The battle for the bed chamber – Henrietta Maria

henrietta maria 2Henrietta Maria has undoubtedly had a bad press in English History – in the past she has either been fitted into the pattern of she-wolf or interfering wife. And yet prior to arrival in England in 1625 and in the weeks afterwards she was praised for her youth and her beauty.  Her arrival was, after all, the beginning of an Anglo-French partnership. Not that every was wildly happy about a French Catholic becoming queen.

The power of a consort was very indirect so far as most Stuart kings of England are concerned.  Henrietta is the best known of the Stuart wives and she undoubtedly arrived with an agenda.  Pope Urban VIII had made her a member of the order of the Golden Rose prior to her departure for England. She wrote to her brother, Louis XIII, saying that she would improve the lot of Catholics in England.  She made no secret of the fact that she was a good Catholic princess.  Her pilgrimage to Marble Arch and Tyburn where Catholics had been executed caused consternation amongst her Protestant subjects.  Yet, she was also supposed to engineer a firm Anglo-French alliance.  She was fifteen and it was a very tall order.

george villiersGriffey explains that her presence in England quickly became a political liability so far as Buckingham was concerned.  In the first instance she was French and Catholic so did nothing to enhance Buckingham’s popularity at home given that he brokered the match and secondly Charles was predisposed to love his bride. In terms of the first Buckingham broke the escrit secret that he had agreed promising to suspend the recusancy laws, declaring it was nothing but a trick to get the French to agree to the marriage and in the second he sought to impose his various female relations upon Henrietta not to mention the female relatives of men who owed their ascent at court to him so that he could control who had access to her. The effect of both was to leave her feeling embattled and isolated – which in turn made her more determinedly Catholic in her outlook.  She refused to be crowned because it was a Protestant ceremony.  The same applied to Garter events and other events. It did nothing for the royal marriage either as Charles became ever more resentful of her lack of obedience to his husbandly requests – though apparently the fact that her sixteenth birthday passed unremarked was neither here nor there as indeed was the fact that he was flagrantly breaking the promises that he made prior to their marriage.

charles i full lengthCharles came to believe that her household was keeping her too French and too intransigent. In part her relationship with her confessors did have that effect and whilst there were few English women in her household she had no need to speak the language – indeed I  imagine that girls around the country were being tutored in French in the hopes that they might get a place in her household.   Charles came most of all, it would appear, to blame Jeanne St George.  Madame St George or Mamie as she was known had been with Henrietta since the princess was a child. She had unintentionally caused a diplomatic incident when Charles and Buckingham insisted on travelling in Henrietta’s coach to Canterbury from Dover along with Buckingham’s mother and wife.  There had been no space for Mamie which was a serious breach of French etiquette. The whole affair was repeated when the royal couple fled the plague that summer. Buckingham was offended at the suggestion that his family should not travel with the queen.

Gradually the household of four hundred was eroded.  Henrietta took up the lute. Her lutist was arrested as a spy and packed off to the Tower, some other household members were arrested under the recusancy laws which were very much in force. Matters came to a head for Henrietta when her entire household was sent back to France in 1626 – Charles having forcibly separated his wife from their company.  It was a total breach of the marriage treaty. It left her hysterical and a virtual prisoner.  She was unable to write any letters unless an English lady-in-waiting supervised its content.

Henrietta who still did not speak English now found herself surrounded by the Duke of Buckingham’s female relatives including his niece Susan who slept in her bedchamber.  Lucy Hay, Countess of Carlisle was imposed on her.  Lucy was beautiful and witty and Buckingham’s sometime mistress. There is evidence to suggest that Buckingham was planning to set Lucy up as Charles I’s mistress but the king was a loyal husband – not that Henrietta would have initially known that.  Instead she might have thought of her own father with his more than forty mistresses as well as the court of her brother.  No wonder she was hostile to Lucy – and her rather colourful reputation.

Ultimately the two women became friends and allies whilst it suited them both. Lucy was older than Henrietta and she was able to fulfil a role as mentor – which was as alarming to most Puritans as the thought of Mamie St George. Their relationship sums up the informal nature of female Stuart politics.  It was based on personal relationships and favour.  Interestingly Lady Carlisle only fell from favour when her husband became Pro-Spanish in sympathy.

The reorganisation of Henrietta’s household structure in 1627 at Charles’ behest meant that access to the bedchamber and personal spaces of the queen were more limited than they had been under previous monarch and consorts. A distinction was drawn between the bedchamber and the privy chamber in a way that it hadn’t been before.  The extended hierarchy was Charles I’s preference.  He disliked the free and easy way that Henrietta associated with her French ladies and wanted to impose more regulation upon the whole proceeding so that it mirrored his own household.

She was angered that he had imposed his will on her independence.  She pointed out, quite reasonably, that his mother had ordered her own affairs but Charles said that was a different matter entirely. At which point Henrietta lost her temper and proclaimed that she was a daughter of France whilst Charles’ mother was only from Denmark.  It wasn’t tactful but it’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Henrietta  at this point.

