Scandal at Chelsea: the courtship and marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

katherine parrHenry VIII was buried on 16th February 1547 at Windsor with Jane Seymour.  Their son Edward was now king with a five man regency council nominated by Henry VIII.  It wasn’t long before Edward Seymour had nobbled the council and rather than five equal men had become Lord Protector.

Katherine Parr moved to Chelsea with her two hundred servants, one hundred and fifty man yeoman guard, Elizabeth Tudor and the queen’s jewels which Henry VIII’s will gave her permission to wear until Edward was of an age to be married.  The will also stipulated that Katherine was to be accorded the honour of first lady in the land which rather irritated Anne Dudley the wife of Edward Dudley the newly styled Lord Protector (March 1547)  who felt that honour ought to go to her.  Edward  created himself Duke of Somerset and  also become Earl Marshal given that the hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk was sitting in the Towner on charges of treason.

thomas seymourEdward’s younger brother Thomas felt aggrieved.  Even though he was now the Lord High Admiral (sounds vaguely Gilbert and Sullivan), Baron Sudeley and a privy councillor he felt it was somewhat unfair that his brother was the Lord Protector.  What resulted was two years of rampant ambition, scandal and tragedy followed by Thomas’s execution on three charges of treason not that he was ever brought to trial.

Thomas began a campaign against his brother beginning by giving his young nephew pocket money and bribing one of Edward VI’s men, John Fowler, to say nice things about him; he started reading up the law books with a view to demanding to being made Edward’s co-protector and he began looking around for a royal bride.  He started of by asking the Privy Council if he could marry thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor.  The Privy Council said no but Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley was rather taken with the smooth talking charmer which was unfortunate when Sir Thomas turned his attentions from Katherine Parr to her young step-daughter.

John Fowler, the servant bribed to say nice things about Thomas to King Edward, was asked to find out the king’s view on the matter.  Edward thought that Thomas should either marry Anne of Cleves or “my sister Mary to change her opinions.”

Thomas trotted back to the Privy Council to request the hand of Mary Tudor.  On this occasion the Duke of Somerset explained that neither one of the brother should look to be king or to marry a king’s daughter. The brothers argued violently and when Mary was informed of the proposed match sometimes later laughed at the idea.

That just left the dowager queen.  Katherine Parr was thirty-five years old and before the king had made his intentions to claim her as wife number six clear on 1542 she had been linked romantically to Thomas.  This time Thomas didn’t check to see what the Privy Council thought about the idea. He began to visit Katherine at her home in Chelsea in secret.   By the end of April 1547 or the beginning of May the couple decided to marry – even if society would regard it as an indecently hasty match so soon after Henry VIII’s demise.  This was thrice-married Katherine’s chance of happiness and she intended to grab it with both hands.

Katherine had been married first to Sir Edward Borough – he was not a well man. After that she married John Neville, Lord Latimer who was much older than Katherine (approximately twice her age) and, of course, thirdly, she had married Henry VIII.  Katherine, thanks to Latimer, was left a wealthy woman so should, by rights, have had more choice in who she wed next  if at all. Sir Thomas Seymour courted her but Henry VIII had noted her care of Lord Latimer and seen her in Mary Tudor’s company.  In July 1543 Katherine Parr became queen of England setting her romance with Thomas Seymour to one side and possibly disappointing Seymour’s aspirations to marry a wealthy widow.

Now though nothing was going to stop Katherine. They were married secretly in May and Katherine gave orders for a gate to be left unlocked so that her new husband could visit her in the middle of the night.

There was the small problem of telling the people who mattered.  Katherine knew that she needed her step-son’s approval. However, by June there was gossip.  Kat Ashley, Elizabeth Tudor’s governess met Sir Thomas at St James Park  and commented on his failure to pursue his match with Elizabeth and also commented on the fact that he was rumoured to already be married to the queen.

Katherine went to see Edward VI who had no objection to his step-mother’s marriage to his uncle.  Edward VI wrote to her confirming his views on the 30th May saying; “I do love and admire you with my whole heart.”  He agreed to keep the marriage a secret until the relationship between Thomas and Edward Seymour was better.  Katherine, however, felt that rather than relying on his brother’s kindness that Thomas should garner support for the match from leading members of the court.

