Tag Archives: Anne Stafford

Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Anne, Lady Hastings – royal mistress?

Portrait_of_Anne_Stafford.jpgAnne Stafford was Henry VIII’s cousin.  Her mother was Katherine Woodville and her father was the Duke of Buckingham who was executed in 1483 by Richard III. Incidentally Anne was born in 1483 so she was somewhat older than Henry VIII.  The Staffords were the premier noble family in the country.  There was  rather a lot of Plantagenet blood flowing through Anne’s veins and ultimately it would get her brother Edward executed in 1521 when he listened to prophecies that suggested that Henry VIII would fail to have sons and that Edward would himself be crowned.

We don’t know for sure that Henry had an affair with Anne Stafford or Anne, Lady Hastings as she was by that time but we do know that it caused a huge scandal and that Catherine of Aragon lost her temper with Henry as a consequence.

The story is as follows.  Catherine was pregnant with her first child.  Caring royal husbands did not, apparently, sleep with their wives.  They showed their love and consideration by getting themselves a mistress.  Both Anne Stafford and her sister Elizabeth were ladies-in-waiting which turned out to be Henry’s preferred hunting ground for mistresses. Elizabeth, who was one of Catherine’s favourite ladies, became suspicious and notified her brother, the duke of Buckingham, that Anne was involved with the king.

Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, tells the tale that the duke of Buckingham did not take kindly to the king pawing his sister even if he was the king, after all he was only a jumped up Tudor whilst Anne had good Plantagenet blood.   The duke of Buckingham arrived on the scene and took up his argument with Sir William Compton who is thought to have been acting as an intermediary for the king. At the very least there were harsh words.  There were certainly raised voices. Henry was not amused by the furore, especially when Buckingham took himself off in a huff and Lord George Hastings, Anne’s spouse, was summoned by his brother-in-law to deal with his errant wife.  Hastings’ response was to send Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court whilst Sir William Compton was forced to take the sacrament swearing that he hadn’t had his way with Anne. Clearly Hastings didn’t feel it appropriate to accuse his monarch of any underhand behaviour and let’s remember this Lord Hastings was the grandson of the man who Richard III had summarily executed.

Henry in the meantime seems to have had a bit of a major sulk as he reacted by  banishing Elizabeth Stafford from court.  It was this exile of her favourite snooping lady-in-waiting that caused Catherine of Aragon to become “vexed” with her husband.  According to Chapuys she “wept and ranted.” She might not have been terribly amused about his infidelity either but kings weren’t noted for their uxoriousness in those days.

Just to complicate things even further it would appear that Anne Stafford and Sir William Compton did have something of an understanding.  He left her land in his will and required that she be included in the prayers said for his family.

And yet, it would appear that whatever was going on behind the scenes that Anne and Lord George Hastings were happy enough in their union if their exchange of letters is anything to go by.  They also had seven children.

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

 

 

 

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