 

The limiting of access with its heightened powers of influence initially  seemed to work to Buckingham’s advantage as the key jobs were given to his people but after his death in 1629 it meant that access to Henrietta was still limited.  The difference was that Henrietta who had rushed to console her husband on Buckingham’s death had much more influence than anyone could have anticipated. The lack of range of voices and opinions surrounding Henrietta and Charles would be one of the factors that led husband and wife down a dangerous path.

Men have always blamed evil councillors when they revolt against their monarchs.  The death of Buckingham removed a hated advisor so it was perhaps only to be expected that Parliament began blaming Henrietta Maria for Charles’ actions – she was after all a foreigner ( a French one at that), a Catholic…and a woman!

 

Erin Griffey (ed) Henrietta Maria: Piety, Politics and Patronage

Wolfson, Sara J. The Female Bedchamber of Queen Henrietta Maria: Politics, Familial Networks and Policy, 1626–40  in The Politics of Female Households: Ladies-in-waiting across Early Modern Europe

 

 

 

Henrietta Maria – daughter and diplomatic pawn

Queen_Henrietta_Maria_as_a_child_by_Frans_Pourbus_the_Younger_1611.jpgHenrietta Maria, pictured at the start of this post, was born in 1609 at the Louvre.  She was the youngest daughter of Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici.  Henry had become Henry III of Navarre in 1572.  He was to become the first Bourbon king of France.  Somewhat ironically given the reverence she placed upon her father’s memory, Henry was a Huguenot although he had been baptised a Catholic.  He was fortunate to escape the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572 – an event witnessed by Sir Francis Walsingham who was the English Ambassador in Paris at the time.  Henry would go on to become King of France in 1589 – taking on the Catholic League to become the only Protestant king that France ever had but in 1593 to bring civil unrest to an end he returned to Catholicism.  The Edict of Nantes passed in 1598 granted religious toleration to the Huguenots.  Unsurprisingly perhaps, Henry was neither popular with Catholics who regarded him as a protestant usurper nor with Protestants who saw him as a traitor to his beliefs – he is famously supposed to have said that Paris was worth a mass. It was only after his death that he turned into Good King Henry.

Marie de Medici was Henry’s second wife.  They married in 1600.  Marie was born in Tuscany in 1573 and the marriage with Henry was helped along by a large dowry. The year after their marriage Marie provided Henry with an heir – Louis.  She would have five more children before Henry was assassinated in 1610.  She would go on to rule as regent for her son Louis XVIII.  Even if the marriage between the pair was a matter of state, Henry had other consolations – approximately 54 of them- making Henry VIII seem positively restrained! Diane D’Andoins was just one of the mistresses who stood the test of time.

So- back to Henrietta Maria.  When she arrived 25th November 1609 her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They had hoped for a legitimate spare to go with the heir. Henry was troubled by his wife’s desire for a more pro-Spanish policy whilst he himself was infatuated with Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency. She was the seventeen-year-old wife of his own nephew, Henry Prince of Conde.

Henrietta was sent off to join nursery of assorted legitimate and illegitimate brothers and sisters at the Chateau of St Germain. Once there she was lumped together with all the younger siblings so history doesn’t necessarily see her with great clarity during her early childhood. It is perhaps unfair to record Henry’s grumpiness about the fact that she was a girl.  We know from other correspondents that he spent time with all his children  in St Germain. He declared them to be the most beautiful children and that the time he spent with them as the happiest.

We know Henrietta attended her mother’s coronation and her father’s funeral. She was a princess and had the qualities that princesses were supposed to have; she was beautiful, she loved music, painting and dancing.  She was given religious instruction by Carmelite nuns.

henrietta maria pourbus.jpg

It wasn’t long before she learned that princesses had an important diplomatic role to fulfil.  On November 9th 1615, about the time the above portrait was painted by Frans Pourbus, she was at Bordeaux to see her sister Elizabeth who married   Philip of Spain whilst the Infanta Ana became her brother Louis’s bride.  Anne of Austria as she is better known holds her own place in England’s Seventeenth Century history and a spot in the heart of all Alexander Dumas fans.  In reality she was one of the ties that helped bind the Bourbons and the Hapsburgs together in Maria de Medici’s pro-Spanish policy.

Meanwhile in France, politics and family life were a dangerous cocktail.  In 1617 Marie de Medici found herself ousted from her role as regent and sent to Blois whilst her favourite, and foster sister,  Leonora Dori the wife of Concino Concini  was executed. Concini was killed by a Paris mob.  It should be noted that Marie had remained regent despite the fact that Louis was an age to rule for himself.  The murder of Concini was ordered by Louis and just for good measure he reversed his mother’s pro-Spanish policy. Marie would remain in Blois until she escaped in 1619 and she wouldn’t regain political power until the death of the Ducky de Luynes. The removal of Marie drew Louis and Anne closer together.  Up until this point she had not learned much French, still dressed in the Spanish fashion and was a wife in name only. The Ducky de Luynes encouraged Louis to spend time with his wife.

