King Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547. This post does not deal with women like Mistress Webbe who were regarded as so unimportant that they deserved absolutely no mention in court correspondence.
Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon from 1509 -1533 (briefly married to both Catherine and Anne Boleyn before Cranmer dissolved the former’s marriage). They married on 11 June 1509 and initially Henry and Catherine seemed very in love He fought in armour engraved with their initials entwined with love knots. When he went to France in 1513 he left his queen as regent. However, by 1516 despite a number of pregnancies Catherine had only one living child – Princess Mary. In 1518 she started to wear a hair shirt and by 1525 Henry had ceased to live with his wife. He first proposed to Anne Boleyn in 1527 but Catherine refused to take herself off to a nunnery.
During these years Henry’s mistresses were the illusive “Madam the bastard” referenced in a letter during his stay in Lille at the court of Margaret of Savoy; Ettienette de la Baume who sent him a bird and some roots along with a reminder for the £10,000 he had promised her when she got married. He is also known to have had a scandalous affair with his cousin Lady Anne Stafford. If the mink coat, diamonds and private tilting yard are anything to go by he had an affair with his friend Sir Nicholas Carew’s wife Elizabeth. He gave £100 to Jane Popincourt when she returned to France and most notably during the period so far as history is concerned he had affairs with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn.
Bessie Blount is the mother of his only acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy. Henry was born in 1519. Catherine of Aragon had to congratulate her on giving birth to a boy. King Henry gave the Fitzroy name to his boy. It was the first time the name had been used in four hundred years. At the age of six young Fitzroy was given the dukedoms of Richmond and Somerset. He married Lady Mary Howard the daughter of the duke of Norfolk but died, probably from tuberculosis in 1536. Historians speculate whether his sister Elizabeth Tailboys was the king’s child or belonged to Bessie Blount’s husband – Gilbert Tailboys. Historians generally agree that Catherine Carey who was the eldest child of Mary Boleyn is probably also King Henry’s child. There is great speculation about whether Henry Carey was also the king’s. It is usually felt that Henry had no need to acknowledge further illegitimate male children as he had demonstrated his abilities with young Henry FitzRoy; that Mary Boleyn was married to William Carey and that it would have been rude of Henry to have claimed either child as his given the existence of a husband (quite how that explains the expectation of sleeping with the man’s wife still eludes me!) There is also the added complication of Henry’s developing relationship with Anne Boleyn. The hypocrisy of divorcing one wife on the grounds of consanguinity in order to marry the sister of the woman you’ve had an affair with (and children) should escape no one.
In addition to this happy little throng there is another claimant to being Henry’s child dating from this period – Thomas Stukeley was the son of Jane Pollard (wife of Sir Hugh Stukeley) from Afferton in Devon. He was born between 1523 and 1530. Thomas had a lively career spanning piracy, being a double agent and a forger. He was also Henry VIII’s standard bearer in 1547. There is not a great deal of evidence for him being Henry’s son other than him saying so and as well as his other exciting c.v. job titles he was also a fraudster. Despite this Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth all seem to have let him get away with blue murder. He was also said to look like Henry VIII – though this is no recommendation as followers of this blog will have worked out by now that the aristocracy were very inter-related so its perhaps not surprising that they looked like one another.
Still with me? There’s one more from this period. And again historians are divided in their opinions about this man as there is very little evidence to support his claim. Mary Berekley lived in the Welsh Marches with her husband Sir Thomas Perrot. Thomas was keen on hunting – as was Henry VIII. It is just possible that the king enjoyed a spot of hunting with Sir Thomas Perrot and also enjoyed other recreational pursuits with his wife. The result, according to John Perrot – was him. John turned up at court, got into a fight with Henry’s men at arms but managed to keep his right hand because the king liked the look of the boy. Edward VI seems to have liked him as well and he was one of the four gentlemen selected to carry Elizabeth’s canopy of state at her coronation. This is, of course, all circumstantial – and yes, he is supposed to have looked like Henry VIII.
Wife number two laster for three years if we discount the seven year chase beforehand. Anne Boleyn married Henry in 1533 because she was pregnant. Elizabeth was born at the beginning of September 1533 and was motherless by mid-1536. Henry still found time to be attracted to a lady at court who was sympathetic to Catherine and Mary’s plight; Anne’s own cousin Madge or Mary Shelton as well as Joan Dingley who history names as a laundress but who was probably of a higher rank. Joan gave birth to a child called Ethelreda or Audrey and there is sufficient evidence in the form of land grants and wills to read between the lines and recognise her as one of Henry’s children (if you feel that way inclined.) This is also the time that sees a reference to a mysterious Mistress Parker.
