Robert Dudley’s last letter

Penelope Devereux will be following shortly – I’ve got rather engrossed in the reading!  In the meantime here’s Robert Dudley’s last letter to Elizabeth I.  On 28th August 1588, an ill Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, wrote his final letter to his queen and childhood friend, Elizabeth I. He wrote it from the home of Lady Norreys at Rycote, where he was staying on his way to Buxton, to take the waters there.   He died on the 4th September 1588.  He is thought to have died either from malaria or stomach cancer.

 

It read:

“I most humbly beseech your Majesty to pardon your poor old servant to be thus bold in sending to know how my gracious lady doth, and what ease of her late pains she finds, being the chiefest thing in this world I do pray for, for her to have good health and long life. For my own poor case, I continue still your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot. From your old lodging at Rycote, this Thursday morning, ready to take on my Journey, by your Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant,

Leicester

 

Elizabeth kept the letter in a box beside her bed for the rest of her life.  She marked it in her own hand “His last letter.”  Their relationship had changed over the years but she never fully recovered from his death.  Although Robert’s step-son the Earl of Essex stepped into Dudley’s place the world in which Elizabeth I found herself was changing.  Not only that but it has been argued that she relied on having familiar faces around her to overcome the anxiety of temperament that had haunted her since the days of Thomas Seymour.

http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/elizabeth-monarchy/earl-of-leicester-to-elizabeth/

Robert Dudley’s Last Letter

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.

Robert Dudley – and his love life!

Robert_Dudley_LeicesterBy  the 10 Nov 1558 it was clear that Elizabeth would be queen and when a week later her sister Mary died, Elizabeth became the first English monarch to bear that name.  The following day the Great Seal was surrendered into her hands and she made Robert Dudley her master of horse which meant that he was the only man in the kingdom legally allowed to lay hands on her for the purposes of helping her on and off her horse.  Now, an unmarried queen was an asset in diplomatic terms but fears for the nation and the queen’s health were compounded by the fact that Elizabeth had known “Sweet Robin” Dudley since she was a child and rather like a child allowed out of school for the summer Elizabeth rather enjoyed the freedom that being queen now gave her.  It wasn’t long before there was speculation about Elizabeth and her Master of Horse.  It wasn’t much longer until there were rumours that Elizabeth was pregnant or had even had a child by Dudley.  Nicholas Throckmorton the English Ambassador in Paris wrote home expressing the view that these rumours needed to be scotched.
Eighteen months later things became even worse when on the 9th September 1560 Amy Robsart was found laying dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs at Cumnor.  Once again it wasn’t long before the rumour mill suggested that Dudley had disposed of his wife so that he could marry the queen.  Amy’s marriage had been a love match  but even at the wedding one of the guests – William Cecil no less- had expressed the view that it would not end well.  He perhaps guessed that the groom would tire of his country mouse.
Dudley now found himself in a situation where he might have hoped to have married Elizabeth but Elizabeth was more politically savvy than he guessed.  She kept him dangling on a thread- rather like the lap dog she once accused him of being.  meanwhile rumours about the death of Amy Robert would haunt him his entire life. You have to admire the man’s optimism because he didn’t marry again for the next eighteen years.  In all fairness his hopes had reason to be high – for example in 1562 when Elizabeth had smallpox she named Dudley regent in the event of her death.
The following year however, Elizabeth suggested that her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots should marry Dudley.  It was on the strength of this suggestion that Elizabeth made him the Earl of Leicester.  Let’s not get into the discussion about whether she actually intended it or not, that she was trying to insult Mary or that it was a canny stratagem to make Dudley an earl.  By March 1565 the idea was dead in the water with both the proposed bride and groom being in opposition to the suggestion.
It is usually suggested that Dudley was a serious contender for Elizabeth’s hand throughout the 1560s but realistically the death of Amy and Elizabeth’s suggestion that he marry Mary make it an unlikely suggestion beyond 1564.  In 1565 Dudley showed some serious courtly attention to the queen’s cousin Lettice Knollys.  It didn’t go down very well. Nor did it probably help that Lettice looked very like her cousin. By the end of the decade Dudley gained a mistress in the person of Douglas Sheffield:

