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]

 

Gloriana

Halifax Thursday 25th October

Places still available – 

If you’re thinking of coming to Gloriana a life in pictures there are still a few places available.  Please let me know if you’re a regular and would like to attend.

queen_elizabeth_armada_portraitElizabeth is most usually depicted in costumes laden with symbolism but when she made her first appearance on the political stage in September 1533 shortly after her brith on the 7th of that month she was paraded as a naked babe in arms by her proud father for the benefit of Europe’s ambassadors.

Ann Boleyn had retired for her confinement in Greenwich Palace in August 1533.  The room with its fastened windows and tapestry heavy walls must have seemed close and airless.  Henry had been promised a son but the child who was born at 3pm on the 7th was a girl.  Henry was swift to say that boys would follow – Elizabeth appeared to be a healthy infant and this particular father knew that many babies didn’t arrive safely in the world so he made the best of a bad bargain.

She was baptised when she was three days old at Greenwich in the Church of the Observant Friars.  An account of the baptism may be found in  Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1533:

the Childe was brought to the hall, and then every man set forward: first, the Cittizens two and two; then Gentlemen, Esquires, and Chap-laines ; next after them the Aldermen, and the Maior alone; and next the Kinges Counsell; then the Kinges Chappel in coaps; then Barons, Bishops, Earles, the Earle of Essex bearing the covered basons gilt; after him the Marques of Excester with a taper of virgin wax; -next him the Marques Dorset bearing the salt; behind him the Lady Mary of Norfolke bearing the crisome, which was very rich of pearle and stone. The old Dutches of Norfolke bare the Childe in a mantle of purple velvet, with a long traine furred with ermine. The Duke of Norfoike with his marshal’s rod went on the right hand of the saide Dutchesse; and the Duke of Suffbike on the left hand ; and before them went Officers of Armes ; the Countesse of Kent bare the long traine of the Childes mantle; and meane betweene the Childe and the Countesse of Kent went the Earle of Wilshire and tlie Earle of Darby on either side, supporting the said traine in the middest: over the Childe was borne a rich canapie, by the Lord Rochford, the Lord Hussey, the Lord William Howard, and the Lord Thomas Howard the elder. After the Childe, followed many Ladies and Gentlewomen.

 

Anne of Denmark and the witches of Copenhagen

Attributed_to_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger_Anne_of_Denmark.jpgIn 1590 James VI of Scotland got married.  His wife was a Protestant princess.  She had been raised in a Lutheran court.  The dowry of £150,000 helped as did a hand full of islands including Orkney which Scotland already held but which now legally became Scottish rather than Scandinavian.

It began as a love story.  James wrote to his fourteen year old bride and fell so in love with her that when bad weather prevented her from reaching Scotland, he himself took to the sea so that he could reach Anne who had arrived safely in Oslo rather than remain on a vessel which had almost foundered in the storm.  Having been married the pair returned to Denmark where James developed an interest in witchcraft – he went on to write a text entitled Daemonologie.

The Danish minister of financed faced criticism for not properly outfitting the vessel.The Danish admiral responsible for conveying Anne to Norway rather than Edinburgh blamed a Copenhagen witch rather than bad weather or his own seafaring skills.  The woman, Anna Koldings was the wife of a burgess with whom the admiral had quarrelled confessed to being a witch…under torture.  It was an impressive story.  Apparently the witch responsible for the storm has sent little devils in wheelbarrows across the sea.  They then climbed up the keels of the fleet which was transporting Anne and caused the storm.  In September 1590 she was burned to death. Eleven other women, including the wife of the burgomaster, were also executed because quite clearly transporting demons in empty barrows across the sea would require the efforts of more than one woman.

When James returned to Scotland his interest in the topic of witches was well and truly alight.  The Kirk was delighted as they had been keen on the topic of witches for some considerable time.  Now that the king was on board the way was clear to start the bonfires.  In North Berwick a coven was unmasked and James was amazed when they repeated conversations that he had in Norway – the burnings began. The North Berwick trials ran for two years and more than seventy people were implicated.

 

 

The Millenary Petition and Hampton Court Conference.

king-james1I’ve posted a James I timeline before.  It can be opened here in a new window.  Many of James’ problems at home stemmed from the religious changes that were underway during this period.

