Tag Archives: Henry VIII

Henry VIII’s wives, mistresses and bastards – a summary.

katherine of aragon sil meKing Henry VIII died on 28 January 1547.  This post does not deal with women like Mistress Webbe who were regarded as so unimportant that they deserved absolutely no mention in court correspondence.

Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon from 1509 -1533 (briefly married to both Catherine and Anne Boleyn before Cranmer dissolved the former’s marriage).  They married on 11 June 1509 and initially Henry and Catherine seemed very in love  He fought in armour engraved with their initials entwined with love knots.  When he went to France in 1513 he left his queen as regent.  However, by 1516 despite a number of pregnancies Catherine had only one living child – Princess Mary.  In 1518 she started to wear a hair shirt and by 1525 Henry had ceased to live with his wife.  He first proposed to Anne Boleyn in 1527 but Catherine refused to take herself off to a nunnery.

During these years Henry’s mistresses were the illusive “Madam the bastard” referenced in a letter during his stay in Lille at the court of Margaret of Savoy; Ettienette de la Baume who sent him a bird and some roots along with a reminder for the £10,000 he had promised her when she got married.  He is also known to have had a scandalous affair with his cousin Lady Anne Stafford.  If the mink coat, diamonds and private tilting yard are anything to go by he had an affair with his friend Sir Nicholas Carew’s wife Elizabeth.  He gave £100 to Jane Popincourt when she returned to France and most notably during the period so far as history is concerned he had affairs with Bessie Blount and Mary Boleyn.

Bessie Blount is the mother of his only acknowledged illegitimate child – Henry Fitzroy.  Henry was born in 1519.  Catherine of Aragon had to congratulate her on giving birth to a boy.  King Henry gave the Fitzroy name to his boy.  It was the first time the name had been used in four hundred years.  At the age of six young Fitzroy was given the dukedoms of Richmond and Somerset.  He married Lady Mary Howard the daughter of the duke of Norfolk but died, probably from tuberculosis in 1536.  Historians speculate whether his sister Elizabeth Tailboys was the king’s child or belonged to Bessie Blount’s husband – Gilbert Tailboys.  Historians generally agree that Catherine Carey who was the eldest child of Mary Boleyn is probably also King Henry’s child.  There is great speculation about whether Henry Carey was also the king’s.  It is usually felt that Henry had no need to acknowledge further illegitimate male children as he had demonstrated his abilities with young Henry FitzRoy; that Mary Boleyn was married to William Carey and that it would have been rude of Henry to have claimed either child as his given the existence of a husband (quite how that explains the expectation of sleeping with the man’s wife still eludes me!) There is also the added complication of Henry’s developing relationship with Anne Boleyn.  The hypocrisy of divorcing one wife on the grounds of consanguinity in order to marry the sister of the woman you’ve had an affair with (and children) should escape no one.

In addition to this happy little throng there is another claimant to being Henry’s child dating from this period – Thomas Stukeley was the son of Jane Pollard (wife of Sir Hugh Stukeley) from Afferton in Devon.  He was born between 1523 and 1530.   Thomas had a lively career spanning piracy, being a double agent and a forger.  He was also Henry VIII’s standard bearer in 1547.  There is not a great deal of evidence for him being Henry’s son other than him saying so and as well as his other exciting c.v. job titles he was also a fraudster.  Despite this Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth all seem to have let him get away with blue murder.  He was also said to look like Henry VIII – though this is no recommendation as followers of this blog will have worked out by now that the aristocracy were very inter-related so its perhaps not surprising that they looked like one another.

Still with me?  There’s one more from this period.  And again historians are divided in their opinions about this man as there is very little evidence to support his claim.  Mary Berekley lived in the Welsh Marches with her husband Sir Thomas Perrot.  Thomas was keen on hunting – as was Henry VIII.  It is just possible that the king enjoyed a spot of hunting with Sir Thomas Perrot and also enjoyed other recreational pursuits with his wife.  The result, according to John Perrot – was him.  John turned up at court, got into a fight with Henry’s men at arms but managed to keep his right hand because the king liked the look of the boy.  Edward VI seems to have liked him as well and he was one of the four gentlemen selected to carry Elizabeth’s canopy of state at her coronation.  This is, of course, all circumstantial – and yes, he is supposed to have looked like Henry VIII.

anne boleyn sil-mineWife number two laster for three years if we discount the seven year chase beforehand.  Anne Boleyn married Henry in 1533 because she was pregnant.  Elizabeth was born at the beginning of September 1533 and was motherless by mid-1536.  Henry still found time to be attracted to a lady at court who was sympathetic to Catherine and Mary’s plight; Anne’s own cousin Madge or Mary Shelton  as well as Joan Dingley who history names as a laundress but who was probably of a higher rank.   Joan gave birth to a child called Ethelreda or Audrey and there is sufficient evidence in the form of land grants and wills to read between the lines and recognise her as one of Henry’s children (if you feel that way inclined.)  This is also the time that sees a reference to a mysterious Mistress Parker.

jane seymour sil meJane Seymour started off as a mistress – and she was yet another Howard girl but like a predecessor advanced from bit of fluff to queen with the removal of Anne Boleyn.  Jane Seymour gave birth to Prince Edward on the 12th October 1537 and then promptly died on the 24th October 1537 assuring herself of the position of Henry’s “true wife” and the one who he had depicted in all of Holbein’s Tudor family portraits.  There wasn’t really time for much notable womanising given the shortness of her tenure and the fact that 1536 was a bit of a bad year for Henry on account of the Pilgrimage of Grace not to mention the bad jousting accident that caused Anne Boleyn to miscarry her child (so she claimed) and which left Henry with an infected and inflamed leg.  Even so it was noted that Henry did say he wished he hadn’t married so hastily when he saw two pretty new ladies-in-waiting.

One of the new ladies-in-waiting was his uncle’s step-daughter Anne Basset who was said to be a very pretty girl.  Her mother had managed to wangle her a place at court with the gift of quails which Jane Seymour craved during her pregnancy.  There were rumours.  Henry purchased her a horse and a rather fine saddle and bridle having sent her to the country to recover her health from a mysterious illness.  All this is pretty tenuous but by now Henry had “form” and sending girls to the country for their “health” fits the pattern. Margaret Skipwith is also mentioned as a potential mistress during this time before the duke of Norfolk dangled young Katherine Howard under the king’s nose.