Henrietta was with her mother at Blois but once Henrietta’s sister Christine was married off to the Duke of Savoy – Henrietta assumed a more important role.  She was the remaining dynastic pawn on the board of continental politics. In 1619 Henrietta was moved from Blois to the Louvre. By 1620 prospective husbands were under discussion.  She was eleven.

Cardinal Richelieu was keen on an English alliance for political reasons of his own but he would make his move in due course. The current driver for the wedding was the Duc de Luynes, the favourite and boy hood friend of Louis XVIII.  At this point, James I of England who had married his own daughter Elizabeth off to Frederick V of the Palatinate was determined on a Spanish match for his remaining son, Charles.  Du Buisson was dispatched to London on the Ducky de Luynes’ orders ostensibly to purchase horses for the Prince of Conde’s stables. The French Ambassador at the English court, Comte de Tillieres was instructed to introduce Du Buisson at court where he was turned down flat by King James.  The ambassador was able to assure King James that the proposal was unofficial because it hadn’t come through the proper channels i.e. him.  De Tillieres also stated that French princesses weren’t hawked around the countryside but that monarchs made their way to France in the hope that a French princess might be bestowed upon them.

This was unfortunate as de Luynes then sent his own brother to make another proposal.  Inevitably the Duke of Buckingham became involved with the envoys and there was insult on both sides rounded off by the Spanish ambassador getting in on the act to move the Spanish match forwards another couple of paces.

At home in France after de Luynes’ death  Marie de Medici was busy sowing discord between her son and his wife, Anne of Austria. Anne, sidelined and unhappy, sought entertainment and relied upon her favourite Marie de Rohan-Montbazon.

In short, life was complicated for Henrietta Maria even as a child.

Pearce, Dominic (2018) Henrietta Maria 

Three French Hens – Queens of England from France

isabella of franceI did consider titling this post “three foul french fowl”but decided it was an alliteration too far.

Richard I, a.k.a. the Lionheart,  should have married Alys of France – the dispensation for that marriage would have been interesting given that Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alys’ father, Louis VII of France had once been married.  Alys arrived in England aged eight as Henry II’s ward following a treaty agreed in 1169.  However, the marriage never progressed which didn’t help Richard’s relationship with fellow monarch Philip II of France who was Alys’ brother.

In 1175 Henry II began to seek an annulment from his marriage to Eleanor.  It has been suggested that rather than marrying Alys to his son Richard, that he intended to marry her himself. Certainly it is thought that he began an affair with her after the death of Fair Rosamund in 1177.  All things considered it is relatively easy to see why Alys didn’t become one of England’s French hens.

On the other hand, Alys’ sister Margaret should be on the list of French hens because she married Henry II’s oldest son also named Henry in 1162.  Technically she became a royal consort when the Young King as he became known was crowned in 1172.  Henry II and his son being the only occasion when there have been two official monarchs on the English throne (excluding the Wars of the Roses and the joys of the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda both claimed the Crown – and Matilda never had a coronation.)

I am not including women who would be defined as French by today’s geography but were daughters of independent or semi-independent realms in their own times: Matilda of Boulogne who was King Stephen’s wife or even Eleanor of Aquitaine who was Henry II’s wife come under this category of consort.

Which brings us to our first indisputable French hen – Margaret of France who was the second wife of Edward I.  She was swiftly followed by Isabella of France who is better known as a “she-wolf” on the grounds that she and her lover Roger Mortimer deposed Isabella’s husband Edward II and according to official histories arranged for his dispatch – purportedly with a red hot poker.

French consort number three was Isabella of Valois who was married to Richard II after his first wife Anne of Bohemia died. She was married to Richard at the age of seven in 1396.  Four years later Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke.  Richard was fond of his young wife and she returned the feeling.  She refused to marry Henry IV’s son and went into mourning.  She died aged nineteen in childbirth following her return to France and second marriage to Charles of Orleans.

Henry V ultimately married Catherine of Valois in 1420 following his victory at Agincourt.  After Henry’s death Catherine went on to be associated with Edmund Beaufort but when the laws changed  specifying that if the dowager queen married without her son’s consent that the new husband would loose his lands, Beaufort swiftly lost interest. Catherine went on to make an unequal marriage with Owen Tudor.

In 1445 Catherine’s son, Henry VI, married Margaret of Anjou as part of a policy to bring the Hundred Years War to an end.  Margaret had no dowry and was plunged into a difficult political situation which resulted in her ultimate vilification by the winning Yorkists.  Her hopes for the Lancaster Crown ended on 4 May 1471 when her son, Prince Edward, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI was killed in the Tower shortly afterwards.  She eventually returned to France.