He hadn’t even been crowned when he found himself being asked to change the way religion was viewed.  In the Spring of 1603 as he travelled south he was presented with the so-called Millenary Petition.  The Petition, signed by Puritan ministers, commented on the state of the Anglican Church (thy weren’t wildly enthusiastic) however, they had a fine line to walk as criticism of the Church implied criticism of the monarch.  For that reason the preamble made it very clear that the Puritans had no desire to move a way from the Anglican Church.  They did not wish to be regarded as separatists.

The fact was though that they didn’t think the Church had gone far enough with its reformation. Their objections were to do with the rites and rituals of the Church such as the wearing of the surplus and even the wearing of wedding rings. Currently there is no original copy of the Millenary Petition available which is odd because no one could cause Robert Cecil of being sloppy with his filing – but on the other hand during the opening months of James’ reign he was being petitioned about all manner of issue.

They went on to say that they would appreciate it if the king would discuss matters.  James got their hopes up by indicating that he was prepared to debate these things.  The only problem was that at this point no one was aware that James liked to show off his knowledge.  Thus when The Hampton Court Conference was convened in January 1604 Puritans, and rather surprisingly Catholics alike, were hopeful that there would be steps towards religious toleration.  The Puritans had been forced into secrecy at the end of Elizabeth’s reign whilst Catholics faced heavy recusancy fines depending which part of the country they lived in.

 

The conference opened its doors on the 14th of January 1604. Archbishop Whitgift of Canterbury was also there as were eight other leading clerics all dolled up in the ecclesiastical finery which irritated the Puritans so much.  The Puritans chose their representatives carefully.  They opted for moderate men.  The king was very pleased with himself – he felt that he was leading a discussion of learned men.  During the next three days he listened to what they had to say – or rather he told them what he thought of what they said.  He had no wish to live under presbyterianism, felt that standards of preaching needed to improve and agreed that clerics should be able to debate theological matters – Elizabeth had banned such discussions.

The Puritans must have had cause for hopefulness after all of that so it came as a bitter disappointment when the official outcome, announced by proclamation in July, was one of conformity and business as usual.  The only real outcome was the commissioning of the King James Bible.

Part of the problem was that despite his education as a protestant, James believed in the Devine Right of Kings.  The Puritans want the Church to govern itself and this in James’ mind detracted from the monarch’s special relationship with the Almighty.

On the other hand someone somewhere must have told James not to go poking sticks into ants’ nests because by the end of his reign only two puritan ministers had been turfed out of their livings for non-conformity and George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1611 to 1633 was known to protect Puritan ministers on account of his sympathy with many of their beliefs.

As for the Catholics – their hopes of toleration dashed- a number of men sought to blow up the Houses of Parliament and paid the ultimate penalty but in all only twenty Catholic Priests were executed during the period of James’ reign.  It doesn’t sound particularly kindly but in relation to Elizabeth’s tally of executed priests it looks positively tolerant!

 

Cavendish, Richard. (2004) “The Hampton Court Conference.” History Today. Vol 54, i

 

Dorothy Devereux – scandal, intrigue and a woman who knew her own mind.

Dorothy_penelope_devereauxLettice Knollys was the daughter of Catherine Carey – meaning that she was probably the granddaughter of Henry VIII as her grandmother was Mary Boleyn.  She was born on the 8th November 1543.  She married three times; first to Sir Walter Devereux who became the First Earl of Essex; second to Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester and thirdly to Sir Christopher Blount.

During the reign of Mary Tudor Lettice’s mother and father travelled to continental Europe because they were sincere protestants.  Elizabeth sent her cousin Catherine a letter signed “broken hearted” when she learned of her departure.  We do not know if Lettice travelled with her parents.  Two years after Elizabeth became queen Lettice married Walter Devereux, then Viscount Hereford.  They had five children:

Penelope was born in 1563 and Dorothy in 1564.  Lettice went on to have three sons: Robert, Walter and Francis.  Today’s post is about  Dorothy  and tomorrow I shall be posting about Penelope because of the portrait pictured at the start of the post which I love and is believed to be of Penelope and Dorothy.  It can be found at Longleat House.

