Tag Archives: Cardinal Pole

Sir William Brooke, royal favourite and duelling victim

Lord Cobham.jpgSir William Brooke (1565-1597) was the son of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham Warden of the Kent Cinque Ports (1527 to 1597) pictured at the start of this post. He was of a similar vintage to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth’s replacement for Dudley in the royal favourite stakes after his death in 1588. Like other Elizabethan gentlemen he did a stint in the continental religious wars being knighted by Essex in 1591 at Dieppe.  He was, in short, one of the new breed of men in Elizabeth’s court.

Having done his time abroad he was then returned to Parliament as MP for Rochester at the behest of his father.  Lord Cobham was not terribly amused that of the two MPS for Kent it was Sir Robert Sidney (brother of Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester) who was returned as the senior parliamentarian.  Elizabeth noted that it wasn’t very helpful that  both men were abroad at the time. The fact that Brooke was also outlawed was also an issue. Elizabeth had decreed that members could not take their place until they had settled with their creditors. The matter must ultimately have been settled to Elizabeth’s satisfaction because he is described by Margaret Cavendish as one of her favourites.  Certainly, in June 1597 William had been made Keeper of Eltham Great Park though whether it was because he was a royal favourite or because his family was an important one is something that probably bears further consideration.


The family links with Elizabeth are in themselves interesting. Clearly being a Kent family the Boleyn equation  and Kent gentry affinity comes into play. Anne Boleyn sent George Brooke 9th Lord Cobham (1497-1558) a letter telling him about the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533 but he was also one of the judges that tried the queen just three years later. The following year at the christening of young Prince Edward it was Lord Cobham – our William’s grandfather- who carried consecrated wafers for both the illegitimised Tudor princesses.


George’s story continued to be tied to that of Henry VIII’s children and it is evident that he was of the reforming persuasion in his beliefs and the way in which he had chosen to have his children educated. The reign of Mary Tudor was made difficult not only by his faith but by the fact that he was related to Sir Thomas Wyatt through marriage. Wyatt even wrote to him demonstrating the belief that Cobham would side with him against Mary to put Elizabeth on the throne. He and his sons were arrested and there can be no doubt that Thomas Brooke had sided with Wyatt until the end. After that Lord Cobham who spent some time in the Tower kept his head down. He entertained Cardinal Pole and he made enquiries about heritics.. He died just before Mary so never saw Elizabeth ascend to the throne but the new Lord Cobham, William who had also been imprisoned in the Tower for his suspected part in Wyatt’s rebellion was on hand to play his allotted part in Elizabeth’s court and the administration of Kent as well as the Cinque Ports.

Clearly our Brooke was a bit of an Elizabethan wild boy and this led to his untimely end when he insulted Elizabeth Leighton the slightly pregnant lover of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Lucas called him out and he was mortally wounded one cold December morning in Mile End at a rapier’s end.  He was carried home where friends and family visited him as he lay dying.

Brooke had made his will in June having gone on a sea voyage but on the morning of his death he had added an undated codicil to the will which left everything to his brother George:

‘Your jest and my haste would not suffer me to acquaint you with what I am gone about this morning, what hath called me out so early. I send you enclosed within these what I shall leave behind me. My will and meaning is you should have all lands, leases and prisoners which I desire you may as quietly enjoy as I sincerely mean…Wishing you the best fortune, your loving brother William Brooke

The will was proved on the 25 December 1597. For those of you who like to know these things, George Brooke was executed for plotting against James I in 1603.

One letter described William Brooke as “misfortunate.”  Two arrest warrants were issued for Lucas by the privy council – on on the 24th of December and a second on the 30th. This was was very unfortunate for Elizabeth Leighton who bore an illegitimate child also called Thomas who would not meet his father until he was six years old when James I pardoned Lucas and he was able to return home. He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children of whom the youngest, Margaret would go on to serve Queen Henrietta Maria and marry the Marquis of Newcastle going down in history as Mad Madge.  She would also write her biography, just because she felt like it even though society disapproved of the idea of women writing books for publication and tell the story of her father’s duel.

Henry_Brooke,_11th_Baron_Cobham,_by_circle_of_Paul_van_Somer.jpgIt is perhaps not surprising that Lucas found himself at the wrong end of an arrest warrant, William Brooke’s father the 10th Lord Cobham (who had died on March 6 1597)  was a man with clout. Brooke’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of Sir Robert Cecil – the most important man in the kingdom. She had also died at the beginning of 1597 but there were still family and political ties that were wielded by the new Lord Cobham – Henry Brooke – pictured left. He had been invested as Warden of the Cinque Ports on the same month that his father died.

In addition to which Whitaker makes the salient point that Elizabeth was already tetchy with the Lucas family because Sir Thomas’s sister Anne had gone to court to serve as a lady in waiting but then married for love against the queen’s wishes.  Anne had defied the queen to marry Arthur Throckmorton who was the younger brother of Bess Throckmorton who, of course, irritated Elizabeth monumentally by marrying Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating once again that everyone in the Tudor court is related somehow or another!


And who would have thought that in reading around the topic of Margaret Cavendish as part of the Stuarts in Derbyshire course I am currently delivering that I should encounter a tale of Tudor passion that correlates to Elizabeth I and her various favourites which happens to be  part of another course that I am currently teaching.

Whitaker, Katie. (2003) Mad Madge. London: Chatto and Windus







Filed under Sixteenth Century, surprising connections, The Tudors

Henry VIII- Sir Loyal Heart?