Mary Tudor was not so generous as her little brother.  When she received a letter from Thomas asking for her support in the matter she was horrified that a) he had aspired so high and b) that Katherine had so quickly forgotten the king who was “ripe in mine own remembrance.” Mary never seemed to forgive Katherine for marrying in haste and expressed concern that Elizabeth should continue to live in Katherine’s household believing that the newly weds had “shamelessly dishonoured” Henry VIII’s memory (you’d have thought that Mary would have been dancing on her late lamented parent’s grave given the way he treated both her and her mother.)

At the end of June 1547 the news of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour was public knowledge. Edward VI kept his promise to support them.  The Duchess of Somerset still had to give precedence to Katherine but she did exact a revenge of sorts in that she persuaded her husband to confiscate Katherine’s jewels which should by rights have been worn by the next queen of England but which Anne Dudley now modelled.

The problem was that Chelsea would not be free from Scandal for long.  In addition to her two hundred servants and one hundred and fifty yeomen there was the small matter of Elizabeth Tudor.  It wasn’t long before Sir Thomas began making inappropriate visits to his step-daughter’s bed chamber.  Kat Ashley didn’t immediately see any harm in his morning calls but Elizabeth took to rising earlier and earlier so that he would not catch her in bed.  Ultimately Kat took him to task for arriving in his night shirt with bare legs.  When he failed to see the seriousness of his behaviour Kat took the matter to Katherine Parr who made little of the morning visits, even joining in with them herself on occasion.  Society was in for another scandal and it looked as though Mary Tudor may have had a point after all.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2015) The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. London: Head of Zeus

Weir, Alison. (1999) Children of England: the Heirs of  King Henry VIII. London: Jonathan Cape.

 

 

 

The Vicar of Hell, his cousins and Henry VIII

1531_Henry_VIIISir Francis Bryan was nicknamed either by Henry VIII or Thomas Cromwell as the Vicar of Hell.  Henry allegedly asked what sort of sin it was to ruin a mother and then her child where upon Bryan commented that it was the same sort of sin as eating a hen  and then its chicken.  Alternatively online sources suggest that Cromwell gave Bryan the name on account of his role in bringing the Boleyn faction down.

sir nicholas carewThe dissolute vicar who managed to survive Henry’s reign without falling foul of the Tudor terror had one surviving sister.  Her name was Elizabeth and she became Lady Carew when she was about twelve.  By the time she was thirteen she was a mother, Henry VIII was purchasing mink coats for her and giving her husband Sir Nicholas Carew (pictured right) his very own tilt yard.  If that wasn’t sufficiently intriguing a look up the family tree reveals that Francis’ mother Margaret Bourchier was Anne and Mary Boleyn’s auntie.  Elizabeth Howard, their mother, was Margaret’s half sister.

Lady Margaret Bryan is best known in history as the Lady Governess of Mary Tudor and then Princess Elizabeth – it is Lady Bryan who writes to Cromwell in 1536 asking how the royal toddler should be treated. Lady Margaret didn’t have much longer to influence Elizabeth as she would become Prince Edward’s Lady Governess in turn.

wolseySir Francis became Henry VIII’s cup bearer in 1516 and two years later was admitted to the ranks of Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber. The following year Francis was one of the young men that Wolsey had removed from court as a bad influence on the king and overly familiar with the monarch- not least because he’d been on a mission to France and returned with an expensive taste in French tailoring and a habit of mocking those dressed in the English fashion- but it wasn’t long before he was back.  He turns up in 1520 with Henry at the Field of Cloth of Gold but it would be several more years before he was re-admitted to the privy chamber.

In 1522 and 23 he was fighting alongside his Howard kin in France and then Scotland. In between times he hunted, gambled, spent a lot of time at his tailors, womanised and jousted.  It was the latter that caused him to lose an eye in 1526 after which he sported a rather rakish eyepatch.