I have, as you well know, long both loved and liked you, and found alway that faithful and earnest affection at your hand again that bound me greatly to you. This good will of mine, whatsoever you have thought, hath not changed from that it was at ye beginning toward you. And I trust, after your widowhood began upon the first occasion of my coming to you, I did plainly and truly open unto you in what sort my good will should and might alway remain to you, and showing you such reasons as then I had for ye performance of mine intent, as well as ever since. It seemed [that] you had fully resolved with yourself to dispose yourself accordingly, without any further expectation or hope of other dealing. From which time you have framed yourself in such sort toward me as was very much to my contentation. And I did with my former mind also continue my good will & determination toward you.

 

You can’t say that Dudley didn’t lay his cards on the table.  In 1574 Douglas had a son called Robert but by then Dudley’s attentions had turned back to Lettice Knollys who was married to the 1st Earl of Essex.  Walter Devereux was sent to Ireland in 1573.  Let’s just say that when the earl returned home in 1575 that Dudley wasn’t his most favourite person.  The earl went back to Ireland in 1576 and promptly expired of dysentery.  Dudley who was in England was very soon accused of having poisoned the earl.

In July 1575 Elizabeth arrived to visit Dudley in Kenilworth.  Dudley made yet another marriage proposal – it was very elaborate and very expensive.  He’d also commissioned two full length portraits one of himself and one of Elizabeth.  The queen enjoyed the party and the flattery but did not take the bait.

On 21 September 1578 Dudley married Lettice at Wanstead – in secret.  Nine months later the queen found out and there was rathe ra lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.  Elizabeth did not forgive and forget.  Lettice was never welcome back at court and in 1583 she was still sniping at Dudley’s treachery.

In the great scheme of things Dudley actually seems fairly subdued on the woman front  – but when in pursuit of a queen its perhaps best not to have too many floozies on the go.   In later years Robert’s son by Douglas would claim that the pair were married but it was never proven – and had more to do with inheritance than truth.

 

Just a fortnight to go until the History Jar day school – there are still places available – was Amy murdered? Did Dudley marry Douglas Howard in a secret ceremony? What was Elizabeth’s relationship with Lettice?  Who needs a soap opera when there’s the reality of Tudor court life?

Thursday 27th September 2018   10.00 am – 3.30pm

Inconvenient Wives

The story of Robert Dudley, Amy Robsart,

Lettice Knollys and Elizabeth I

The Orange Box, Halifax.

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

 

Henry Tudor arrives at Mill Bay

henryvii
The 7thAugust 1485 saw Henry and Jasper  Tudor land at Milford Haven  in Mill Bay.  four hundred or so years later in 1840 small boys were prohibited from climbing chimneys and in 1914 Lord Kitchener proclaimed that our country needed us for the first time of the 7th August.

 

Henry Tudor was twenty-eight in 1485.  He arrived with 2000 mercenaries in an area of Wales where Jasper Tudor was Earl of Pembroke with allies, one of whom was Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Carew Castle.  According to legend Thomas was waiting at Mill Bay to great the Lancastrian claimant and having said that Henry would enter Wales over his dead body according to the story he lay beneath a bridge whilst Henry walked over the bridge – but this seems to be an interesting embroidery.

 

What is apparent is that the previous year several letters had crossed the Channel garnering support for an invasion and rebellion. They were all signed  H.R. so it was quite clear that Henry wasn’t simply returning to claim his father’s earldom in the manner that Edward IV had returned to England or, more famously, Henry IV.  The last person to simply arrive by ship and claim that he had a better right to be king than the person on the throne was Richard of York  – it hadn’t ended well for Richard III’s father mainly because the concept of deposing the anointed king who had been on the throne since his infancy was repugnant to most magnates at the time.

