his current mistress Mary Boleyn to one side.

 

In May 1527 the King’s Great Matter was discussed. Henry wanted to be rid of his Spanish wife. He wanted a divorce. He claimed that he was concerned for his immortal soul.  He should never have married his brother’s wife. He felt that his childlessness- because clearly girls didn’t count- was a consequence of his sin. He also wanted to marry Anne Boleyn who’d refused to become his mistress.

 

Poor Catherine had lost her looks, her fertility, her political influence and now she was going to lose her husband.

 

 

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Catherine of Aragon – penniless princess to queen consort.

catherine of aragonAs Catherine of Aragon settled into Durham House after Arthur’s death in April 1502 her parents were already sending an envoy to England with plans for her future. Hernan Estrada was to demand Catherine and her dowry back immediately and at the same time to suggest ten-year-old Henry as a possible husband.

Following Elizabeth of York’s death in childbirth, Henry VII suggested himself as a husband. Isabella was not amused.  She sent a letter instructing her daughter to pack her bags and be ready to board the first available Spanish ship that dropped anchor.  Intentionally or not this had the effect of concentrating Henry and Ferdinand’s minds.   On 23 June 1503, Catherine was betrothed to Prince Henry and a dispensation was sent for. Julius II duly obliged and even managed to skirt around the thorny issue of whether Catherine was still a maiden or not by wording the dispensation to suggest that the marriage had ‘perhaps’ been consummated in Tremlett’s words.

henry8unknown3By 1504 Catherine was often ill.  It has been suggested that she may have been anorexic. This may have been one of the reasons she had difficulty producing children.  Henry VII was so concerned about Catherine that he wrote to the pope.  Julius II duly obliged by writing to Catherine commanding that she ate more. To find out more about Tremlett’s research into Catherine’s eating disorder and her time as a penniless princess double click on the image of Catherine to open a new window.

Meanwhile Henry VII and Ferdinand argued about money and Catherine was left, short of funds, in Durham House and from there she found herself moved to Richmond.  She still didn’t speak English and she was still surrounded by her Spanish ladies in waiting.  Then in 1507 the engagement to the young Prince Henry, pictured right, was off because Ferdinand hadn’t sent the dowry money.

It was at that point that Catherine made history for the first time.  In 1507 she became the Spanish ambassador.  In the meantime Catherine’s sister Juana had been bereaved by the death of her husband.  Henry, having met Juana, when Philip and she were stranded in England due to bad weather decided he would like to marry Juana.  It helped that she was queen of Castille and it probably also helped that Ferdinand did not want the match. Aside from the first six or so months of her time in England, Catherine’s experience had not been a good one. She is even said to have contemplated joining religious orders. Then on 21 April 1509 Henry VII died and the stalemate shattered.

The penniless princess who’d learned how to send secret letters, argue her cause and dissimulate to her own father as well as her father-in-law married seventeen-year-old Henry on 11 June 1509. There was a six year age gap between husband and wife but at tho stage it wasn’t particularly noticeable. Catherine, it turned out, knew how to nurse a grudge.  She sent Spanish diplomats and servants home with a flea in their ears and got on with being queen of England in a court where pageantry, feasting and jousting were now de rigeur.  Henry even turned up in Catherine’s private rooms disguised as Robin Hood.  Catherine, unlike some of Henry’s later wives, had the good sense to feign surprise and delight.

Henry_VIII_Catherine_of_Aragon_coronation_woodcut

By November Catherine was pregnant and Henry was caught canoodling with Anne, Lady Hastings the sister of the Duke of Buckingham.  They were exposed by Anne’s sister Elizabeth who was a favourite of Catherine’s.  Anne was carted off to a nunnery; Elizabeth was banned from court and Henry found himself in his wife’s bad books.  Caroz, the Spanish ambassador, described her as ‘vexed.’  In January 1510 Catherine miscarried.  The fairytale was over and the business of providing an heir began the sorry tale that would culminate in Henry divorcing his Spanish princess.

Tremlett, Giles. (2010) Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen. London: Faber and Faber

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Catherine of Aragon and Prince Arthur

catherine of aragonYesterday I was so busy trying to make sure there were no errors I managed to suggest that Catherine was born in 1489.  She was of course born in 1485.

