Category Archives: Queens of England

Katherine Howard executed

catherine howardOn February 13th 1542 Henry VIII’s fifth queen, his “rose without a thorn”, was executed.   Historians and programme makers often focus on her naughty ways but in reality she was little more than a child- nineteen at the most- when she died having been groomed for abuse during her childhood and then made into a political pawn for the Howard family and the Duke of Norfolk.

Katherine’s final days were played out according to a script familiar to Henry VIII’s method for getting rid of people who’d let him down one way or another.

Parliament sat in the middle of January 1542.  Its purpose was to bring Acts of Attainder against Katherine and her lady in waiting Jane Boleyn – Lady Rochford.  At the same time the dowager Duchess of Norfolk was also accused as were Henry Manox, Frances Dereham and the decidedly unsavoury Thomas Culpepper who was also a distant cousin to Katherine, as was Dereham.

On February 10th Katherine was taken from Syon House where she’d been sent when news of her misdemeanours had first surfaced to the Tower.  Once she was in the Tower she was questioned  as to her guilt so that semblance of a fair hearing could be maintained as she wasn’t actually tried in the way that Anne Boleyn was brought to trial.  Perhaps that had been Thomas Cromwell’s neat lawyers mind in action.

On February 11th Parliament passed an act saying that it was perfectly acceptable to execute the insane.  This meant that Jane Boleyn who was definitely not a well woman having accused her own husband of incest with a former queen, her sister-in-law, and who now found herself guilty of allowing Thomas Culpepper to canoodle with her cousin Katherine Howard could be executed without breaking any laws.

On the evening of February 12th Katherine asked to have the block upon which she would lay her head the following day fetched to her chamber.   She rehearsed the actions that would end her life, confessed her sins and on the 13th a crowd gathered to watch the second of Henry VIII’s queens meet her death at the hands of the royal executioner.

Katherine  wearing black velvet stood in front of the crowd and made the traditional address seeking pardon from the king and dying as a good Christian.  In one recorded version of her address she is supposed to have said:

…long before the King took me I loved Culpepper, and I wish to God I had done as he wished me, for at the time the King wanted to take me he urged me to say that I was pledged to him. If I had done as he advised me I should not die this death, nor would he. I would rather have him for a husband than be mistress of the world, but sin blinded me and greed of grandeur, and since mine is the fault mine also is the suffering, and my great sorrow is that Culpepper should have to die through me.

Sadly this piece of theatre is the work of later historians.  As Wilkinson records, there is no evidence of this speech in any of the foreign ambassadors’ reports to their various masters.  It needs hardly be added that a put down of that nature would have been to juicy to be ignored.

Katherine Howard was executed with a single stroke of the axe.  Jane Boleyn, mad or not, was executed immediately afterwards having seen her mistress die before her. Dereham who had put cuckold’s horns on the kings head had been executed by hanging, drawing and quartering at Tyburn in December the previous year.  Thomas Culpepper had been executed by axe on the same day.  Manox who most modern readers must find repellant for the way in which he groomed and abused  Katherine from his position of trust within the dowager’s household escaped execution.

Wilkinson, Josephine. (2016) Katherine Howard. The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen. London:Murray

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The death of Katherine of Aragon

catherine of aragonOn January 7 1536www.beautifulbritain.co.ukKatherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. Sir Edward Chamberlain and Sir Edmund Beddingfield, the late queen’s, er, hosts, wrote to Cromwell detailing the events of the day and asking for further orders as well as requesting a plumber to ‘enclose the body in lead.’

Cromwell then set about organising the funeral as well as dealing with the usual missives about monasteries.  On the 7th of January he had a letter from the Abbot of Whitby who’d been accused of piracy and another from Sir Francis Bigod who’d encountered a monk from Roche Abbey in York Castle accused of treason because he’d denied the supremacy.

Meanwhile Eustace Chapuys sent an account of Katherine’s final days to her nephew Charles V.  He’d hurried to Kimbolton on the 30th December. Chapuys noted that he’d been accompanied by one of Cromwell’s men and that he and the queen ensured that they always had witnesses to their conversation.  Katherine was careful not to be accused of plotting against her erstwhile spouse:

After I had kissed hands she took occasion to thank me for the numerous services I had done her hitherto and the trouble I had taken to come and see her, a thing that she had very ardently desired… at all events, if it pleased God to take her, it would be a consolation to her to die under my guidance (entre mes braz) and not unprepared, like a beast…I gave her every hope, both of her health and otherwise, informing her of the offers the King had made me of what houses she would, and to cause her to be paid the remainder of certain arrears, adding, for her further consolation, that the King was very sorry for her illness; and on this I begged her to take heart and get well, if for no other consideration, because the union and peace of Christendom depended upon her life.

Chapuys may have arrived in England as the Imperial Ambassador – a professional diplomat but it is clear that he had become fond of Katherine. He spent the next four days at Kimbolton and believing that her health had rallied took his leave promising to do his best to have her moved to better accommodation:

“And seeing that she began to take a little sleep, and also that her stomach retained her food, and that she was better than she had been, she thought, and her physician agreed with her (considering her out of danger), that I should return, so as not to abuse the licence the King had given me, and also to request the King to give her a more convenient house, as he had promised me at my departure. I therefore took leave of her on Tuesday evening, leaving her very cheerful.”

It was only when Chapuys arrived back in London and asked Cromwell for an audience with the King that he learned of Katherine’s death:

“This has been the most cruel news that could come to me, especially as I fear the good Princess will die of grief, or that the concubine will hasten what she has long threatened to do, viz., to kill her; and it is to be feared that there is little help for it. I will do my best to comfort her, in which a letter from your Majesty would help greatly. I cannot relate in detail the circumstances of the Queen’s decease, nor how she has disposed of her affairs, for none of her servants has yet come. I know not if they have been detained.”

