Category Archives: Kings of England

The House of Lancaster – the basics


The House of Lancaster - kingsi.jpgThis afternoon I’ve been learning how to convert a word document into a jpeg.  It is rather a straight forward process as it turns out.  The word document needs to be saved as a pdf which can then be saved as a jpeg.  I am therefore a very happy woman and well under way with planning the first part of the forthcoming day school on the Beaufort  family.

Here then is a brief reminder of why the House of Lancaster ended up wearing the crown.

Edward III was a long lived king.  He became king in 1327, at the age of 14, when his father Edward II “abdicated” at the suggestion of Edward III’s mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  Three years later Edward III overthrew his regents and took charge of his kingdom. In part it was because Edward was now a young man but other factors must have included the fact that Roger Mortimer’s military campaign in Scotland didn’t go terribly well and there was the all important factor that Isabella of France had become pregnant with Mortimer’s child.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that with Mortimer in charge that Edward III was a hindrance to perhaps placing his own child upon the throne.  Edward became involved in a coup of his own. Men loyal to Edward III burst in to Nottingham Castle through a secret passage and arrested Mortimer who was promptly carted off to London where he was executed. Alison Weir speculates that the child that Isabella was carrying was either still born or miscarried.  There certainly isn’t any further reference to an illegitimate child of the queen’s.

Meanwhile Edward III had married, the year after he became king in name only, Philippa of Hainhault. Edward and Philippa had thirteen children not all of whom survived infancy which is rather impressive since Edward III was busy governing his kingdom and launching the Hundred Years War base don the fact that his mother was a french princess, there was a vacancy and no one had explained salic law to him.   In addition to his heir, also called Edward (of Woodstock) and whom History knows as the Black Prince he had four other sons who lived into adulthood. Edward wished to ensure that all his sons were well provided for so turned them into dukes and ensured that they were all married to heiresses.

Unfortunately the Black Prince instead of settling down to beget plentiful heirs of his own became embroiled in a love story to compete with that of his younger brother John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  He settled his heart upon Joan of Kent who was the granddaughter of Edward I and his second wife (Margaret of France).  Young Joan or the Fair Maid of Kent as she is sometimes called had a bit of a reputation.  The Black Prince aside from being quite closely related to her was her third husband – husbands one and two had both been alive at the same time and there had been quite some scandal over the whole affair when she selected the knight Thomas Holland to be her spouse rather than the heir of the Earl of Salisbury. She had several children but only one child, Richard of Bordeaux, who survived infancy with her third husband the Black Prince.  The Holland children and their descendants turn up throughout the Wars of the Roses having married into various families adding to the general sense of internecine quarrelling.

The Black Prince careered around France, irritating the French, winning battles and inconveniently dying of dropsy in 1376 the year before his father which meant that the heir to the throne was a nine-year-old boy with four wealthy adult male uncles…and for those readers who enjoy a good pantomime this was clearly not a good position to be in.

It says something for the stability of the kingdom that Richard II became king in 1377 aged just ten.  Four years later the Peasants were revolting and Richard showed his metal by riding out to meet their leader Wat Tyler at Mile End and then at Smithfield.  The rebellion was unsuccessful and this is not the post to explore it any further. Let’s just say that the reign didn’t go well after a promising early start.

Richard’s lords, the so-called Lords Appellant plotted against him.  One of the men was his uncle – Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester.  He would have a nasty accident in Calais with a mattress which suffocated him on his nephew’s orders. Another uncle Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence was already dead – poisoned it would appear by his Italian father-in-law. The Duke of York (Edmund of Langley) kept his nose clean and receives mention in Richard II’s will as a potential heir along with Lionel’s grandson by his only child Philippa who married Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (a descendent of Isabella of France’s lover)- which just leaves us with the most powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  Everyone believed that Gaunt wanted to be king but he was never anything but loyal to his nephew.

The same can not be said of Gaunt’s eldest son, Henry of Bolingbroke (the Earl of Derby). Henry had joined the Lords Appellant in 1387 to plot against Richard who bided his time until he had gained sufficient power to take his revenge.  Henry meanwhile had learned the error of his ways and John of Gaunt had returned from making his claim to the throne of Castile to help keep order in the family. Henry of Bolingbroke reported an alleged treasonous comment in 1398 made by Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk.  The pair were to fight a duel at Coventry but Richard changed his mind and banished Mowbray for life.  Henry was banished for a period of ten years, ostensibly to avoid further blood shed.  The following year John of Gaunt died and rather than send the revenue from the Lancaster estates to his cousin Henry, Richard II now took the opportunity to banish Henry of Bolingbroke for life and claim all of his uncle’s lands.  Richard had cousin Henry’s young son, also called Henry with him as a hostage for Henry of Bolingbroke’s good behaviour when he sailed off to Ireland to deal with the Irish.

Henry of Bolingbroke, now returned to England claiming that he wanted nothing more than what was rightfully his. He swiftly gained sufficient power to claim the kingdom for himself and bingo Henry of Bolingbroke, a.k.a the Earl of Derby transformed overnight into King Henry IV (though he did spend the rest of his life looking one this shoulder for potential plotters and assassins).  Richard II was carted off to Pontefract Castle where someone (Thomas Swynford as it happens) forgot to feed him and he died. Young Henry the hostage would turn into Henry V,

The house of Lancaster now seemed secure on the throne as Henry IV had many sons. Unfortunately his eldest son Henry V contracted dysentery and died leaving a nine month old child, also called Henry on the throne. After a while the hold of the House of Lancaster unravelled – Henry VI aside from not wanting to thrash the French actually married one of them, failed to produce an heir for such a long time that when Prince Edward finally turned up there were plenty of rumours about paternity.  It didn’t help that Henry VI had suffered a mental breakdown and was incapable of ruling let alone acknowledging his son.

The descendants of all those dukes began to look back up their family trees.  Factions formed and it was one short step from angry words to drawn swords on various battle fields.  Ultimately Prince Edward of Lancaster would died at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 meaning that the house of Lancaster would have to look back up its own family tree for a potential heir.

Henry V’s brothers were as follows:

Thomas who died in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge.  He had no legitimate children.