Anne of Cleves was wife number four.  Her tenure lasted from January to July 1540.  There’s no fool like an old fool and Henry misliking Anne declared that she was no true virgin before chasing after poor little Katherine Howard who promptly became queen number five on 28 July 1540.

These days Katherine would be defined as a victim of neglect as well as child abuse following her experiences with Henry Mannox in the home of Katherine’s step-grandmother, Agnes Tilney, dowager duchess of Norolk. In any terms  Katherine was pre-contracted in marriage to Francis Dereham – making her marriage to Henry invalid. It could be argued that having declared their intention to marry and then had intercourse that they were in fact married to one another.  As a mark of this Dereham had given her money to look after whilst he was away from her.  Katherine undoubtedly had an affair with Thomas Culpepper, one of her distant cousins, whilst she was married to Henry VIII.  The woman who made it possible for the couple to meet was Lady Rochford.  Lady Rochford was George Boleyn’s widow and the woman who had testified to an incestuous relationship between George and Anne (who needs Game of Thrones)  and just for good measure if you recall the mysterious Mistress Parker – some historians think it might have been Jane before her marriage to George Boleyn. Both Jane and Katherine were executed on 13 February 1542.

 

Henry now married the twice widowed Catherine Parr on the 12 July 1543, though Anne of Cleves did write to the Privy Council saying she would be prepared to give the whole marriage thing another go. In 1545 there was a slight wobble when Henry gave the very Catholic Bishop Gardener permission to question the queen on her religious beliefs – she survived the threat thanks to the discovery by her physician of a document on the floor of the king’s chamber that gave Katherine time to plead her course with her grouchy spouse. Her explanation that she was merely being a good wife diverting Henry from his aches and pains as well as listening to his words of spiritual wisdom must have appealed to Henry’s ego.  During the danger period before Katherine talked her way out of an appointment with an axe, the widowed, young and very pretty, dowager duchess of Suffolk – Katherine Willoughby was mentioned as a potential seventh queen.  Lady Mary Howard (widow of Henry FitzRoy) was also identified by the catholic faction as a potential queen.

And that’s about it for now on the topic of Henry and his many wives and loves for the time being.  I’ve no doubt I shall return to them.  During the last few days I’ve seen books about them (fiction and non-fiction), a Russian doll set of Henry and his wives,  gold work ornaments, felt dolls and a clock.  I’m not beyond creating a few silhouettes of my own as this post demonstrates.  The fact is that there is something about the Tudors that fascinates – and sells! Meanwhile  I’m off to delve into the varying worlds of monumental effigies and brasses; livery collars; the Coterel Gang who created havoc in fourteenth century Derbyshire; Katherine Swynford; the Wars of the Roses; Chaucer; Lincoln Cathedral; Tattershall Castle, Ralph Cromwell and Henry VI not to mention anything else that might catch my attention.

 

 

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Henry VIII mistresses and queens

 

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008After Jane Seymour’s death Henry consoled himself, possibly, with the attentions of his uncle’s step-niece Anne Bassett who was described as a very pretty girl. Rumour stated that Margaret Shelton was a possible contender for wife number four – or two if you were counting as Henry chose to count-It was also rumoured that a sixteen year old called Elizabeth Cobham was of some interest to the king but ultimately Henry opted for a continental match with Anne of Cleves. It was not a roaring success but it did mean that the court once again contained a household of ladies. One of the requirements, specified by King Henry, was that they be pretty.

Elizabeth Cobham married William Parr. At this stage in proceedings it’s easy to imagine that no aristocratic Tudor marriage was without its soap-opera moments. William Parr’s marriage was no exception to that. Parr had been married to the daughter of the then earl of Essex. Ann Bourchier his bride had taken matters in her own hands and gone to live “over the brush” with the man of her dreams, leaving Parr high and dry. William divorced Anne in 1547 and married Elizabeth Cobham – which seems simple enough except that someone failed to complete all the paperwork leaving Parr in a position where Parliament reversed the annulment to Anne making him bigamously married to Elizabeth. This in turn meant that an act had to be passed making the legitimacy of his children quite safe. Another act had to be passed properly completing the annulment from Ann in correct legal fashion and then he had to remarry Elizabeth…this receives a paragraph in Jones’ book about Henry’s ladies.

 

However, William Parr’s marital difficulties lay in the future. Henry, if you recall, was not keen on Anne of Cleves. The marriage was dissolved. As was often the case in Henry’s career of serial monogamy (turning a blind eye to mistresses) – the replacement was lined up before the current incumbent was dispatched. Enter Katherine Howard, Henry’s “rose without a thorn,” a young lady-in-waiting and so far as Henry was concerned the new and virtuous lady wife. Best to draw a veil over that one!

 

Historians speculate that had Catherine Parr, wife number six, fallen from grace that she would have been replaced by Katherine Willoughby the dowager duchess of Suffolk. There were also conversations about replacing Catherine with Lady Mary Howard – Henry’s own daughter-in-law, the widow of Henry FitzRoy.

 

In addition to the last two who were not the king’s mistresses, merely possible contenders for a very unlucky job, fourteen ladies are mentioned in various texts as possible mistresses of the king. Some of them progressed to becoming wives, others like Bessie Blunt were long term mistresses of the king. Still others are hazy echoes captured in phrases in letters sent by ambassadors reporting gossip, or a line in the account books. Women like Mary Berkeley who is supposed to have had a brief affair with the king whilst he was on a hunting trip are impossible to prove or disprove one way or the other. Her son Henry Perrot rose within the Tudor administrative system and found favour with Queen Elizabeth before becoming tangled in Irish politics. Most historians, it should be added, discount Mary Berkeley and Jane Pollard.

 

Another possible unacknowledged son Sir Thomas Stukeley (his mother was Jane Pollard) hailed from Devon and was, quite frankly, a bit of a rogue but was said to look like Henry VIII. Without DNA it is impossible to tell which of Henry’s potential children actually were his and the puzzle will no doubt result in the sale of many more books over the years.

 

Saddest of all though is the account to be found in the Privy Papers of 1537. William Webbe claimed Henry had stolen away his mistress and enjoyed her favours in “avowtry” or adultery.   This is a reminder that all the women mentioned in the previous few posts were of gentle birth – the game of courtly love was to be played. The king fancied himself in love with these women.  The same cannot be said to be true of common women. Put simply, they didn’t count.  Henry saw something he wanted and took it. This leaves a huge potential number of encounters that no one deemed necessary to document.  It is hinted at when it is suggested that Henry would be quite happy with an apple and a pretty wench to while away the hours! There was no pretence at romance in this last encounter. The only reason history knows about it is that William Webbe stood up to the king and demanded justice.  It says something that the record remains in the documents.