The king trusted him sufficiently to send him to Rome to discuss the annulment of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon with the Pope.  Despite Bryan’s smooth talking he was unsuccessful.  There is a rather lively letter from the period that Byran writes to Lord Lisle requiring that the Captain of Calais should find him a soft bed and a young woman.

george boleyn.pngIn August 1533 it fell to Francis to tell his king that the Pope had excommunicated him.  By this time Francis’ cousin Anne was not only queen but heavily pregnant.  By the following year though things were turning sour.  Chapuys noted that the king was involved romantically with a young lady – another of Francis’ cousins but Francis was closely associated with the Boleyn’s.  So perhaps it is not surprising that it was in 1534 that Francis’ got into an argument with George Boleyn (pictured right)- after all Francis had a long experience of Henry’s pattern of womanising and knew when the king’s interest had moved on. Even so in 1536 when a list of all Anne Boleyn’s relations was drawn up Francis’ name was on it and he was questioned about his cousin but unlike George was not arrested.  In fact he was promoted to Chief Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and sent off to tell Jane Seymour the good news although he managed to plot his copybooks because he appears to have been sympathetic to Mary Tudor and queried whether or not she could be returned to the rank of princess.

This was an unusual slip on Byran’s part who was liked by Henry for his plain talking and honesty but most of the time Bryan was canny enough to know what sort of truths Henry wanted to hear. Part of the problem was that Francis’ mother had been a lady-in-waiting to Katherine of Aragon as well as Mary Tudor’s Lady Governess.  Another issue was the fact that despite his nickname “the vicar of hell” that he was Catholic.  Not that this seems to have been an issue in 1536 when he went off to do battle with the rebellious pilgrims in the Pilgrimage of Grace.

The following year Bryan arrived in France intending to have Reginald Pole kidnapped or possibly assassinated – though it would appear that he may have been the one to warn the cardinal of his own intentions giving Reginald the opportunity to escape Henry’s clutches.  Byran’s other unconventional methods of diplomacy included sleeping with a prostitute in Rome to find out what the pope’s views were. In 1538 he actually became the English ambassador at the french court but it wasn’t hugely successful because he spent much of the time drunk, gambling and generally misbehaving.  He was summoned home not that it should have been a total surprise that he wasn’t cut out to be an ambassador.  In 1519  he’d got himself into hot water for throwing eggs at the French while in Paris.

In 1539 Sir Nicholas Carew, another of Henry VIII’s old friends, and Francis’ brother-in-law found himself on the wrong side of the king – or more likely the wrong side of Thomas Cromwell.  He had been teaching Jane Seymour how to best become queen rather than just another mistress – which was not what Cromwell wanted. Jane was favoured by the Howard faction who were traditional in their religious beliefs and thus not sympathetic to the reforms that were being instituted.  Carew was implicated in the Exeter Plot which aimed to remove Henry from the throne and replace him with Reginald Pole. Francis sat on the jury that convicted him. It was Lady Margaret Bryan who wrote to Cromwell on her daughter’s behalf asking that some finances be provided for her care.

Francis’ reward for his loyalty to the Crown was to be sent off to France to ask the french king to send prospective wives to Calais for Henry to inspect.  After that debacle Francis was probably grateful when Henry selected Anne of Cleves.

During all this time Francis was loyal to his mother’s Howard kin but by the end of Henry’s reign he had become more associated with the Seymour family – which was just as well as the duke of Norfolk was imprisoned for treason along with his son.

Bryan was married to Philippa Fortescue by 1522 but the pair had no children.  He married for a second time to Joan Butler who was the dowager countess of Ormond (Yes there are Boleyn links there) and was able to make the most of this marriage to become Lord Marshall and Lord Justice of Ireland.  He died at Clonmel on the 2nd February 1550.

There are no portraits of Francis.

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/bryan-sir-francis-1492-1550

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – “King of the Peak”

george vernon.jpgSir George Vernon was born around 1508 but his father, Richard, died in 1517 whilst he was still a child so the Vernon lands were subject to the rules about wardship- which always ran the risk of financial loss but in George’s case his guardians, who included Cardinal Wolsey, appear not to have drained his resources.  In fact by the time of his death in 1565 the peerage records the fact that he had possession of thirty manors.   Sir Henry Vernon, George’s grandfather pre-deceased his son by only two years.