The letter also demonstrates Cromwell’s efficiency organising Katherine’s funeral.  He even arranged for Chapuys to have black cloth for his mourning garb.  Chapuys declined the offer preferring his own clothes for the occasion.

Katherine had disposed of her affairs.  Recognising the end was near she had taken steps to ensure that her will was written.  There was also the famous last letter penned on her death bed to Henry.  Sadly, Tremlett suggests it was a work of fiction – but he also recognises that the letter may well reflect her feelings (why do all the best bits turn out to be fictions, amends and fabrications?):

The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, to advise you of your soul’s health, which you ought to prefer before all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever. For which yet you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles. But I forgive you all, and pray God to do so likewise. For the rest, I commend unto you Mary, our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her. I must entreat you also to look after my maids, and give them in marriage, which is not much, they being but three, and to all my other servants, a year’s pay besides their due, lest otherwise they should be unprovided for until they find new employment. Lastly, I want only one true thing, to make this vow: that, in this life, mine eyes desire you alone, May God protect you.

When news of Katherine’s demise arrived in London Henry and Anne celebrated, famously by wearing yellow, but it is said that later Anne cried – perhaps she recognised that there was no one standing between her and Henry’s wrath anymore. She was pregnant at the time but by the beginning of summer she had miscarried a boy and her days were numbered.

‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 12-26. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp12-26 [accessed 6 January 2017].

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

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Anne of Cleves – not love at first sight

anne of clevesAnne of Cleves has gone down in history  rather unfairly in my view as ‘The Flanders Mare’ on account of the fact that Henry VIII found his fourth bride distasteful; so distasteful in fact that he was unable to consummate the marriage. Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador recounted their first meeting:

On New Year’s Eve the duke of Norfolk with other knights and the barons of the exchequer received her grace on the heath, two miles beyond Rochester, and so brought her to the abbey of Rochester where she stayed that night and all New Years Day. And on New Years Day in the afternoon the king’s grace with five of his privy chamber, being disguised with mottled cloaks with hoods so that they should not be recognized, came secretly to Rochester, and so went up into the chamber where the said Lady Anne was looking out of a window to see the bull-baiting which was going on in the courtyard, and suddenly he embraced and kissed her, and showed here a token which the king had sent her for New Year’s gift, and she being abashed and not knowing who it was thanked him, and so he spoke with her. But she regarded him little, but always looked out the window…. and when the king saw that she took so little notice of his coming he went into another chamber and took off his cloak and came in again in a coat of purple velvet. And when the lords and knights saw his grace they did him reverence

 

Essentially the problem was not with Anne’s appearance nor even her clothing, after all her German style could have been changed for English fashion – no the problem was that no one had warned Anne about Henry’s favourite activity of pretending to be a lowly knight or Robin Hood and being recognised for his inner majesty…think sixteenth century pantomime. Accounts of court revels from periods when Katherine of Aragon was queen demonstrate that Henry was an ardent pursuer of this courtly pursuit but of course everyone at the English court was in on the secret.  With Henry it was all about the show and the performance. Sadly although someone had taught Anne to play cards on the journey from Cleves to England no one had thought to tell her that a fat old bloke would in all likely hood burst in on her and expect her to fall in love at first sight as well as instantly recognising the heroic monarch.

It must have come as something as a shock when Anne failed to recognise Henry. It is easy to see that Anne not knowing who Henry was or what English customs were was embarrassed by the fat overfamiliar stranger who accosted her. Instead of true love Henry got the cold shoulder and he definitely seems to have taken umbrage as a consequence.  The new year’s gift in question were some expensive furs.  An indication of Henry’s frame of mind is seen in the fact that he took the gift away with him when he left. He said to Thomas Cromwell that he “liked her not.”  He wanted to get out of the marriage and gave Thomas instructions to see that Anne didn’t become wife number four but it was not to be – on January 6th 1540 Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves at Greenwich.

annecleeves emblemThomas found himself thrown to the wolves and Anne  who selected for her motto the phrase “God send me well to keep” was pleased to escape her marriage with a new title of King’s Sister and a number of estates including Hever Castle. Meanwhile the duke of Norfolk took the opportunity to introduce Henry to his young niece Katherine Howard.

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Mary of Modena

mary_of_modena_pieterszToday’s figure is Catherine of Modena, James II’s wife because it was on the 9th December 1688 that James II lost the Battle of Reading which marked the moment when his son-in-law William of Orange effectively deposed the hapless Stuart with the help of his people. James  having deposited his wife and son with his French cousin Louis XIV returned  and the whole sorry matter dragged on for a while longer  as he tried to hang on to the throne. He was caught by his son-in-law there was some umming and ahhing whilst the English worked out what to do with him and then they just quietly let him go rather than having to go through the tricky business of trying and executing him as they had done with his father.

 

We’re often taught at school that it was because of James II’s catholicism that the political elite of England toppled the second of Charles I’s sons to wear the crown but actually his lack of popularity was not for his personal beliefs alone. It was due to the laws he passed from 1685 onwards which offered religious toleration to everyone whether they were Catholic or Quaker. Other factors in the unrest included James’ links to France.  James was not so good at dissimulating about a french pension as big brother Charles had been. There is  also the fact that he didn’t have Charles II’s ability to juggle the different factions around him with good humour – his personality was a bit on the prickly side.

 

On the 10 June 1688 Mary of Modena gave birth to a boy – Charles Edward Stuart a.k.a. ‘The Old Pretender.’ This added to James’ woes because up until that point folk were prepared to tolerate him knowing that upon his death the throne would go to his eldest daughter Mary (if only  she’d been called something different this would have been a far easier post to write) by his first wife Anne Hyde (James should have married a princess rather than the daughter of  his brother’s leading minister but James had made Anne pregnant and had to be forced to the altar by his exasperated brother and future father-in-law). Mary (James’ daughter) was the protestant wife of the staunchly protestant William of Orange. Mary and her sister Anne conspired with one another to suggest that their half-brother wasn’t actually their half brother thus giving William the excuse he needed to accept the invitation to take the English crown. I’m not sure how Mary (daughter) squared that particular circle in her mind given that she was supposed to be friends with her slandered step-mother.