 

Mrs Webbe had no say in the matter and neither did William Webbe but so far as I’m aware he kept his head unlike Sir Nicholas Carew who lost it in 1539 or Thomas Cromwell who died in 1540 when the duke of Norfolk was able to use the Cleves fiasco alongside the blandishments of Katherine Howard to topple his rival.

Charles Dickens in his Child’s History of England describes Henry VIII as a “detestable villain.” His text was on the school curriculum for a good part of the twentieth century.  It is hard sometimes to disagree with his assessment of that particular monarch.

 

 

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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.

 

Children

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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Thomas Beccon – reformer, propagandist and barometer of England’s Reformation.

Thomas_Becon.jpgBeccon or Becon was born in Norfolk around 1510-12, so during the first eighteen months of Henry VIII ascending the throne. He was educated in Cambridge where he studied under the tutelage of Hugh Latimer. He was ordained in 1533 – just as Henry VIII’s marital disputes were hotting up in more ways than one.  Despite the fact that Henry VIII passed a series of laws that changed the management and government of the Church making Hal the Supreme Head of the Church of England, religion and belief itself didn’t change very much.  Essentially Henry VIII remained a Catholic throughout his life. This was rather unfortunate for Beccon who  travelled along the road towards Protestantism  preaching his views to anyone who might care to hear. He was arrested in 1540 for preaching Protestantism and was forced to recant his beliefs.  To avoid further problems he stopped preaching and took to writing tracts under the assumed name of Theodore Basille.  Between 1541-43 at least eight works were published.  Sadly for him the pseudonym ploy was not entirely successful as Bishop Gardiner wasn’t without employees who knew how to wheedle the truth out of people.  Beccon found himself recanting for a second time whilst chopping up three of his books in public to show how very sorry he was for having written them in the first place.  In 1546 thirteen of his books were on a list of prohibited texts that were burned as an example to the populace.

Beccon seems to have spent these difficult years until the death of Henry VIII wandering around the Midlands doing a spot of tutoring and generally trying to avoid having to recant for a third time as that presumably would have meant burning him as well as his books.

However, in 1547 when Edward VI ascended the throne he became the chaplain of the Lord Protector Edward Seymour where he could write openly about his beliefs, acquire a decent living and begin to aspire to making social as well as religious changes.  

In 1553 things took a turn for the worse for Beccon when Mary I ascended the throne and promptly tried to turn the clock back.  This was the third stage of the English Reformation (broadly speaking).  Aside from Beccon’s Protestant inclinations there was the small fact that as an ordained member of the clergy he really shouldn’t have had a wife according to Mary I’s beliefs. In August 1553 he found himself ensconced within the Tower of London and removed from his living.  In March 1554 he was released and promptly left the country going to Germany where he was certain of a more friendly welcome. He actually became a tutor in the household of the Landgrave of Hesse.

He returned to England from Marburg where he taught at the university when Elizabeth I ascended the throne ushering in the fourth phase of the English Reformation (broadly speaking). He became a canon of Canterbury Cathedral and secured a number of benefices in Kent including that of Sturry.  He wasn’t entirely popular with Elizabeth I as although he’d welcomed Elizabeth I as the “English Deborah” (i.e. the saviour of her nation) he’d also subscribed to John Knox’s view about the “monstrous regiment of women” – which didn’t necessarily go down terribly well with Elizabeth.  He died in June 1567.

Beccon is credited with writing more than sixty texts however the book I’m interested in today is entitled The Jewel of Joy which was aimed at ordinary people and their beliefs as I’m giving a talk on the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Derbyshire in July. It includes an insight into Derbyshire at the time of his wanderings in the 1540s – I might add that he saw the county as “barren” in a spiritual sense claiming that because of the ignorance of many of its inhabitants they found themselves clinging to catholicism and lacked the “spark of godliness.”  The text is partially autobiographical.  He explains that having recanted for the second time at the foot of St Paul’s Cross he decamped from London to “avoid the ravening paws of these greedy wolves.” First he went to Thetford to visit his family and from there he set off to the Peak District intent on earning his living as a tutor. He didn’t known anyone and he didn’t expect a welcome.  Apparently he didn’t get one either as he described the locals as “rude and uncivilised:”

But all the religion of the people consisted of ‘hearing matins and masses, in superstitious worshipping of saints, in hiring soul’s carriers to ring trintals, in pattering upon beads, and such other Popish pedlar’. Yet the people where I have travelled, for the most part, are reasonable and quiet enough, yea, and very conformable to God’s truth. If any be stubbornly obstinate, it is for want of knowledge and because they have been seduced by blind guides.

The only exception to this appears to have been  in Alsop-En-La-Dale because of  John Alsop (yes the name is a clue as to that particular gentleman’s authority within the place).  Alsop En La Dale is about five miles north of the market town of Ashbourne.  And it was here that Beccon discovered a kindred spirit. Not only did John Alsop show Beccon his prized Coverdale Bible, written by Miles Coverdale in 1535 being a translation of the Bible into English, but he also showed him his library which contained many reforming treatises including some of Beccon’ own works (obviously Beccon didn’t look like an arch-conservative in the pay of Gardiner):

In a little village called AIsop En Le Dale, I chanced upon a certain gentleman called Alsop, lord of that village, a man not only ancient in years, but also ripe in the knowledge of Christ’s doctrine. When we had saluted each other, and I had taken a sufficient repast, he showed me certain books, which he called his jewels and treasures. To repeat them all by name, I am not able, but of this I am sure, that there was the New Testament after the translation of that godly learned man. Miles Coverdale, which seemed to be as well worn by the diligent reading thereof as ever was any mass book among the Papists. In these godly books – I remember right well that he had many other godly books, as the Obedience of Christian Man, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, The Revelation of Anti- Christ, The Sun of Holy Scripture, The Book of John Frith against Purgatory, &c. – this ancient gentleman, among the mountains and rocks, occupied himself both diligently and virtuously.

And on that cheerful note I’m off to occupy myself both diligently and virtuously cooking dinner!

 

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Egremont Castle – the de Lucys and the de Multons.

