Tag Archives: Katherine Howard

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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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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Agnes Howard nee Tilney

agnes tilney.jpgToday’s HistoryJar advent is Agnes Tilney better known as Agnes Howard, dowager duchess of Norfolk and Katherine Howard’s step-granny. Katherine was aged somewhere between fourteen and nineteen when she became queen on 28 July 1540. By November 1541 Thomas Cranmer had been presented with evidence he dared not ignore by religious reformer John Lascelles who may well have seen it as an opportunity to strike a blow at the conservative catholic faction headed by the duke of Norfolk. There followed a flurry of investigations and arrests. The 7th December 1541 saw the Privy Council investigating Katherine’s adultery and questioning “the lady of Norfolk” as this letter details:

 

“…all yesterday, they examined the lady of Norfolk, who denied all knowledge of the abomination between the Queen and Deram and pretended that she opened the coffers in order to send anything material to the King. Her denial makes for nothing, as they have sufficient testimony otherwise. Have today collected the material points touching her and lord William Howard ….that misprision of treason is proved against the lady of Norfolk and lord William, and that lady Howard, lady Bridgewater, Alice Wylkes, Kath. Tylney, Damport, Walgrave, Malin Tylney, Mary Lasselles, Bulmer, Ashby, Anne Howard and Margaret Benet are in the same case. Ask what the King will have done, and whether to commit lord William and his wife. All their goods are confiscated, with the profit of their lands for life, and “their bodies to perpetual prison.” Tomorrow at the lord Privy Seal’s house, will examine lady Bridgewater, and also Bulmer and Wylkes. Have sent for Mynster Chambre and one Philip, two principal witnesses against lord William and Lady Bridgewater. Christchurch, Wednesday night.

P.S.—Think they have all they shall get of Deram, who cannot be brought to any piece of Damport’s last confession; and would know the King’s pleasure touching the execution of him and Culpeper. Signed by Cranmer, Audeley, Suffolk, Southampton, Sussex, Hertford, Gardiner, Sir John Gage, Wriothesley, and Riche.

 

Misprison of treason was the charge arising from the 1534 Act of Treason which stated that it was treasonous to hide or not inform on someone else’s treason.

 

Agnes Tilney was the second wife of the second duke of Norfolk, or earl of Surrey as he was at the time of their marriage in 1497. His first wife had been Agnes’ cousin, Elizabeth. The pair married, with dispensation, four months after Elizabeth’s death. Agnes came from a Lincolnshire family which whilst gentry was not really of a high enough social standing for an earl – even one tarred with the white rose brush so it is possible that Thomas and Agnes married for love.

 

Thomas Howard worked hard during the reign of Henry VII to prove that he was a loyal subject of the Tudors having been notable for his support of Richard III and as time passed he was accepted into the Tudor fold. Agnes played her part at court and by the reign of Henry VIII they were sufficiently ensconced for Agnes not only to be one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting but to be one of Princess Mary’s godmothers and just for good measure she was also godmother to Princess Elizabeth having carried Anne Boleyn’s train at her coronation. She may have had mixed feelings about the crowning of her step-granddaughter – remember Anne Boleyn was a Howard as well- as she expressed loyalty to Katherine of Aragon. She overcame her devotion and did testify that she had been part of the group which had put Katherine and Prince Arthur to bed. As well as being named the second lady at court she also had a busy life as the duchess bearing her husband eleven children six of whom survived infancy.

 

Quite clearly she was a court lady , friends with both Wolsey and Cranmer, but she was also responsible for a number of young Howards and Tilneys, many of whom came from poorer branches of the family as well as other young people of good families who sent their children to work in the home of the duchess of Norfolk believing it would improve their chances in the Tudor world. Her homes at both Horsham and Norfolk House, Lambeth could be described as a finishing school for young Howard ladies and gentlemen (remember Francis Dereham who claimed he was as a husband to Katherine was of Tilney descent)– though clearly with decided overtones of St Trinians. Agnes may have committed herself to the care of these young Howard and Tilney wards but her direct involvement was scarce and her management lacking even though the young women of the household were under the supervision of an older woman called Mother Emet.

 

Young Katherine Howard joined Agnes’ household when she was about six years old. We also know that it was in about 1536 that Henry Manox was employed to teach Agnes’ young wards music. Manox clearly took advantage of the situation and it was at this time that Katherine began to join in with the household activity of allowing young men into the female sleeping quarters at night.