This spate of letter writing also meant that Henry was reliant on his Beaufort claim, which was tenuous to put it mildly. Depending on viewpoint the Beaufort claim was an illegitimate one and besides which Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, was alive and well.  It is not surprising that Henry swore to marry Elizabeth of York and equally it is not surprising that Richard III would have wished to have prevented that particular eventuality.

It is unlikely that Richard would have married his own niece – he wasn’t a Hapsburg but it is telling that he arranged the marriage of her sister, Cecily, to the brother of Lord Scrope, a man within his own affinity and of far lesser rank – appropriate for an illegitimate daughter of royalty.  Skidmore suggests that Richard planned to marry Elizabeth to a cousin of John II of Portugal.  In doing that Richard would have weakened Henry’s strategy for kingship at a stroke. As it was the plan came to nothing.

Thomas ap Rhys probably received a letter from Henry and also Henry Percy the Earl of Northumberland.  Percy had helped put Richard on the throne but his family were Lancastrian by inclination. The Stanley family were probably involved and Margaret Beaufort undoubtedly stirred the pot on behalf of her absent son with the aid of her agent, Reginald Bray.

 

England spent the summer of 1485 ready for war.  On June 21 Richard signed a proclamation against Henry in Nottingham Castle – it stated that Henry was in receipt of French backing and then it attacked Henry’s claim to the throne by attacking his bloodline and legitimacy.  It was effectively a call to arms.  Commissions of array followed soon after.  Commissions of Array were letters sent by the monarch to sheriffs and men of authority in each county commanding their presence on the field of battle with a group of armed men – the medieval equivalent of Lord Kitchener’s Poster but in this case rather less successful.

On 29 July Henry and his fleet left the safety of Harfleur.  At sunset on the 7thAugust Henry set foot in Wales.  His landing at Mill Bay meant that it escaped the attention, albeit briefly, of Richard III’s observers. The chronicler Robert Fabyan stated that Henry fell to his knees and gave thanks to God.  Then, once all Henry’s mercenaries were offloaded his fleet sailed away – it was do or die for Henry Tudor.

A fortnight later at the Battle of Bosworth Henry Tudor, with his very tenuous claim to the Crown, became Henry VII – the last English king to gain a crown on the battlefield.

 

Skidmore, Chris. (2013) The Rise of the Tudors. New York: St Martin’s Press

 

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

The earls of Northumberland and the Percy Family – part 3 of 4. The magnificent and unlucky Tudors.

The 5th Earl of Northumberland:

5th north coat of armsThe 5th earl  carried the Coronation sword at Richard III’s coronation but grew up in Henry VII’s court as part of the group of young men who were schooled alongside Princes Arthur and Henry. In the first instance it helped remind the 4th earl where his loyalties lay and in the second place it kept the Percy power base under control. He was at Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon and  was part of the train that took Princess Margaret to Scotland to be married to James IV.  He had a reputation for being magnificently dressed and travelling in the manner befitting an earl.   As such it would be easy to assume that he had royal favour but it is clear that becoming warden of the border marches was something of an issue once he attained his majority.  Nor for that matter did he acquire any important national roles.  The stumbling block would appear to be the  “ravishment” of Elizabeth Hastings – which sounds unpleasant.  In reality Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir John Hastings of Yorkshire. She was a ward of the Crown and Percy had arranged her marriage.   The language of ravishment and abduction is the language of property being removed from Henry VII’s grasping fingers rather than an account depicting the earl’s predatory nature.  Initially he was fined £10,000 but this was later reduced by half.  Part of the problem for Percy was that the Tudors had learned important lessons about over mighty subjects. Consequentially Henry VII took a dim view of anyone standing on his prerogatives and he didn’t trust the Percy clan in any event because of their landholding and wealth – not to mention prior form. It was Henry VIII who cancelled the debt once he became king. The question is was Percy unsuited for power or did Henry VII use the case of Elizabeth Hastings to financially kneecap a man known for his lavish lifestyle?