 

 

As some of you will have guessed I’m on one of my peregrinations resulting in random northern history, pleasant discoveries and battle with the Internet.  This morning for instance I have had to find a cafe and partake of a rather delicious walnut and raspberry scone….still, someone has to do it!DSC_0015.JPG

In 1092 William Rufus arrived in Carlisle and wrested it out of the hands of the Scots. Ivo de Taillebois, being a henchman of the king, received huge swathes of land in the northwest. Ivo died in 1094 and his wife Lucy (a lady with large parts of Lincolnshire to call home) acquired the huge swathes of land in the northwest, or rather her second husband did. He died shortly after and Lucy acquired husband number three – Ranulph de Briquessart who acquired the aforementioned huge swathes of land in the northwest including the barony of Copeland and Egremont Castle.

 

Briquessart changed his name to le Meschines or le Meschin and in 1100 was created earl of Chester – part of the price for his swanky new title his title was huge swathes of land in the northwest. Egremont passed back into Crown holdings for a while.

 

Twenty years later, King Henry I granted de Meschines’ brother William part of his brother’s former northwestern territories – basically imagine a square bounded on one side by the Irish Sea, the mountains of the Lake District on the opposite side and the upper and lower lines of the square being everything to the south of the River Derwent and north of the River Duddon. This area was the barony of Copeland.

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William decided to build a castle at Egremont overlooking the River Ehen. The remains of the early castle motte can still be seen (pictured left). Gradually a town complete with a market cross grew up around the castle and the castle grew to become an impressive stone structure with a great hall. The herring bone pattern in the brickwork is an indicator that the castle was built early in the Norman period so people who know these things conclude that Ranulph may have done some building in stone before his brother arrived on the scene.

 

William had a son who ruled the barony after him but no male heirs. The castle and barony was the inheritance of William’s granddaughter Alice de Romilly, Lady of Skipton.

 

egremont castle

The barony and the castle were secured by Alice’s husband William FitzDuncan, earl of Moray (a title he gained circa 1130). FitzDuncan had an illustrious northern heritage. His mother was Earl Gospatric’s daughter and his father was the king of Scotland. The marriage between two such notable families must have had something to do with a Scottish bid to take over the whole of the northwest. Ultimately, during FitzDuncan’s lifetime the whole of Cumberland, more or less, was in the hands of the Scots, the English being busy arguing about whether Stephen or Matilda should rule England. According to legend FitzDuncan wasn’t necessarily a terribly warm and friendly chap – and given the age in which he lived that must have been saying something. One of his nicknames was the Butcher of Craven- though to be fair I’ve seen him described as “the Noble” elsewhere. Part of the reason for this was that when King David invaded England in 1136 FitzDuncan, a member of the Scottish royal family, became a key military leader in the area…for the Scots.

 

In any event he and Alice had only one son- William. The boy went out one day whilst staying in Craven and simply disappeared into the River Wharfe when he missed his footing sometime between 1163 and 1166. He became known in folklore as the “Lost Boy of Egremont.” – which was unfortunate because with his powerful dynastic connections had he survived not only would he have been a powerful northern magnate but also a possible contender for the Scottish crown. It should also be added that he was not the child that Wordsworth depicted in his poem of the story –rather he was about twenty or so years old.

 

William FitzDuncan died and the estates that he’d accrued over the years were divided between his three daughters:

  • Cecily married to the earl of Albermarle,
  • Annabel or Mabel depending on the source you read married Reginald de Lucy – offspring of Henry II’s justicar Richard de Lucy.
  • Alice married twice but died childless.

 

When Alice died her share of the estate was then divided between her sisters’ heirs. Egremont came to Richard de Lucy, son of Annabel- this happened in the reign of King John. He married Ada a co-heiress of Hugh de Morville Lord of the Barony of Burgh. Unfortunately the families who owned Egremont seemed to have a general shortage of sons. De Lucy had two daughters also named Annabel and Alice who, as a result of their father’s death in 1213, became co-heiresses. Richard was promptly buried in St Bees Priory and King John acquired two heiresses as wards. He sold their wardships on to Thomas de Multon of Lincolnshire (just in case you wondered where he popped up from)– he also married the girls’ mother, the widowed Ada de Moreville.

 

Inevitably the de Lucy girls were married into the de Multon family and the castle went with them. Annabel de Lucy married Lambert de Multon and inherited the Barony of Copeland. The de Multons become the lords of Egremont Castle. Let’s just say that they were turbulent times and with King John in charge things were even less straightforward than normal. De Multon spent a lot of time trying to get hold of the property of his two daughters-in-law whilst other people waved family trees around making their own claims.

 

With Henry III on the throne Lambert gained a Royal Charter from the king to hold a weekly market as well as an annual fair which is still held in September. The de Moultons feature as important northern military figures throughout the reign of Henry III and into the period of Edward I – they provided men and money for Edward’s Scottish campaigns.

 

If you thought the ownership of Egremont Castle was complex simply because it followed the female line it’s about to get even more complicated. The de Lucy family rejuvenated itself when Annabel’s nephew decided to take the name de Lucy rather than de Multon. Alice de Lucy had never used her married name of de Multon and it appears that her son Thomas, calling himself de Lucy, wasn’t keen on losing his grip on the barony of Copeland or Egremont Castle to his aunt’s family. He made a claim to the Lordship of Copeland and sued the de Multons for what he regarded as his rightful inheritance. The de Multons were forced to hand over the castle (bet that led to some uncomfortable silences at family gatherings.)

 

The general lack of males heirs to inherit caused the story to spread that Egremont Castle was cursed on account of the fact that its founder, William le Meschin had joined with King Henry I when William Rufus died rather than keeping to his oath of allegiance with Henry’s older brother Robert Curthose. For folks who didn’t like that particular theory there was always the dastardly William FitzDuncan and all those brutally murdered women and children to hold accountable for the fact that none of the lords of the castle appeared able to pass the castle on to the next generation via a male heir.

 

 

By the beginning of the fourteenth century Egremont wasn’t worrying about heiresses it was worrying about the Scots. In 1322 Robert the Bruce plundered the town for the second time. The castle probably looked rather battered as a consequence. The de Lucys and the de Multons, in between fighting Scots, were busily engaged in their own private feuds since Edward II proved incapable of ruling effectively. Meanwhile Maud de Lucy, Alice’s great great grand-daughter married the earl of Northumberland.