Dorothy was married first, in 1583, to Sir Thomas Perrot – which makes it all a bit family orientated as Sir Thomas’s father John claimed to be one of Henry VIII’s illegitimate children (click on the link to open a pervious post about Sir John Perrot in a new window.)  Sir John was not one of Elizabeth I’s most favourite people even though he did claim close kinship with her.  He found himself in the Tower on charges of treason during her reign.  It is perhaps because of Sir John that Dorothy failed to ask Elizabeth I for permission to marry, which as one of her ladies-in-waiting she should have done and preferred, instead to elope with Penelope’s help.  Alternatively it might perhaps of been that Dorothy’s hand was being settled by  Robert Dudley who in 1582 had tried to arrange her marriage to his nephew Sir Philip Sidney.  Either way, Elizabeth was not amused and probably even less so when she learned of the circumstances of the wedding.

The marriage took place at Sir Henry Coke’s house in Broxbourne. Coke was one of Dorothy’s guardians.  He did not connive at the wedding.  For most of the service  Sir Henry’s servants were trying to break down the chapel door whilst the vicar was assaulted for arguing that the correct procedures had not been followed.  He was eventually told that John Alymer the Bishop of London had granted a licence.  This information would get him into trouble with Elizabeth.  The historian Robert Lacey places the blame for this highly irregular marriage on the inadequacies of Lettice’s and Walter’s marriage rather than Dorothy accepting her allotted role of chattel being sold to the most powerful bidder.

Dorothy was banished from court and Thomas found himself in the Fleet Prison.  There was also the small matter of William Cecil trying to have the marriage annulled.  However, despite the chapel door being battered there were six witnesses and a proper priest on hand.  In 1587 Dorothy’s brother Robert used his growing influence with the queen to try and return Dorothy to court during a visit by Elizabeth to one of Robert’s homes.  This was not particularly successful as the queen was unamused to find Dorothy in residence.  Dorothy had to stay in her room.  Unfortunately Sir Walter Raleigh, who was also a guest, became involved and there was rather a loud argument resulting in Dorothy leaving in the middle of the night.  It was only after Sir Thomas’s death that Dorothy was allowed back to court. By then she was the mother of four daughters: Penelope, Dorothy, Elizabeth and Ann

Dorothy then married the 9th Earl of Northumberland – Henry Percy- the so-called Wizard Earl.  This particular earl would find himself involved in the Gun Powder Plot in 1605.  He and his wife were not happily married despite the fact that Elizabeth I had approved of Dorothy’s second marriage.  The pair  separated in 1599. It is perhaps not totally surprising given that the earl had selected his wife based on her potential to have sons.  Dorothy did have sons with the earl but they both died young.   The couple had only one surviving child, a daughter called…Dorothy.

The separation was not permanent.  Realistically the earl needed an heir and Dorothy could not really afford more scandal.   Lucy Percy was born circa 1600 and the all important heir to the earldom of Northumberland followed in 1602.  A second son arrived in 1604.

In 1605 when Northumberland was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot and sentenced to life in the Tower, Dorothy showed herself to be a loyal wife.  She visited her spouse most days.  For Dorothy the years of the earl’s imprisonment meant that she was responsible for running the earldom whilst Percy was in charge in name only. Like her first cousin twice removed (I think I’m right given that Catherine Carey and Elizabeth I were officially cousins; Elizabeth and Lettice were first cousins once removed thus Dorothy must have been twice removed) Dorothy was a woman with a brain.  Unlike Elizabeth, Dorothy was not always able to act independently and much of her marital difficulty appears to have stemmed from this.

Dorothy died in 1619, two year’s before her husband’s eventual release from the Tower.  She is buried in the Percy family vault at Petworth.

Robert Dudley – lap dog.

elizabethpeace.jpgElizabeth I was fairly clear about her intention never to marry.  she famously said that “I will have but one mistress here and no master.”  It is also said that Elizabeth, aged eight, told Robert Dudley, shortly after the execution of her step-mother Katherine Howard that she would never marry – a precocious child would have spotted the dangers of child birth and execution!.
The rumours about Elizabeth and her Master of Horse spread around Europe.  Elizabeth once complained that she was watched by a thousand eyes.  Certainly various continental ambassadors spent a great deal of paper speculating upon the relationship that existed between Elizabeth and Robert and the consequences if they were to marry.  Despite the fact that their relationship never officially progressed beyond courtly love it was true that Robert’c bedchamber lay next to Elizabeth’s and that she was absolutely furious when he eventually married her cousin Lettice Knollys.  In Brentwood, Mother Dowelled got herself into huge amounts of bother when she claimed that Elizabeth were lovers.
Whilst William Cecil and the gossips of England’s ale house may have been concerned about Elizabeth’s relationship Elizabeth herself was all set to bring Dudley down a peg or two.  She said to him in 1566,  ‘I cannot do without my Lord Robert’, she told the French ambassador, ‘for he is like my little dog’.  She is also reported to have told Dudley   “when you are seen people know to expect me soon after.”
Perhaps this is why she appears with a lap dog in the so called Peace Portrait commissioned by Robert Dudley.