John, the Duke of Bedford who took over the campaign and governance in France after the death of his brother Henry V.   He had been married twice for reasons of allegiance, firstly to Anne of Burgundy and then to Jacquetta of Luxembourg (yes, that one who was mother of Elizabeth Woodville).  Neither wife had produced a little scion of the house of Lancaster.

Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester who took over ruling in England on behalf of his little nephew Henry VI counterbalanced by the child’s half great-uncle Cardinal Beaufort.  Humphrey is known as the “Good Duke.”  His first wife was Jacqueline of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault (all very useful for waging war against the French).  The marriage was annulled  and Humphrey married his mistress Eleanor Cobham.  In 1441 Humphrey’s grip on political power was removed when his wife was convicted of witchcraft and the pair were forcibly divorced.  There were no children and Humphrey died unexpectedly in 1447…possibly from poison.

For the House of Lancaster to continue to vie for the throne after the death of Henry Vi and his son in 1471 it would have to look elsewhere for its sprigs – which is, of course, where the House of Beaufort comes into the equation.

Meanwhile there’s always an opportunity for spotting heraldic devices on modern pubs.  The white hart was Richard II’s favoured heraldic device whereas Henry IV used several including the fettered swan of his wife Mary de Bohun.  Henry V sometimes used the fettered swan as well.  And then of course there is Henry VI’s spotted panther  incensed (means its shooting flames) which is rather wonderful but which so far as I am aware does not feature as a pub.



Filed under Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

The Stuarts – King James I of England- key events.

king-james1Elizabeth I died on 24 March 1603 in Richmond.  She had been on the throne for nearly forty-five years.  Whilst the queen had prevaricated about naming her heir,  Sir Robert Cecil could see that her health was deteriorating and began making the necessary arrangements with King James VI of Scotland the son of Mary Queen of Scots.  He was the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor.

When Elizabeth died Philadelphia, Lady Scrope took the sapphire ring given by King James from Elizabeth’s finger and threw it out of a window down to where her brother Sir Robert Carey sat waiting.  Sir Robert headed off up the Great North Road to Edinburgh.  The journey of some 330 miles was completed late on the 26th March (an impressive turn of speed).  The blue ring was James’ confirmation that he was now King of England as well of Scotland.

James saw himself as King by Divine Right.  He was also delighted to gain Elizabeth I’s wealth but he mishandled his finances because of his own extravagance. It is sometimes said that Elizabeth handled her finances better because she was single whereas James had a family – his wife Anne of Denmark  who was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism (possibly); their eldest son Prince Henry born in 1594, their daughter Elizabeth and their young son Charles.  In total the couple had nine children but only the three listed here survived to adulthood.  It may be surmised a growing family with sons was one of the attractions of James as king so far as the English were concerned. It should also be added that the finances weren’t entirely James’ fault  for another reason as this was a period of inflation and a time when subsidies returned lower yields.

Another of James’ difficulties was the balancing act between religious beliefs with in the country and on the wider European stage.

5 April 1603 – James left Edinburgh.

Mid-April – arrived in York and sent a letter asking for money from the Privy Council

When James arrived in Newark he attempted to have a cut purse hanged without realising that English common law did not permit the monarch to dish up summary justice. He also  knighted 906 men in the first four months of his reign – more than Elizabeth in her entire reign.  During this time James was also presented with the Millenary Petition.  The Puritan ministers who presented it claimed that there were more than 1000 signatories – hence its name. The petition requested that the king put a stop to some practices that Puritans found objectionable.  This included wearing surplices, confirmation, the necessity of a ring for marriage and the making of the sign of the cross during baptism.

11th May 1603   James entered London.

William_Segar_Sir_Walter_Raleigh_1598.jpg19 July 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh arrested. The  key event of 1603 was the so-called the Main Plot which evolved into a secondary Bye Plot that came to light in 1604 (I’ve blogged about them before).  Essentially with the Main Plot there was some question as to whether James was the best person to be king  Henry VII had other descendants who were English.  The one we think of at this time is usually Arbella Stuart who was implicated in the Main Plot which saw Sir Walter Raleigh sent to the Tower.  The plan was to depose James and put Arbella in his place.  The Bye Plot was much more straight forward.  It simply involved kidnapping James and forcing him to suspend the laws against Catholics.

17 Nov 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh put on trial. Raleigh would be condemned on the evidence of Lord Cobham who was never called to testify despite Raleigh’s repeated demands that his should be examined.

14 Jan 1604  The Hampton Court Conference convened as a result, in part, of the Millenary Petition.  James ordered that everyone should adhere to the Book of Common Prayer.  This did not please the Puritans or the Catholics especially as recusancy fines were being levied with more rigour than previously.

19 March 1604  James’ first Parliament sat.  James admonished the Puritans but it was clear that religion was going to be a bone of contention.

5 April 1604 James demanded that as “an absolute king” he should have conference with the Commons and his judiciary.  It didn’t go down very well.

Mid April 1604  James demanded the Union of England with Scotland.  No one apart from James thought it was a good idea. He will try again in 1606 and 1607.

19 August 1604  War with Spain formally concludes.  England has been at war with the Spanish since 1585.  The Somerset House Conference draws up the  Treaty of London which is seen as favourable to Spain as it prevents continued English support of the Dutch.

Winter 1604 Thomas Percy sub-leased a house beside the Palace of Westminster. A certain Guy Fawkes and other members of a conspiracy began to dig a tunnel…

5th November 1605  The Gunpowder Plot foiled.

1606 The Bates Case . John Bates refused to pay the new duty that James levied on currants.  The Court of the Exchequer said that Bates had to pay the duty as the king was regulating imports rather than raising revenue for himself – they couldn’t prove any different.  This meant that the Crown suddenly found a way of raising taxes without having to call Parliament so long as it was in the name of regulating foreign trade.  The case is also called the Case of Impositions.  The imposition of these taxes would come back to haunt James when he called Parliament in 1614.

22 June 1606 Oath of Allegiance required of all subjects.  It was made up of seven parts. The first bit required loyalty to James.

June 1607  Founding of Jamestown in America by Captain Smith.

Sept 1607 Start of the Plantation of Ulster when leading Irish earls flee the country fearing arrest.  The event is sometimes called “The Flight of the Earls.”  The Crown confiscates their land and begins to hand it to Protestants including troublemakers from the Scottish/English Borders.