Isabella of  France and Margaret of Anjou are the two consorts that popular history remembers most clearly.  The third of English history’s three foul French fowl arrived in 1625.  Henrietta Maria married Charles I shortly after he became king.  Initially she had to contend with Charles’ reliance upon the Duke of Buckingham.  Her Catholicism made her an unpopular choice in England despite Charles’ insistence that she be known as Queen Mary, as did her ability to buy armaments and mercenary forces  on her husband’s behalf during the English Civil War. She also decided on a new title for herself – Her She-Majesty, Generalissima.

 

 

Queen Elizabeth I’s godchildren

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs you might expect Elizabeth I had many godchildren including Mary Queen of Scots’ infant son James – her proxy had to lurk outside the chapel during the baptism as Mary obviously had her son baptised within the Catholic faith whilst Elizabeth was very clearly Protestant. Once Mary was forced to abdicate and her half-brother the Earl of Moray took charge of the new king crowned by John Knox in Stirling, James was raised a Protestant.  In later years, when James was nineteen Elizabeth started to write to James with advice.  The pair exchanged correspondence occasionally thereafter.

Very conveniently the exact numbers of godchildren can be traced through the queen’s accounts.  In 1562 she gave 37d for “Mr Sakevill’s child.”  Unsurprisingly she was godmother to Lord Hunsdon’s child  and Sir Francis Knolly’s child the same year.  Both of the former were part of the extended Boleyn family through Elizabeth’s aunt Mary – they are sometimes referred to rather enviously of being the “tribe of Dan”  in an Elizabethan court context.

In addition to family she was also godparent to the children of her advisors – Robert Cecil’s son, William, became her seventy-ninth godchild. Then there were her nobility who angled for a royal sponsor for their children in the hope of royal patronage. The Earl of Northumberland’s son Algernon was one of Elizabeth’s godchildren in 1602.  Elizabeth was fond of the boy’s mother, Dorothy Devereaux and had helped arrange the marriage so it is perhaps not so surprising. More surprising is that the French ambassador’s children could also claim Elizabeth as her godmother.

As the years passed Elizabeth even became godparent to her godchildren’s children – notably the case of Sir John Harrington in 1587. Sir John’s mother was Isabella Markham, like Dorothy Devereaux a lady of the privy chamber. Sir John Harrington of Kelston is probably Elizabeth’s most famous godchild mainly because of his invention of a flushing toilet which Elizabeth decided might be unsanitary.  Elizabeth also described him as “saucy.”  He in his turn wrote fondly of her but recognised that as her death drew close that he needed to hitch his wagon to the rising star of James VI of Scotland.  Harrington was also in receipt of quite an unusual gift from his godmother.  She translated Seneca’s Moral Letters as a gift/advice for the six-year-old.

In total Elizabeth became godmother to one hundred and two children. Each of them received a gift of money upon their baptism, hence the detail of the list, and each of them could hope once they were adults to draw upon the favour of their relationship with Gloriana.

Just as an aside children could expect three godparents – two of  their own sex and one of the opposite sex.  The most senior godparent of the same sex had naming rights – presumably unless trumped by Her Maj.

“Queen Elizabeth’s Godchildren.” by Constance E.B. Rye. The Genealogist (NS) vol.2 (1885) page 262-265 [1]

 

Scandal at Chelsea: the courtship and marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

katherine parrHenry VIII was buried on 16th February 1547 at Windsor with Jane Seymour.  Their son Edward was now king with a regency council nominated by Henry VIII.  It wasn’t long before Edward Seymour had nobbled the council and rather than five equal men had become Lord Protector.

Katherine Parr moved to Chelsea with her two hundred servants, one hundred and fifty man yeoman guard, Elizabeth Tudor and the queen’s jewels which Henry VIII’s will gave her permission to wear until Edward was of an age to be married.  The will also stipulated that Katherine was to be accorded the honour of first lady in the land which rather irritated Anne the wife of Edward Seymour the newly styled Lord Protector (March 1547)  who felt that honour ought to go to her.  Edward  created himself Duke of Somerset and  also become Earl Marshal given that the hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk was sitting in the Towner on charges of treason.

thomas seymourEdward’s younger brother Thomas felt aggrieved.  Even though he was now the Lord High Admiral (sounds vaguely Gilbert and Sullivan), Baron Sudeley and a privy councillor he felt it was somewhat unfair that his brother was the Lord Protector.  What resulted was two years of rampant ambition, scandal and tragedy followed by Thomas’s execution on three charges of treason not that he was ever brought to trial.

Thomas began a campaign against his brother beginning by giving his young nephew pocket money and bribing one of Edward VI’s men, John Fowler, to say nice things about him; he started reading up the law books with a view to demanding to being made Edward’s co-protector and he began looking around for a royal bride.  He started of by asking the Privy Council if he could marry thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor.  The Privy Council said no but Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley was rather taken with the smooth talking charmer which was unfortunate when Sir Thomas turned his attentions from Katherine Parr to her young step-daughter.