Sir Robert Dudley, explorer

Robert_Dudley,_styled_Earl_of_WarwickRobert, the child of Robert Dudley and Douglas Sheffield, was born in August 1574. His father appears to have been fond of him and oversaw his education.  He went to Christchurch, Oxford and from there was apprenticed to a naval architect.

Somewhat surprisingly Elizabeth I didn’t appear to hold a grudge against Douglas Sheffield for her liaison with Robert Dudley – she even gave her a dress when she was pregnant with Robert and accounts suggest that the queen had a soft spot for the illegitimate son of her favourite.

When the Earl of Leicester died Robert who was the last remaining child inherited Dudley’s property including Kenilworth Castle but not the title – on account of his illegitimacy.  When Ambrose Dudley died, Robert inherited land from his uncle as well.

In 1591 Robert was contracted to Margaret Vavasour with the approval of Elizabeth I but the bride wasn’t so keen on the match so married someone else and got herself banished from court. Dudley consoled himself by marriage to Margaret Cavendish in 1592 .  Margaret Cavendish was part of the Suffolk family who were the senior line to the dukes of Devonshire. Margaret received two ships as a wedding gift from her father –who was an explorer as was her brother Charles Cavendish or other sources say that Dudley inherited two ships on the death of Charles.  On Margaret’s death in 1593 Dudley married  for a second time to Alicia Leigh in 1596, by whom he had four/fiveFerdinand II daughters.

In 1597 Robert was part of the raid on Cadiz with his step brother Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.  Unfortunately he followed Essex a step too closely when he joined the earl in his rebellion.  He was briefly imprisoned.

After the death of Elizabeth, Robert made a bid for legitimacy by claiming that his parents had been married in secret. The case was eventually heard by the Star Chamber but as his mother, who wrote a deposition, couldn’t remember the name of the cleric who married her and identified ten very dead witnesses it wasn’t a case that particularly held water. Essentially Robert who inherited land under the term of his father’s will wanted to claim the title as well.

Inevitably there’s more to the tale.  In 1605 he went to Italy  which would have been fine apart from the fact that he was accompanied by Elizabeth Southwell, the daughter of Sir Robert Southwell -she was Robert’s cousin.  She was disguised as a page and there was the small matter of Robert’s wife and family to take into consideration.  When Robert refused to return home his property was confiscated. Undeterred Robert promptly turned Catholic and married Elizabeth Southwell in Lyons.  From there he went into the service of Cosimo II., grand-duke of Tuscany.  He became a map maker and an engineer. In 1620 the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II recognised his title not only to Warwick which his uncle Ambrose had held but also to  Northumberland – remember his grandfather, the Duke of Northumberland had been executed.  The Duca di Nortombria died near Florence on the 6th of September 1649, leaving a large family.

 

Lady Douglas Howard – a footnote in the Earl of Leicester’s love life

robert dudley minature.pngIn popular history Douglas get barely a mention.  She might as well be invisible. Douglas’ son Robert, the illegitimate son of Robert Dudley, would claim that his mother was secretly married to his father in May 1603 – Elizabeth I being safely dead.  The case was heard in 1605 in the Court of the Star Chamber.  Unfortunately all the witnesses were dead and she couldn’t remember the name of the cleric who married them. Douglas made a deposition to the effect that they had been married until Leicester tired of her and turned his attentions to Lettice Knollys. But who was Douglas?

 

Her father was William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, making her a cousin of Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard.  He brother  She attended court during the first year of Elizabeth’s reign and then married John Sheffield.  He died in December 1568.  Inevitably accusations of poison were made.  In any event Douglas returned to court as a gentlewoman of the privy chamber – Elizabeth liked to have her mother’s family around her.