1531_Henry_VIIIThis particular post and the next five which will follow all this week are by way of a reminder to me about Henry’s wives, mistresses and alleged children.  Although he only ever acknowledged Henry FitzRoy, the son of Bessie Blount who he created duke of Richmond and Somerset there is speculation about other children.

1509 – 1527 – Henry ascended the throne aged seventeen and promptly married his widowed sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon.  She was twenty-three and the archetypal princess in need of a heroic knight having been kept in limbo by the machinations of her father Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII who were as tight fisted as one another.

Henry saw himself as Catherine’s knight errant riding to her rescue.  Unfortunately things soon went badly wrong when Ferdinand manipulated his young son-in-law into going to war with France and then making a peace which served his purposes rather than Henry’s.  At home Cardinal Wolsey gained the king’s ear and Catherine failed to provide Henry with an heir to the throne.  It wasn’t long before mistresses abounded but Henry continued to wear love knots on his jousting armour with his initials inter-twined with those of Katherine.

The birth of Princess Mary in 1516 squashed rumours that Henry was looking to have his marriage annulled but matters can’t have been helped as Katherine became more and more pious, even wearing a hair shirt. In addition Katherine was troubled by an infection of the womb that may have caused an unpleasant smell.  In 1525 Henry stopped living with his wife.

Key facts:
1510 – Lady Anne Stafford – the sister of the duke of Buckingham and wife of Lord Hastings. She was also Henry VIII’s cousin and eight years older than him. The alarm was raised by Anne’s sister Elizabeth who spoke with her brother Edward. He caught Sir William Compton in her chamber.  Anne’s husband was summoned; Anne was packed off to a nunnery; there was a scandal; Katherine of Aragon was deeply upset; Edward informed Henry that a Tudor wasn’t good enough to carry on with his sister.  It is perhaps not terribly surprising that Buckingham ended up being charged with treason in 1521 and executed.  Henry appears to have continued his affair until about 1513.  Meanwhile, Sir William Compton was close to the king.  He was a gentleman of the privy chamber and appears to have arranged for the king to entertain ladies in William’s house on Thames Street as well as facilitating the discrete arrival of ladies in Henry’s bed chamber at court.

1513 Ettiennette de la Baume  After the Battle of the Spurs and the Siege of Tournai Henry went to Lille where he stayed with Margaret of Austria, the regent of the Netherlands as well as sister to Emperor Maximillian.  Henry was reported as dancing in his bare feet and shirt sleeves with “Madam the Bastard.”  History has no idea who the lady might be.  However, the following year Henry received a letter from Ettiennette who was one of Margaret’s ladies.  She sent a bird and medicinal roots as well as a reminder that Henry had spoken “pretty things” to her and promised her 10,000 crowns or angels when she was married- a generous gesture!

1514- in the same year as receiving the letter from Ettiennette Henry placed the whole court in mourning “for love of a lady.”

Elizabeth Carew- Elizabeth was just twelve when she gave birth to a son.  She was the wife of Henry’s bosom buddy Sir Nicholas Carew.  He was a champion jouster and friend of the king’s.  Like Compton he facilitated opportunities for Henry to be alone with the ladies.  It has been suggested that one of the ladies was his own wife.  Henry gave the happy couple the standard Tudor wedding present of 6 shillings but Elizabeth’s mother received £500 whilst Elizabeth was given presents of jewels and a mink coat.  Make of it what you will – he might have just been being generous to the wife of a very good friend.

bessieblount1Bessie Blount – Bessie was one of Catherine’s maids-of-hounour.  When she first arrived at court she is estimated to have been about eleven years old. We know that she was well educated and that she took part in the masque that occurred at court. In July 1514 her father received £146 in advance wages and there is also the evidence of a letter from Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk where he makes a courtly gesture to both Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Carew.   She was married off to Gilbert Tailboys, a gentleman in Wolsey’s household.

1514- Jane Popincourt – The frenchwoman began her career in 1498 in service of Elizabeth of York but transferred into the household of Mary Tudor and from there into Katherine of Aragon’s household.  She achieved notoriety in 1513 when  Louis d’Orleans, the Duc de Longueville was captured and sent to the Tower.  She visited him often and commenced an affair.  When Mary Tudor was sent off to France to marry King Louis XII Jane should have gone with her as a lady -in-waiting but Louis struck her name from the list because she was an immoral woman announcing,  “I would she were burned.” She did finally return to France in 1516 received a parting gift of £100 from Henry.  Their affair had begun in 1514 when Katherine of Aragon was heavily pregnant.

Mary Boleyn- famously Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn but he may have purchased it from Mary’s father. Mary, somewhat notoriously, was mistress of Francis I, the King of France before catching Henry’s eye.  When she returned to England she was married, rather promptly, to Sir William Carey a Gentleman of the Chamber. The wedding gift from the king was the usual 6 shillings.  The only written evidence that Mary was Henry’s mistress comes from Cardinal Pole.



1519- birth of Henry FitzRoy, son of Bessie Blount followed in 1521 by a daughter called Elizabeth who received the name Tailboys.  There are some doubts about the dates. Bessie’s third child, George, was definitely her husbands so far as historians can tell these things.

1524- birth of Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys.  Henry Carey was born in 1526.  However, Mary would have been pregnant with him in 1525.  It has been suggested that Mary’s pregnancy with Henry causedKing Henry to look more closely at Mary’s sister Anne.  Henry Carey’s parentage has always been much speculated upon. Understandably King Henry did not acknowledge either of these children as his because it would have rather sunk his argument about cohabiting with an in-law at a point when he was trying to divorce Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn.

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Filed under Kings of England, Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors