Death of Henry V

 

henry vKing Henry V of England  or Henry of Monmouth if you’ve been reading Shakespeare became king in 1413.  He resumed the Hundred Years War that his great grandfather Edward III had pursued and in 1415 won the Battle of Agincourt.  So far so good.  As part of the Treaty of Troyes between England and France that followed – recognising Henry as Charles VI’s heir he married Katherine of Valois – the French king’s daughter.  All the dominoes had been lined up for a union between England and France.  He had done, in short order, what medieval kings were required to do – he’d been victorious in war and landed a bona fide princess to boot and his first child was a boy – what more could you want?

Popular history does not tend to linger on the realities of a successful military campaign.  For instance Henry ordered all males over the age of twelve to be executed after the fall of Caen and in Agincourt English archers were ordered to cut the throats of their French captives.  However, this sort of behaviour is not the sort of thing that one expects from heroic kings – look at Richard I and his massacre as an example of popular history quietly removing the more unsavoury aspects of life.

Henry V will always be a heroic warrior king because he didn’t survive very long after his victory over the French and thanks to the works of Shakespeare.  He died on the 31st August 1422 of dysentery whilst in France.  He’d just returned there after three years spent in England.  He left behind him a nine-month-old son who now became King Henry VI.  Katherine of Valois was effectively sidelined and ultimately quietly married Owen Tudor.

It says something that the Lancastrian line which had contended with plots ever since Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II was able to maintain power with an infant on the throne.  In part this was because there had been a plot against Henry before he went to war in 1415.  Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March and man with a better claim to the throne than Henry revealed that a plot was afoot to depose Henry before he went to France.

Although this plot was formulated elsewhere it is known as the Southampton Plot because this was where events played out.  Richard, Earl of Cambridge was the main conspirator. Its for this reason that the Southampton Plot is also known as the Cambridge Plot.  He was married to Anne Mortimer (their son was Richard of York who managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460).  Although  Richard was the Earl of Cambridge he didn’t have the money or the land to go with the title – this wasn’t helpful when he was expected to contribute towards Henry’s forthcoming war.  He became involved with Henry Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton in a plot to put his brother-in-law Edward Mortimer on the throne (I should note that Anne Mortimer was dead by this point) having killed Henry V and his brothers as they were about to depart for France.  Mortimer decided that he had no desire to revolt against Henry V so revealed the plot claiming that he had no idea what was going on.  This saved him from execution but did ensure that Henry was able to mop up the opposition at home before going off to trounce the French – Richard, Scrope and Grey were tried and executed at the beginning of August in Southampton.  Henry V set sail on the 11th August 1415 for those readers who would like another August date to add to the collection.

Dysentery was known as the “bloody flux.”  As well as uncontrollable diarrhoea  Henry would have experienced stomach cramps, a fever, vomiting and exhaustion.  It was more often fatal than not given that soldiers marched long distances, lived off the land and weren’t prone to being overly fastidious in their hygiene.  Damp ground  and heat also helped to spread the disease.

And that brings us to the end of August.  Sadly the WEA have cancelled the short course in Derby at the beginning of September so if you were thinking of coming – I’m very sorry but the WEA decided that there weren’t the numbers.

Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

chapuys1533 was a momentus one for Henry. He married Anne Boleyn, Cranmer annulled his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and in September there was the birth of another princess– Elizabeth. Anne had promised Henry a boy which was a tad silly of her. History knows that she fell pregnant on three more occasions and miscarried at least one male sealing her own fate in 1536.

 

However that was all in the future on December 6th 1533 when Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador wrote a long letter to Charles V (Katherine’s nephew and at various times affianced to Princess Mary -Henry VIII’s sister- and also to Princess Mary- Henry VIII’s daughter). Chapuys’ letter from today remains in the archives of Vienna. Here is an extract that relates to the legitimacy of Princess Mary:

 

On St. Andrew’s eve, the King, who, for a month past, ought to have made or sent me an answer for what reason he claimed to deprive the Princess of her title, legitimacy, and primogeniture, sent to me by Norfolk and Cromwell to say that he would like to be informed by them of what I wished to say both on that matter and in what concerned the Queen ; and this he did, not to refuse or delay the audience, which he was very willing to give me, whenever I liked, but in order to take advice upon the subject.