 

By December 1688 there had been anti-Catholic riots, plotting aplenty and rumour. James dithered. This was followed on the 9 December by the Battle of Reading, which James lost, and it was off to France for Mary of Modena the following day.

 

So who was she apart from James II’s second queen? Mary Beatrice d’Este, born 1658, was related to everyone important in Europe – the Bourbons and the Medicis. Her great uncle was the hugely influential Cardinal Mazarin. Her mother was very pious and little Mary grew up the same way.

 

Mary’s father died when she was just four. When she was eleven she contemplated becoming a nun  but it was evident that a child with so much important ancestry wasn’t going to be allowed to do that.  The Papacy, the French and even her own mother, who was acting as regent for her brother until he came of age, wanted to ensure the best and most beneficial marriage for themselves. Mary found herself being married off to Prince James a.k.a the Duke of York as the result of the usual diplomatic intriguing that went into most royal marriages the negotiations were strained. The pair eventually married by proxy and Mary, by now fifteen, left Italy to meet her new husband in 1673.

James was twenty-five years older than her, widowed with two daughters who weren’t terribly keen on their new step-mother. James was very admiring of his new bride but when she finally met him she is said to have burst into tears. Things probably didn’t get any better when James introduced her to her new step-daughters with the words “I’ve brought you a new play fellow.”  Mary (the new duchess of York) was four years older than Mary (James’ daughter) and some six years older than Anne. She did try to befriend Anne by playing with her.

 

Elsewhere in the country even though as an individual it is clear that Mary was a hugely sincere and likeable person (Charles II regarded her highly) the population called her ‘The Pope’s Daughter” and muttered darkly – so darkly in fact that Charles II sent his brother and bride out of London to let the matter cool down.

 

Gradually the resentment became an undercurrent. The problem seemed to be one that would resolve itself in time.  Charles II died. Prince James the duke of York became King James II.  Mary’s relationship with her step-daughters had resolved itself into dislike by Anne and warmth with Mary.  Mary had no real nursery to tend. Young Charles Edward was actually one of seven but all of them had died either at birth or before they reached the age of five up until that time – one little princess died as the result of illness caught from half-sister Anne. It can’t have helped Mary that there were plenty of other little Stuarts kicking about as James II had the same problems with fidelity as his elder brother.

Then came the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

So, where does that leave Mary?  Louis XIV provided the royal fugitives with a home, the Chateau de Saint- Germain-en-Laye just outside Paris and a pension. Mary bore James another child, the Princess Louisa Mary (one of England’s forgotten princesses) but she died of smallpox when she was nineteen.

 

James made a number of attempts to reclaim his throne. Mary’s jewels had to be sold to finance the ventures. Gradually James sank into bitterness and then, it has been suggested, senility before dying in 1701.

Mary who’d cried at first sight of her husband had grown to love him over the years. She wore black for the rest of her life and became increasingly withdrawn to the contemplative life that she’d hoped for as a child in the company of the nuns of the Convent of the Visitations. She died in 1718 in poverty and was buried by the nuns.

 

Her only surviving child – the so-called “baby in the bedpan” after the claim that the royal child was stillborn and a substitute smuggled into the royal bedchamber – proclaimed himself King James III. If you feel the urge you can still see the bed where Charles Edward Stuart was born or emerged from the bedpan. http://www.hrp.org.uk/exhibition-archive/secrets-of-the-royal-bedchamber/the-royal-beds/#gs.hTi2n=Y

 

I think that Mary was the only Italian queen England has had. She was also England’s last Catholic queen as the 1689 act of succession, or more correctly Bill of Rights, which invited William and Mary to become joint sovereigns, identified the order of succession specifically excluding potential catholic heirs. The 1701 Act of Settlement which identified where the crown would go after Queen Anne popped her clogs specified that no one married to a catholic could become monarch either.  This was confirmed in 1714 when George, elector of Hanover was invited to become King George I.

That’s not to say there might never be another catholic queen.  The Crown Act of 2013 ended those restrictions along with the system whereby a younger son displaces an elder sister from the succession – now the first born is the heir to the crown irrelevant of their gender or the gender of any siblings they may subsequentially acquire.

 

There’s even a biography freely available if you feel the urge:

https://archive.org/details/queenmaryofmoden00hailuoft

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Agnes Howard nee Tilney

agnes tilney.jpgToday’s HistoryJar advent is Agnes Tilney better known as Agnes Howard, dowager duchess of Norfolk and Katherine Howard’s step-granny. Katherine was aged somewhere between fourteen and nineteen when she became queen on 28 July 1540. By November 1541 Thomas Cranmer had been presented with evidence he dared not ignore by religious reformer John Lascelles who may well have seen it as an opportunity to strike a blow at the conservative catholic faction headed by the duke of Norfolk. There followed a flurry of investigations and arrests. The 7th December 1541 saw the Privy Council investigating Katherine’s adultery and questioning “the lady of Norfolk” as this letter details:

 

“…all yesterday, they examined the lady of Norfolk, who denied all knowledge of the abomination between the Queen and Deram and pretended that she opened the coffers in order to send anything material to the King. Her denial makes for nothing, as they have sufficient testimony otherwise. Have today collected the material points touching her and lord William Howard ….that misprision of treason is proved against the lady of Norfolk and lord William, and that lady Howard, lady Bridgewater, Alice Wylkes, Kath. Tylney, Damport, Walgrave, Malin Tylney, Mary Lasselles, Bulmer, Ashby, Anne Howard and Margaret Benet are in the same case. Ask what the King will have done, and whether to commit lord William and his wife. All their goods are confiscated, with the profit of their lands for life, and “their bodies to perpetual prison.” Tomorrow at the lord Privy Seal’s house, will examine lady Bridgewater, and also Bulmer and Wylkes. Have sent for Mynster Chambre and one Philip, two principal witnesses against lord William and Lady Bridgewater. Christchurch, Wednesday night.