 

Back at Egremont in 1335 the castle changed hands because of yet another marriage- Joanna de Lucy (or rather de Multon if you want to be strictly accurate) was one of three co-heiresses. This time it ended up in the hands of Robert Fitz Walter who resided in Essex.  FitzWalter and Joanna’s grandson, the imaginatively named Walter FitzWalter, managed to get captured by the French and held to ransom during 1371 in Gascony. The reign of Edward III and the Hundred Years War was in progress at the time. Egremont Castle was promptly mortgaged to the earl of Northumberland to help raise the £1000 ransom.

 

By the middle of the fifteenth century the castle changed hands yet again through another marriage. It became part of the Radcliffe estate and by this time Egremont had become little more than a shelter during times of Scottish reiver forays.

 

In 1529 the castle was sold outright to the earl of Northumberland. The sixth earl, Henry Percy (Anne Boleyn’s sweetheart), left all his possessions to Henry VIII. So from 1537 until 1558 Egremont was back in Crown hands.

 

The castle was returned to the earls of Northumberland but by this stage in proceedings the castle was virtually a ruin. The story of Egremont Castle came to a rather sticky end in 1569 as a consequence of the shortlived Rising of the North when the seventh earl of Northumberland supported a bid to rescue Mary Queen of Scots. Egremont was slighted so that it couldn’t be used defensively but there was one room that was still in tact that was used as a court until the end of the eighteenth century.

That leads neatly to the Battle of Gelt Bridge and Thistlewood Tower which I tripped over yesterday…though when I find the internet again to post my article is anyone’s guess.

In addition to the Lost Boy of Egremont there are two other stories associated with Egremont Castle. The first is called the Woeful Tale and recounts the story of a Lady de Lucy setting out on a hunting jaunt only to be slaughtered by a wolf. The other is better known. The Egremont Horn also concerns the de Lucy’s. Remarkably for a family plagued by lack of heirs it is about two brothers. Apparently the de Lucys’ owned a mighty hunting horn that could only be blown by the rightful heir to the estates. Sir Eustace and Hubert de Lacy went off to the crusades. Hubert who rather fancied being Lord of Egremont arranged to have his brother murdered whilst abroad. Hubert returned but didn’t dare to blow the hunting horn. Then one day Hubert heard the Horn of Egremont echoing through the castle. Eustace wasn’t as dead as Hubert might have hoped. As Eustace rode in through the front gate, Eustace scarpered out by the postern gate.

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Salter Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern:Folly Publications

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Battle of Solway Moss

james5.jpgMary Stuart became queen of Scotland at barely a week old when her father King James V died at Linlithgow Palace on 14 December 1542. It is often said that he died of the shame of losing the Battle of Solway Moss. Though in all honesty he’d been under the weather beforehand which why he wasn’t actually present on the battlefield.

The conflict between the Scots and the English came about because James V refused to turn Protestant and Henry permitted the borderers to cross into Scotland on a massive raid.  Henry VIII had asked his nephew to meet him for a conference in York but James failed to turn up – which was probably enough to  cause his uncle to send in the reivers and the duke of Norfolk. Matters probably weren’t helped when Lord Wharton came up with a plan to kidnap James V.  Henry VIII wasn’t terribly keen on the idea but it probably didn’t help international relations.

In November 1542 the Scots crossed the Esk to exact their revenge under the command of Lord Maxwell. James, who didn’t trust his Lord Warden of the West March travelled as far as Lochmaben before being taken ill.  He was in Caerlaverock Castle during the battle.

solway moss map - john speed.jpg

Henry VIII and the northerners in the western march had already received word of the Scots plans for invasion from an informer named Dand Nixon. Sir William Musgrave  who was to take a leading part in the battle wrote an account which can be found in Henry VIII’s letters and papers for 1542:

On the 24th inst. a great army of Scotland, numbering 18,000, entered these Marches, and burnt the Graimes’s houses upon Esk and in the Debateable Ground. Master Warden, the writer, and all other gentlemen of these marches made speed towards them with 3,000 men at the most; sending Thos. Dacre, Jac of Musgrave and other Border spears to prick at them, while the rest, putting away their horses, marched up on foot within two arrow shot of the enemies to give battle. At this the noblemen and gentlemen of Scotland lighted off their horses; but the multitude durst not give battle, so they mounted again. Then the writer’s brother Simon Musgrave, Jac Musgrave, and others of his rule, and the Graimes “pricked sore at them, Thomas Dacre with the men of Gillesland, and John Leigh, with the barony of Brough standing in a flieng stadle,” and as the footmen marched forward, the Scots withdrew softly, until Jac Musgrave and others aforenamed, with the writer’s cousin Ayglyoinby, set on them and struck down many, and the rest fled over Esk. Lord Maxwell and other noblemen and courtiers lighted at the waterside and fought valiantly, but were taken prisoners. The horsemen of England took from two to five prisoners each, and also 5 fawcons, 5 demifacons, and many half hakes. It is thought that Lord Flemyng is taken, and the lord of Lowhenveure drowned. Over a thousand of their best men are taken or slain. Never saw goodlier personages. The Graimes and others who follow, will this night take many more; for they are past resisting, and, having left their victual and wallets behind, are like to famish ere they come home. Cannot report what other noblemen and gentlemen are taken, for most of the prisoners are not yet brought in. Trusts Browne will declare these pleasant tidings to the King, and take in good part this first knowledge of them. Of Englishmen only Robt. Briscow, a pensioner, and one Dogeson, a yeoman, are dead as yet. Begs help for his brother Simon, or cousin Ric. Musgrave to have Briscow’s pension. Yesterday Master Warden and the writer, with 2,000 men, went into Scotland and tarried in a bushment within half a mile of Mydleby, while the writer’s men, under Jac Musgrave, burned eight “great dwelling places called unsettes, and all their corn.” Other gentlemen, as Thos. Dacre and John Leigh, were appointed to go, but had not forty men there. All the Graimes were there, but they burned not. Two other “unsettes” were burnt. Sends a bill of articles “exploict in Scotland” by Jac Musgrave, since 20 Oct., with other letters. Credence for bearer, who took two prisoners in the chase.

Lord Wharton representing the English had approximately 3,500 men to the maximum of 18,000 Scottish men. On the down side the Scots were arguing amongst themselves  on account of the fact that Oliver Sinclair, the King’s favourite, rocked up and declared that he was in charge – this did not go down terribly well with Maxwell or any of the other scottish lords so when William Musgrave started to harry them there wasn’t much of what you might describe as a unified response. Effectively the Scots fled – many of them taking the opportunity to surrender as soon as possible.  Unfortunately for the rest of the fleeing army they encountered the reivers of Liddesdale and were stripped of everything they owned apart from their hose.