 

Meanwhile Percy and his wife, Katherine Spencer – a three times great grand-daughter of Edward III had four children born in the first decade of the sixteenth century; Henry (1502), Thomas (1504), Ingram (1506) and Margaret (1508).   The year after Margaret was born it was rumoured that the earl had come to an agreement with the Duke of Buckingham to overthrow the Tudors.  It was supposed that he would rule north of the Trent. It says something that when Buckingham found himself in the Tower in 1521 on charges of treason that the earl was spared though he had been in the Fleet a few years previously on another ward related charge.  It is also evident that Henry VIII ordered Cardinal Wolsey to keep an eye on the earl despite the fact that nothing can really, at this point in history, be levelled against him.

 

He did all the usual things that Tudor nobles did. He went to war in France in 1512 so was not on hand when James IV of Scotland took the opportunity to invade England.  By 1522 he was back on the borders and indulging in some light feuding with the Dacre family.  The problem was that Percy saw the warden role in the east and middle marches as one that he was entitled to whilst Dacre had other ideas.  The only reason that the Dacre family had become used to serving in the capacity of Warden was that the fifth earl had been a minor when his father was killed by a mob near Thirsk in 1489.  Whilst the earl was a ward of the Crown, the Percy estates were administered by the Earl of Surrey and many of the offices associated with the Percy family were offered out to other families.  The truth is that Percy had never played the role his forefather’s played either through his youth or because of Tudor distrust.  Despite that he attempted to regain the position in northern society he felt was his. By the time he was offered a wardenship he knew that he did not have the necessary military skills to fulfil the role and resigned his commission. The magnificent earl might perhaps have been better described at that stage as the very grumpy earl.

 

Dacre complained from the borders to the king he wasn’t getting the help from Percy that he thought should have been forthcoming.  In 1517 when Margaret Tudor returned to England as a heavily pregnant fugitive, the earl was not overjoyed to see her.  He wrote to the king suggesting that Dacre or the Earl of Cumberland might like to look after her.  He was probably aware the cost of providing for her would come out of his purse.  He attempted to suggest that the countess was indisposed but that didn’t wash with Henry who ordered Northumberland to bring Margaret south.  One of the reasons was that the earl was not as wealthy as he had once been.  He gambled heavily, spent excessively and seems to have been fined rather a lot by Cardinal Wolsey who seems to have been determined to break the northern powerbase that was the earldom of Northumberland.

 

Henry’s brother William was much more the border baron than his brother.  He fought at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 and was created a knight on the battlefield. Even Lord Dacre wrote highly of William as did Bishop Ogle of Carlisle. It was William who trained the earl’s younger sons in the art of border warfare whilst their eldest brother was sent to London to the household of Cardinal Wolsey for his education and, let’s be honest, as a surety for the fifth earl’s good behaviour.

 

The Fifth earl turns up in national history in 1526 when he was summoned from the north to sort out the affairs of his eldest son.  Henry junior was betrothed to Mary Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury, but had fallen in love with Anne Boleyn.  The earl was supposed to back up the cardinal who had been ordered to prevent the match.

 

He died on May 19 1527.

The 6th Earl of Northumberland:

The new earl was of age but Wolsey made the earl of Cumberland, Margaret Percy’s husband, executor of the 5th earl’s estate.  The 6th earl was forbidden from attending the funeral of his father and then there was the issue of Mary Talbot – the powerless daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury.  The engagement had been a means of breaking off the relationship between Percy and Anne Boleyn but the match was not finalised.  It had in fact been halted because the young people did not like one another.   Now Percy was required to marry her and to live in the north.  The fifth earl had not been impressed with his heir and it would have to be said that either of his younger brothers was more suited to riding around the countryside killing reivers – poor old Henry simply hadn’t been trained for it and was rather on the sickly side.  It can’t have helped that his father was so far in debt- more than £17,000- that the plate had to be pawned to pay for his funeral.