Jane Seymour started off as a mistress – and she was yet another Howard girl but like a predecessor advanced from bit of fluff to queen with the removal of Anne Boleyn. Jane Seymour gave birth to Prince Edward on the 12th October 1537 and then promptly died on the 24th October 1537 assuring herself of the position of Henry’s “true wife” and the one who he had depicted in all of Holbein’s Tudor family portraits. There wasn’t really time for much notable womanising given the shortness of her tenure and the fact that 1536 was a bit of a bad year for Henry on account of the Pilgrimage of Grace not to mention the bad jousting accident that caused Anne Boleyn to miscarry her child (so she claimed) and which left Henry with an infected and inflamed leg. Even so it was noted that Henry did say he wished he hadn’t married so hastily when he saw two pretty new ladies-in-waiting.
One of the new ladies-in-waiting was his uncle’s step-daughter Anne Basset who was said to be a very pretty girl. Her mother had managed to wangle her a place at court with the gift of quails which Jane Seymour craved during her pregnancy. There were rumours. Henry purchased her a horse and a rather fine saddle and bridle having sent her to the country to recover her health from a mysterious illness. All this is pretty tenuous but by now Henry had “form” and sending girls to the country for their “health” fits the pattern. Margaret Skipwith is also mentioned as a potential mistress during this time before the duke of Norfolk dangled young Katherine Howard under the king’s nose.
Anne of Cleves was wife number four. Her tenure lasted from January to July 1540. There’s no fool like an old fool and Henry misliking Anne declared that she was no true virgin before chasing after poor little Katherine Howard who promptly became queen number five on 28 July 1540.
These days Katherine would be defined as a victim of neglect as well as child abuse following her experiences with Henry Mannox in the home of Katherine’s step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, dowager duchess of Norolk. In any terms Katherine was pre-contracted in marriage to Francis Dereham – making her marriage to Henry invalid. It could be argued that having declared their intention to marry and then had intercourse that they were in fact married to one another. As a mark of this Dereham had given her money to look after whilst he was away from her. Katherine undoubtedly had an affair with Thomas Culpepper, one of her distant cousins, whilst she was married to Henry VIII. The woman who made it possible for the couple to meet was Lady Rochford. Lady Rochford was George Boleyn’s widow and the woman who had testified to an incestuous relationship between George and Anne (who needs Game of Thrones) and just for good measure if you recall the mysterious Mistress Parker – some historians think it might have been Jane before her marriage to George Boleyn. Both Jane and Katherine were executed on 13 February 1542.
Henry now married the twice widowed Catherine Parr on the 12 July 1543, though Anne of Cleves did write to the Privy Council saying she would be prepared to give the whole marriage thing another go. In 1545 there was a slight wobble when Henry gave the very Catholic Bishop Gardener permission to question the queen on her religious beliefs – she survived the threat thanks to the discovery by her physician of a document on the floor of the king’s chamber that gave Katherine time to plead her course with her grouchy spouse. Her explanation that she was merely being a good wife diverting Henry from his aches and pains as well as listening to his words of spiritual wisdom must have appealed to Henry’s ego. During the danger period before Katherine talked her way out of an appointment with an axe, the widowed, young and very pretty, dowager duchess of Suffolk – Katherine Willoughby was mentioned as a potential seventh queen. Lady Mary Howard (widow of Henry FitzRoy) was also identified by the catholic faction as a potential queen.
And that’s about it for now on the topic of Henry and his many wives and loves for the time being. I’ve no doubt I shall return to them. During the last few days I’ve seen books about them (fiction and non-fiction), a Russian doll set of Henry and his wives, gold work ornaments, felt dolls and a clock. I’m not beyond creating a few silhouettes of my own as this post demonstrates. The fact is that there is something about the Tudors that fascinates – and sells! Meanwhile I’m off to delve into the varying worlds of monumental effigies and brasses; livery collars; the Coterel Gang who created havoc in fourteenth century Derbyshire; Katherine Swynford; the Wars of the Roses; Chaucer; Lincoln Cathedral; Tattershall Castle, Ralph Cromwell and Henry VI not to mention anything else that might catch my attention.
It would have been a good readable article yet if not for the American way of spelling Kate Parrs first name with a C. She was KP as since birth I am too and by no mistake. Another sad thing is your mention of our British titled persons looking all alike like aliens. With out us no history would be worth writing. Without us your kinsman would not have had jobs or cared for as servant. We have been careful only to marry our own kind but our kind are many and varied all across Europe the selection was made to keep us strong all our lives.The basest marry next door and with that hospitals are full with persons with ailments.We never use them nor suffer and die as men not weeds. The best flowers in a garden are bred to be sensational all weeds plucked and burnt to keep the border in top shape. I see breeding as part of that thought. You attack us and know now the truth. No title no line back to 1066 must be hard to take in. I like you for your honest view of my familys but this is too far a liberty.