John Fowler, the servant bribed to say nice things about Thomas to King Edward, was asked to find out the king’s view on the matter.  Edward thought that Thomas should either marry Anne of Cleves or “my sister Mary to change her opinions.”

Thomas trotted back to the Privy Council to request the hand of Mary Tudor.  On this occasion the Duke of Somerset explained that neither one of the brother should look to be king or to marry a king’s daughter. The brothers argued violently and when Mary was informed of the proposed match sometimes later laughed at the idea.

That just left the dowager queen.  Katherine Parr was thirty-five years old and before the king had made his intentions to claim her as wife number six clear on 1542 she had been linked romantically to Thomas.  This time Thomas didn’t check to see what the Privy Council thought about the idea. He began to visit Katherine at her home in Chelsea in secret.   By the end of April 1547 or the beginning of May the couple decided to marry – even if society would regard it as an indecently hasty match so soon after Henry VIII’s demise.  This was thrice-married Katherine’s chance of happiness and she intended to grab it with both hands.

Katherine had been married first to Sir Edward Borough – he was not a well man. After that she married John Neville, Lord Latimer who was much older than Katherine (approximately twice her age) and, of course, thirdly, she had married Henry VIII.  Katherine, thanks to Latimer, was left a wealthy woman so should, by rights, have had more choice in who she wed next  if at all. Sir Thomas Seymour courted her but Henry VIII had noted her care of Lord Latimer and seen her in Mary Tudor’s company.  In July 1543 Katherine Parr became queen of England setting her romance with Thomas Seymour to one side and possibly disappointing Seymour’s aspirations to marry a wealthy widow.

Now though nothing was going to stop Katherine. They were married secretly in May and Katherine gave orders for a gate to be left unlocked so that her new husband could visit her in the middle of the night.

There was the small problem of telling the people who mattered.  Katherine knew that she needed her step-son’s approval. However, by June there was gossip.  Kat Ashley, Elizabeth Tudor’s governess met Sir Thomas at St James Park  and commented on his failure to pursue his match with Elizabeth and also commented on the fact that he was rumoured to already be married to the queen.

Katherine went to see Edward VI who had no objection to his step-mother’s marriage to his uncle.  Edward VI wrote to her confirming his views on the 30th May saying; “I do love and admire you with my whole heart.”  He agreed to keep the marriage a secret until the relationship between Thomas and Edward Seymour was better.  Katherine, however, felt that rather than relying on his brother’s kindness that Thomas should garner support for the match from leading members of the court.

Mary Tudor was not so generous as her little brother.  When she received a letter from Thomas asking for her support in the matter she was horrified that a) he had aspired so high and b) that Katherine had so quickly forgotten the king who was “ripe in mine own remembrance.” Mary never seemed to forgive Katherine for marrying in haste and expressed concern that Elizabeth should continue to live in Katherine’s household believing that the newly weds had “shamelessly dishonoured” Henry VIII’s memory (you’d have thought that Mary would have been dancing on her late lamented parent’s grave given the way he treated both her and her mother.)

At the end of June 1547 the news of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour was public knowledge. Edward VI kept his promise to support them.  The Duchess of Somerset still had to give precedence to Katherine but she did exact a revenge of sorts in that she persuaded her husband to confiscate Katherine’s jewels which should by rights have been worn by the next queen of England but which Anne Dudley now modelled.

The problem was that Chelsea would not be free from Scandal for long.  In addition to her two hundred servants and one hundred and fifty yeomen there was the small matter of Elizabeth Tudor.  It wasn’t long before Sir Thomas began making inappropriate visits to his step-daughter’s bed chamber.  Kat Ashley didn’t immediately see any harm in his morning calls but Elizabeth took to rising earlier and earlier so that he would not catch her in bed.  Ultimately Kat took him to task for arriving in his night shirt with bare legs.  When he failed to see the seriousness of his behaviour Kat took the matter to Katherine Parr who made little of the morning visits, even joining in with them herself on occasion.  Society was in for another scandal and it looked as though Mary Tudor may have had a point after all.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2015) The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. London: Head of Zeus

Weir, Alison. (1999) Children of England: the Heirs of  King Henry VIII. London: Jonathan Cape.

 

 

 

The House of Lancaster- the basics part ii

 

 

Constance of Castile.jpgJohn of Gaunt was married three times.

His first marriage was to Blanche of Lancaster.  She had a sister but ultimately she was the sole heiress of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster.   She was descended from Henry III on both sides of her family but the huge wealth associated with the dukedom came Edmund Crouchback who was the second surviving son of Henry III.  Henry of Grosmont wasn’t Edmund Crouchback’s eldest son but his big brother Thomas who initially inherited the titles and estate died without heirs so Henry became the third earl of Lancaster. This title and all the land  was inherited in turn by Blanche who also brought the Earldom of Derby into John of Gaunt’s family.

In addition to Henry of Bolingbroke who became Henry IV, there was Philippa who married King John I of Portugal. Henry the Navigator is her son. Another daughter Elizabeth married into the Holland family and her descendants, the dukes of Exeter and Oxford, were involved in the Wars of the Roses.