And having made several remonstrances to them that the King could not allege illegitimacy, or deprive the Princess of her title, they replied that my arguments might be true and well founded in civil law, which had no force here, but that the laws of this kingdom were quite otherwise. But on showing them that I rested my argument only upon the decision of the canon law, which in a spiritual matter no prince’s decree could prejudice, they knew not what to reply, except that they would report it to the King, and afterwards declare to me his intention. This they have not yet done, although he has held almost daily consultations, to which several learned canonists have been called. As regards the Queen, viz., the agreement proposed by the Pope, they said that formerly it had been under consideration, but that since sentence had been lawfully given by the archbishop of Canterbury, they thought the King would not expressly or tacitly do anything prejudicial to the said sentence, as it concerned his own honor and the interest of his new born daughter, especially as she was already declared Princess, and that if all the ambassadors in the world were to come, or even the Pope himself, they could not persuade the King otherwise.

 

And there it is neatly summed up by Eustace – it didn’t matter to Henry what anyone else might think, he had too much invested in his new marriage and family for any form of backtracking.

 

So, our face of today is Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador whose words inform us about many of the events in Henry VIII’s world where he arrived in 1529 having had a career in the imperial diplomatic service following his education in law at Turin University and acceptance into holy orders.

 

He was sent to England by Charles V to replace the previous ambassador Mendoza with the specific aim of supporting Katherine of Aragon during her marital difficulties. The diplomatic relationship turned into one of genuine affection. It was Chapuys who made a last visit to her bedside as Katherine lay dying. Chapuys describes Katherine’s nemesis as “the Concubine” and “the whore.”  If he was required to be polite he referred to her as “the Lady.” It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the way he talked about the infant Princess Elizabeth.  Chapuys refused to meet Anne until Henry orchestrated a meeting  just before her fall in 1536.

Chapuys had reason to dislike Anne. He counted Sir Thomas More amongst his friends and he remained loyal to Princess Mary throughout his life.

 

Chapuys remained in England until 1545 where he didn’t always win friends and influence people. Lord Paget described him as a liar who would be able to hold his own in a court of vipers (he must have fitted right in).

When he retired from diplomatic life/spying he returned to Louvain where he originally came from and founded two centers of education.

 

He died in 1556 having done much to influence the way history would perceive Henry and his wives because of his lengthy correspondence with Charles V. It is from Chapuys that we get all the gossip, some of it without any foundation whatsoever beyond Chapuys dislike for Anne and an equal dislike for all things French. Reading his letters does give a fascinating insight but they need to be taken, on occasion, with a hefty pinch of salt.

 

images-9In other news for the 6th December.  It was on this day in 1421 that Henry VI was born at Windsor to Katherine of Valois.  A mere nine months later his father Henry V would be dead from dysentery and a babe in arms would wear the crown.  And, of course, from there it is a gentle downhill spiral towards the Wars of the Roses and ultimately the arrival of the Tudors with their dodgy claims to the throne.

 

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

Owain Tudor

Katherine of Valois was widowed at just twenty-one years of age when Henry V, victor of Agincourt, died of dysentery. Her infant son’s protectors-he uncles and great-uncles- could see that she might wish to marry again. However, they don’t appear to have been terribly keen on the idea given some of the strictures that they imposed. Firstly Katherine’s prospective spouse had to be prepared to give up his titles and his lands. Secondly she had to get her son’s permission and in order for young Henry VI to give it he had to have reached his majority – so sixteen. These rules seem to have been proposed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester who became concerned in 1428 that Katherine was showing a bit too much interest in Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset.

 

As luck would have it the lonely young woman did encounter a man that she wished to marry, her Keeper of the Wardrobe – one Owain Tudor as he would eventually become known. Depending upon which version of events you read she either spotted him whilst he was swimming or he fell into her lap whilst dancing. There is, it would have to be said, no historical evidence for either.

 

Owain ap Maredudd was born, we think, the same year his father Maredudd’s cousin Owain Glyndwr raised a rebellion against English rule- so about 1400. Maredudd’d brothers were heavily involved in the conflict. Owain Glyndwr had vanished by the time young Owain was six – another subject for legend despite his uprising against the English being quelled.   Maredudd’s fortune was in a state of parlous repair so, in one history, he went to London to make his fortune. Other accounts say that he murdered someone and fled into Snowdonia…so take your pick. In any event young Owain did not have a settled childhood.

Maredudd and his brothers claimed a line of descent from Cadrod of Calchfynedd and were relations of the Princes of  Deheubarth (South-West Wales). Maredudd himself held land inAnglesey.  Prior to Glyndwr’s rebellion he’d served both Welsh and English kings in important posts. In 1392, for example,  he  was Escheator of Anglesey.  He was also the Bishop of Bangor’s  steward.