1608 – The Book of Bounty issued.  It was a device to reduce royal expenditure.  This should be viewed alongside Robert Cecil’s revision to the rate of taxation. He’s revised the rates once in 1604 and did so again in 1608.  The revisions of 1608 fetched an additional £70,000 into the royal coffers.

22 June 1610 Arbella Stuart enters into a secret marriage with William Seymour (2nd duke of Somerset) – who had his own claim to the throne due to the face that he is the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey. Elizabeth I had refused to recognise her cousin’s marriage to Edward Seymour but their son (another Edward) was recognised by the courtesy title Lord Beauchamp though none the less was permitted to succeed to his father’s title upon Edward Seymour senior’s death.  The marriage of Arbella and Seymour seemed to unite two possible claims to the throne. Not surprisingly all involved ended up in the Tower.  Arbella would escape her prison but recaptured on her way to the Continent and die in the Tower in 1615. There will be more about Arbella!

1610 – Parliament refuse to proceed with the Great Contract which James has proposed.  If they had agreed it would have resulted in a tax being levied to clear James’ debts. Parliament offered  James £200,000 per year. James demanded another £200,000.  In addition to the financial considerations there was a concern that James might not call Parliament again if he got all the money he wanted in one hit.  James was unwilling to sell off any of his prerogative rights so came no where close to meeting Parliament half-way.

14 May 1610 Henry IV of France assassinated

1611 King James Bible issued.

October 1612 Prince Henry, James’ eldest and most promising son, taken ill.

6 November 1612 Prince Henry dies.  He was eighteen.  It prompted a succession crisis that lasted until 1614. Prince Charles, a sickly child, now became heir apparent.  It became essential that Princess Elizabeth should marry. This resulted ultimately in a bill being laid before parliament to permit Elector Frederick and his wife Elizabeth to inherit in the event of Charles’ death.

14 Feb 1613 Princess Elizabeth married Frederick V of the Palatinate.

April 1613 Thomas Overbury sent to Tower but then released.  He would shortly be murdered.  Th king’s former favourite Robert Carr and his wife Frances Howard would be found guilty of his murder. The ensuing scandal would continue throughout the next two years.  Lady Anne Clifford writes about it her her diary.  There will definitely be more about the Overbury case in the coming year.

1614 The Earl of Suffolk appointed treasurer.

4 May 1614 James told Parliament that they had to vote him subsidies when they next sat. If they wouldn’t James would refuse to call Parliament into session.

December 1614 The Cockayne Project announced.  James allowed Alderman Sir William Cockayne to launch a project designed to boost the earnings of those involved in the manufacture of undyed cloth setting up a dyeing industry to do the job at home. The government was promised £40,000 p.a. from increased customs through the importing of dyestuffs. James gave control to Cockayne and the new company was given permission to export in 1615. It was clear by 1616 that Cockayne had not the resources to buy the cloth from the clothing districts and hold it until it could be marketed. Matters became worse when the Dutch banned the import of cloth. Merchants went bankrupt, weavers rioted, cloth exports slumped and the industry stagnated. By 1617 James abandoned Cockayne and the Merchant Adventurers regained control.

June 1614 The so-called Addled Parliament sat.  This was properly James’ second Parliament which had been called with the express purpose of raising funds for the king. Parliament didn’t politely offer the king taxes. They hadn’t been very impressed with the king’s courtiers undertaking to get their cronies elected to to the king’s bidding.  Instead, they told him that his policies were unacceptable and also said that he would receive no money from them whilst he was enforcing so-called “impositions” – these were taxes raised without the consent of Parliament.  Parliament believed that James had overstepped his legal rights and James believed that Parliament had no right to refuse his demands.  It didn’t pass any bills and was dissolved very quickly.

During this time there were two factions at court seeking the king’s ear following the death of Robert Cecil in 1612.  The most prominent was led by Henry Howard.  The Howard family held key posts. Thomas  Howard the Earl of Suffolk was the father of Francis Howard who married Robert Carr (the Earl of Essex).  It was during this time that his daughter and son-in-law found themselves on trial for the murder of Thomas Overbury through the medium of poisoned tarts. The Howard family wanted James to put Parliament in its place, peace with Spain and Recusancy fines reduced.  Their opposition was comprised of people who simply didn’t like the Howards and would have said that day was night if the Howards said otherwise. They were Protestant whilst the Howards were seen as Catholic in their sympathy.


1615 James I begins to sell peerages to make some money.

23 April 1616 – William Shakespeare dies.

1616 James sells the Dutch the towns of Brill and Flushing which had been given to Elizabeth to help finance the wars agains the Spanish and for support of the Dutch. Sir Walter Raleigh is released from the Tower and the following year goes in search of El Dorado, involving a voyage up the Orinoco.  No gold was forthcoming.  James returned Raleigh to prison and invoked the 1603 death sentence.

1617 James enters negotiations for the marriage of Prince Charles to the Spanish Infanta.  He demands a dowry of £600,000.

1618 – This was the year when the Thirty Years War started with the invasion of Bohemia and the Palatinate Crisis.  James’ daughter  Elizabeth would be involved in this as her husband had become the King of Bohemia when he had been offered the crown the year before.   They were driven out by Counter-reforming Catholics. History knows Elizabeth as The Winter Queen because she was Queen of Bohemia for only a year.

29 October 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh executed.


August 1620 – The Pilgrim Fathers set sail.

8 Nov 1620  The Battle of White Mountain fought near Prague. The battle was won by the Hapsburgs and meant that Catholicism gained an early upper hand in the Thirty Years War.

1621 James’ third Parliament called.

6 January 1621 Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, gives birth to a son Maurice near Berlin.  From there she would go into exile in The Hague.

3 Dec 1621 Parliament petitions the King

1622 Directions to Preachers restrict the contents of sermons.

Forced Loan

1623 Forced Loan

March 1623 Prince Charles makes a trip incognito to Madrid complete with a large hat and false beard. It was a cause of some embarrassment in Madrid.

August 1623 The Spanish want Frederick to marry his eldest son, James’ grandson, to the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.  The plan was that he would then convert to Catholicism and be raised in Vienna.  Charles realised that the Spanish Match wasn’t going to happen but James was reluctant to break off negotiations.