 

When news of Katherine’s teenage indiscretions were revealed by Mary Hall and her brother John Lascelles the dowager initially tried to bluff it out saying that Katherine could not be punished for what had happened before her marriage then hurried home to burn any incriminating evidence in the form of letters from Dereham which were contained in a trunk  or coffer that belonged to him. To get at the evidence she had to break the lock – an action which saw her being escorted to the Tower though not charged with treason on the grounds that she was old and unwell. Her denials were useless as Katherine’s relationship with Dereham only came to an end in 1539 when Agnes found out about it and beat Katherine. History does not know, however, how much the duchess knew about the relationship of her ward but the Tudors had their suspicions that Agnes knew more than she was letting on – as head of the household it was her job to know everything.  Even worse it was a group of Howard women who had written to Katherine asking for her to find a place in her household for Thomas Culpepper – if Katherine’s pre-marital affairs could be swept under the carpet then her affair with Culpepper connived at by Jane Boleyn nee Parker Lady Rochester  (a member of the Howard extended family being the widow of Agnes’ step-grandson) really couldn’t be ignored.

 

Dereham went to Ireland to make his fortune thinking that when he returned he and Katherine would be married. If this was the case and the pair had promised to marry one another then they were precontracted to marriage (which in Tudor terms was as good as marriage in which case Katherine was never truly married to Henry VIII so couldn’t have been guilty of adultery in a treasonous context with Culpepper.) But before Dereham could return to claim his intended bride Henry took a dislike to wife number four and Norfolk seeing a way of bringing Cromwell down looked about his extended family for single young women who might attract the king’s attention – Katherine Howard filled the bill – and as Dereham left for Ireland Katherine found herself appointed to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies in waiting. Agnes took over Katherine’s tuition on the duke of Norfolk’s order – possibly with classes on “how to become wife number five.”

 

 

Agnes clearly thought that with her arrest it was only a short walk to Tower Hill so took the precaution of making her will. The duke of Norfolk, who had used Katherine Howard as a device to gain political ascendency wrote to the king at about the same time distancing himself from his step-mother denouncing her for having known that Katherine was an unfit bride. Agnes was joined in the Tower by her son and daughter-inlaw and also her daughter Katherine. More than ten member of the Howard family were incarcerated. Lady Rochford would accompany Katherine to the block. The duke of Norfolk escaped arrest but Henry never trusted him fully again.

 

Agnes was released in May 1542 unlike her son and daughter-in-law who were sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of their lands and goods. Unsurprisingly Agnes was required to pay a financial forfeit. She died in 1545 and is buried in Lambeth.

 

The question arises did Agnes and the duke of Norfolk know that Katherine had already embarked upon two affairs and was possibly married to Dereham when they dangled her in front of the king. By this time Henry had treated two of his wives appallingly and his reign had been punctuated with judicial murder…consequentially if they did know they were either mind bogglingly optimistic to believe that they would get away with it or believed that they could control Katherine once she became queen. Increasingly I find myself thinking – poor Katherine.

 

Right I’m off to watch Lucy Worsely’s new series  on BBC 1 at 9 o clock on the six wives of Henry VIII.

 

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

‘Henry VIII: December 1541, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 660-671. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp660-671 [accessed 25 August 2016].

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Lord Dacre and Henry VIII

thomas fiennes.jpgThis post is slightly convoluted due to an explanation about family links which results in two men bearing the same title (I know, first its generations of men with the same name all of whom seem to take a delight in swapping sides if they were alive during the Wars of the Roses, then there’s the Pastons with John the father and then two living sons called John  and now I’m presenting you with two different people with the same title) but bear with me I’ll make my point at some point in proceedings!

The Dacre family, having arrived in 1066, made their home in Gilsland.  It was their barony.  In short they were border barons doing what border barons did: fighting the Scots, stealing cattle, extorting blackmail, feuding and all those other violent border pastimes that MacDonald Fraser describes with such panache in his book The Steel Bonnets.

So far so simple.  However, in 1457 Joan Dacre inherited the title from her grandfather.  She married into the Fiennes family. She did however have uncles who may not have been terribly pleased with the arrangement of Sir Richard Fiennes becoming Baron Dacre by right of his wife.  The matter was somewhat protracted not only because of the legalities of the situation but because it all took place during a period when the Wars of the Roses were rather warm.  Whilst Joan held the title her uncle Ralph or Ranulph depending on the source you read (another common cause for complaint on the name front), also styling himself Lord Dacre, held most of the family manors in the north.  In 1461 matters resolved themselves somewhat when Ralph managed to get himself killed, allegedly by an arrow fired by an archer perched in a tree, at the Battle of Towton. Ralph was on the Lancastrian side having commanded the left wing of the Lancastrian army.  He was buried upright on his horse in Saxton churchyard. The Victorians discovered this wasn’t just a legend when they dug both skeletons up.