P.S.—Think they have all they shall get of Deram, who cannot be brought to any piece of Damport’s last confession; and would know the King’s pleasure touching the execution of him and Culpeper. Signed by Cranmer, Audeley, Suffolk, Southampton, Sussex, Hertford, Gardiner, Sir John Gage, Wriothesley, and Riche.

 

Misprison of treason was the charge arising from the 1534 Act of Treason which stated that it was treasonous to hide or not inform on someone else’s treason.

 

Agnes Tilney was the second wife of the second duke of Norfolk, or earl of Surrey as he was at the time of their marriage in 1497. His first wife had been Agnes’ cousin, Elizabeth. The pair married, with dispensation, four months after Elizabeth’s death. Agnes came from a Lincolnshire family which whilst gentry was not really of a high enough social standing for an earl – even one tarred with the white rose brush so it is possible that Thomas and Agnes married for love.

 

Thomas Howard worked hard during the reign of Henry VII to prove that he was a loyal subject of the Tudors having been notable for his support of Richard III and as time passed he was accepted into the Tudor fold. Agnes played her part at court and by the reign of Henry VIII they were sufficiently ensconced for Agnes not only to be one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting but to be one of Princess Mary’s godmothers and just for good measure she was also godmother to Princess Elizabeth having carried Anne Boleyn’s train at her coronation. She may have had mixed feelings about the crowning of her step-granddaughter – remember Anne Boleyn was a Howard as well- as she expressed loyalty to Katherine of Aragon. She overcame her devotion and did testify that she had been part of the group which had put Katherine and Prince Arthur to bed. As well as being named the second lady at court she also had a busy life as the duchess bearing her husband eleven children six of whom survived infancy.

 

Quite clearly she was a court lady , friends with both Wolsey and Cranmer, but she was also responsible for a number of young Howards and Tilneys, many of whom came from poorer branches of the family as well as other young people of good families who sent their children to work in the home of the duchess of Norfolk believing it would improve their chances in the Tudor world. Her homes at both Horsham and Norfolk House, Lambeth could be described as a finishing school for young Howard ladies and gentlemen (remember Francis Dereham who claimed he was as a husband to Katherine was of Tilney descent)– though clearly with decided overtones of St Trinians. Agnes may have committed herself to the care of these young Howard and Tilney wards but her direct involvement was scarce and her management lacking even though the young women of the household were under the supervision of an older woman called Mother Emet.

 

Young Katherine Howard joined Agnes’ household when she was about six years old. We also know that it was in about 1536 that Henry Manox was employed to teach Agnes’ young wards music. Manox clearly took advantage of the situation and it was at this time that Katherine began to join in with the household activity of allowing young men into the female sleeping quarters at night.

 

When news of Katherine’s teenage indiscretions were revealed by Mary Hall and her brother John Lascelles the dowager initially tried to bluff it out saying that Katherine could not be punished for what had happened before her marriage then hurried home to burn any incriminating evidence in the form of letters from Dereham which were contained in a trunk  or coffer that belonged to him. To get at the evidence she had to break the lock – an action which saw her being escorted to the Tower though not charged with treason on the grounds that she was old and unwell. Her denials were useless as Katherine’s relationship with Dereham only came to an end in 1539 when Agnes found out about it and beat Katherine. History does not know, however, how much the duchess knew about the relationship of her ward but the Tudors had their suspicions that Agnes knew more than she was letting on – as head of the household it was her job to know everything.  Even worse it was a group of Howard women who had written to Katherine asking for her to find a place in her household for Thomas Culpepper – if Katherine’s pre-marital affairs could be swept under the carpet then her affair with Culpepper connived at by Jane Boleyn nee Parker Lady Rochester  (a member of the Howard extended family being the widow of Agnes’ step-grandson) really couldn’t be ignored.

 

Dereham went to Ireland to make his fortune thinking that when he returned he and Katherine would be married. If this was the case and the pair had promised to marry one another then they were precontracted to marriage (which in Tudor terms was as good as marriage in which case Katherine was never truly married to Henry VIII so couldn’t have been guilty of adultery in a treasonous context with Culpepper.) But before Dereham could return to claim his intended bride Henry took a dislike to wife number four and Norfolk seeing a way of bringing Cromwell down looked about his extended family for single young women who might attract the king’s attention – Katherine Howard filled the bill – and as Dereham left for Ireland Katherine found herself appointed to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies in waiting. Agnes took over Katherine’s tuition on the duke of Norfolk’s order – possibly with classes on “how to become wife number five.”

 

 

Agnes clearly thought that with her arrest it was only a short walk to Tower Hill so took the precaution of making her will. The duke of Norfolk, who had used Katherine Howard as a device to gain political ascendency wrote to the king at about the same time distancing himself from his step-mother denouncing her for having known that Katherine was an unfit bride. Agnes was joined in the Tower by her son and daughter-inlaw and also her daughter Katherine. More than ten member of the Howard family were incarcerated. Lady Rochford would accompany Katherine to the block. The duke of Norfolk escaped arrest but Henry never trusted him fully again.

 

Agnes was released in May 1542 unlike her son and daughter-in-law who were sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of their lands and goods. Unsurprisingly Agnes was required to pay a financial forfeit. She died in 1545 and is buried in Lambeth.