George’s mother, Margaret,  was descended from the Dymoke family of Lincolnshire (hereditary champions of the monarch) married secondly Sir William Coffin (who died in 1538) and then for a third time into the Manners family – Sir Richard Manners.  As you know if you read the History Jar regularly I love the way that footnotes turn up in the strangest of places and in this particular instance it should be noted that Margaret’s claim to fame was that she was one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies whilst she awaited her trial and execution. At that time Margaret was still married to her second husband. Interestingly Ives notes that the Manners family were loyal to the Boleyn faction.  They gave Ann embroidered sleeves for her New Year’s Day gifts whilst Anne in her turn, as evidenced in the Rutland MSS, gave her ladies palfreys and saddles on her first Christmas as queen in 1533 (Ives: 258). Weir has more to say on the topic of Lady Margaret Coffin during Anne’s confinement in the Tower.  Margaret shared Anne’s bed chamber, sleeping on the pallet bed by her side – apparently Anne had never liked Margaret Coffin- so it probably wasn’t a comfortable experience, not least because Margaret and the other four women who served Anne were reporting to Sir William Kingston, Anne’s warder, who described Margaret as “good and honest.” Weir goes on to say that William Coffin was the queen’s Master of Horse being related to the Boleyns possibly resulted in the role but he was also a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and was one of the party who conspired against Anne at the beginning of May 1536. William would be knighted in 1537 and continue as Master of the Horse. His wife would go on to serve Jane Seymour – which just goes to show that even in Derbyshire the comings and goings of Henry’s queens were of political importance to leading families.

But back in April 1522 little George’s wardship was given jointly to Cardinal Wolsey and to Lady  Tailboys – which accounts for his marriage into the Tailboys family.  And as another aside it should be noted that Margaret Tailboys had a brother called Gilbert who married a woman in 1520 called Bessie Blount – meaning that George Vernon’s sister-in-law  was the woman who gave Henry VIII his only acknowledged illegitimate child. Margaret Tailboys died on March 25 1558 having produced two daughters; Margaret and Dorothy.  George would now marry Maud (or Matilda) Longford – the Longfords were a Derbyshire family.

Practically it was George’s uncle, John Vernon (who owned Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire), who ran the estate whilst George was a minor and it was John’s advice that saw George settled on a career path in the law after a stint at university.   By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 George had come into his own and was fulfilling the role of a member of the  gentry as JP and later as MP for Derbyshire in 1542 (he only served the once). By 1545 Sir George was extending and modernising Haddon Hall- not to mention ensuring that Henry VIII’s arms were on prominent display.  He was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. The Parliamentary biography of George notes that he was on a list to be raised to the barony but it never happened nor did he become sheriff although he was nominated some nine times.  He appears to have blotted his copybooks with the powers that be! Certainly in 1557 he failed to yield £100 in a forced loan demanded by Queen Mary. His approach to law and order wasn’t necessarily terribly in keeping with the concept of innocent until proved guilty either – legend states that he hanged at least one man without trial.

In 1564 Bishop Bentham, who perhaps hadn’t heard about the summary justice that Vernon meted out, said of him ‘a great justice [in] religion as in all other things’, renowned ‘for his magnificence … for his kind reception of all good men, and his hospitality’. And George was noted for his extreme hospitality – hence the by-name of “King of the Peak.” The household accounts of 1564 reveal a host sparing no expense on his guests.  The earl of Worcester’s minstrel was paid the princely sum of 13s. 4d. The is also mention of a tun of wine, malmsey, muscadel and every assortment of meat and fish that the reader could imagine – though the 18 blackbirds presumably won’t be high in the modern list of Christmas must haves!.   The title of King of the Peak was one that Alan Cunningham couldn’t resist when he told the story of Dorothy Vernon’s elopement in 1822. And yes, I shan’t be resisting the temptation to explore the story of Dorothy Vernon in another HistoryJar post.