By May 1573 she was in deep competition with her own sister Frances for the attention of Robert Dudley.  Gilbert Talbot wrote about the pursuit and the falling out between the two sisters:

There are two sisters now in the court that are very far in love with him, as they have long been; my Lady Sheffield and Frances Howard. They (of like striving who shall love him better) are at great wars together and the queen thinketh not well of them, and not the better of him”

 

By then Leicester knew that he was unlikely to succeed in his attempt to win Elizabeth’s hand.  During their relationship Leicester wrote a long letter explaining how much he cared for Douglas but that if he married her that he would be ruined.  He actually urges her to marry one of her other suitors to ensure her respectability.  In August 1574 Douglas gave birth to her son Robert.  Leicester referred to him as his “base son” but cared for the boy taking him into his own care.

Leicester married Lettice in 1578.  The following year on 29th November 1579 Douglas married Sir Edward Stafford  of Grafton in Staffordshire- an unusual act for a woman who later claimed to be already married.  According to one source she became a bigamist in order to put a stop to Leicester’s threats to have her poisoned!  Stafford became ambassador to the French court and the pair lived in Paris from 1583  where Douglas became a friend of Catherine de Medici.  Douglas was sent home in 1588 due to the deteriorating political situation.  Stafford was not a fan of the Earl of Leicester.

 

Sir Edward Stafford died in 1605 having told the Star Court that he married Douglas having ascertained beforehand that she was not married to Leicester on the explicit orders of Elizabeth I. Douglas died in 1608.  She bore Stafford two sons but they died young.

The Battle of the Spurs

henryholbeinThe Battle of the Spurs is also known as the Battle of  Guinegate. It took place on August 16 in 1513.

Essentially Henry VIII had a full treasury and wanted to be a traditional monarch which meant going to war in Europe, preferably against the French.  He was encouraged in this by the young men of his court who wanted fortune and glory. Polydore Vergil noted that the king was aware of his responsibility to seek military fame – and what better way to do it that to retrieve the Empire.  All that remained of Henry V’s campaign victories and the early empire of the medieval kings was Calais and its Pale.  This fitted nicely with his father-in-law Ferdinand of Aragon’s military plans.

0n 17 November 1511 Henry signed up to Treaty of Westminster and the Holy League  which promised to protect the papacy. The only thing better than fighting the French was to fight the French as part of a  holy war – you might describe it as a win-win situation so far as Henry was concerned.

 

Pope_Julius_IIThe Holy League was formed by Julius II with the intention of removing the French from Italy – so really and truly it is part of the Italian Wars which began in 1495 and were concluded in 1559.  Julius II realised the threat that the French posed and entered into an alliance with the Venetians in 1510.  Let us leave the tooings and froings of the European powers  aside – suffice it to say that in March 1512 Julius II withdrew the title  “Most Christian King” from Louis XII and then gave France to Henry VIII of England. There was the small matter of the French not wanting to hand France over to Henry.

 

ferdinand of aragonThomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset arrived in the basque regions with 10,000 men. They marched to Fuenterrabia where the plan was that an Anglo-Spanish force would capture Aquitaine.  Thomas Grey was the second marquess and the third son of Thomas Grey the eldest son of Elizabeth Woodville – meaning that our marquess was one of Henry’s half-cousins.  The family had a bit of a colourful relationship with the Tudors but now he was sent off to acquire Aquitaine. This suited Ferdinand of Aragon’s (pictured at the start of this paragraph) desire to put the French off invading Northern Spain.  He had his eyes on Navarre.  The English stayed put until August 1512 during which time Ferdinand didn’t provide the support to capture Aquitaine that he had promised to his son-in-law (which didn’t help Katherine of Aragon’s relationship with her spouse) and also tried to persuade Grey to help him in his campaign in Navarre. Grey refused to deviate from his task.

 

Whilst all this was going on finances ran low as did food and all I can say is that troops turned to wine and became rather unwell due to lack of food, poor hygiene and bad weather. 3,000 of them caught the bloody flux.  They blamed it on foreign food but generally speaking dysentery isn’t caused by garlic or wine.  Sir Thomas Knyvet died at this time. Ultimately Grey’s army mutinied and when he arrived home Grey was in the doghouse.  Henry considered trying him for dereliction of duty. It can’t have helped that Henry was hardly covered in glory at this point.