 

The question arises did Agnes and the duke of Norfolk know that Katherine had already embarked upon two affairs and was possibly married to Dereham when they dangled her in front of the king. By this time Henry had treated two of his wives appallingly and his reign had been punctuated with judicial murder…consequentially if they did know they were either mind bogglingly optimistic to believe that they would get away with it or believed that they could control Katherine once she became queen. Increasingly I find myself thinking – poor Katherine.

 

Right I’m off to watch Lucy Worsely’s new series  on BBC 1 at 9 o clock on the six wives of Henry VIII.

 

Wilkinson, Josephine.(2016)  Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen. London: John Murray

‘Henry VIII: December 1541, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 660-671. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp660-671 [accessed 25 August 2016].

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Princess Mary’s opposition to the divorce

princess mary.jpgIf Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid it followed that eleven-year-old Princess Mary was illegitimate. This in turn would prohibit her from the crown and make her less valuable on the international marriage market. No doubt, this was one of the reasons that Catherine remained adamant about fighting to keep her position rather than taking herself off to a nunnery as Cardinals Wolsey and Campeggio helpfully suggested prior to the Blackfriars trial where Catherine challenged the court’s authority.

 

Later, after Parliament enacted the necessary laws that broke with Rome and Henry’s marriage to Catherine was annulled by Thomas Cranmer the Princess Mary was used as a weapon by Henry to ensure that Catherine was compliant, although Catherine’s letters to her daughter are suggestive of shared martyrdom. The girl, now seventeen and no longer a princess but a bastard was refused permission to see her ailing mother, she lost her household and her governess. In 1533 at the point when this occurred, Lady Salisbury (Margaret Pole)  offered to pay for Mary’s household out of her own purse but the king would have none of it, or perhaps Anne Boleyn would have none of it. Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador, reported that Anne had said she would have Mary for her chambermaid.

 

Mary’s opposition to the king was seen in the fact that she continued to be called the Princess Mary rather than the Lady Mary even when her servants suffered the indignity of having Mary’s insignia removed and replaced with Henry’s own. She told anyone who would listen that if she disavowed her mother that she would ‘offend God.’ It was a very personal resistance that directed itself to the king from Beaulieu where Mary was staying at the time.

 

When Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth was born, Mary’s chamberlain Lord Hussey was told to change Mary’s name to lady rather than princess. He tried. Mary informed him that until the instruction was received in writing then she was a princess.

 

Henry reacted badly. He sent officials to browbeat and threaten his daughter. In December 1533 the duke of Norfolk was required to fetch Mary to serve in her half sister’s household. He told her that she was to go to the Princess of Wales. Mary told him that the title was hers by right. Norfolk gave her half and hour and two ladies in waiting to accompany her. He did not become involved in the argument. He followed orders.

 

Norfolk left Mary in  Hatfield in tears but Henry complained he had been too soft on the girl. The ladies-in-waiting were removed and Anne Boleyn’s aunt Lady Shelton was put in charge of the ex-princess having been given a list of instructions about her treatment.

 

Henry put Mary’s refusal to comply with the change in her status down to her bad blood. It would only be after the death of Anne Boleyn that Henry would begin to soften towards his eldest, formerly legitimate, daughter and even then she would be required to submit to the king’s will before a reunion could take place.  On the 15th June 1536 Mary signed the document which recognised her parents’ marriage as unlawful and recognised Henry as the head of the Church of England.

Poor Mary; she went from her father’s pampered darling to being ill treated, neglected and isolated.  She was forced to act in direct opposition to her religious beliefs and all this had happened as her character formed. Her only allies during this time seemed to be the Spanish.  No wonder she looked towards Spain when her turn to ascend the throne arrived.  She was undoubtedly scarred by the whole experience.

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Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

wolseyCardinal Wolsey suffers from being the image of the Catholic Church prior to Henry VIII’s break with Rome and consequentially a figure for anticlerical comment.  He was also not careful about being nice to folk on the way up the greasy pole of ambition forgetting that he might well meet them on the way back down.  There were plenty of members of the nobility who were more than happy to bring him down to earth with a bump most notably the duke of Norfolk.  Today’s post, however, is about Cardinal Wolsey’s role in Henry VIII’s somewhat tangled love life.

Portrait_of_Anne_StaffordWolsey appears in a legal capacity in relation to Anne Stafford, the wife of Lord Hastings.  Anne was the daughter of the duke of Buckingham.  Her older sister Elizabeth was the wife of the earl of Sussex.  Both sisters served Catherine of Aragon.  A scandal broke during May 1510. We know of it thanks to the gleeful writings of Spanish Ambassador Luis Caroz.  What appears to have happened is that Henry, now that Catherine was pregnant, looked elsewhere for diversion.  He looked in the direction of his cousin Anne Stafford.  She was eight years older than him, married for the second time but childless (she went on to have eight children with Lord Hastings).  Somehow or other Elizabeth got to hear about the dodgy goings on and spoke with her brother who in turn summoned Lord Hastings.  Sir William Compton, one of the king’s friends, was caught in Anne’s private chamber.  There was a lively discussion with the duke of Buckingham announcing that his sister wasn’t for the likes of Compton or for Tudors either (he probably came to regret that particular phrase).  The upshot of it was that Hastings took his wife away from court to a nunnery where neither Compton or Henry could dally with the lady in question.  Henry VIII was deeply unhappy and banished Elizabeth and her husband from court for being a pair of tattletales which meant that the scandal came to the attention of Catherine of Aragon resulting in a very unpleasant argument between the royal couple.

Three years later Henry gave Anne a very expensive New Year’s gift well beyond what protocol or courtesy dictated giving rise to speculation that the couple resumed their relationship.  Double click on Anne Stafford’s image to open a new page and an earlier post from the History Jar on the subject.

