Tag Archives: Anne of Cleves

Sir William Paget

WilliamPagetWilliam Paget is typical of Tudor administrators.  He rose not because of his bloodline but because of his ability.  He was educated at Cambridge.  His tutor was Stephen Gardiner (I told you they were all related and now I’ll add that they all know each other!)  After Paget completed his studies Gardiner, who would become Bishop of Winchester and by the end of Henry VIII’s reign  conservative scion of Catholicism, found Paget a role in his own household.

Somewhat ironically then Paget first makes his appearance on the political stage in 1529 in Henry VIII’s so-called Reformation Parliament- for his parliamentary biography double click on the image which accompanies this post. He continued working for Gardiner until it became apparent that Cromwell was the horse to back.  Inevitably his letters to Cromwell at this time can be found in Henry VIII’s letters and papers.  He appears again as Jane Seymour’s secretary which naturally enough brought him into close contact with Jane’s brothers Sir Edward Seymour and Sir Thomas Seymour.

Increasingly Paget became associated with the so-called Protestant faction of Henry VIII’s privy council even though he was also secretary to Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. He also served for a time as Ambassador in France – diplomacy, spying etc.

The removal of Thomas Cromwell in 1540 left Henry VIII without a single capable man of all business.  The privy council resumed some of its former importance and men such as Paget who had proved themselves solidly reliable were able to garner more power to themselves now that it wasn’t all focused on one individual.

 

 

Paget tends to be identified as one of the key figures in the transition of power from Henry VIII to Sir Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford when Edward VI ascended the throne. Seymour shortly afterwards became Duke of Somerset followed by becoming Lord Protector.  Henry VIII’s will envisaged the sixteen strong privy council sharing responsibility for guiding the young king and governing during his minority rather than investing power in the hands of one man.  It says something for Paget’s powers of persuasiveness. Inevitably when Somerset fell from power Paget, who’d gained a title by then as well as a substantial estate including land belonging to Burton Abbey in Staffordshire, also found himself under a cloud…in the Tower.  He’d regained his position by 1552 (so a man with essential survival skills).

Those survival skills are demonstrated but the fact that he continued in office during the reign of Queen Mary rising to the role of Lord Privy Seal.  Although he was keen on Mary’s marriage to Philip of Spain he was less enthusiastic about the idea of executing Princess Elizabeth – which was probably just as well.  In 1558 when Mary died he chose to retire from public life but he acted as an advisor, on occasion, during Elizabeth’s reign – making him the most unusual of Tudor administrators – a man who kept his head and served not one but four of the Tudors. And what makes it even more amazing is that he had agreed to bypass Mary and place Lady Jane Grey on the throne. He died in 1563 at the age of fifty-eight.

In addition to manoeuvring his way through the snakes and ladders of Tudor politics Sir William found time to marry and father ten children. Three of his four sons survived to adulthood.  I have posted about them elsewhere on the History Jar  https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/sir-william-paget/  as the youngest son, Charles, turned out to be anything but loyal to the Tudor crown.  He was a catholic conspirator against Elizabeth.  There is an irony in this because one of Paget’s roles during the reign of Henry VIII was counter-intelligence.

 

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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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Henry VIII’s middle way for the Church of England

henryharpHenry VIII was nothing if not even minded.  He executed fifty people for not renouncing the pope – thereby becoming traitors to the king and he executed another forty for their heretical leanings between 1533 when he assumed control of the Church in England and his death in 1547.

On the 30 July 1540, just two days after Thomas Cromwell was executed, Smithfield witnessed Henry’s bizarre not to mention gruesome relies tightrope act.  Six people were executed.  Three of them, Richard Fetherstone, Thomas Abel and Edward Powell, were condemned as papists. Their crime was their failure to deny the pope. They were hanged drawn and quartered as traitors whilst the other three to die that day were burned as heretics.

Robert Barnes, a Norfolk man, was educated at Cambridge and like Lambert began life as a Catholic.  But like Lambert he was drawn to protestantism very early in his career. He was imprisoned by Wolsey but undeterred he used his incarceration as an opportunity to give out Bibles written in English.  Very sensibly he decamped to Antwerp as soon as possible where he made the acquaintance of one of Cromwell’s agents.  Interestingly he returned to England in 1531 where he became an agent employed by the Crown liaising with Lutheran Germany.  He had, after all, met Luther during his travels.  He was part of the delegation which went to Germany in 1535 to find out how the Lutherans viewed Henry VIII’s intended divorce from Katherine of Aragon.  He returned as part of Cromwell’s team negotiating for the match between Henry and Anne of Cleves.

This disastrous union would hasten Thomas Cromwell’s demise but the lines were already drawn up for a contest between Cromwell who was seen as leaning towards reform and the old guard of catholicism in the persons of the duke of Norfolk and Bishop Gardiner. One of the early signs of this conflict was when Barnes preached against Gardiner from the cross at St Paul’s. He was made to apologise and briefly stopped being Lutheran but then Cromwell was made earl of Essex and it looked to Barnes to be service as usual so he reverted to beliefs that exceeded the dictates of the Ten Articles.

Except of course Cromwell was on his way out and without the Vicar General’s protection it wasn’t long before Barnes was turned into a rather dreadful example.

William Jerome and Thomas Gerrard were executed on the same heresy charges. Jerome, another one of Cromwell’s proteges, had also preached at St Paul’s but the subject of his sermon had been that magistrates had the power to make make what was indifferent not indifferent – make of that what you will!  Gardiner added it up to identify the fact that Jerome was advising people to adhere to the king through their outward behaviour only and think what they want in private – which probably didn’t go down terribly well with Henry.  Even worse Jerome preached justification through faith alone which essentially chopped out the need for the priesthood and the Church.  Bernard considers whether this was the sort of behaviour that hastened Cromwell’s end due to his men spouting heresy pointing towards dodgy radical leanings of the master who protected them.  Certainly it may have been one of the  threads which broke Cromwell’s increasingly tenuous hold on power.