Somehow Grey managed to extricate himself and went with Henry the following year on campaign to France.  He was at the Siege of Tournai and the Battle of the Spurs.  In May 1513 English troops began to arrive in Calais.  By then the Emperor Maximilian had joined the Holy Roman League and Louis XII of France was trying to persuade the Scots to attack the English – which ended disastrously for the Scots at Flodden.  By the end of June Henry VIII was also in France having been outfitted by Thomas Wolsey who increasingly had the king’s ear at the expense of Katherine of Aragon – whose father had made something of a fool of Henry encouraging him to make an attempt on Aquitaine the previous year with the intent of using him as a distraction for his own ends.  Despite that Henry left Katherine as regent during his French campaign and to ensure that there wasn’t any unrest had the  Earl of Suffolk executed before he went – and let’s not forget that he was a cousin of sorts as well.  Edmund de la Pole was the Yorkist heir.  The Earl’s younger brother was in France so escaped Henry’s precautionary executions but it probably didn’t help that he called himself the White Rose.

 

On 24 July Henry and emperor Maximilian laid siege to Thérouanne. The Duc de Longueville was sent to relieve the town but  when the English saw the French cavalry make an attempt to supply the town they chased after it.  The French fled – hence the name Battle of the Spurs- suggesting that the French did more fleeing than fighting!

 

Part of the reason for the French confusion was because Henry Percy, the Fifth Earl of Northumberland appeared with English cavalry in front of the French forces whilst they were also potentially outflanked by English archers.

 

There was an undignified chase with the French trying to get their men to stop and fight.  Henry and the Holy Roman Emperor captured six French standards and the Duc de Longueville.  The duc, Louis d’Orleans, was packed off back to England where he was ensconced in the Tower.  Whilst he was a prisoner he began a relationship with Jane Popincourt, a Frenchwoman who had been in the household of Elizabeth of York, who is also alleged to have been one of Henry VIII’s mistresses.  Certainly when all the shouting was over and Henry’s sister Mary Tudor was married off to the aged Louis XII he struck Jane’s name from a list of women in Mary’s household.  When Jane did eventually go to France to join Longueville, Henry gave her £100 which might have been for loyalty to Elizabeth of York, might have been for tutoring the Tudor children in French and it might have been for other things – unfortunately the accounts don’t give that kind of information.

 

Really and truly  the Battle of the Spurs is not a battle in the truest sense of the word but it did bulk up Henry VIII’s martial reputation and answered what he’d arrived in France for in the first instance – i.e. glory and prestige on a European stage.

 

Thérouanne surrendered on the 22 August.

 

Hutchinson, Robert. (2012) Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Orion Books

Weir, Alison. (2001) Henry VIII: King and Court. London: Jonathan Cape

 

Poison and murder – a Boleyn conspiracy?

fisherI recently purchased James Moore’s The Tudor Murder Files.  It’s published by Pen and Sword.  It turns out that under Henry VIII there were something in the region of 72,000 executions – which is a rather eye watering figure.  Clearly there were assorted bigwigs including as Sir Thomas More, Thomas Cromwell, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard  but there were also thousands of nameless men and women such as those who were executed by the Duke of Norfolk during the period of martial law following on form the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536-which has just reminded me of another victim of Henry VIII’s famous Tudor tantrums – Robert Aske. Which brings as neatly to today’s post having mentioned beheading and hanging it’s time to move on to being boiled alive.

In Europe the practise of boiling people either in water, oil or tar (anything that got hot and unpleasant basically) continued into much more recent times.  In 1531 the Act of Poisoning was enshrined in English law.  It came about because a cook called Richard Roose or Rouse was found guilty of murdering two people with broth.  Roose is mentioned by name in the act.  The act made the crime of poisoning that of petty treason. Petty treason, just in case you were wondering, is when a subordinate (wife or servant) kills or betrays their superior (husband or master).  After Roose met his unfortunate end a maid servant was boiled in King’s Lynn for poisoning her mistress  and in March 1542 Margaret Davie was boiled at Smithfield for poisoning three households.