Shortly after that James V turned his face to the wall and died leaving his infant daughter to become the Queen of Scots.  The only other Scottish queen had been the Fair maid of Norway who died of seasickness before she could arrive in Scotland.

‘Henry VIII: November 1542, 26-30’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 618-643. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp618-643 [accessed 14 April 2017].

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Edward Courtney, Earl of Devon

edward courtney.jpgEdward Courtney was the only surviving son of the Marquess of Exeter born in 1526.
More significant  was the fact that he was the great-grandson of Edward IV.   Katherine, the sixth of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s children to survive babyhood, was married off to Sir William Courtney a loyal Lancastrian in the aftermath of Bosworth which must have been a bit of a comedown from an earlier proposal for her to marry either a Scottish or a Spanish prince but better by far than scuttling around in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately for poor old William he somehow became inveigled into a conspiracy to put Edmund de La Pole on the throne in 1502 and spent the rest of Henry VII’s reign in custody – it’s fairly safe to say that the Courtneys were framed.
Katherine Courtney of York.jpgWhen Henry VIII came to the throne he had his uncle by marriage released from prison but persuaded his Aunt Katherine to renounce her claim to the earldom of March- and the Mortimer inheritance which caused so much mayhem during the Wars of the Roses- and following the death of William in 1511, Katherine took a vow of chastity.  This seemed to go down well with Bluff King Hal who gave her the rights to the income from the Courtney lands during her life time, drew her son Henry into the inner court circle and made her godmother to the Princess Mary in 1516. The problem so far as her grandson Edward would be concerned would be that little drop of Plantagenet blood.  It had been alright for Katherine to sign herself ‘the excellent Princess Katherine, Countess of Devon, daughter, sister and aunt of kings’ (Westcott) but royalty wasn’t such a good thing to have in one’s bloodstream during the mid-Tudor crisis and especially not if one fancied wearing a crown rather than a coronet.
Edward Courtney looked all set for a charmed life – he was a cousin of the Tudors and his grandmother had been a respected member of the inner family circle.  He’d spent time in the household of Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk – presumably to learn the art of being a gentleman.
Unfortunately for Edward his father Henry Courtney  came up with the wonderful wheeze of marrying young Edward off to the Princess Mary – you’d have thought he’d have learned from his own father’s experiences.   In addition, Henry’s second wife (and mother of Edward) Gertrude Blount was a daughter of Baron Mountjoy who had served Katherine of Aragon since her arrival in England – Blount, a Derbyshire man  and Katherine’s chamberlain- had a bit of a torrid time of it during the 1530s but Gertrude remained unswervingly loyal to Katherine – and yes, Gertrude was related to Bessie Blount (Henry VIII’s mistress and mother of Henry Fitzroy) but this isn’t the post for that particular amble around Tudor family trees. The Mountjoy clan and the Courtneys were identified as members of the Aragonese faction as supporters of Katherine were called. Henry  Courtney was not only related to the Poles and the Nevilles but on good terms with them – they, being Catholic, were decidedly grumpy about the break with Rome. Put in a nutshell Courtney managed to get himself caught up in one of Thomas Cromwell’s snares in 1538 to keep anyone with a claim to the throne under lock and key- the planned match between Edward and Mary being the icing on the cake so far as Cromwell’s evidence was concerned, so as to speak.
In November 1538 Gertrude, Henry and twelve-year-old Edward found themselves in the Tower.  Henry was executed at the beginning of December and Edward remained a prisoner for the next fifteen years. Henry paid for his distant cousin’s food and education. Upon Henry VIII’s death the regency council and the duke of Somerset decided that an adult male with Plantagenet blood was better in the Tower than out of it – so there he remained, although he now had the company of Bishop Gardiner.  The pair took something of a shine to one another.  Edward referred to the bishop as “father” and Edward became Gardiner’s protégée.
In August 1553 Princess Mary fresh from Framlingham arrived in London to claim her throne from Lady Jane Grey.  A month later Edward was created earl of Devon and Reginald Pole described him as the “Flower of English Nobility” on account of his learning –  let’s face it there wasn’t much else for him to do in the Tower to while away the hours other than read, translate various ancient works and play the lute.
On 1 October 1553 Courtney took his place in Mary’s court by bearing the sword of state at her coronation.
Edward now spent considerable amounts of time running around London with the wrong kind of women – but I don’t suppose he’d had much opportunity for drunkenness and debauchery whilst in custody. Queen Mary was not impressed.
Meanwhile Mary was determined to marry into the family of Charles V.  It had been her mother’s wish and she refused to consider any other options – no matter what anyone else might say on the matter. The thought of Philip II of Spain made quite a lot of English gentlemen feel a little nauseous. Gardiner did try and suggest Courtney as a match but it was no go.  Instead, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Peter Carew came up with the idea of Courtney marrying the Princess Elizabeth – voila Protestant, English – Tudor/Plantagenet- what more could one wish for? Sir William Paget the Tudor administrator was keen on the match as well.  Obviously Gardiner wasn’t so keen on the idea – him being very catholic and everything but Courtney whose freedom seems to have done strange things to his personality and common sense thought it was a terrific plan, as did the recently freed duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey.
The plan for the regions to rise up did not go well.  The council found out that there was rebellion in the air and various parties ran around in ever decreasing circles until they were rounded up and placed under arrest – the only exception was in Kent where Wyatt’s rebels advanced upon London and caused quite a lot of panic. Henry Grey scarpered to the Midlands where he met with indifference or hostility whilst Gardiner slapped Courtney metaphorically around in order to find out exactly what he knew.  Gardiner had no intention of languishing in the Tower or loosing his head although it looks as though Gardiner did try and keep Courtney out of trouble no matter what the rest of the Privy Council and the now very influential Spanish Ambassador had to say on the subject.
Ultimately Wyatt’s Rebellion foundered and Edward Courtney found himself back in the Tower once more scratching his head and looking vaguely bewildered. Unfortunately for Courtney, Wyatt had been tortured and had incriminated the earl in the hope, it is believed,  of securing a pardon.  The two men would meet on the 11 April 1554 when Wyatt went to the block and is said to have begged Courtney’s pardon. Wyatt made it quite clear before his execution that neither Courtney nor Elizabeth had been involved in his rebellion. Henry Grey went to the block and so too did Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley who had no part in the plot and were not intended to benefit from the plot – it was an opportunity to tidy up loose ends. But not as it turned out to get rid of Courtney and Elizabeth.
At the end of May 1554 Courtney was sent to Fotheringhay where he stayed for a year. Then he took a journey, presumably for the benefit of his health to Brussels and from there to Venice.  Unfortunately the Spanish took a dim view of the earl and were planning to have him assassinated – the assassin changed sides in Venice thus saving Courtney from an untimely end.
It does appear that Courtney couldn’t help but dabble in treason as the moment he arrived in Italy he hooked up with Sir Henry Dudley, one of Northumberland’s sons, and between them they came up with a harebrained plan to murder Mary  and replace her with Elizabeth – with Courtney as royal spouse. There was even talk of a possible match to Mary Queen of Scots  thanks to Henri II of France.
On the 18 September 1556 Edward Courtney died in Padua where he had enrolled as a student. There were rumours of poison but in reality he’d caught a chill whilst out hawking. A letter sent to Queen Mary by Peter Vannes provides an account of events, “for his Honest recreation… to see his hawks fly upon a wasted ground, without any houses” was caught “in a great tempest of wind and rain” Rather than leave his sport he’d refused to get changed out of his wet clothes and by the end of the week “entered into a continue hot ague, sometimes more vehement than at another… so that his tongue had so stopped his mouth, and his teeth so clove together” that he couldn’t take the Sacrament at the end.
Inevitably with an unexpected death in a time of intrigue and treason there are always conspiracy theories. Poisoning is a favourite so far as Courtney is concerned but I have also read that he may have died of syphilis – that other perennial Tudor exit strategy. The earldom of Devon was extinct  as there were no more male sprigs. Four girls inherited his estates but not the title. There was also one less contender for the throne.
Ian W. Archer, ‘Courtenay, Edward, first earl of Devon (1526–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6449, accessed 17 March 2017]
Margaret R. Westcott, ‘Katherine, countess of Devon (1479–1527)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/70277, accessed 17 March 2017]