By the time she was thirteen she was living at the Alhambra and it was from here that she exchanged letters with Arthur.  He, writing from Ludlow in 1499, described their letters as a “sweet remembrance.” Tremlett reveals that Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were just as excited by this exchange of letters.  Of course, given that the writers were thirteen at the time and that they were written in Latin it may be assumed that tutors were involved and so was the game of courtly love.

In the meantime Roderigo De Puebla, the Spanish ambassador, was keeping the Spanish court informed of events in England.  De Puebla complained that the English changed their minds rather often and that the water wasn’t safe to drink.

On 27 September 1501 Catherine set sail for England, crossed the Bay of Biscay, got caught in a storm off Brittany and arrived in Plymouth on October 2nd 1501.  News of her arrival had come before her as it is noted in the margin of Margaret Beaufort’s Book of Hours.  In total the journey across Spain from the Alhambra to England had taken four months.  It would be another month before Catherine reached Hampshire and on November 6th she arrived at Dogmersfield where she met her prospective father-in-law and husband which ran counter to Spanish custom – there was, of course, a language difficulty.

On November 12 1501 Catherine entered London accompanied by the ten-year-old Duke of York, Prince Henry, a papal legate and an entourage composed of both nationalities.  Tremlett and Penn describe the pageant, the gifts and the politics.  Two days later she was married at St Paul’s Cathedral.  The wedding dress which was white caused some comment and then it was on to business.  First an announcement was made as to the size of Catherine’s dowry and then it was over to the eighteen bishops and abbots. John Fisher revealed that Margaret Beaufort cried rather a lot and rather oddly to modern eyes that the newly married Catherine was led from the cathedral not by her husband but by her brother-in-law, Prince Henry.

There then followed a ritual involving the earl of Oxford testing the bed of state, on both sides, to make sure it had been made properly and a sprinkling of Holy Water from the assembled bishops.  The following morning Arthur announced that being married was thirsty work and in so doing unleashed centuries of speculation that an inspection of the bed sheets, another traditional pastime, should have confirmed…but in this instance didn’t.  In any event the couple were young.  They had their whole lives ahead of them.

By late December Catherine and Arthur were in Ludlow on the Welsh borders…very different from the Alhambra. We know that Catherine formed a friendship with Margaret Pole the daughter of the Duke of Clarence and sister of the Earl of Warwick executed to facilitate the wedding of Catherine and Arthur. What we don’t know is how close Arthur and Catherine were as husband and wife.  Once again Tremlett provides both sides of the later argument. Catherine insisted that Arthur came to her room on only seven occasions whilst a member of his own household suggested that the pair were frequently together.  We do know that Arthur was smitten when he first met his bride and by all accounts Arthur, though shorter than his petite bride, was a kind and well educated young man.

 

Tudor,Arthur02.jpgAnd then sweating sickness arrived or possibly tuberculosis.  In any event on April 2nd 1502, approximately six months after her marriage Catherine found herself widowed at the age of sixteen. Arthur’s heart was buried in Ludlow whilst the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. Elizabeth of York, who got on well with Catherine, sent a litter to fetch her daughter-in-law back to London.

Double click on the image of Prince Arthur to open up a post by The Freelance History Writer about Prince Arthur and more about his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

 

Thomas Penn’s book is about Henry VII and called Winter King.  See the bibliography for more details of his work and also of Tremlett’s.

 

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Catherine of Aragon- childhood and marriage

catherine11In the same year that Henry Tudor won the Battle of Bosworth, Isabella of Castille gave birth to a baby girl- Catalina.  It had been a difficult year for the baby’s parents; there was a war against Spain’s last remaining Moorish kingdom, an outbreak of plague and the problem that the girl’s mother Isabella of Castille insisted on reigning as a sovereign power rather than the docile little wife that Ferdinand of Aragon might have preferred (not that it stopped the couple being  passionate about one another or Isabella being very jealous when her spouse strayed). Catalina was the last of five children of whom all but one were girls.  Isabella was thirty-four years old that Christmas in 1485 when the girl who would be known as Catherine of Aragon was born.  Tremlett notes that our understanding of Catalina’s childhood comes from her mother’s account books.

The picture is thought to be Catherine aged eleven.  Double click on the image to open a new page and find out more.

Three years later the English arrived at the town of Medina del Campo in Castille. Tremlett describes the pageantry through the eyes of the two English ambassadors who’d been sent to strike a deal between the joint Spanish monarchs and their own sovereign Henry VII of England. This was, in fact, the return visit.  The Spanish had already been to London to inspect the infant Prince Arthur.

The two countries were in the midst of negotiating a trade treaty.  When Henry Tudor became Henry VII he confirmed the existing trading arrangements with Spain.  Now, in 1489, Henry wanted more favourable trading arrangements for English merchants especially as his Navigation Acts which insisted that English ships be used to import foreign goods had resulted in a kind of stalemate with the Spanish insisting something similar for themselves. Following the treaty both countries were able to use whatever vessels they wanted to move their goods around and the rates of taxation were set favourably as well.

The two countries also wanted to arrive at terms that would enable their mutual benefit against the French. Broadly speaking if either country went to war with the French the other country would immediately become involved in the conflict.  Henry was involved with the protection of Brittany at this time.  It would have to be said that the treaty wasn’t particularly effective in terms of Henry’s aims agains the French.  Ultimately the French got their hands on Brittany and  it was partly because the ink was hardly dry on the Treaty of Medina del Campo when Ferdinand made peace with the French in July of the same year.  To be fair he was trying to win a war against the Moors at the time.

All English treaties at this time included the clause that the co-signatory wouldn’t harbour English rebels or Yorkist pretenders to the throne.  This would become important in 1499 when the Spanish refused to send Catalina to England until all potential Yorkist kings had been dealt with: the executions of the Earl of Warwick and Perkin Warbeck was a price that Henry was prepared to pay.

Because this was an important treaty it really needed to be sealed by a royal marriage.  Henry was keen on a marriage between his son and one of Isabella and Ferdinand’s four daughters because it demonstrated that he wasn’t a usurper on a wobbly throne any more.  A marriage to Spain would mean that he was a safe European player.

The treaty also covered Catalina’s dowry.  She was to have 200,000 crowns paid in instalments – and Henry Tudor liked the sound of coins clinking in his treasury almost as much as he liked being recognised as a European monarch. Little could Catherine or her father have realised that the dowry would cause so many problems in Catherine’s future.

The treaty was signed on the 27th March 1489.

Of Catalina or Catherine  (Usually a C but a K is also used and the Royal Palace at Hampton Court must know what it’s talking about) as she would become when she arrived in England we know relatively little as a child other than from the account books and from scenes that were carefully staged by the Spanish royal family such as Medina del Campo when she was shown off for the benefit of visiting dignitaries.  Tremlett records that the royal children had tutors from Italy and dancing teachers from Portugal; that Catherine learned to ride when she was six, that she was expected to learn how to sew and that Isabella kept a very decorous court so that Catherine’s childhood was not only sumptuous but cloistered.

We also know that the family was constantly on the move as Ferdinand and Isabella strove to bring unity and order to their country which until recently had been many kingdoms ruled by many races and creeds.  The place that Catherine called home was probably Alhambra where she lived from 1499 to 1501 when she set sail for England.

Tremlett, Giles. (2010) Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen. London: Faber and Faber

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The Dissolution of the Monasteries – a timeline

adamlandscape

1526-1529

Cardinal Wolsey suppressed 29 monasteries with the permission of the Pope to fund Ipswich College and Cardinal College in Oxford which became King Henry VIII college and then Christchurch College. It was founded in the grounds of one of the suppressed monasteries (St Frideswide’s). The monastic foundations Wolsey suppressed totaled an income of £1800 and were generally very small.

1529

October 9: Cardinal Wolsey falls from power due to his failure to secure a divorce for his master from Katherine of Aragon. He is arrested on a charge of praemunire.  Praemunire involves taking orders from foreign powers rather than the king.  Being a cardinal means that it was inevitable that Wolsey could face this charge.

1530

January: Wolsey falls ill and is attended by Henry’s doctor.  Wolsey does not give up hope of being reinstated to Henry’s favour.

November 4: Wolsey is arrested.  He cannot help dabbling in politics and has sent some injudicious letters to Rome.  Thomas Cromwell speaks on Wolsey’s behalf in Parliament.

November 29: Cardinal Wolsey dies in Leicester on his way back to London from York. Edward Hall hints at suicide in his account of Wolsey’s last days but it was most likely a bowel infection. He was certainly on his way back to the Tower and execution.

1532

January 15: Commons Supplication Against the Ordinaries also known as the Submission of the Clergy.

What this means is that the king and his ministers are now able to review all Church, or canon, law. They could prevent the enforcement of any canon law they wished and they could veto the passage of any new Church law if they were so disposed.   Sir Thomas More resigns from the Chancellorship as a consequence of the passage of this act.

 

Act Restraining Payments of Annates – An annate was a tax levied on newly appointed clergy and payable to the pope (usually half or a whole year’s income – annates are also known as first fruits).  Parliament withholds the payments of annates from Rome but gives Henry the option of allowing them to continue.  This is effectively a form of blackmail in an attempt to get Henry his divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  The act also states that the Pope cannot delay consecration of bishops or excommunicate Englishmen in retaliation for the withholding of the annates.

 

Augustinan Canons of Holy Trinity, Christchurch in London surrender to the king because they are overwhelmed by debt. An Act of Parliament recognises the Crown as Holy Trinity’s founder which means that no one else has any claim to the land or property that has been surrendered to the king.

1533

March: Act in Restraint of Appeals 1532. This act was somewhat confusingly passed in 1533.It means that the highest authority legally speaking in England is the King because Parliament doesn’t recognise any higher authority. “This realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one Supreme Head and King having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial Crown of the same.” Katherine of Aragon can no longer make an appeal to Rome against an English court’s decision.

1534

This year is a busy year for Parliament.

  • The Act of Dispensations –  All payments to Rome are now stopped. Licenses and dispensations previously attainable through the Church are now being administered by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • An act is passed which Monks forbidden to travel outside the country on official business
  • Act for the Submission of the Clergy, 1534
  • Act in Absolute Restraint of Annates. Payment of all annates to Rome are now forbidden and Engishmen are forbidden to obtain papal bulls for the consecration of bishops. Instead, the King nominates and Archbishop consecrates bishops. In some respects England has always been an anomaly in this regard. The Crowns right to nominate archbishops was one of the reasons Henry II fell out with Thomas Becket.
  • The Act of First Fruits and Tenths. First fruits is another name for the first year’s income from a benefice.  Every year thereafter the tax was a tenth of the incumbent’s income.  This is still collected but now it makes its way into the King’s coffers rather than to Rome.
  • The First Succession Act – Succession is vested in heirs of Henry and Anne (Princess Elizabeth and hopefully a male heir).  This is the act which bastardises Princess Mary.
  • Act of Supremacy King Henry VIII is declared to be Supreme Head of the English Church.
  • Treason Act
  • Act Extinguishing the Authority of the Bishop of Rome – which deals with a loop hole that the other acts haven’t covered.

1535

January: Cromwell is made Viceregerant.  He orders a national visitation of all monastic houses.  This leads to the Comperta or ‘Black Book’ which lists all monastic transgressions.  Monastic transgressions are also enumerated in the letters that Cromwell’s visitors sent to him and in the various acts of parliament that followed.  The other text, the Valor Ecclesiasticus  identifies the worth of the monastic houses– 80% of monastic houses are registered in the Valor. Half the monasteries had less than £200 p.a. The net annual income of the Church is valued at £320,000. The king only receives £40,000.

 

September 18: In Yorkshire in 1534 and 1535 Archbishop Lee of York, who signed the Act of Supremacy and who is keen on the Bible in English begins to make a visitation of the monasteries in his diocese. His visitation is eventually halted on this day on the orders of Cromwell. He visited 8 Yorkshire foundations of which 5 were nunneries.

1536

March: Act of Suppression of the Smaller Monasteries – All monastic houses with fewer than 12 monks or nuns or less than £200 p.a. are suppressed on the grounds that these establishments were centres of “manifest sin, vicious, carnal and abominable living.”