1624 The so-called Happy Parliament called.  James had previously sworn never to call another parliament.  However the course of the Thirty years War made him reconsider. The so-called Spanish match had become more important as it seemed that the Hapsburgs and Spain would dominate Europe and be victorious agains the Protestant countries but it became clear that the Spanish were not serious in their negotiations with the English or that they were demanding too much. Charles and his friend the duke of Buckingham persuaded James that what needed to happen was that the English should go to war on behalf of the Palatinate.  James refused to go to war without a huge subsidy being voted him.

Nov 1624  Marriage treaty signed between Prince Charles and Henrietta Maria of France.

27 March 1625 – King James I of England/ James VI of Scotland died.  King Charles I proclaimed king.


Ackroyd, Peter. (2014) The History of England Volume III: Civil War London:MacMillan


Filed under common law, Kings of England, Seventeenth Century, The Stuarts

Henry VIII- Sir Loyal Heart?

1531_Henry_VIIIThis particular post and the next five which will follow all this week are by way of a reminder to me about Henry’s wives, mistresses and alleged children.  Although he only ever acknowledged Henry FitzRoy, the son of Bessie Blount who he created duke of Richmond and Somerset there is speculation about other children.

1509 – 1527 – Henry ascended the throne aged seventeen and promptly married his widowed sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon.  She was twenty-three and the archetypal princess in need of a heroic knight having been kept in limbo by the machinations of her father Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII who were as tight fisted as one another.

Henry saw himself as Catherine’s knight errant riding to her rescue.  Unfortunately things soon went badly wrong when Ferdinand manipulated his young son-in-law into going to war with France and then making a peace which served his purposes rather than Henry’s.  At home Cardinal Wolsey gained the king’s ear and Catherine failed to provide Henry with an heir to the throne.  It wasn’t long before mistresses abounded but Henry continued to wear love knots on his jousting armour with his initials inter-twined with those of Katherine.

The birth of Princess Mary in 1516 squashed rumours that Henry was looking to have his marriage annulled but matters can’t have been helped as Katherine became more and more pious, even wearing a hair shirt. In addition Katherine was troubled by an infection of the womb that may have caused an unpleasant smell.  In 1525 Henry stopped living with his wife.

Key facts:
1510 – Lady Anne Stafford – the sister of the duke of Buckingham and wife of Lord Hastings. She was also Henry VIII’s cousin and eight years older than him. The alarm was raised by Anne’s sister Elizabeth who spoke with her brother Edward. He caught Sir William Compton in her chamber.  Anne’s husband was summoned; Anne was packed off to a nunnery; there was a scandal; Katherine of Aragon was deeply upset; Edward informed Henry that a Tudor wasn’t good enough to carry on with his sister.  It is perhaps not terribly surprising that Buckingham ended up being charged with treason in 1521 and executed.  Henry appears to have continued his affair until about 1513.  Meanwhile, Sir William Compton was close to the king.  He was a gentleman of the privy chamber and appears to have arranged for the king to entertain ladies in William’s house on Thames Street as well as facilitating the discrete arrival of ladies in Henry’s bed chamber at court.

1513 Ettiennette de la Baume  After the Battle of the Spurs and the Siege of Tournai Henry went to Lille where he stayed with Margaret of Austria, the regent of the Netherlands as well as sister to Emperor Maximillian.  Henry was reported as dancing in his bare feet and shirt sleeves with “Madam the Bastard.”  History has no idea who the lady might be.  However, the following year Henry received a letter from Ettiennette who was one of Margaret’s ladies.  She sent a bird and medicinal roots as well as a reminder that Henry had spoken “pretty things” to her and promised her 10,000 crowns or angels when she was married- a generous gesture!

1514- in the same year as receiving the letter from Ettiennette Henry placed the whole court in mourning “for love of a lady.”

Elizabeth Carew- Elizabeth was just twelve when she gave birth to a son.  She was the wife of Henry’s bosom buddy Sir Nicholas Carew.  He was a champion jouster and friend of the king’s.  Like Compton he facilitated opportunities for Henry to be alone with the ladies.  It has been suggested that one of the ladies was his own wife.  Henry gave the happy couple the standard Tudor wedding present of 6 shillings but Elizabeth’s mother received £500 whilst Elizabeth was given presents of jewels and a mink coat.  Make of it what you will – he might have just been being generous to the wife of a very good friend.

bessieblount1Bessie Blount – Bessie was one of Catherine’s maids-of-hounour.  When she first arrived at court she is estimated to have been about eleven years old. We know that she was well educated and that she took part in the masque that occurred at court. In July 1514 her father received £146 in advance wages and there is also the evidence of a letter from Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk where he makes a courtly gesture to both Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Carew.   She was married off to Gilbert Tailboys, a gentleman in Wolsey’s household.

1514- Jane Popincourt – The frenchwoman began her career in 1498 in service of Elizabeth of York but transferred into the household of Mary Tudor and from there into Katherine of Aragon’s household.  She achieved notoriety in 1513 when  Louis d’Orleans, the Duc de Longueville was captured and sent to the Tower.  She visited him often and commenced an affair.  When Mary Tudor was sent off to France to marry King Louis XII Jane should have gone with her as a lady -in-waiting but Louis struck her name from the list because she was an immoral woman announcing,  “I would she were burned.” She did finally return to France in 1516 received a parting gift of £100 from Henry.  Their affair had begun in 1514 when Katherine of Aragon was heavily pregnant.

Mary Boleyn- famously Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn but he may have purchased it from Mary’s father. Mary, somewhat notoriously, was mistress of Francis I, the King of France before catching Henry’s eye.  When she returned to England she was married, rather promptly, to Sir William Carey a Gentleman of the Chamber. The wedding gift from the king was the usual 6 shillings.  The only written evidence that Mary was Henry’s mistress comes from Cardinal Pole.



1519- birth of Henry FitzRoy, son of Bessie Blount followed in 1521 by a daughter called Elizabeth who received the name Tailboys.  There are some doubts about the dates. Bessie’s third child, George, was definitely her husbands so far as historians can tell these things.

1524- birth of Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys.  Henry Carey was born in 1526.  However, Mary would have been pregnant with him in 1525.  It has been suggested that Mary’s pregnancy with Henry causedKing Henry to look more closely at Mary’s sister Anne.  Henry Carey’s parentage has always been much speculated upon. Understandably King Henry did not acknowledge either of these children as his because it would have rather sunk his argument about cohabiting with an in-law at a point when he was trying to divorce Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn.