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Ferdinando Stanley – murder victim?

FerdinandoStanley.jpgFerdinando Stanley (1559-1594), Lord Strange associated with the likes of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare as well as the poet Edmund Spenser. In the 1580s Lord Strange’s men performed in London and when Stanley’s father died and Ferdinando became the Earl of Derby the players became Derby’s Men. In short, Ferdinando splashed the cash like his mother Margaret Clifford before him except whereas she’d gambled he invested in becoming a patron of the arts.  It is as such is is most commonly remembered and written about.

 

History knows that he graduated from Oxford University at the age of twelve and was then summoned by his distant cousin Queen Elizabeth to court as a squire so that he could learn ‘good manners’ and presumably so that she could keep an eye on him.

 

He married Alice Spencer of Althorp in Northamptonshire in 1579 who after her husband’s death became involved in a legal tangle with her brother-in-law over what was rightfully hers.

 

So far so straight forward – except of course Ferdinando was the two times great grandson of Henry VII. Under the terms of Henry VIII’s will it should have been his family line who ascended to the throne after Elizabeth I died. As it was his mother was dead as were his cousins the three Grey sisters, Jane, Katherine and Mary.  Elizabeth had successfully illegitimised the two sons of Lady Katherine Grey although they were permitted to inherit their father’s estates and ultimately their father Edward Seymour found the priest who had performed the marriage ceremony for him and Katherine.

 

Back to Ferdinando.  It is thought that Catholic discontents and possibly the papacy approached Ferdinando with a view to him becoming a contender for the throne. They sent a man named Richard Hesketh who had links with the Stanley family. Ferdinando, clearly a sensible man, rejected the idea out of hand and very swiftly found someone in authority to tell recognizing that Cecil who’d learned of a plot in Rome would probably find out about Stanley having a chat to a conspirator. Hesketh was swiftly arrested and executed although he is said to have told Ferdinando that if he didn’t agree to the plan he would find himself very dead soon afterwards. The episode is referred to as the Hesketh Plot and the whole episode described in detail by John Stowe, the Tudor historian.

 

Unfortunately Stanley’s hopes of being rewarded for his loyalty were ill-founded. He should have realized from the fate of his mother and her cousins that Elizabeth would not look kindly on a possible candidate for her crown.

 

He died in unexplained circumstances on 16th April 1594 having been taken suddenly and severely ill with vomiting. He is buried in Ormskirk. According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he asked his doctors to stop treating him as he knew he was dying. Rumours spread that it was the work of Jesuits. His gentleman of the horse was apparently accused and unsurprisingly fled on one of the earl’s best horses. The man was never seen again.

 

Ferdinando’d been earl for less than a year and he had no male heirs other than his brother who now became the sixth Earl of Derby. However, he did have daughters and England does not have salic laws preventing a woman from inheriting the throne (I bet the Grey sisters and Lady Margaret Stanley all wished there was a salic law by the time Cousin Elizabeth had done with them.) Ferdinando’s eldest daughter, Anne Stanley, Countess of Castlehaven now became Elizabeth I’s heir presumptive under the terms of Henry VIII’s will.

 

However, by that time the Privy Council headed up by the Cecil family had identified Mary Queen of Scots’ son, James VI of Scotland, as Elizabeth’s heir and Elizabeth’s tacit agreement with this meant that other contenders for the throne ceased to have such political importance unless someone European started evolving plots to put them on the throne – poor Arbella Stuart is a case in point- and it should also be added that Lord Burghley (Cecil) arranged for the marriage of his granddaughter to the new earl of Derby demonstrating that intrigue, politics and marriage went hand in hand during the Tudor period.

 

David Kathman, ‘Stanley, Ferdinando, fifth earl of Derby (1559?–1594)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2013 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26269, accessed 10 March 2017]

Countess of Derby

Alice Spencer, Countess of Derby

by circle of Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

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Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland…

eleanor brandon.jpgIt is sometimes easy to forget that Henry VIII had more than one English niece who featured in his will.  Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon who was elevated to Duke of Suffolk.  They had two children who survived childhood, Frances and Eleanor. I’ve posted about Eleanor before.  Double click here to open the post in a new window. This post is by way of a precursor to a post about Lady Margaret Stanley (no, not Henry VII’s mother better known to history as Margaret Beaufort but her great-granddaughter born Lady Margaret Clifford.)

