Tag Archives: Beddington

Three queens in one year – all quiet on the mistress front.

jane seymourBy January 1536 Henry  had developed an interest in Jane Seymour despite the Boleyn family’s best efforts to keep him distracted with their own young women. Famously Henry told Anne to mind her own business as her betters had done when she confronted him on the topic.

On the 7th January 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle.  At the time poison was suspected, especially when it was revealed that her heart had blackened. At the end of the month Anne Boleyn mis-carrried the child who had he survived would have ensured her safety. Rather than being free of a woman many people regarded as Henry’s queen, Anne was now anxious that she was in a situation where Henry might feel able to rid himself of a woman who had not delivered a male heir. The seven year hunt had proved rather more exciting that married life. She was correct in her surmise.  It probably didn’t help that she and Thomas Cromwell had a bit of an argument that turned into a power struggle.

On 14 May 1536, having been arrested on charges of adultery, Anne’s marriage was declared invalid – meaning that Henry had his cake and ate it because he was free to marry again but technically Anne couldn’t have been guilty of adultery (even if she had been having a relationship which most historians think not) if she wasn’t married – so therefore she couldn’t have been executed for treason.  It may have been this logic that led Anne to think that Henry would commute her sentence to exile into a nunnery.  On May 17th her co-defendants were executed including her brother George.  Anne was executed on the 18th. The way was clear for Henry to take a new wife.

Jane was, of  Plantagenet descent, the polar opposite of Anne.  She was a traditional sort of girl with traditional religious leanings. And yes, she was one of Anne’s cousins as well as Henry’s.  Jane like Anne before her had shifted from lady-in-waiting to queen in waiting and like Anne before her Henry removed her from court so that no scandal should attach itself to her whilst he disposed of his unwanted spouse.  Jane was shipped off to Beddington near Croydon.  It was the family home of Sir Nicholas Carew – his young wife Elizabeth was another notch on  Henry’s bedpost and Carew had been providing locations for Henry to meet with women for a very long time at this point in proceedings (it didn’t help him very much in 1539 when he was executed for treason.)

By the 20th May Jane Seymour became wife number three or in Henry’s mind wife number one as the previous two had been demonstrated to be illegal.

1536, as well as being the year of three queens was also a horrible year for Henry in other respects. In July Henry FitzRoy died.  He was seventeen years old.  In October the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted in Lincolnshire, spreading to Yorkshire, Cumberland and Westmorland.  There was also a bit of a rumpus in the West Country.

So far as Henry was concerned the good news was that Jane  became pregnant and on the 16th September 1537 took to her chamber where she produced a boy on the 12th October.  He was baptised Edward on the 15th and by the 24th Jane was dead due to complications of childbirth.  Since the pair were still in the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship there is no evidence of a mistress although given Henry’s track record when his wives became pregnant it isn’t to say there weren’t any!

Thomas Cromwell took advantage in the hiatus to set up more tractional marriage negotiations with continental treaties in mind.  Henry may have consoled himself with one of Jane’s young ladies in waiting;  Anne Bassett, the young step-daughter of his uncle Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle. I have posted about her previously.  Double click on her name to open a new window and read the earlier post.

 

 

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Sir Nicholas Carew and his wife

sir nicholas carew.jpgSir Nicholas Carew of Beddington near London was a childhood friend of Henry VIII – not that it stopped the Tudor tyrant from lopping off his friend’s head in 1539 of course.   He was a champion jouster, diplomat and a bit of a naughty lad.  He was one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber who was purged from court in 1518 for being a bad influence on Henry. Hart reports that he arranged private tete a tetes for Henry and his lady friends at his home.

He wasn’t away from court for long.  He and Henry probably had too much history.  Sir Nicholas was with Henry for the Siege of Tournai and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  In 1537 he turns up as one of the nobles in charge of the font in which the infant Prince Edward was baptised.