Sir George died on the 31 August 1565. His daughters Margaret and Dorothy inherited his lands.  Their husbands were the earl of Derby and and the second son of the earl of Rutland respectively. Sir George left clear instructions in his will about which of his manors were to be used to pay off his debts and pay for his funeral.  He and his two wives are buried in All Saints Church, Bakewell.

Ives, E.W. (1986).  Anne Boleyn. Oxford: Blackwells

Weir, A. (2009) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. London: Jonathan Cape

http://www.cheshirenow.co.uk/vernon_family.html

Sir George "King of the Peak" Vernon & wives

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/vernon-george-1518-65

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Sir William Paget

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Sir Thomas Wentworth

NPG 1851; Thomas Wentworth, 1st Baron Wentworth by Unknown Anglo-Netherlandish artistDecember 2 1542

Cromwell, for the time being on this blog is no longer with us, and in Henry’s world had had an unfortunate experience with an axe on 28 July 1540. Henry’s letters and papers show how things changed after the demise of his second great administrator – the Privy Council became an important administrative machine once more. The minutes are terse to put it mildly.

 

“Meeting at Hampton Court, 2 Dec. Present : Canterbury, Russell, Winchester, Westminster, Gage, Browne, Wingfield, Wriothesley. Business :Letter written to Sir Thos. Wentworth and Sir Hen. Savell to receive Scottish prisoners from the lord President.” Canterbury is, of course, Thomas Cranmer and Winchester is Stephen Gardener.

 

Sir Thomas Wentworth, Sixth Lord Despenser (not sure how the family got that title – I’m adding it to my list of ‘need to find out’) and First Baron Wentworth  of Wentworth West Bretton in Yorkshire (although he was originally from Suffolk – the Suffolk property having been acquired by the Yorkshire Wentworths as part of a marital transaction) is the chap behind today’s metaphorical advent door. He and Jane Seymour, Henry’s third queen, were cousins. Margery Wentworth, his aunt, was Jane’s mother. Thomas’s son, inventively also named Thomas, would thrive under the rule of Edward VI and his Seymour relations.

 

But back to Sir Thomas – his own mother Anne Tyrell was the daughter of Sir James. For fans of historical whodunits, yes, that is the Sir James Tyrell suspected of the murder of the princes in the Tower – demonstrating yet again that the Tudor world was a small world. One of Sir Thomas’s sons-in-law was Sir Martin Frobisher the famous Elizabethan explorer.

 

Wentworth’s climb up the career ladder began with service in the household of the duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon – who was of course married to the king’s sister – Princess Mary. It would appear, according to Brandon’s biographer that Wentworth was first recruited to Suffolk’s service in 1513 – meaning that young Wentworth was only about twelve at the time but he grew to become one of Suffolk’s most senior officers having been knighted by Brandon along with his cousin Edward Seymour in 1523. He would go on to serve as Edward VI’s Lord Chancellor as denoted by the white staff of office in his hand.  The National Portrait Gallery notes suggest that this was added to the portrait after it had originally been painted.

 

Wentworth also became associated with the duke of Norfolk- so not so much a new man even though he was only raised to the peerage in 1529 (he succeeded his father to the Despenser title and the manor of Nettlestead upon his death in 1528) so much as an old one drawing on powerful connections to improve his ranking in the Tudor world of ‘Top Trumps’.

 

Despite his northern affiliations he remained loyal to Henry VIII during the 1536 Pilgrimage of Grace turning up to support the king with one hundred men in tow. He had already nailed his colours to the mast when he became one of the signatories of a letter asking Pope Clement VII to permit a divorce between Henry and Katherine of Aragon.  He went on to be a noted reformer although interestingly he does not appear to have benefitted from the sale of the monasteries. According to Franklin-Harkrider, Miles Coverdale praised Wentworth for his godliness. This hadn’t stopped him being part of the jury that had condemned Anne Boleyn.

 

His loyalty was rewarded. He was at Edward VI’s christening; was part of the party that welcomed Anne of Cleeves and Henry even deigned to visit him at his home at Nettlestead in Suffolk that same year – with Catherine Howard.