Many abbeys had already been coerced into surrendering during the visitation of 1535 but now the smaller abbeys of England were forced to close. Their number includes:

Abbey Dore- Hereford and Worcester;  Beeliegh, St Botolph (Colchester), Little Dunmow, Prittlewell and Tilty in Essex; Birkenhead, Jarrow and Monkwearmouth; Bisham and Hurley in Berkshire; Blyth and Rufford in Nottinghamshire; Bourne and Tupholme in Lincolnshire; Boxgrove, Easebourne, Michelham and Shulbred in Sussex; Brinkburn in Northumberland; Broomholm, Horsham, Ingham and Langley in Norfolk; Bungay and Sibton in Suffolk; Bushmead in Bedford, Canons Ashby in Northampton; Cartmel in modern Cumbria but I think Tudor Lancashire; Chirbury in Shropshire; Coverham and Nun Monkton in Yorkshire; Dorchester in Oxfordshire; St Radegund’s in Dover, Minster-in-Sheppey and Monks Horton in Kent; Upholland in Lancashire; Exeter St Nicholas and Frithelstock in Devon; St Oswald’s in Gloucester; Maxstoke, Pinley and Stoneleigh in Warwick; Mottisfont in Hampshire; Norton in Cheshire; Owston in Leicestershire; Quarr on the Isle of Wight; Waverley in Surrey.

In Wales the following abbeys were suppressed:  Cwmhir,Beddgelert, Caldy, Chepstow,Haverfordwest,Llantarnam,Margam,Penmon, Pill, Talley and Usk.

 

The Court of Augmentations is set up to take control of the confiscated property and monastic loot. This covers the sale of everything from the lead on the roof to the floor tiles as well as the collection of holy relics and sale of all the plate and any other valuables.

October 3: Pilgrimage of Grace begins in Lincolnshire. It is led by Robert Aske. The Pilgrims march under the banner of the five wounds of Christ.  They wish for a return of the monasteries and of Catholicism.  They’re not terribly impressed by the rent hikes made by some of the new landowners who have taken over the suppressed monasteries.  Cromwell and other ‘bad advisors’ are blamed for Henry’s policies.

October 9: The Pilgrimage spreads to the East Riding of Yorkshire and by the end of the week it has crossed the Pennines. Unrest sprouts in Westmorland and Cumberland.

October 12: Sawley Abbey  which was suppressed in the spring of 1536 is restored.

December: Duke of Norfolk partially accepted the demands of the rebels including the promise of a parliament in York – pardon given providing there was no more rebellion.

1537

January 16 Sir Francis Bigod leads new uprising which effectively nullifies the terms of Norfolk’s December agreement. In total about 200 men executed including Robert Aske who has taken no part in the 1537 uprising.

March: Abbot Paslew and two of his monks are executed at the gates of Wally Abbey for their part in the Pilgrimage of Grace following trial at Lancaster.  The remaining 13 monks are kicked out of their home with no pension as Walley is forcibly suppressed.

April 9: Furness Abbey surrenders.

Easby Abbey near Richmond is suppressed.  It had 18 monks including the abbot. Jervaulx is also suppressed.  Their abbot, having been involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace, is hauled off to London where he is executed at Tyburn.  In Cumberland, Lanercost Priory surrenders.

1538

Jan-Sept: 38 large monasteries voluntarily surrender.

Visitation of the friaries now begins but it is discovered that many friars have already taken themselves abroad.

November 21: Monk Bretton Priory  in South Yorkshire surrenders. Some of the monks band together, buy 148 books from the library and continue to live a communal life at Worsborough.  They were still a community in 1558.

November 30: Byland Abbey surrenders.

1539

An act of Parliament hands all the monastic land already surrendered or suppressed into the hands of the Crown.

November 22: Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds surrenders. There are 31 monks.

December 14: Whitby Abbey surrenders.

December 24: Guisborough Priory signs the deed of surrender. Hailes Abbey in Gloucestershire surrenders on the same day.

Fountains Abbey also surrenders in 1539.  It is pictured at the start of this post. Double click on it for an outline history of Fountains Abbey.

1540

January 5: Egglestone Abbey near Barnard Castle is dissolved.

January 6: Henry marries Anne of Cleves

January 9: Carlisle Priory surrenders.  The cathedral will be reconstituted in May 1541 along with Chester Cathedral.

January 29: Bolton Abbey surrenders.  In addition to the prior there are 14 canons.  The church becomes the parish church.

March 23: Waltham Abbey surrenders.  It is the last monastery in England.

April 3: Guisborough Priory is formally dissolved.

June 10: Thomas Cromwell arrested at a council meeting.

July 28: Cromwell executed.

 

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