Blanche of Lancaster died September 1369.  Traditionally she is thought to have died from bubonic plague but historians increasingly think that she died from complications associated with childbirth.  In any event soon after her death John became romantically attached to a young woman in his household, the widowed wife of one of his knights – a certain Katherine Swynford.   Katherine may or may not have been related to the royal family of Hainhault but the fact is that the widow of a Lincolnshire knight was not a suitable match for a royal duke with aspirations.

On the 21 September 1371 John of Gaunt married for a second time to Constance of Castile.  Constance was the daughter of the rather descriptively named Pedro the Cruel of Castile who had been deposed by his half-brother Henry. Whilst Constance was the Queen of Castile in name following her father’s death she never actually ruled there and part of the reason for her marriage to John of Gaunt was that she wanted someone with a bit of clout and a large army to retrieve her kingdom for her. Equally John rather fancied being a king and Richard II’s advisers thought that it was a good idea as they didn’t totally trust John of Gaunt not to snaffle his nephew’s kingdom. The marriage was a political one but it produced two children – a short-lived son called John and a daughter called Catherine of Lancaster who married back into the royal house of Castile when she married Henry III of Castile who was her half-cousin.   It is Catherine of Lancaster’s descendants who can be seen on today’s Lancaster family tree at the start of this post linking back in to the English royal family when her great granddaughter, Katherine of Aragon, married Henry VIII.

Tomorrow – wife number three and the Beauforts. I have my fingers very firmly crossed that I have managed to spell Castile correctly throughout the whole post – just let’s say that I had a problem with the number of “l”s involved, in much the same way that when I wrote a university essay about private journals I somehow ended up writing about milking parlours despite rewriting the essay three times and reading it very carefully on each occasion!

Elizabeth I -Message in a ring?

elizabeth-1-rainbow-portraitAs those of you who know me may recall one of my most favourite historical figures is Robert Carey. He’s the chap who caught the ring his sister, Philadelphia Scrope, chucked it from the bedroom window having it plucked from Elizabeth I’s finger after her demise in 1603.   Robert rode for Edinburgh and did the journey in a very impressive three days.

It is now thought that the ring that Robert carried was not necessarily one given to the queen by James VI of Scotland but more probably the so-called Chequers Ring that ended up in Lord Lee’ hands in 1919 having travelled from Elizabeth to James and then to Lord Lee via the Home family. Alexander Home was the second Earl of Home. His father also called Alexander. It was on account of the favour that he found with James VI of Scotland that Alexander senior was raised to the Scottish peerage. Demonstrating the ties between England and Scotland it should also be noted that he was married to Mary the daughter of Edward Sutton the 5th Baron Dudley, Lord Lisle. The first earl died in 1619 and James, by now James I of England intervened in a dispute over property, took Alexander junior under his wing and negotiated a good match for him.   The second earl married Catherine Carey who was part of the extended Carey family and thus a cousin of some description to Robert Carey who started this post. The marriage took place in May 1622 in Whitehall. It had been arranged by James I. Catherine died in childbirth within five years. Alexander would marry again but did not have any children. The title, the property and presumably the ring passed by entail to the next eligible male in the Home family tree.

Elizabeths-locket-ring

However, ownership aside, the Chequers Ring bears the letters E for Elizabeth and R for Regina in diamonds and blue enamel. The body of the ring is lined with rubies. The ring bezel is actually a locket hiding two portraits. But more on that anon. The problem is that the ring doesn’t turn up on Elizabeth’s jewellery inventory – and I’m sure that we all have one of those to keep tabs on our bling so that hinders its pedigree and even worse we can’t give a definite identity to one of the images in the portrait because there is no provenance or paperwork to accompany it.

A possible clue as to where the ring comes from is the fact that there’s an image of a phoenix painted in enamel on the underside of the bezel. It has been suggested that it was Edward Seymour who gave the queen the gift in a bid to soften her up after he ran off and married Katherine Grey in 1560. If only it was that simple. The portrait of  Elizabeth dates form the 1570s by which time Katherine was dead.  Not only that but Elizabeth used the image of the phoenix on more that one occasion to give the idea of herself as the phoenix rising from the ashes of her mother’s death.

interior of elizabeth 1 locket ringOne of the portraits is unquestionably Elizabeth in her middle years.  The other is a woman who looks remarkably like Anne Boleyn because of the french hood that she wears although it has been argued that it could be Katherine Parr- there are issues over hair colouring. It has even been suggested that it is the image of a more youthful Elizabeth – now Elizabeth was unquestionably vain but would she really cart around two secret images of herself? Not being an art historian I couldn’t comment.  Dr Starkey observed, at the time he curated the exhibition in the National Maritime Museum where the ring was first displayed, it is likely to be an image of Anne because despite the fact that Elizabeth knew her mother for only a very short time she was likely to be a huge influence on her daughter’s life. This view is supported by Tracey Borman in The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen. Elsewhere it is pointed out that Elizabeth is known to have spoken of her mother only twice in her lifetime but it would also have to be said that if as Alison Weir suggests a youthful Elizabeth can be seen wearing her mother’s famous pearls in the Whitehall family group portrait along with a pendant that looks suspiciously like the letter A then she did indeed feel a closeness to her mother which History can only speculate upon.