 

Cardinal Wolsey drew up a budget.  It was not generous. Wolsey also arranged for the estate rents to be collected and began to have a close look at various Percy deeds and entitlements.  Matters came to a head when it was discovered that one of the earl’s retainers, appropriately named Wormme,  was sending Wolsey details of the earl’s accounts. The earl was not amused and the gentleman in question is supposed to have spent considerable time in a less comfortable dungeon in Alnwick Castle upon payment of a £300 bribe by the earl specifically to get his hands on the man.

 

The earl now set about demonstrating that he was more than capable of maintaining order in the north though unfortunately he was less able to maintain order in his own marriage. Mary liked Henry almost as much as he liked her.  The pair separated but were required by Wolsey to resume their married life. It was not a happy marriage in any sense of the word.  Mary became convinced that Henry was trying to kill her – there is no evidence that he was.

 

But time was running out for the Cardinal who had been unable to untie Henry VIII from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon. The king had rather an unpleasant sense of humour. He sent the man whose life had been made a misery to arrest the Cardinal and convey him to London.  Northumberland arrived at Cawood near York on the 4thNovember 1529 where he behaved, it is said with great dignity and compassion for Henry VIII’s former minister.

 

In 1531 the earl was made a knight of the garter. He was not involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace.  He died in 1537 leaving his money to Henry VIII.  He is best remembered as the first love of Anne Boleyn.  He collapsed at her trial and never really recovered.

Having no children his title passed to his younger brother unfortunately Thomas had become caught up in Bigod’s Rebellion (the follow on to the Pilgrimage of grace).  He was hanged drawn and quartered in London in June 1537 before he could become earl.

 

The 7th Earl of Northumberland:

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_1566The 7th earl was Thomas’s oldest son, also called Tomas – a pleasant change from all those Henrys.  To all intents and purposes his father’s death as a traitor should have debarred him from the earldom but when he came of age in 1549 he was restored to some of his lands and his loyalty to Mary Tudor in 1557 saw him restored to the earldom.  The Percys had never stopped being Catholic. Unfortunately it all went to his head – quite literally- as he took part in the Northern Rising of 1569. I have posted about the 7th earl before.  If you would like to read more click here to open a new page.  He was executed in 1572 in York on Elizabeth’s orders.  His execution warrant can still be seen in Alnwick Castle.

 

The seventh earl’s son died before him and he left a family of daughters so the family had to look back up the family tree for the next earl.  Not only that but Elizabeth I didn’t trust the family so far as she could throw them so refused to allow them to travel to their residences in the north of the country.  During this time Petworth in Sussex became the main Percy residence.

The 8th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) (posthumous) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 - London 1641)

Oil painting on canvas, Henry Percy, 8th Earl of Northumberland (c.1532-1585) by Sir Anthony Van Dyck (Antwerp 1599 – London 1641). A posthumous three-quarter-length portrait, standing, turned slightly to the right, gazing at the spectator, short cropped hair, beard and moustache, wearing full armour, his right hand wearing his gauntlet and holding a baton his left elbow leaning on a ledge and his left bare hand hanging over it. On the ledge is his helmet.

The eighth earl was another Henry Percy and he was the seventh earl’s younger brother.  He had the common sense to remain loyal to Elizabeth I during the Rising of the North. Unfortunately he was implicated in assorted plots to release Mary Queen of Scots.  He was sent to the Tower as a result of being implicated in the Throckmorton Plot and again in 1584 when he was accused of plotting to allow the Duc de Guise to land troops for the purpose of releasing Mary Queen of Scots and returning England to Catholicism.  Off he went to the Tower – for a third time as it happens – he died unexpectedly on 21stJune 1585.

Someone had shot him through the heart.  It was decided that he had committed suicide. Let’s just say that warders and officers in charge of the earl’s well being were changed just beforehand to men who were careless about guns. It rather looks as though Sir Christopher Hatton, the queen’s favourite, may have assisted the “suicide.”