Equally it should be pointed out that whilst this interpretation is fine if you subscribe to the theory that catholicism was on the rise thanks to the duke of Norfolk dangling his pretty little niece Katherine Howard under Henry’s nose. It fails to take account of the fact that while the protestants burned, three catholics were hanged.

 

Foxe noted that confused and ignorant people wouldn’t know what to make of the opposing sides suffering equally on the same day.  The french ambassador expressed similar bewilderment.  They have a point but Bernard states that academics have missed the key issue ever since – that Henry was doing what Henry wanted. After all, Henry saw himself as an Old Testament kind of king with a hotline to The Almighty. It was Henry’s Church and his was the only way…if you didn’t want to end up in Smithfield.

 

Bernard, G.W. (2007) The King’s Reformation. London and Harvard: Yale University Press

Wilson, Derek. (2012) The English Reformation. London: Running Press

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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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The Flanders Mare – Anne of Cleves

annecleeves emblemPrior to her marriage Anne of Cleves used the emblem of two white swans which stood for innocence and honesty or sincerity. They were also supporters of the Cleves badge coming as they did from the story of one of Anne’s ancestors who was guided down the Rhine by a pair of swans. It should be added that more factually, like all his wives, Henry was related to Anne – through a daughter of Edward I.

 

Anne’s motto, which seems rather tongue in cheek to modern eyes, was “God send me well to keep.” However, rather than casting aspersions on her spouse’s marital record it was rather an attestation of her Lutheran background, no doubt one of the reasons why Thomas Cromwell was so keen on the marriage. The couple married in January 1540 despite the fact that Henry had taken one look at his bride and decided that he didn’t like her overly much and after the marriage declared that she hadn’t arrived in England in a state of maidenly virtue – which was hardly chivalrous especially as Anne’s upbringing was cloistered and it had to be explained to her that Henry would need to kiss her more than goodnight for there to be any Tudor heirs- either that or Anne was playing a very clever game indeed.

 

anne of clevesIt’s odd too that poor Anne should have been lumbered with the title Flanders Mare when the portrait by Holbein shows someone very different to that particular sobriquet. It has been suggested that Holbein had played up Anne’s beauty when he visited the court of Cleves to paint Anne and her sister Amelia but there again no one accused him of making the full length portrait of Christina more striking than the lady in question really was. Anne of course hadn’t turned down the opportunity to marry Henry, Christina said that she’d be more than happy to marry him if she had a spare head.

 

The Cleves ‘marriage’ after a disastrous start with Henry bursting in on Anne incognito when she first arrived in England lasted only six months and Cromwell’s head was on the block because of his unfortunate matchmaking skills. To be fair a portrait doesn’t show what a person is actually like and Anne swiftly developed a reputation for being unlearned and not very witty, though it didn’t stop her learning English, besides Henry had met another girl and it was easy enough to get an annulment from his Cleves marriage. The teenage Katherine Howard had been dangled in front of the Tudor monarch and he’d taken the bait. Anne must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when she became as a ‘sister’ to the king and popular with the aforementioned king’s subjects and daughters. She stayed in England until her death in 1557.

 

Her emblem is the ducal badge of Cleves which is apparently an escarbuncle- and that, as we all know, is a eight spindled wheel without a rim.

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Sir Francis Knollys – (pronounced Knowles)

knollysSir Francis was born in Oxfordshire in 1511.  His father died when he was seven but he gained a position at court thanks to Henry VIII who showed him the same favour with which he’d regarded his father.  He is perhaps best known as Mary Queen of Scots gaoler but he appears at keys moments throughout much of the Tudor period.  For instance,  he was one of the gentlemen who met Anne of Cleves on her arrival in England; he was an MP; a soldier during the Rough Wooing; a friend to Princess Elizabeth and Robert Cecil; husband of  Catherine Carey (Elizabeth’s cousin via Mary Boleyn).

There is, of course, the possibility that Catherine Carey was not simply Elizabeth’s cousin but also her half-sister but there is insufficient evidence to draw any satisfactory conclusions.  It is however safe to say that Sir Francis was close to Elizabeth.  His wife was a good friend of the queen’s as well as being a relation.  So close was his relationship that Sir Francis was able to express his belief that keeping the Scottish queen in England was a disaster.

As a determined Protestant his career suffered a severe reverse upon the accession of Mary Tudor.  He was such a determined Protestant that he went to Germany rather than live under Catholic rule.

Unsurprisingly his career resumed once Elizabeth ascended the throne.  In addition to becoming a privy councillor he also resumed his parliamentary career.  He worked for the queen in Ireland and received jobs within the queen’s household such as Treasurer.  The image shows Sir Francis holding a white staff showing his role as officer in the queen’s household.

 

In May 1568 Mary Queen of Scots arrived in England.  Knollys was sent north to act as her gaoler.  His reputation as puritan made him naturally suspicious of the Scots queen.  However, her charisma soon won him over, though he never let down his guard while he had care of her in Carlisle Castle and later in Bolton Castle.  In fact he was so worried about security that he sent the plans of Bolton Castle and his security provision to Cecil for approval.  He taught the queen English and read the English Prayer Book with her as well as discussing his faith – a matter which caused Elizabeth to write a letter chastising his behaviour.

On January 20th 1569 Knollys received orders to take Mary to Tutbury Castle and hand the royal prisoner over the Earl of Shrewsbury who would take over Knollys’ role of gaoler.  Sir Francis remained with Mary until February when his wife died.

Sir Francis died in 1596 after a long and illustrious career as a politician and adviser to the Tudors.

 

 

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