 

Richard Roose was a cook for the Bishop of Rochester – John Fisher (pictured at the start of this post)- the man who had been Margaret Beaufort’s confessor and who wrote her biography.  In 1509 he had led the funeral of Henry VII and had tutored Henry VIII in theology. He was regarded as one of the most learned theologians in the Western world which was fine whilst he and Henry VIII were in agreement.  In short, he was a very important person until he sided with Katherine of Aragon against Henry in Henry’s Great Matter. In 1527 Henry told Fisher that his conscience was tormented by concerns over Leviticus and  Deuteronomy as to whether he was legally married to Katherine.  Fisher, not taking the hint, went off and had a conflab with assorted theologians and got back to Henry with the “good news” that he had nothing to worry about. Henry presumably took a deep breath then went off to consult with theologians that Fisher hadn’t thought to ask.

1529, Fisher expressed his views very clearly at the Legatine Court about marriage and Anne Boleyn. He was Katherine’s advocate.  This was not at all what Henry wanted.

Fisher found himself briefly imprisoned for resisting the reformation of the clergy and the legal strategy that Cromwell was using to exert pressure on Rome.   It didn’t stop him from writing several books in support of Katherine of Aragon. By 1531 Bishop Fisher must have been feeling very uncomfortable indeed. Not only did he resist attempts to limit clerical power but Henry made it very clear that he would throw the bishop into the river if he didn’t start behaving himself.

On the 18th February 1531 the sixteen or so gentlemen who had shared Bishop Fisher’s meal became unwell.  One of them by the name of Curwen died. The beggars who gathered at Lambeth for alms – the leftovers- also became unwell. One, a widow called Alice Trypptt died.  The soup, or pottage as it was called, was dodgy.  The only man who didn’t succumb to food poisoning was Bishop Fisher who hadn’t fancied the soup.  Other sources suggest that Fisher wasn’t even present in Lambeth at the time.

The Venetian Archives contains a report about Richard Roose’s interrogation and confession.  He admitted having put a “powder” in the soup for a bit of fun.  He thought that the powder was a laxative (a man with a strange sense of humour).

At Henry’s insistence rather than being tried for murder in the usual fashion Roose was put on trial for treason as though Fisher was a member of the royal family.    What this meant was that there was no jury to hear the case, the verdict being a summary one. The Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, noted that Roose did not say where the powder came from in the first place. Chapuys hesitated to blame Henry VIII himself for dishing out powders to get rid of troublesome priests but did suggest that the Boleyn family might have something to do with it – and let’s remember he wasn’t Anne’s greatest fan.  Thomas More reported the rumour that the Boleyn’s were involved to Henry VIII who was signally unamused by the suggestion.  It should be noted that neither Chapuys or More presented any evidence.  Henry is said to have commented that Anne Boleyn was blamed for everything.

It should be added that Fisher had another near miss involving a canon ball that landed in his study.  It appears that the canon which fired the aforementioned cannonball was sited in the home of Thomas Boleyn.  In October 1531 Anne Boleyn sent Fisher a message warning him not to attend parliament.  She noted that he would not get sick again.

On the 5th April The Chronicle of Greyfriars reported Roose’s end along with the mechanics of execution which as based on a rope and pulley system which lifted him in and out of the  water.  Another chronicle noted that there was a lot of yelling and that those people not sickened by the sight felt that the axeman was a more edifying sight.  Roose died without benefit of the clergy.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but up until this point Henry wasn’t known for executing people willy-nilly  he hadn’t got to the point where he was lopping off heads to get the wife he wanted so either he had something to hide and was getting rid of the accomplice in plain sight or he really was deeply concerned about household staff with small bottles labelled with skulls and crossbones getting rid of their employers.  Let’s just remember the that the Tudors had a thing about anyone mentioning that they might die – so fear of being poisoned probably would produce alarm and brand new nasty punishments.

Poor Fisher found himself in ever increasing difficulties.  In 1534 he was imprisoned for not reporting everything about the Maid of Ken (Elizabeth Barton).  And then he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy.  On 22 June 1535 Fisher became one of the 72,000 execution victims of Henry VIII.  When he emerged from the Tower he was gaunt and badly nourished. This probably demonstrates more effectively than anything that Henry had no need to send henchmen to skulk down dark alleys with little bottles decorated by skulls and crossbones.   Henry and Cromwell knew how to use the law to intimidate and then silence Henry’s critics without legally getting their hands dirty.

Boiling people was removed from the statute books in 1547 during the reign of Edward VI although Moore dies note that there was at least one execution of this kind during the reign of Elizabeth I.

Moore, James. (2016) The Tudor Murder Files. Barnsley: Pen and Sword