Obviously Ralph was on the losing side which meant that when Yorkist Edward IV finally came to resolving the situation in 1473 he had his own reasons for doing what he did next which was to create Ralph’s younger brother Lord Dacre of the North (it was one of his descendants who managed to become embroiled with Mary Queen of Scots and find himself attainted for treason) whilst, and presumably he did this just to confuse historians, he created Joan’s husband as Lord Dacre of the south.  Both families made use of the famous Dacre red bull on their standards and as supporters for their coats of arms.

Phew!  I’m nearly at the main point of the post. Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre of the South born in 1517 was seventeen the year he succeeded his grandfather to be come the ninth Lord Dacre.  By the time he was nineteen he’d been part of the jury that condemned Anne Boleyn of incest, adultery and treason and that same year he’d had the sense to avoid becoming involved with the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace but had taken the opportunity to continue a family feud with Lord Clifford when he was sent with two hundred men to help quell the uprising in the north.  William, Lord Dacre of the North had already indulged in a bout of fisticuffs with the Clifford faction in Carlisle – so its nice to know that that family had bonded in some form or other after their falling out.

 

catherine howard.jpgAt court Thomas Fiennes attended the baptism of Prince Edward, bore the canopy of state at Jane Seymour’s funeral and he met Anne of Cleves along with the Duke of Norfolk on New Year’s Eve 1540. Henry wasn’t keen and there was a divorce within six months besides which Henry had fallen in love with a woman some thirty years his junior- another Howard girl. Thomas Fiennes must have been quite pleased when his cousin, Katherine Howard married the king on 28 July 1540.  Thomas’s mother, Anne Bourchier, was the step-daughter of Thomas Howard at that time Earl of Surrey but now Duke of Norfolk.  The world spread out before him, although having said that his cousin Anne Boleyn had already been queen, disgraced and executed.

Then it all went hideously wrong for Thomas Fiennes. For reasons best known to themselves on the 30th April 1541 Dacre together with a party of his friends decided it would be a good idea to go poaching in the park of Mr. Nicholas Pelham at Laughton. There is a letter sent to Thomas Cromwell a few years earlier which demonstrates that Thomas was prone to a spot of poaching – clearly he didn’t know that what was acceptable for his family on the Borders wasn’t acceptable in Kent!  Apparently this happy little party became separated before they arrived at Mr Pelham’s park or could nobble any of his deer.

 

Half the party was intercepted by Mr Pelham’s servants. There was an affray and one of the gamekeepers was killed in the brawl. Reasonably everyone involved was charged with murder. But so were the group of men who hadn’t taken part in the fisticuffs because they’d been notable by their absence, Lord Dacre (the southern one) amongst them.

 

The reason that the Privy Council charged Dacre’s party who’d blatantly had nothing to do with the death of the man was because Henry VIII said they must. So Dacre found himself up before the king’s bench on 27th June 1541.   Dacre, not unreasonably, pleaded ‘not guilty.’ However, he listened to what turned out to be some very bad advice indeed. Record states that he was ‘over persuaded.’ He changed his plea to guilty. He must have hoped for, or expected, leniency. There was only one result – death. The judges 
and Dacre then tried to get the king’s mercy. It wasn’t forthcoming.

 

Dacre was executed at Tyburn by hanging on the afternoon of the 29 June having been given false hope when a stay of execution arrived in the morning. Three other of Dacre’s party were also executed.

 

And why am I choosing to blog about Thomas at this point in proceedings? Well, it seems to me, that if Katherine Howard had King Henry VIII suitably embroiled in love or lust then she should have been able to persuade her spouse to show some mercy for her step-cousin and if she couldn’t have done that she perhaps ought to have thought to herself that it wasn’t a terribly good idea to be carrying on with another distant cousin of hers, a certain Master Culpepper. She had another five months of life left to her when Thomas Fiennes was strung up much to the disgust of the London citizens who witnessed his death.

 

 

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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

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Katherine Howard

katherine howard emblem.pngHenry’s ‘rose without a thorn’ and ‘jewel’ was Anne Boleyn’s cousin and the Duke of Norfolk’s niece. Her father was the duke’s youngest brother. The Howard family together with every other noble house in the country seemed to have spent considerable time and effort dangling promising young women in front of Henry following the Cleves debacle.  Of course, she was also descended from the Plantagenets so a dispensation was required but more importantly Katherine required a dispensation because of cousin Anne – Henry didn’t want a rerun of the Leviticus/Deuteronomy argument.

 

She was at most twenty-one-years-old if Chapuys is to be believed with a spouse some thirty years older. In all likelihood she was much younger, estimates have been placed her between fourteen and sixteen when she married the king. The Spanish envoy placed her at fifteen-years-of-age. She chose as her motto “No other will but his,” she would perhaps have done well to remember it.   Her emblem was the crowned Tudor rose.