There was also the small matter of his wife – Elizabeth Bryan.  Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn were cousins.  Their mothers were half-sisters.  So, yes, Henry was related to Elizabeth to some degree.  She was of an age with Bessie Blount who we know to have been the king’s mistress because of the arrival of Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son in 1519.  Kelly Hart draws on a letter written by the duke of Suffolk referencing both Bessie and Lady Carew.  It could have been a courtly love kind of letter which meant absolutely nothing but Hart points out that Henry gave the Elizabeth Carew very expensive New Year gifts and a very nice present when her son was born.  For those of you who are noble minded readers this was no doubt because Sir Nicholas was such a good friend.  For the more tabloid amongst you, handing over diamonds and pearls which rightfully belonged to Catherine of Aragon not to mention a nice new mink coat might sound suspiciously like gifts for a mistress.  The problem is that no one knows for sure.  There is only circumstantial evidence.

What we do know is that Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Bryan were ladies-in-waiting at the same time.  Harris records their appearance in court masques and dances.  She also notes that Henry often let them keep the costumes and jewels that they wore during their performances (2002:236).  We also know that Elizabeth was very young at this time.  She wasn’t yet thirteen when she gave birth to her first child. The pair were married by December 1514.  Henry gave the happy couple 6s 8d according to his accounts of the period.  This was a standard gift.  The gift of £500 to Elizabeth’s mother is harder to explain.  It also ought to be pointed out that Lady Bryan was appointed to be Princess Mary’s governess two years later -so once again we are back to making of the evidence what we will. It was either a generous gesture or something more sordid.

Sir Nicholas’s wife might have been rather too friendly with Henry and Sir Nicholas might have offered his home as a Tudor love nest but he drew the line at royal mistresses becoming queen.  He wasn’t keen on Anne Boleyn at all.  In part this was because he was a staunch Catholic. It was also because he was loyal to Catherine of Aragon.  He wasn’t fool enough to cross Henry about Anne but he did tell the imperial ambassador Chapuys about his sympathy for both Catherine and Princess Mary. It led him to join forces with Cromwell, not known for his Catholic sympathies (it’s more the enemy of my enemy is my friend school of thought), in order to topple Anne Boleyn. Sir Nicholas was said to be behind some of the rather dodgy rumours about Anne’s love life.

Unfortunately for Sir Nicholas having sent Anne off to the block he and Cromwell parted company.  Carew continued to champion Princess Mary and it looks like Cromwell took the opportunity to stitch Carew into the Exeter Plot of 1538 which sought to get rid of Henry and replace him with Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Valentine’s Day 1539 Sir Nicholas was found guilty of treason and executed on March 3 1539.  Chapuys wrote of the event in a letter to Charles V dated 31 December 1539 :

The grand Escuyer Master Carew was taken prisoner to the Tower, and the moment his arrest was ordered, Commissioners went to seize all his goods and his houses.  It is presumed that the King will not have forgotten to charge them to take the most beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels which he formerly gave to the said Escuyer’s wife, the greater part he had taken from the late good Queen.

It would also have to be said that Chapuys didn’t have a good word to say about Henry by this point in proceedings. What we do know for certain is that Sir Nicholas’s land was confiscated by Act of Attainder.  Henry’s papers for 1546 reveal that some of his lands were given to Anne of Cleves for her life time. Sir Francis Carew was ultimately able to retrieve much of his father’s estates including Beddington

Elizabeth died in 1546 but Sir Nicholas lives on in his portrait by Hans Holbein.  He’s wearing full jousting armour. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that Sir Nicholas was framed by Thomas Cromwell and that Lady Elizabeth Carew had once been the king’s mistress.  Of course, you could also argue, equally effectively, that the virtuous  Lady Carew was at court in her youth and that Sir Nicholas, increasingly, dissatisfied with his master’s religious viewpoint turned to treachery.  No wonder there’s so much historical fiction out there!

 

Harris, Barbara J. (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers Oxford: Oxford University Press

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

Pemberton- Child (1013) Elizabeth Blount and Henry the Eighth, with some account of her surroundings. https://archive.org/details/elizabethblounth00chiluoft accessed 20/April/2016 at 17:03

 

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