Where does Wolsey fit into this?  Well in 1527 he had Sir William Compton charged with adultery with Anne.  Compton swore an oath that he hadn’t been up to any such thing but his will written in 1522 suggests otherwise as not only did he ask for prayers to be said for Anne but he left money for her use as well.

 

Let us move to the next mistress – Bessie Blount (b 1499 ish).  It is speculated that Henry’s affair with Bessie began sometime after 1513 during one of Catherine of Aragon’s periods of ill health but no one is certain of this.  There is a letter in existence from Charles Brandon (Mary Tudor’s second husband) to the king giving his very best wishes via the king to Bessie Blount and to Elizabeth Carew (who may well have been yet another royal mistress).  The letter gives rise to speculation that Brandon may have had a fling with Bessie prior to Henry showing interest, equally it might all have been part of the ritual of courtly love and have meant nothing at all or, equally, Brandon knowing the king’s interest in the ladies doing a spot of creeping. What we can be certain of is that in 1518 Catherine of Aragon miscarried a girl and that a month later Bessie Blount produced a bouncing baby boy.

Evidence suggests that Wolsey was given the task of arranging for Bessie to have somewhere suitable for her laying-in at the Priory of St Lawrence near Chelmsford or Jericho as it was known.  The evidence is based on the fact that Wolsey was absent from London for much of June 1519 which coincides with Henry Fitzroy’s birth.  Thomas Wolsey also became the child’s godfather. Fitzroy remained under the care of the cardinal until he fell from favour in 1529 when he moved under the auspices of the Howard family.

Queen Anne BoleynThe next mistress in our story proved to be Wolsey’s downfall.  Popular history has it that it was Wolsey who split the young lovers Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn from one another in 1523. Percy was the heir of the earl of Northumberland and was part of Wolsey’s household whilst Anne was nothing but a ‘foolish girl.’  George Cavendish, Wosley’s biographer, notes that the leading aristocratic families were happy to have sons in Wolsey’s household.  He was at the heart of power after all.  Cavendish says that Henry had already taken a shine to Anne Boleyn and wished to put a spoke in Percy’s plans to marry the girl. Wolsey sent Percy home with a flea in his ear to marry the girl his family had already selected for him; Mary Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1532 Mary Talbot claimed that Henry Percy had been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and thus her marriage was null and void.  Given that Henry was in hot pursuit of Anne Boleyn at that time it wasn’t the most politically astute thing to have been saying. Even though Henry no longer looked to Rome a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury exists thawing that all impediments to marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were removed  including the unknown ones!

We cannot know whether Anne and Henry Percy really did love one another or the extent to which their relationship had developed.  We have circumstantial evidence in terms of Henry Percy weeping when Anne Boleyn was condemned and also the evidence of Cavendish as well as assorted hostile ambassadors.   To find out more about George Cavendish and his version of events double click on the image of Anne Boleyn to open a new page and an earlier post.

What we do know for certain is that Wolsey was unable to unravel Henry’s marriage from Catherine of Aragon and that this was what led to his fall from favour in 1529 even though Henry is said to have declared he couldn’t afford to lose the cardinal and sent him a ring as a token of his affections when Thomas became ill.  Come to think of it Wolsey didn’t get on very well with Catherine of Aragon either.  She regarded him as pro-french and thus anti-spanish as well as being the man who ensured that she was sidelined in politics by making himself indispensable to the king.

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Matilda or Mrs William the Conqueror

matilda of flandersMatilda of Flanders had an illustrious pedigree including Alfred the Great.  Tracy Borman comments that she was related to most, if not all, Norther Europe’s royalty.  Her mother Adela supervised her education and later Matilda would be praised for her learning.  By the time Matilda was eighteen in about 1049 a certain Duke William whose lands marched with those of Count Baldwin V looked to be an advantageous match so when he approached Baldwin with a marriage proposal Matilda’s father accepted.

However, Matilda was less delighted.  She refused to marry William.  Borman speculates that it was because William was illegitimate – although of course the stigma of illegitimacy was not necessarily the bar to high office that it became in later centuries.

imagesWilliam was not a happy man.  He rode to Bruges, met Matilda coming out of church and proceeded to knock her into the mud, pull her plaits and hit her…an interesting variation on a box of chocolates and bunch of flowers.  In one account he is said to have kicked her with his spurs which would have been painful at the very least and Borman makes the point probably fatal.  Baldwin immediately declared war on William only to discover that Matilda had changed her mind.  After her rather rough wooing she decided she wanted to marry William.  The story was written approximately two hundred years later so a rather large pinch of salt is required in order to digest the tale but the pair do seem to have been evenly matched in terms of temper.

There may have been another reason for the change of heart.  Tracey Borman discusses the possibility of an earlier relationship with Brihtric Mau tarnishing her reputation but there again her father had already arranged another betrothal with Saxony when Matilda refused William.

Brihtric Mau was Edward the Confessor’s ambassador. He was descended from the House of Wessex and he was a wealthy man which made him a powerful man.  He was tall and handsome with blond hair.  Borman suggests that Mau is derived from ‘snew’  which is of course the Old English word for snow (Borman: 17).  Borman goes on to explain that the Chronicle of Tewkesbury – and the largest part of Mau’s lands were in Gloucestershire- describes Matilda as falling in love with the handsome Saxon.  She apparently sent a messenger back to England when he returned there proposing marriage.  This was not the way that a nice girl behaved, even if she was the daughter of a count.  It caused a scandal and to make matters worse the unspellable Brihtric rejected her.

The reason why the Chronicle of Tewkesbury is at such pains to tell the tale is because in 1067, twenty years after he’d rejected her, Matilda got her own back.  She asked William for the Manor of Tewkesbury and removed Gloucester’s charter – which was a disaster commercially and legally for the town. Dugdale’s History of the Norman Conquest adds the fact that Brihtric found himself in a dungeon in Winchester where he died in suspicious circumstances two years later – though there’s nothing very suspicious about lack of food, poor hygiene and lack of fresh air.