 

But back to letter dated 2nd December 1542. There were apparently two hundred noble Scottish prisoners and approximately eight hundred from the massed ranks of Scottish hoi polloi in English hands following the Battle of Solway Moss  which took place on the 24 November 1542. The most important of the Scottish prisoners were escorted to London by Wentworth and Saville where they arrived on the 19th of December suitably adorned with the cross of St Andrew. They were committed to the Tower for safekeeping until the 21st of December when they were paraded before the Lord Chancellor who chastised them on behalf of the king for their naughtiness in arriving with an armed force on England’s borders. Having been duly slapped around the back of the legs they were not returned to the Tower’s naughty step but having given their parole sent off to spend the festive season with assorted members of the nobility including the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk.

 

 Franklin-Harkrider, Melissa. (2008) Women, Reform and Community in Early Modern England: Katherine Willoughby, duchess of Suffolk and Lincolnshire’s Godly Aristocracy, 1519-1580 (Studies in Modern British Religious History). Martlesham: Boydell Press

Gunn, Steven. (2015) Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend . Stroud: Amberley Publishing

Keith, Robert (1735) History of the Affairs of Church and State in Scotland accessed from https://archive.org/details/historyofaffairs03keit (03 December 2016).
‘Henry VIII: December 1542, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 17, 1542, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1900), pp. 643-655. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol17/pp643-655 [accessed 17 October 2016].

 

Anne Bassett …king’s mistress and er, step-cousin.

lisle lettersArthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle was the illegitimate son of Edward IV.  He turns up in the court of Elizabeth of York during the reign of Henry VII and as mentioned in another post had a kind heart, wrote many letters and ended up in the Tower where he died with the relief of being set free rather than having his head ceremoniously removed from his neck having been accused of treason.  Most of what we know about Anne Bassett comes from the letters she wrote or which were written about her and survived in the archive of Lisle letters.

Anne Bassett was Arthur’s step-daughter.  Her mother was Honor Grenville and her father was Sir John Bassett.  Arthur married Honor in 1529. They didn’t have any children together although both had children from their first marriages. Honor had gone to France with Anne Boleyn in 1532 when Henry VIII met with Francis I. Honor was undoubtedly ambitious.  She tried to get her daughters taken on as Anne Boleyn’s ladies in waiting but Anne wasn’t playing ball.  When Jane Seymour became queen Honor renewed her endeavours to get one or both her daughters placed at court.  Jane gave way having eaten a large dish of quail presented by Lady Lisle.  It would have to be said that Jane was about six months pregnant at the time so a dish of quail seems like rather a nifty idea.

Anne was hustled off to court to attend Jane Seymour just prior to her taking herself into seclusion in preparation for the birth of her child. There is a letter in Lord Lisle’s papers written to Lady Lisle saying that, “the Queen’s pleasure is that Mrs Anne wear no more of her French apparel. So that she must have provided a bonnet or ii, with frontlets and an edge of jane seymourpearl, and a gown of black satin, and another of velvet, and this must be done before the Queen’s grace’s churching.” (p211)  Or in other words Jane Seymour didn’t approve of girls dressing up like french floozies.  It’s also clear that there was a great deal of investment in sending one’s daughters off to the royal court.

We know that Anne attended Prince Edward’s baptism but, of course, there would be no churching for Jane Seymour because she died due to complications despite initially seeming to be in good health following the birth of Henry VIII’s much longed for son. Anne Bassett was part of Jane Seymour’s funeral cortege, a situation she would rehearse at Henry VIII’s own funeral in 1547.  She and her sister are in the accounts as being provided with appropriate clothes for the funeral. Anne Bassett had been a lady-in-waiting for a month and there was no longer a queen. The ladies-in-waiting were to be disbanded.  Henry VIII wore mourning for three months and didn’t marry again for two years when he did Anne Bassett’s name would be mentioned as a possible candidate.