Frances Brandon, the elder of the two girls, married Henry Grey and bore three children who survived to adulthood: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  All three of her daughters were blighted by their Tudor blood and claim to the throne. Lady Jane Grey or Dudley as she was by then was executed by her cousin Queen Mary whilst Catherine and Mary became in turn “heir presumptive”; each married for love and each in turn was imprisoned by their other cousin Elizabeth I, one starved to death and neither was allowed to see her husband again.  The treatment of the Grey girls was not Elizabeth’s finest hour.  Lady Mary died on the 20 May 1578.

The role of heir presumptive was then passed to Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby.  Her claim came through her mother – Eleanor Brandon.  Needless to say Lady Margaret soon found herself under house arrest just as her two cousins had done.  She didn’t make the mistake of marrying for love – she and her husband were long married by then and estranged.  No, Lady Margaret was something of an alchemist and a follower of astrology – she had apparently wanted to know what the chances of Cousin Lizzie popping her clogs might have been.

So back to Eleanor Brandon – she was born some time between 1518 and 1521 meaning that when she died in 1547 she was at most twenty-eight.  Henry VIII was a guest when Eleanor married her husband in 1535.  Henry Clifford, the First Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor’s father-in-law  was determined to make his home fit for a princess and promptly extended Skipton Castle, adding an octagonal tower and long gallery to make it more pleasant. The Cliffords had sold off some of their estates to pay for the rebuilding work and also to pay for the wedding. It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the young couple spent much of their early married life at Brougham Castle.

Eleanor turns up the following year in the capacity of chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral in Peterborough Cathedral. Interestingly Frances Brandon didn’t fill the roll – perhaps it was because Frances was pregnant at the time.That same year Eleanor was rescued from the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace by Christopher Aske and taken to safety rather than being turned into a hostage for Lord Clifford’s co-operation. She ended up holed up in Skipton Castle. Eleanor appears to have suffered from ill health for quite some time after this but by 1546 she is listed in the household of Queen Katherine Parr – who had experienced her own difficulties at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace as Lady Latimer.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547, his niece died at the end of autumn the same year – in November (or possibly September depending on which source you read).  Henry Clifford, by now the second earl, went into a bit of a decline, burying his wife in Skipton Church where he’d buried his two infant sons. Ann Clifford, in her family history went on to explain:

…he fell into an extream sickness, of which he was at length laid out for a dead man, upon a table, & covered with a hearse of velvet; but some of his men that were then very carefull about him perceiveing some little signs of life in him, did apply hot cordials inwardly & outwardly unto him, which brought him to life again, & so, after he was laid into his bed again, he was fain for 4 or 5 weeks after to such the milk out of a woman’s breast and only to live on that food; and after to drink asses milk, and live on that 3 or 4 months longer.

Henry Clifford recovered and married for a second time.  He also had the common good sense not to get tangled up in the plots of the Duke of Northumberland who initially tried to arrange a marriage between his own son Guildford Dudley and Lady Margaret Clifford, Eleanor’s only surviving child.

Eleanor’s father, Charles, married three times.  Eleanor’s mother Mary Tudor was his second wife. He’d previously married secretly in 1508 and had two daughters. Eleanor mentions on of her elder half sisters in the only letter that survives from her:

“Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

Certainly the letter confirms Eleanor’s ill health and the reference to sister Powys is to Anne Brandon who was married to Lord Grey of Powys.

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Katherine Howard executed

catherine howardOn February 13th 1542 Henry VIII’s fifth queen, his “rose without a thorn”, was executed.   Historians and programme makers often focus on her naughty ways but in reality she was little more than a child- nineteen at the most- when she died having been groomed for abuse during her childhood and then made into a political pawn for the Howard family and the Duke of Norfolk.

Katherine’s final days were played out according to a script familiar to Henry VIII’s method for getting rid of people who’d let him down one way or another.

Parliament sat in the middle of January 1542.  Its purpose was to bring Acts of Attainder against Katherine and her lady in waiting Jane Boleyn – Lady Rochford.  At the same time the dowager Duchess of Norfolk was also accused as were Henry Manox, Frances Dereham and the decidedly unsavoury Thomas Culpepper who was also a distant cousin to Katherine, as was Dereham.

On February 10th Katherine was taken from Syon House where she’d been sent when news of her misdemeanours had first surfaced to the Tower.  Once she was in the Tower she was questioned  as to her guilt so that semblance of a fair hearing could be maintained as she wasn’t actually tried in the way that Anne Boleyn was brought to trial.  Perhaps that had been Thomas Cromwell’s neat lawyers mind in action.

On February 11th Parliament passed an act saying that it was perfectly acceptable to execute the insane.  This meant that Jane Boleyn who was definitely not a well woman having accused her own husband of incest with a former queen, her sister-in-law, and who now found herself guilty of allowing Thomas Culpepper to canoodle with her cousin Katherine Howard could be executed without breaking any laws.

On the evening of February 12th Katherine asked to have the block upon which she would lay her head the following day fetched to her chamber.   She rehearsed the actions that would end her life, confessed her sins and on the 13th a crowd gathered to watch the second of Henry VIII’s queens meet her death at the hands of the royal executioner.

Katherine  wearing black velvet stood in front of the crowd and made the traditional address seeking pardon from the king and dying as a good Christian.  In one recorded version of her address she is supposed to have said:

…long before the King took me I loved Culpepper, and I wish to God I had done as he wished me, for at the time the King wanted to take me he urged me to say that I was pledged to him. If I had done as he advised me I should not die this death, nor would he. I would rather have him for a husband than be mistress of the world, but sin blinded me and greed of grandeur, and since mine is the fault mine also is the suffering, and my great sorrow is that Culpepper should have to die through me.

Sadly this piece of theatre is the work of later historians.  As Wilkinson records, there is no evidence of this speech in any of the foreign ambassadors’ reports to their various masters.  It needs hardly be added that a put down of that nature would have been to juicy to be ignored.

Katherine Howard was executed with a single stroke of the axe.  Jane Boleyn, mad or not, was executed immediately afterwards having seen her mistress die before her. Dereham who had put cuckold’s horns on the kings head had been executed by hanging, drawing and quartering at Tyburn in December the previous year.  Thomas Culpepper had been executed by axe on the same day.  Manox who most modern readers must find repellant for the way in which he groomed and abused  Katherine from his position of trust within the dowager’s household escaped execution.

Wilkinson, Josephine. (2016) Katherine Howard. The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen. London:Murray

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