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Filed under Kings of England, Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Henry VIII pops his clogs

henryholbeinOkay – so I’m a couple of days out.  On the plus side at the end of January 1547 the news of Henry VIII’s death was kept secret for two days following his demise on the 28th Janury at Whitehall so that arrangements could be made to move young King Edward VI to the Tower from Hoddesdon and so that Sir Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget could persuade the sixteen council members identified in Henry’s will that it would be far better if Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford shortly to be duke of Somerset would be an infinitely preferable choice as Lord Protector rather than a regency council of sixteen  as envisaged in Henry’s will.

This post coincides with the date  (30th Jan) that Chancellor Wriothesley cried buckets of crocodile tears in Parliament when he stood to announce that Henry was dead. He had been on the throne since 1509. The King is dead! Long live the King!

Cranmer had arrived in the nick of time from his home in Croydon to administer the last rites to his master after Sir Anthony Denny eventually plucked up the courage to tell Henry that he was dying. To predict the death of the king was treason – even when stating the obvious.  At that time Henry could speak but by the time Cranmer arrived having been delayed on icy roads Henry was beyond words and could only squeeze his archbishop’s hand to show that he trusted in his salvation through Christ.  And let’s face it if anyone had need of forgiveness then it was Henry who’d shuffled two wives off this mortal coil somewhat before their time as well as rather a lot of his nobility, his monastics and his thinkers as well as ordinary citizens who hadn’t gone along with his religious views, been in the wrong place at the wrong time or had the temerity to have a family tree that was rather more distinguished than his own.  And that’s before we get to the dissolution of the monasteries and the harassment of his first wife and the Princess Mary.

Weir suggests that Henry died of a pulmonary embolism (Weir, 502). Earlier writers suggested that his wives failure to produce sons, his ulcerated leg and his increasing paranoia were symptoms of syphilis although an article in the Journal of Medical Biography states that these factors are not evidence of syphilis and more specifically Henry was never treated for ‘the pox’.   It has even been suggested that the king famous for getting steadily bulkier with each passing year was suffering from malnutrition bought about by fasting- and certainly not eating his greens. Certainly his own physicians record him suffering from constipation. A more recent writer, whose name escapes me at the moment (sorry) suggests that the ulcerated leg could have been caused by an over tight garter. It has also been suggested that Henry’s jousting accident on 24 January 1536 which knocked him out cold (Anne Boleyn claimed her miscarriage of the male infant that would certainly have saved her life had it lived was the result of hearing the news) caused many of his health problems in later years.

Henry certainly had a series of strokes as he neared the end of his life.  In the last year of his life he was carried everywhere, he could be smelled a room before he arrived, was short-tempered and he showed symptoms of depression. It has also been suggested that he had Cushing’s Syndrome and that’s only the start of it.  Robert Hutchinson opts for renal and liver failure not to mention the effects of being so obese as the causes of Henry’s death at the age of fifty-five.  He’d been on the throne since his eighteenth year.

By the nineteenth century Henry’s death had been somewhat embroidered including the idea that Henry’s last conscious words were “Monks! Monks! Monks!” whilst staring manically into darkened corners where the spectres of  his monastic victims lurked. He’s also supposed to have cried out for Jane Seymour.  Whilst the former is a work of fiction the latter does have an element of truth in it if we look at his will.  He wished to be buried in Windsor next to his “true wife” – or in other words the one who’d provided a male heir.

I couldn’t really finish this post off without the gory story of Syon Abbey.  Henry’s body was popped into its casket which in turn was covered with blue velvet. On the journey to Windsor the king’s body rested overnight in Syon Abbey – rather unfortunately the contents leaked of the coffin dripped onto the stone floor beneath the trestle upon which it was resting. When the entourage turned up in the morning to continue their journey they saw a stray dog enjoying an unexpected early morning snack, er, let’s just say soup under the coffin.  Friar Peto, a loyal supporter of Katherine of Aragon, had preached a sermon in 1532 comparing Anne Boleyn to Jezabel and Henry to King Ahab.  When Ahab died wild dogs licked his blood.  Peto hadn’t won friends and influenced people- most specifically the king- when he suggested that the same fate would befall Henry if he set aside his lawful wife and broke with the Pope. Sadly it seems according to Alison Weir that this is yet another Victorian flight of fancy.

Want to know more? Click on the link to the Journal of Medical Biography.

Cohen J. Did blood cause Henry VIII’s madness and reproductive woes? March 4, 2011. History Web site.

Hutchinson, Robert (2005)  The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant.

Keynes M. The personality and health of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). Journal of Medical Biography 2005;13:174.

Weir, A. Henry VIII: King and Court, 2001.


Filed under January, Kings of England, On this day..., Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

22 December in History


Where would I be without Layton and Legh – today on the 22 December 1535 the dastardly pair  of monastic visitors were beginning their northern visitation at Lichfield (yes – I know its the Midlands but to Thomas Cromwell it was the north).  Layton paused en route at Chicksand in Bedfordshire where the Gilbertine nuns  “refused to admit him as visitor.” (I bet that went down well).  He found two of the nuns were “not barren;  one of them impregnavit supprior domus, another a serving-man.”  How he discovered this if the Gilbertine prioress refused him admittance is open to speculation.  He must have taken himself off to the local tavern and listened to the gossip. Rumour had it that one of the nuns was bricked up alive – its always good to go with the stereotype and offers us our festive ghost story- not that this prevented the prioress receiving a pension when the priory was finally suppressed in 1538.

‘Henry VIII: December 1535, 21-25’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 9, August-December 1535, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1886), pp. 340-350. British History Online [accessed 6 December 2016].

old pretender.jpgJumping forward two hundred years James III of England also known as the ‘Old Pretender’ landed at Petershead.  The Jacobites had been up in arms since September on account of George I not giving governmental position to nobles who felt that they deserved posts.  However, the jacobites were disorganised and poorly led meaning that by the time James landed it was all over bar the shouting. By February it was all over and James was back in France. The National Library of Scotland has a useful time line which may be accessed here.

king-stephenThere’s one last event for the 22nd which requires slipping back in time to 22 December 1135.  Stephen of Blois, grandson of William the Conqueror, was crowned king of England in Westminster Abbey.  Stephen’s uncle Henry I had intended his daughter Matilda to rule but his barons, forced to swear their support for her, felt that a woman was unfit to rule so crowned Stephen in her stead.  It didn’t help that she was married to Geoffrey of Anjou – a chap who the barons weren’t terribly keen to welcome as the king – given that a woman, no matter who she was, would by necessity be required to be subservient to her husband.

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The fate of kings – Edward VIII, Edward II, Richard II and Charles I

king_edward_viiiThree kings plus a spare – what could be more festive than that?


The first of today’s faces is outside my usual time period but it is a significant event so far as the British monarchy is concerned. On the 11 December 1936 King Edward VIII, uncrowned king of the United Kingdom, renounced the throne, not by proclamation but through the very modern medium of a radio broadcast. He then joined Wallis Simpson on a boat bound for France. He’d been king for less than a year. In his abdication speech Edward was eager to observe that as a constitutional monarch he’d never done anything in opposition to his parliament. Churchill made much the same comment in a speech given in the House of Commons on the subject. He also said, “ What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left.”


Since then history, journalists, biographers and anyone with an interest have speculated as to the whys and wherefores of the case of the only king in English history to voluntarily renounce his throne.


Edward’s decision was the result of a constitutional crisis bought about by his love for Wallis Simpson, an almost twice divorced American. I say almost because her second divorce from Ernest Simpson was still pending at this time. If Edward had hoped that the political elite would be tolerant of his love for Wallis he was sadly mistaken even though there was probably a big clue in the fact that his own father, George V, had refused to meet her in 1934.


Edward even went so far to ask Stanley Baldwin, the then prime minister, if it would be possible for him to have a morganatic marriage. A morganatic marriage in this context is a marriage between a couple of unequal rank in society. Although the marriage is recognized any children resulting from the union would not be permitted to inherit the throne. Nor would Wallis have attained the rank and privileges of her husband. This was a reasonably common approach to marriage in European royal houses but would have been unique in British history – no one dared mention to Henry VIII, of instance, that his marriage to Anne Boleyn, even with her drip of Plantagenet blood, was not a marriage of equals.


Baldwin’s cabinet deemed that the British public would not take to a twice divorced American with a scandalous reputation so said no to a morganatic union. This left Edward with three choices: he could say goodbye to Wallis and marry a woman deemed appropriate; abdicate or ignore the prime minister and marry Wallis anyway. This would have led to a direct confrontation between king and his ministers as they would have resigned resulting in a constitutional crisis.


By the beginning of December the scandal was all over the papers.  Edward made his decision and ‘lay down the burden’ of kingship – which rather suggests he felt there was a choice in the matter. The pair got married on June 3 1937. Edward’s younger brother Albert, now King George VI, created him duke of Windsor.  Edward and Wallis spent the rest of their lives in exile.


edwardiiOf course, other kings have abdicated in English history – just they didn’t do it voluntarily and they certainly weren’t sent off  to be the governor of the Bahamas. The demise of deposed medieval kings reflects the way in which parliament gradually became more important as the centuries progressed and the kings themselves gradually found their power being eroded. Edward II was deposed in January 1327 when he was captured by his wife Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer. Parliament named his son Edward III as king. There wasn’t a great deal of debate about the matter but it is significant that parliament was called upon to recognise the transition. Edward II disappeared into Berkeley Castle where he was murdered – the medieval way of getting rid of a king who’d worn out his welcome.


tumblr_m94jocf45j1qeu6ilo1_500Two generations later Richard II renounced the throne in 1399. In reality, he too was deposed but his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV, recognized the importance of popular acclaim and legal justification for his actions- no need to discuss the fact that Richard II was being held captive at the time nor the fact that he didn’t have a great deal of choice in the matter. Like his great grandfather Richard found himself being escorted to a large castle (Pontefract) and quietly removed from the scene (starved).

During the Wars of the Roses, Lancastrians and Yorkists alike were careful to have parliament identify their reign as beginning prior to the key battle that saw them taking hold of power.  This ensured that the loosing side could all be attained for treason.

Charles_I_in_Three_Positions_1635-36By the reign of Charles I the law and parliament had evolved even further, though now is not the time to explore the reasons for that.  Charles found himself on trial for treason. The rationale for this came from the Roman idea that a military body could overthrow a tyrant and even then many people had doubts about the legitimacy of such an action. The Parliament of 1648 was notable for the way in which MPs were excluded from the House of Commons if they were not in support of Oliver Cromwell’s drastic actions. This parliament was known as the Rump Parliament.


The idea that there were fundamental laws and liberties which a monarch was required to uphold or to face penalties  imposed by parliament and the law would have come as a surprise to Charles I’s predecessors.  Having seen the power that they could wield parliament now invited Stuart monarchs to ascend to the throne, kicked them out if they didn’t like their religion and laid down statutes as to who could inherit the throne. This meant that with the advent of the protestant Hanoverian monarchs, the British monarchy was a constitutional monarchy.  Kings and queens are heads of state but within defined parameters – their role became increasingly ceremonial whilst the business of laws and governing rest in the hands of Parliament.

Who would have thought that this centuries long evolution would resolve itself in the first half of the twentieth century with the abdication of a monarch for the love of a woman?







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December 1st – a historical advent

henry-iIt’s that time of year again.  Sadly for me Cromwell appears to have received no interesting mail on December 1 1535 which is probably just as well for the rest of Tudor England.  I would have to say that in 1532 Sir Anthony Willoughby was suffering with the gout so sent his wife to talk to Cromwell because he wanted Cromwell to speak to the king on his behalf.  Whilst in 1533 Sir Christopher Garneys wrote to Cromwell thanking him “For his loving letters. Is eased of the unquietness he had by reason of a stroke given to a lewd person. Did it not out of malice, but for due correction. Cannot recompense Cromwell’s kindness, but will send him by next ship “a piece of wine of Gravys.”

Consequentially I have had to look a bit further afield for the historical equivalent of a chunk of chocolate.

Henry I died on December 1 1135.  He’s the king who popped off having indulged in a surfeit of lampreys. He’s also the chap with the huge number of illegitimate children but only one legitimate son who inconveniently drowned when the White Ship sank.  Henry then forced his barons to recognise his daughter Matilda as the heir.  Of course they promptly changed their minds upon his demise and selected her cousin Stephen.  This resulted in England’s first civil war. The war raged for nineteen years – the years “when Christ and his apostles slept.”  Cheery or what.