That’s the story – Borman also presents the evidence that Brihtric was present at Matilda’s coronation (Borman:118) which means that he can’t have been languishing in a dank cell in Winchester awaiting a visit from Matilda’s assassin.  Whatever the truth all we have is rumours and historical fragments.  It does at least demonstrate that Matilda must have been as tempestuous as her spouse.

Borman, Tracy. (2011) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. London: Jonathan Cape

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Katherine Parr and the Pilgrimage of Grace

katherine parrIn 1534 after the death of her first husband and a stay with relations at Sizergh Castle Katherine Parr married John Neville. She was twenty-two.

 

Neville was the third Baron Latimer, of Snape, Richmondshire, North Yorkshire. He was twice Katherine’s age and had grown up children. Unlike her mother, Maud, Katherine could not afford to remain unmarried.  This was perceived as a marriage “up,” related as Neville was to the Earl of Salisbury and the Kingmaker. In more feudal times the Parrs had looked to the Nevilles although, unsurprisingly, they were related to them. Neville’d been married twice before and spent a lot of time in Yorkshire according to Porter. Like many other nobles wrote letters to Thomas Cromwell about the difficulties of paying debts. He also provided Katherine with two younger step-children: John and Margaret.

 

However, this post is not about family links. It is about the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace and its aftermath. Katherine had, by that time, spent two years building relationships with her new family and managing Latimer’s household at Snape but changes were afoot. In 1534 when they married Anne Boleyn was queen. In the January of 1536 Catherine of Aragon died. In Spring, Anne Boleyn was accused and found guilty of adultery, incest and treason. She was dead by the end of May and Jane Seymour was queen.  The Seymours together with the Duke of Norfolk who’d conspired to topple his own niece represented a more conservative faction but Cromwell’s methodical dismemberment of the Catholic Church in England continued. In Yorkshire, his commissioners had made a valuation of the monasteries, smaller monasteries were being suppressed, abbots of foundations such as Fountains were forced to resign and more pliable men placed in their stead.

Lord Latimer was more a catholic than a reformer even though, like countless other men, he’d taken the Oath of Supremacy and now in October 1536 found himself in a difficult position as across Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Westmorland and Cumberland mobs of men gathered to demand a return of the monasteries and the re-establishment of Princess Mary as Henry’s legitimate successor. The Pilgrimage of Grace was underway and it would soon arrive in Snape.

 

On 11 October rebels arrived at Jervaulx Abbey. The abbot, Adam Sedbar, tried to avoid being drawn into the conflict and hid for a while on the moors. The rebels who claimed they wanted to restore the abbeys threatened to burn Jervaulx if Sedbar didn’t return and take the oath. He claimed that he joined the pilgrims under duress. It would not save him from the Tower or execution.

 

Lower down the valley in Wensleydale, Katherine and her family at Snape must have been aware of the discontent seething around them. Porter describes events as does Moorhouse. For ten days history does not know where Lord Latimer might have been although a letter dated the 15th makes it apparent that the King knew he’d joined with the rebels. He appears in person on the 21st of October at Pontefract Castle marching under the banner of the Five Wounds.  What is rather murkier is whether he joined the rebels voluntarily or under duress. His role would become that of spokesman and negotiator when the rebels presented their articles and Henry was forced (presumably grinding his teeth) to negotiate.  The rebels were granted a pardon.

Even so, Latimer’s head must have felt somewhat loose about his shoulders when he returned home to Snape and his entire family must have feared that he would be attainted of treason. He was summoned to London to throw himself upon the King’s mercy. James suggests that the only reason that Latimer didn’t find himself in the Tower alongside other leaders of the rebellion was because of Katherine’s family who’d fought alongside the Duke of Norfolk to put the rebellion down put in a good word. It must have been a miserable Christmas despite Henry’s clemency.  Lord Latimer went to London as soon as the holiday was over to try and repair the damage with his monarch and to placate Cromwell.

 

However, in January 1537 the North rose again. Latimer was still in London. This time, the rebellion was led by Sir Francis Bigod, bizarrely a convinced reformer, who was the father of Margaret Neville’s intended husband. A new mob arrived at Snape Castle and ransacked it. Katherine and her step-children became hostages. History has Lord Latimer’s own words in a letter sent to William Fitzwilliam, the First Earl of Southampton (he’d one day have to interrogate the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, Agnes Tilney, about her knowledge of Catherine Howard’s liaison with Manox and Dereham). Latimer wrote:

 

If I do not please them I do not know what they will do with my body and goods, my wife and children. I beg to know the King’s pleasure…

 

The rebels demanded that Lord Latimer return to Yorkshire immediately. Somehow or other he negotiated for the release of his family.  History does not know what he said or promised.  Nor does history know any of Katherine’s views or feelings during this time as there are no letters or record of this time. If Katherine wasn’t a reformer before it is easy to imagine that she was committed to change after the Pilgrimage of Grace.

 

The rebellion was firmly squashed by the Duke of Norfolk. Men such as Robert Aske and Lord Darcy who’d led the 1536 rebellion were arrested as was Abbot Sedbar. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the axe hung over Lord Latimer not least because his brother Marmaduke who’d been a rather more enthusiastic pilgrim spent time in the Tower and wrote to Cromwell noting that Lord Latimer had been involved as well.

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01Cromwell didn’t need to have Latimer executed, he arrived at a sensible business arrangement instead. It is clear from Latimer’s accounts that Cromwell received an annual income from Latimer until 1540 when Cromwell suddenly discovered what happened to men who displeased the King and made his own appointment with the axe.

Latimer’s health began to fail after the Pilgrimage of Grace. He spent more time in London along with his family who rarely travelled North with him when he journeyed there to administer to his estates and buy new land (yes, it was ex monastery). It may also have been that the King and Cromwell wanted Latimer close at hand.