I will be posting more about Elizabeth I’s iconography as I shall be delivering a ten week course on Gloriana after Easter using a portrait, including the famous Rainbow Portrait, as my starting point each week.

 

Borman, Tracey. (2009) Elizabeth’s Women: The Hidden Story of the Virgin Queen.

 

http://under-these-restless-skies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/anne-boleyns-initial-pendants.html

 

 

England’s Forgotten Queen – the use of wills.

lady-jane-greyHow many of you watched Helen Castor’s new three part series on Lady Jane Grey last night entitled England’s forgotten queen?  Its on BBC4 at 9.00pm on Tuesday evening.  I’m sure its on the Iplayer as well by now.

I usually think of Helen Castor in connection with the Wars of the Roses and I know that her history is thoroughly researched.  I’d have to say that I enjoyed her outline of events as well as the discussions about primary sources. I loved the fact that Lady Jane Grey was the first queen proclaimed by printed proclamation rather than a hand written one and that it required three pages to explain how she’d landed the crown rather than Henry VIII’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth. I enjoyed the dramatisations less but that’s probably just me.

But back to Lady Jane Grey and those wills.  On 30th December 1546 Henry VIII made his final will.  He died almost a month later on the 28th January 1547.  The succession was straight forward.  Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward VI – though interestingly Edward V was never crowned, disappearing instead quietly in the Tower (this is not the time to start pointing fingers at who did it.  Suffice it to say the V is a ghostly imprint upon the chronology of England’s monarchy.)

1531_Henry_VIIIMaking Henry VIII’s will was probably a tad on the tricky side to draw up as it had become illegal to speak about the king’s death thirteen years before it was drawn up in 1535- verbal treason.  Normally a family tree would have been sufficient to identify who was going to inherit what but Henry’s matrimonial past was complex to put it mildly.  Parliament had passed two Succession Acts – one in 1536 and the second in 1544.  Both of them empowered Henry to nominate his heir.  There was even a proviso for the appointment of a regency council.  Henry clearly thought that being dead was no barrier to dictating the way things should happen.

The will aside from giving directions to be buried next to his “true wife” Jane Seymour in Windsor and giving money to the poor obviously launched by placing Edward on the throne.  It then ran through a variety of scenarios about who should inherit in the event of Edward’s demise without heirs.  Rather optimistically for a man of increasingly poor health he identified that any children by Queen Catherine or “any future wife” should inherit.   He then identified his daughters, both of whom had been made illegitimate by that time – first Mary the only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon and then in the event of her not surviving or having children, her sister Elizabeth the only surviving child of Anne Boleyn.  So far so straight forward and very typical of Henry to decide who was and who wasn’t legitimate based on his particular plans – or even that they could inherit even if they were illegitimate so long as Parliament ratified it.

He identifies his nieces and their families after that.  His elder sister Margaret had married James IV of Scotland but Henry’s nephew James V was already dead.  That just left his great niece the infant Mary Queen of Scots.  Really, because she was descended from the eldest sister the little queen should have been identified next in Henry’s will but aside from being Scottish and the daughter of Marie de Guise there was the small matter that the Scots hadn’t taken kindly to the proposed marriage of their little queen to Edward.  There was also the issue that in Scotland Cardinal Beaton  had been murdered and the pro-French were becoming increasingly important (for the time being at any rate.) In any event Henry ignored the senior female line of the Tudor family tree and identified  the heirs of his younger sister Mary who had married Charles Brandon (duke of Suffolk).  Mary died in 1533 aged just thirty-seven.  She did however have two surviving daughters, Frances and Eleanor.  Frances was married to Henry Grey the Marquess of Dorset. They had three daughters Jane, Katherine and Mary.  Henry’s will went on to say that after the heirs of Frances that the heirs of Eleanor married to Henry Clifford earl of Cumberland would be by default his rightful heirs.

As Susannah Lipscomb observes Henry’s will is an intriguing document and its easy to see why it ended up being so roundly contested.  You have to admire Henry’s consideration of the possible scenarios and his plans for each eventuality.  It’s interesting that Frances wasn’t identified as a contender for the crown only her heirs.  What was it about Frances that Henry didn’t like?  Lipscomb observes that her husband Henry Grey wasn’t on the list that Henry VIII proposed as Edward VI’s councillors so it may simply have been that he didn’t like the man very much.

Unfortunately for Henry soon after his death the idea of a regency council was rather badly mauled by Edward VI’s Seymour uncles and by the time young Edward VI lay dying it was the duke of Northumberland who was the power behind the throne.