300_2511351Coming forward in 1420 this was the day when Henry V marched into Paris – good for the English less amusing for the French.

More positively  and somewhat outside my usual period but rather more positively the first female British MP, Lady Nancy Astor, took her place in the House of Commons. In America, in 1955, Rosa Parks famously started the bus boycott when after a long day she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a non-coloured passenger.

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online [accessed 19 November 2016].


Filed under December, Kings of England, On this day...

Elizabeth Denton

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008I have just been re-reading Philippa Jones book on Henry VIII’s wives and mistresses.  She suggests that Elizabeth Denton nee Jerningham was Henry VIII’s, or Prince Henry as he was then, first bit on the side.  Not only that but she was hand selected for the role by Lady Margaret Beaufort which rather knocks the idea of her saintly piety to one side; though it might give an insight into the prevailing views of the rights of kingship. Its a thought that certainly made me sit up and take notice!

The idea that Jones puts forward is that young men’s minds inevitably turn to the birds and the bees.  Lady Margaret Beaufort eager to avoid scandal and a mistress likely to make demands selected the lady mistress of the royal nursery for the role of…er…lady mistress on the grounds that she would know her place and not make any trouble.

For a man whose marital history has caused scandal for the last five hundred years relatively little is actually known about his mistresses and potential children but then the evidence against Denton seemed a little, well, vague.  As Licence observes the claim rests entirely on the evidence of grants given in 1509 and in 1515.

So, what have we got.  Well we know for sure that Lady Elizabeth Denton died in 1519 and that she was Henry VIII’s governess.  Already one of Elizabeth of York’s ladies, her wardrobe keeper, she was appointed in 1497 to the role looking after the royal children which would have been Henry, Margaret and Mary replacing Lady Elizabeth Darcy in the job.  The Princess Elizabeth was born in 1492 but died in 1495.  Prince Arthur had his own household.  We know that Lady Margaret Beaufort wrote the rules for the ordering of the royal nursery and that Elizabeth Denton received £20 per annum.  If nothing else we can always rely on the account books. Alison Weir speculates as to the role played by Elizabeth of York and the relationship she had with her younger children.

Its those same account books that give the ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth Denton’s having been the lady mistress of the nursery in more ways than one.  In 1509 she was awarded an annuity of £50 a year as well as the keepership during her lifetime of Coldharbour, Lady Margaret Beaufort’s former London residence.  In addition there was a tun of Gascon wine delivered each year throughout her life (Hutchinson).  It is based on this very generous remembrance that Jones bases her hypothesis.  She argues that royal servants might receive allowances but this was a very generous allowance indeed suggesting that Elizabeth Denton had done rather more than the known facts would account for.  This is the problem with many of Henry VIII’s women. Unless they end up married to him there’s very little concrete fact to go on.  It all comes down to looking at the evidence; adding up two and two to arrive at mistress or illegitimate offspring.  For a very public monarch much of Henry’s life is surprisingly private.

If we apply the same rule regarding the giving of grants and annuities across the board we should also be looking askance at Anne Oxenbridge another nursery maid who received £20 a year for life in 1509. In fact Hutchinson reveals that a whole series of generous annuities and appointments that were made by Henry at this time celebrating the start of his reign and rewarding loyal service to his parents by many men and women but no one is accusing Henry’s male french tutor of being up to no good! Nor for that matter has anyone suggested that Elizabeth Saxby who was also in receipt of a grant at this time was being paid for any of ‘those kinds of service’ rendered. It is a known fact that Henry VIII wanted to appear much more generous than his legendarily parsimonious father- so perhaps its not unreasonable that he should have looked kindly upon the men and women who cared for him during his childhood.

We know that an Elizabeth Denton went with Princess Margaret to Scotland in 1503 and that she probably returned when King James ordered that the number of English women serving her was to be reduced.  We also know that she lived in the precinct of Blackfriars until her death and that she raised her own monument, her husband John  having predeceased her before the contentious grant was given.

Nothing is known about John Denton but Alison Weir mentions a William Denton who served as Elizabeth of York’s carver as well as the king’s in receipt of £26 per year.

Elizabeth went on to be appointed to the care of Princess Mary’s nursery in 1516 having been appointed to the same position for the short lived Prince Henry in 1511. This in itself would suggest that she was a woman thought to be of sound moral values rather than femme fatale. It is, perhaps, unlikely that Henry would have put a woman of dubious morals in charge of his children’s welfare.

In fact, as much as I would have liked to have posted a highly inflammatory article I can’t because there is no direct existing evidence, that I know of, that Henry VIII was permitted a mistress before his marriage and that both his father and grandmother kept a very close eye on him indeed. Ambassadors recorded that he was kept as closely as a maiden which might, perchance,  account for his delight in the romantic chase of his various wives’ ladies in waiting once he became king. Having said that it does make an excellent story and Henry was known to like a more mature lady during his early years… and no, last time I checked just because its a good story doesn’t make it good history.

The next post, reflecting the fact that I am somewhat  Tudor orientated at the moment, will be about Cardinal Wolsey – someone else known for their flamboyant dress sense.  Not only was he Henry FitzRoy’s (Henry VIII’s only openly acknowledged illegitimate child) godfather but he also had a ‘nephew’ of his own.  Just think what the Sunday papers would have made of it, had they existed!




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Personal religion – A Tudor psalter and Book of Hours

H8P_4.jpgA psalter is a personal book of psalms. Henry VIII’s psalter was written in Latin and illuminated by Jean Mallard, a Frenchman who had worked for Francis I but moved to England.  He appears in Henry’s accounts from 1539-1541.   Henry then added his own notes in the margin in much the same way that other psalter owners contemplated the psalms and wrote down important information.

Henry VIII is shown as King David – his favourite biblical character.  The psalter is in the possession of the British Library.  It’s seven miniatures provide an interesting view of the Henry VIII.  This image shows Henry in his private chamber contemplating the word of God day and night – an idea that many of his subjects might have found somewhat ironic not to mention Henry’s idea that he was amongst the blessed – he was after all God’s representative on Earth and Defender of the Faith.  He even had a medal struck to that effect in 1545 some two decades after the Pope awarded him the title and before he’d broken with Rome.  Double click on the image to open a new window at the British Library’s website. Amongst the illustrations are  Henry taking on the French Goliath.

Henry’s role model for his book of personal devotions may well have been his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was well known for her own piety.  She had control of the school room and royal nursery during Henry’s childhood.  Amongst Lady Margaret’s prized possessions, apart from a piece of the True Cross, was her Book of Hours also known as The Beaufort Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a book of prayers that follows the canonical devotions – or the cycle of prayers said by monks and nuns.  At the heart of any book of hours for private use were the prayers for the Virgin Mary to be said eight times a day. Wealthy women often received richly decorated books of hours as part of their wedding present or dowry. They then recorded key family events in their prayer books.  Lady Margaret Beaufort was no exception to this.

Her Book of Hours also contained a calendar of saints days and she used this to mark in important events in her own family including the birth of Henry VIII although it is not as carefully recorded as the birth of Henry’s older doomed brother Arthur.  She also owned Richard III’s Book of Hours which he may have taken with him to Bosworth. She did not systematically remove his name from the text but did add her own at the back.

It is perhaps not surprising that I can think of two Books of Hours without very much effort.  Further study reveals that there are almost eight hundred of them in existence in various libraries as well as being depicted in various images. Owned by the very wealthy these books not only bespoke their piety but also their wealth as the miniatures and illuminated letters were expensive commodities. Duffy explains that several of the later Tudor Books of Hours were given by Elizabeth of York to members of the court but that these were not so richly illuminated and that there were increasing numbers of more cheaply printed Books of Hours which made the apparently generous habit of this gift giving a little more to Henry VII’s liking no doubt.

In fact the more closely you look the more that it is possible to find evidence of royal Tudor piety.  We even have Henry VIII’s rosary which is on loan from Chatsworth to the National Portrait Gallery.  He had many others which are listed in inventories of his possessions.  He used his rosary throughout his reign even though the growing tide of Protestantism would dismiss them as Popish by the time his daughter Elizabeth was on the throne. On a more anonymous but perhaps more moving note several rosaries were salvaged from Henry’s flagship the Mary Rose.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570






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Worcester Cathedral

DSC_0102Bishop Wulfstan became a saint much admired by King John.  He was also a canny politician.  He’d been appointed bishop by Edward the Confessor  in 1062 and is said by his biographer a monk called Colman to have advised King Harold. This didn’t stop him from being one of the first bishops to offer his oath to William. The Worcester Chronicle also suggests that Wulfstan was at William’s coronation.

William set about reforming English Bishoprics, generally by removing Saxon clerics and appointing Normans. He demanded that Wulfstan surrender Worcester.  According to its chronicle Wulstan surrendered the staff to the king who appointed him – i.e. Edward the Confessor. No one else could shift it so William was forced to confirm Wulfstan as bishop.  King John trotted this legend out as an example of the way in which the king had the right to appoint English bishops rather than the pope having the right.

DSC_0114Wulfstan ensured that the Benedictine monks at Worcester continued their chronicle and he preached against slave trading in Bristol.  Meanwhile the priory at Worcester was growing (It was a priory rather than an abbey because it had a bishop as well as its monastic foundation- that’s probably a post for another time).  Not much remains of the early cathedral building apart from the crypt with its forest of  Norman and Saxon columns. Wulfstan’s chapter house draws on its Saxon past and is, according to Cannon, one of the finest examples of its time. In 1113 it suffered a fire rebuilding began immediately. Wulfstan’s canonisation in 1203 helped  Worcester Abbey’s and the cathedral’s economy although the Barons’ War ensured that Wulfstan’s shrine was destroyed on more than one occasion although when Simon de Montfort sacked Worcester he spared the priory.

On a happier note, King John was buried there  partly because of his veneration of St Wulfstan.  He’s one of the saintly bishop’s whispering in the John’s ear (see first image). Henry III crowned at Worcester aged nine with a circlet belonging to his mother because the crown was too big and John had famously just lost rather a lot of bling in The Wash (assuming you don’t think there’s a conspiracy behind the whole story).  Simon de Montfort’s daughter Eleanor (whose mother Eleanor was Henry III’s sister) married Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales there in 1278 having been held prisoner for three years by her cousin Edward I.DSC_0102

A building programme was required for the final resting place of a monarch not least because in 1175 the central tower had collapsed possibly because of dodgy foundations. In 1202 there was yet another fire and in 1220 a storm blew down part of the edifice.  In 1224 the rebuilding began ensuring that Worcester is a good example of early English gothic. The building continued to expand.  By the fifteenth century new windows were being added.


We shift now to the Tudor period.  In 1502 Prince Arthur died at Ludlow after only a few months marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  His heart in buried in Ludlow but the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. His tomb and chantry will be posted about separately.  The Tudor propaganda machine provided symbolism with bells and whistles.

In 1535 Latimer was made Bishop of Worcester.  He visited his see in 1537 by which time Cromwell’s commissioners had carried out the Valor Ecclesiasticus. Its income was £1,260.  It was the fourth richest of the monastic cathedrals behind Canterbury, Durham and Winchester (Lehmberg: 46). Holbeach had sent Cromwell “a remembrance of his duty” in the form of an annuity to the tune of some twenty nobles a year – presumably in the hope of being left alone.  Latimer found that the monks were sticking to their old ways of dressing the Lady Chapel with ornaments and jewels rather than new more austere Protestant approach. He laid down the law but three years later Worcester Priory was surrendered by Prior Holbeach on 18 thJanuary 1540.

Two years later it was re-founded as the Cathedral of Worcester. Holbeach became the first dean of the  cathedral. As with many other religious buildings it suffered during the English Civil War – lead was stripped from its roof valued at £8000. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a time of renovation for Worcester Cathedral.


DSC_0151Somehow, thirty-nine fifteenth century misericords survive at Worcester.  There are also some fine spandrels (triangular bits between arches) depicting various scenes including a crusader doing battle with a lion not to mention the crypt and Arthur’s chantry with its tomb of Purbeck marble.

‘The city of Worcester: Cathedral and priory’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 394-408. British History Online [accessed 27 August 2016].

Cannon, Jon. (2007). Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World that Made Them. London: Constable

Lehmberg, Stanford. E. (2014) The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society. Princetown: Princetown University Press.



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