Anne remained on the outskirts of the court. Henry VIII’s gift of a horse and a saddle for it caused some speculation.  Anne was seventeen at the time. Her name had been mentioned before the Cleves match  and it would resurface in 1542 following the departure of Katherine Howard from the scene but there is very little to build on in terms of specific evidence other than ambassadorial and court speculation.

anne of clevesWhen Anne of Cleves arrived on the scene our Anne reported for duty as one of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting but there were too many German ladies and Anne was told that her services were not required.  Anne Bassett wrote to her mother expressing her irritation. Lady Lisle used her connections to find out that Mother Lowe, Anne of Cleves’  german mother of the maids was the person to approach and before long Anne Bassett was serving queen number four.

We know that Anne Bassett was ill in 1539.  We have letters written from Anne to her mother during this time.  She stayed in the countryside to regain her health at the home of her cousin Sir Anthony Denny “at the King’s grace’s commandment.” Denny was so trusted by the king that he had possession of a dry stamp so that he could sign documents without having to bother the king.  Did Henry want to get his mistress off the scene with another queen on her way?  Was Henry looking for some privacy to carry out his courting? Was Anne pretending to be unwell to avoid having to dally with Henry or marry him ? The former seems unlikely as Anne of Cleves was in Germany at the time.  Whatever the illness was it appears to have caused Anne some indisposition for sometime before hand but not to have been too serious and her physician suggested walking as a cure.

Anne remained at court through out the rest of Henry VIII’s reign even when her step-father was under suspicion of treason in the Tower.  Robert Hutchinson describes Anne at a feast in 1543 using the words of the French ambassador Charles de Marillac who was not terribly impressed with Anne  – “a pretty creature with wit enough to do as badly as the other (Katherine Howard), if she were to try.” Hutchinson notes Anne’s reported limited intelligence – something which may or may not be true but you have to admire the girl if she managed to avoid marrying Henry given his track record …but there again Hutchinson has a point if Anne was Henry’s mistress and only managed to acquire a husband of dodgy repute after Henry’s death.  It was from Queen Mary that she received several land grants.

In 1553 Anne became Queen Mary’s lady-in-waiting and in 1554 she married Sir Walter Hungerford of Farleigh, a man troubled by the fact that his father had been executed under Thomas Cromwell’s 1533 sodomy law.  Sir Walter went on to marry Anne Dormer after Anne Bassett died.

 Hutchinson, Robert.(2005)  The Last days of Henry VIII: Conspiracy, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

St Clare Byrne, Muriel (ed) (1983) The Lisle Letters London: Secker and Warburg Ltd

Jane Seymour – Plain Jane

jane seymour emblem.pngJane Seymour, perhaps the original Plain Jane if Chapuys comments are to be believed, became wife number three on 30th May 1536. She was another descendent of Edward III via Hotspur. She’d also been a lady-in-waiting to Catherine of Aragon and also to Anne Boleyn. One story said that Anne was deeply distressed to encounter Jane sitting on Henry’s lap. Her chosen motto was “Bound to serve and obey” – a wise choice given Henry’s complaints about wife number two and presumably wife number one’s implacable logic and argument. Her emblem is the phoenix rising from a tower  surrounded by those burgeoning roses reflecting both a Plantagenet and Lancastrian inheritance. The pheonix is a symbol of love and renewal. Jane is the renewed Tudor hope for an heir.

 

Jane would also be the queen who oversaw Henry’s return to a more traditional set of beliefs.  She tried to reconcile him to Princess Mary and also interceded on behalf of the catholic pilgrims who’d revolted during the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Her clemency wasn’t welcome so far as Henry was concerned and she swiftly retreated from the political field.

 

It was February 1536 when word of Henry’s interest in Jane Seymour was first mentioned in ambassadorial dispatches and it wasn’t long before her brothers found themselves being rewarded with important posts and preferments.

 

In 1537 Jane fell pregnant, a fact recorded by Edward Hall. The rejoicing must have been a little bit cautious given all the previous disappointments but on the 12 October she produced a boy, Edward, and then promptly died from complications on 24th October. Cromwell would later blame her attendants for giving her rich food and sweets but in reality it was likely to have been childbed fever that carried Jane off.