 

Katherine’s life was not a straight forward one. Her mother had died when she was nine at the most. She’d seen her cousin as queen, disgraced and then executed. She’d been sent to live with her step-grandmother the Duchess of Norfolk who lodged many family members in straitened circumstances. Except, the dowager was often at court and didn’t seem to have a very well organised household management which allowed Henry Manox, Katherine’s music teacher, and then Francis Dereham to take the kind of liberties that would get them sent to prison and placed on a register on their release in this day and age. And if the Spanish Ambassador’s information was correct Henry wasn’t any better except of course these were Tudor times rather than modern ones. Childhood was brief and girls a marriageable commodity so far as their parents – and in this case their uncle- was concerned.

 

Henry showered gifts and attention on his young bride. In fact some accounts suggest that he couldn’t keep his hands off her but Katherine did not have the education of Henry’s other wives. Katherine Parr was extremely well educated as was Catherine of Aragon . Elizabeth of York used to send her  Spanish daughter-in-law books as presents and it was Katherine who some historians suggest drew Henry to Humanist literature. Anne Boleyn was no less well read and her wit which turned shrewish was certainly sharp. Perhaps Henry thought his bride was closer in character to Jane Seymour but she’d borne him a son and then died before becoming boring. Anne of Cleves had the common good sense not to protest when her marriage was annulled. Katherine Howard on the other hand made rather good friends with a certain Thomas Culpepper who was a cousin – her mother’s maiden name was Culpepper. Cheating on the king cannot have been straightforward and somewhat ironically the woman who helped her with her assignations was Jane, Lady Rochford – the same woman who’d accused her own husband of incest with Anne Boleyn.

 

On the 2nd November 1541 Thomas Cramner sent Henry a letter breaking the news of Katherine’s betrayal. Katherine was executed on the 13 February 1542 and unlike Anne who’d been buried in an arrow chest Katherine’s body was destroyed by lime on the orders of the king. If Katherine did not have a body she could not arise on the day of judgement. Henry believed that he’d wiped his rose without a thorn from this world and the hereafter – or so the Yeomen of the Guard giving the tour of the Tower would have their visitors believe.

 

A new law was passed. Women hoping to marry Henry VIII had to reveal their past love lives before they could marry the monarch.

 

 

 

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The Flanders Mare – Anne of Cleves

annecleeves emblemPrior to her marriage Anne of Cleves used the emblem of two white swans which stood for innocence and honesty or sincerity. They were also supporters of the Cleves badge coming as they did from the story of one of Anne’s ancestors who was guided down the Rhine by a pair of swans. It should be added that more factually, like all his wives, Henry was related to Anne – through a daughter of Edward I.

 

Anne’s motto, which seems rather tongue in cheek to modern eyes, was “God send me well to keep.” However, rather than casting aspersions on her spouse’s marital record it was rather an attestation of her Lutheran background, no doubt one of the reasons why Thomas Cromwell was so keen on the marriage. The couple married in January 1540 despite the fact that Henry had taken one look at his bride and decided that he didn’t like her overly much and after the marriage declared that she hadn’t arrived in England in a state of maidenly virtue – which was hardly chivalrous especially as Anne’s upbringing was cloistered and it had to be explained to her that Henry would need to kiss her more than goodnight for there to be any Tudor heirs- either that or Anne was playing a very clever game indeed.

 

anne of clevesIt’s odd too that poor Anne should have been lumbered with the title Flanders Mare when the portrait by Holbein shows someone very different to that particular sobriquet. It has been suggested that Holbein had played up Anne’s beauty when he visited the court of Cleves to paint Anne and her sister Amelia but there again no one accused him of making the full length portrait of Christina more striking than the lady in question really was. Anne of course hadn’t turned down the opportunity to marry Henry, Christina said that she’d be more than happy to marry him if she had a spare head.

 

The Cleves ‘marriage’ after a disastrous start with Henry bursting in on Anne incognito when she first arrived in England lasted only six months and Cromwell’s head was on the block because of his unfortunate matchmaking skills. To be fair a portrait doesn’t show what a person is actually like and Anne swiftly developed a reputation for being unlearned and not very witty, though it didn’t stop her learning English, besides Henry had met another girl and it was easy enough to get an annulment from his Cleves marriage. The teenage Katherine Howard had been dangled in front of the Tudor monarch and he’d taken the bait. Anne must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when she became as a ‘sister’ to the king and popular with the aforementioned king’s subjects and daughters. She stayed in England until her death in 1557.

 

Her emblem is the ducal badge of Cleves which is apparently an escarbuncle- and that, as we all know, is a eight spindled wheel without a rim.

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