This post has more holes than a colander in terms of actual reliable facts about Lord Latimer and Katherine Neville, as she was then, and the extent of their involvement and thoughts on the subject but what it does do is give us a flavour of the difficulties of being a member of the Northern gentry and aristocracy during the Pilgrimage of Grace. It is also a reminder that Katherine Parr is much more than Henry’s sixth queen – she had rather a dangerous life beforehand.

 

James, Susan E. (2009) Catherine Parr: Henry VIII’s Last Love. Stroud: The History Press

Loades, David (2010) The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

Moorhouse, G. (2002) The Pilgrimage of Grace. London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Porter, Linda. (2010) Katherine the Queen. London: Pan Books

 

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Anne Bassett …king’s mistress and er, step-cousin.

lisle lettersArthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle was the illegitimate son of Edward IV.  He turns up in the court of Elizabeth of York during the reign of Henry VII and as mentioned in another post had a kind heart, wrote many letters and ended up in the Tower where he died with the relief of being set free rather than having his head ceremoniously removed from his neck having been accused of treason.  Most of what we know about Anne Bassett comes from the letters she wrote or which were written about her and survived in the archive of Lisle letters.

Anne Bassett was Arthur’s step-daughter.  Her mother was Honor Grenville and her father was Sir John Bassett.  Arthur married Honor in 1529. They didn’t have any children together although both had children from their first marriages. Honor had gone to France with Anne Boleyn in 1532 when Henry VIII met with Francis I. Honor was undoubtedly ambitious.  She tried to get her daughters taken on as Anne Boleyn’s ladies in waiting but Anne wasn’t playing ball.  When Jane Seymour became queen Honor renewed her endeavours to get one or both her daughters placed at court.  Jane gave way having eaten a large dish of quail presented by Lady Lisle.  It would have to be said that Jane was about six months pregnant at the time so a dish of quail seems like rather a nifty idea.

Anne was hustled off to court to attend Jane Seymour just prior to her taking herself into seclusion in preparation for the birth of her child. There is a letter in Lord Lisle’s papers written to Lady Lisle saying that, “the Queen’s pleasure is that Mrs Anne wear no more of her French apparel. So that she must have provided a bonnet or ii, with frontlets and an edge of jane seymourpearl, and a gown of black satin, and another of velvet, and this must be done before the Queen’s grace’s churching.” (p211)  Or in other words Jane Seymour didn’t approve of girls dressing up like french floozies.  It’s also clear that there was a great deal of investment in sending one’s daughters off to the royal court.

We know that Anne attended Prince Edward’s baptism but, of course, there would be no churching for Jane Seymour because she died due to complications despite initially seeming to be in good health following the birth of Henry VIII’s much longed for son. Anne Bassett was part of Jane Seymour’s funeral cortege, a situation she would rehearse at Henry VIII’s own funeral in 1547.  She and her sister are in the accounts as being provided with appropriate clothes for the funeral. Anne Bassett had been a lady-in-waiting for a month and there was no longer a queen. The ladies-in-waiting were to be disbanded.  Henry VIII wore mourning for three months and didn’t marry again for two years when he did Anne Bassett’s name would be mentioned as a possible candidate.

Anne remained on the outskirts of the court. Henry VIII’s gift of a horse and a saddle for it caused some speculation.  Anne was seventeen at the time. Her name had been mentioned before the Cleves match  and it would resurface in 1542 following the departure of Katherine Howard from the scene but there is very little to build on in terms of specific evidence other than ambassadorial and court speculation.

anne of clevesWhen Anne of Cleves arrived on the scene our Anne reported for duty as one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting but there were too many German ladies and Anne was told that her services were not required.  Anne Bassett wrote to her mother expressing her irritation. Lady Lisle used her connections to find out that Mother Lowe, Anne of Cleves’  german mother of the maids was the person to approach and before long Anne Bassett was serving queen number four.

We know that Anne Bassett was ill in 1539.  We have letters written from Anne to her mother during this time.  She stayed in the countryside to regain her health at the home of her cousin Sir Anthony Denny “at the King’s grace’s commandment.” Denny was so trusted by the king that he had possession of a dry stamp so that he could sign documents without having to bother the king.  Did Henry want to get his mistress off the scene with another queen on her way?  Was Henry looking for some privacy to carry out his courting? Was Anne pretending to be unwell to avoid having to dally with Henry or marry him ? The former seems unlikely as Anne of Cleves was in Germany at the time.  Whatever the illness was it appears to have caused Anne some indisposition for sometime before hand but not to have been too serious and her physician suggested walking as a cure.

Anne remained at court through out the rest of Henry VIII’s reign even when her step-father was under suspicion of treason in the Tower.  Robert Hutchinson describes Anne at a feast in 1543 using the words of the French ambassador Charles de Marillac who was not terribly impressed with Anne  – “a pretty creature with wit enough to do as badly as the other (Katherine Howard), if she were to try.” Hutchinson notes Anne’s reported limited intelligence – something which may or may not be true but you have to admire the girl if she managed to avoid marrying Henry given his track record …but there again Hutchinson has a point if Anne was Henry’s mistress and only managed to acquire a husband of dodgy repute after Henry’s death.  It was from Queen Mary that she received several land grants.

In 1553 Anne became Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting and in 1554 she married Sir Walter Hungerford of Farleigh, a man troubled by the fact that his father had been executed under Thomas Cromwell’s 1533 sodomy law.  Sir Walter went on to marry Anne Dormer after Anne Bassett died.

 Hutchinson, Robert.(2005)  The Last days of Henry VIII: Conspiracy, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

St Clare Byrne, Muriel (ed) (1983) The Lisle Letters London: Secker and Warburg Ltd

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