 

Panther-close-blog.jpgJane was very different from her predecessor, although Anne’s leopard was very swiftly adapted into Jane’s other symbol – the panther. The panther, heraldically speaking, is a more gentle animal than a leopard and can also represent Christ.  He was also white and covered in multicoloured spots rather than being black.  Examples can be found at Hampton Court looking rather splendid but it should also be remembered that Henry VI used a panther as a symbol as did the Beauforts.  Double click on the image of the panther to find out more about the garden at Hampton Court.  Jane wasn’t particularly well educated and reverted to older fashion styles when she became queen. Perhaps she thought that the higher neck lines would stop Henry being too attracted to her own ladies-in-waiting, she had after all had plenty of opportunity to watch what went on at court. Historians can’t agree as to whether she was an active player in inveigling Henry away from Anne or whether she was a pawn in the hands of her family. She kept her own counsel and did not live long enough to prove a disappointment to Henry.

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

holbein-christina-denmark-duchess-milan-NG2475-fm

In October 1537 Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died from complications following childbirth. Henry, a man notorious for divorcing his first wife and beheading his second was in need of a new wife – or at least that was the view of his chief minister Thomas Cromwell.

Cromwell’s attention initially fell upon Marie de Guise a young widow with a son – so a proven track record for the production of heirs. She was also purported to be a tall woman, something that Henry liked the sound of when he Marie was described to him. Marie however declined the offer of marriage explaining that she only had a little neck. She went on to marry James V of Scotland.

Henry next suggested that all the eligible women in France on Cromwell’s list of suitable brides make like to meet in Calais – think of it as a Tudor hen night where the king could choose his next wife on the grounds that Henry didn’t trust his ambassadors and he was determined he didn’t want to marry an ugly princess. Unsurprisingly the prospective brides and their families were not terribly impressed with the idea – the French ambassador explained that diplomatic marriages were not horse markets . There was also the small matter of the fact that Henry had been excommunicated- which rather put off the Catholic brides.

Ultimately Cromwell sent Hans Holbein on a fact-finding trip with his paintbrush and easel. One of the most striking portraits that Holbein painted at this time was that of sixteen-year-old Christina of Denmark. Christina was the younger daughter of Christian II of Denmark and Isabella of Austria (sister of Charles V). Christian was an early follower of Luther – even if Charles V was very Catholic.  Christian was a bit of an unfortunate king – his wife died, his children were effectively confiscated by their Hapsburg uncle and then he managed to get himself toppled and imprisoned – so Christina of Denmark was actually more Christina of the Netherlands. In some ways she was already part of the English royal family because her great-aunt was none other than Katherine of Aragon.

In addition to being a Hapsburg she was also, as this picture shows, a very pretty girl. She’d been married by proxy at the age of eleven to the Duke of Milan who was a mere twenty-six years older that her. He died two years later – hence the deep black of mourning- Christina returning to her uncle in Brussels so that he could arrange the next advantageous diplomatic marriage. Like Marie she was a tad concerned about the English King’s way with the ladies. She is supposed to have said that if she had two heads one of them would be at the disposal of Henry. Charles V who was looking for allies against the French seems little bothered about the way in which his aunt had been treated and was quite prepared to send his niece across the Channel…unless a better offer came along.

As a consequence of the initial negotiations Holbein visited Brussels in 1538. Christina sat for a portrait but only for three hours.  Holbein did his preliminary drawings, came home and whipped up the portrait.  And what a portrait! This is the only full-length female portrait that Holbein made (I think if memory serves me correctly). The colours and the simplicity of the picture concentrate the viewer on Christina’s hands and face as does the beautifully executed fur collar.  There is a hint of a smile on Christina’s face – perhaps she knew she wouldn’t have to marry Henry!  Henry liked the portrait so much that he announced that he was in love.

For some reason the negotiations did not continue. Christina married François, Duc de Bar in 1541, who succeeded his father as Duc de Lorraine in 1544 and died in 1545, leaving Christina Regent of Lorraine with three children. She died in 1590. As for the portrait – well Henry liked it so much he kept it.

The image for this post was accessed from http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-christina-of-denmark-duchess-of-milan 08/11/2015 @ 23:26