Henry VIII had stipulated that his daughters Mary and Elizabeth had to accept the order of succession on pain of their exclusion from the succession.  What Henry hadn’t accounted for was that his son Edward would write his own will.  A perusal of  Edward’s will was one of the highlights of last night’s programme on Lady Jane Grey.  It revealed poor penmanship and a last minute change of plan.  Logically if one king could leave a kingdom in his will as though it was a personal possession with the connivance of Parliament and its two supporting acts – it isn’t such a great leap that another king should do exactly the same.

edward-smEdward’s “devise” differed from his father’s in that he excluded Mary – she was just far too Catholic for devoutly Protestant Edward.  He also excluded Elizabeth- because she was legally illegitimate and because by that time, if we’re going to be cynical about it, John Dudley duke of Northumberland had acquired Lady Jane Grey as a daughter-in-law and wanted to remain in charge.  In excluding Mary Queen of Scots young Edward was simply following his father’s will. At first, as Castor revealed last night, the will only considered the possibility of male heirs – either his own or those of the Grey sisters.  As his health unravelled the amendment was made in two words which made Lady Jane Grey his heir; L’ Janes heires masles,” turned into “the L’ Jane and her heires masles.”  Simple really – though it did rely on Mary and Elizabeth accepting the turn of events or being rounded up sooner rather than later.

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent)Ignoring the  problem of Henry VIII’s daughters there was the small mater of Parliament.  The Third Succession Act of 1544 left Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate but placed them in line for the Crown.  Henry VIII’s will is backed up by Parliament.  It is not simply a personal document.  It is held up on the shoulders of law.  Edward’s on the other hand assumes that because one king has willed his kingdom to his heirs that another could do the same.  The problem for the duke of Northumberland was that Edward did not live long enough for the legal process to be fulfilled by an act of Parliament.

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2015) The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII

Medieval Halls

DSC_0204Until about 1600 halls were large official rooms rather than private spaces.  Gainsborough Old Hall is the advent for December 2nd.  It’s a wonderful building constructed from timber frame and brick.  It was built by Thomas Burgh who inherited the manor of Gainsborough in 1455 – so just as the Wars of the Roses was kicking off.  Thomas’s father had done rather well from the Hundred Years War and had married into the Percy family to improve their social standing.  It was his marriage into the Party family that bought Gainsborough into the Burgh’s possession.

Historians believe that the hall and kitchen were built first from timber in the traditional manner with a cruck frame and wattle and daub. The brick was added later when the Burgh family wanted new ways of showing off their wealth.  The great hall is constructed from huge oak beams.  Originally there would have been a central fire.  The smoke escaped through a louvred frame in the roof – so more kippering.  The raised dais where the lord and his family sat was at the opposite end of the room from the cooking  and service areas which were accessed through three doors.  Evidence of the screen hiding these doors can still be seen in the wall above the door frames.

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Thomas was a Yorkist so found that his position in society was further established.  He became Sheriff of Lincoln as well as one of the Esquires to the Body of Edward IV.    He celebrated his new position by marrying a wealthy widow.

Thomas continued to be loyal to Edward in 1469 when the Earl of Warwick rebelled against Edward’s lordship and then during the so-called Re-Adaptation of Henry VI.  In fact it was Thomas who was one of the Yorkists who helped Edward escape his foes in 1471.

Richard III  visited the hall on the way from York to London on October 10th 1483.  The owner of the time Sir Thomas Burgh  was the same chap who’d commissioned the building in the first place and who had demonstrated his loyalty to the Yorkist cause throughout the period.  A week previously Henry Tudor had attempted to sail from Brittany with a fleet to invade at his mother’s behest.  He was forced to turn back leaving the duke of Buckingham to rise in rebellion agains this former friend Richard III.  Buckingham would be executed in Salisbury at the beginning of November and Edward V’s coronation postponed for the last time.

However, something went seriously awry between the House of York and the Burgh family because Thomas turned his coat and by 1485 was a supporter of Henry Tudor. As a result of his support of the Tudors, Thomas was elevated once again becoming Baron Gainsborough.

Sir Thomas’s heir, Edward was loyal to the Tudors as well but suffered from inherited mental health problems meaning that a younger son also called Thomas became the head of the family.  This particular Lord Burgh was Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain and sat as part of the jury at her trial. His son, another Edward, was Katherine Parr’s first husband. They married in 1529 but by 1533 he was dead.

Katherine Howard.jpg Henry VIII visited the hall with wife number five- the ill fated Katherine Howard.

It’s unusual to find an untampered medieval hall simply because later owners added extensions and made alterations to suit their own needs. I must admit that I rather liked the Henry VIII and his wife dolls scattered around the hall – a couple of whom are pictured here and its not often you can trot around corridors that cover such a fascinating period of history from start to finish.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII

Henry VIII’s wives, mistresses and bastards – a summary.

katherine of aragon sil meKing 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.

anne boleyn sil-mineWife 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 sil meJane 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.