Despite his rebellious father, cousin and uncles by the time he was seven Owain was at the court of Henry IV – the very man that his family were revolting against on their native Anglesey.

It is possible that Owain was at the Battle of Agincourt as a squire but we cannot be certain. He turns up in the records in 1421 in the service of Sir Walter Hungerford and then he must have entered the household of Katherine of Valois but we can only guess that Hungerford recommended him for the post. Equally we only have the two romanticized tales of how a dowager queen and her keeper of the wardrobe fell in love.

 

Inevitably Tudor ‘spin’ was bought to bear on proceedings by Henry VII. His historian Polydore Vergil wrote of “Owen Tyder” that he was “a gentleman of Wales, adorned with wonderful gifts of body and minde, who derived his pedigree from Cadwalleder, the last King of the Britons.” Henry VII needed to bulk his ancestry out a bit and since he was rather short on Plantagenet genes had to look back into the mists of time in order to garner some shreds of royalty.

 

Of course, Henry’s desire to justify his right to the crown by blood rather than right of conquest- was somewhat thwarted by the fact that Owain and Katherine couldn’t exactly publicise their nuptials so had married in secret and the problem with secrets is that there are no records. Katherine certainly hadn’t got Henry VI’s consent and she’d married beneath her another issue that the parliamentary act regarding any marriage she might have made had issue with– but at least Owain didn’t need to worry about losing his titles and his lands. He may perhaps have been a bit more concerned about losing his life when the various uncles of Henry VI’s protectorate found out what the dowager queen had been up to.

 

We can surmise that the couple married somewhere between 1428 and 1430 when Edmund Tudor was born.  We know that they went on to have at least four children – Edmund, Jasper, Owen and Margaret. There may have been others. We also know that Humphrey of Gloucester wasn’t terribly amused when he found out that Katherine had not only married but was producing the king’s half-siblings who were to be treated, according to the parliamentary act which had laid so many stipulations upon Katherine’s remarriage, as members of the royal family.

In 1436 politics caught up with Katherine and Owen, despite their quite life it is ultimately quite difficult to hide such a rapidly growing family.  The children were removed and Katherine retired to Bermondsey Abbey where she gave birth to her last child- Margaret.  The dowager queen died on January 3rd 1437.

Owain was ordered to come to court but he very sensibly refused without a letter of safe conduct.  He did set out for London but decided that it would be better for his safety if he took sanctuary in Westminster rather than throw himself on the Protectorate’s mercy.

Ultimately Owain was acquitted of all charges against him but the establishment can be a spiteful thing.  Owain was retrieved from Wales and imprisoned by Lord Beaumont who handed him over to the Earl of Suffolk.  He spent time in Newgate Prison and in 1438, following his escape from Newgate and recapture was sent to Windsor.  In 1439 he was finally released.

By that time Henry VI was of age.  He pardoned Owain for any crime that may have been committed, took Owain into his own household and welcomed his half-brothers.  Owain, unlike some more nobly born Englishmen remained loyal to Henry for the rest of his life. He must have dreamed of returning to his home in North Wales because in 1460 Henry VI made him Keeper of the Parks at Denbigh.

The following year Owain took part in the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.  The old man was captured and executed in Hereford market square on the orders of Edward IV who was furious about the death of his own father.  Owain believed that he would be ransomed until the moment that he was faced with the executioner’s block.  Owain’s head was put on display at the market cross where a young woman combed his hair and washed his face before placing lit candles around it.  Contemporary sources describe her as mad but Leanda de Lisle contemplates the possibility that the young woman was the mother of Owain’s illegitimate son Daffyd who was about two in 1461.

 

de Lisle, Leanda. (2013) Tudor: the family story London: Chatto and Windus

 

Christmas Day awakening

images-9Apologies for the gap in the posts – a slight connectivity issue that I thought I’d addressed by scheduling my posts; so two posts today to keep on track.

This particular Christmas scene has a long first act. In August 1453 Henry VI, known for his piety, exhibited signs of mental illness. The power struggle that followed between Margaret of Anjou and the Duke of Somerset in one corner and the Duke of York in the other was unsightly – not that it much mattered to Henry. He was capable of eating, drinking and sleeping but he appeared insensible to world around him. Chroniclers recorded men such as the Duke of Buckingham asking for a blessing and the king apparently ignoring them.

 

Even worse, Margaret of Anjou gave birth to her son Edward during this time. Medieval kings were required to acknowledge and bless their off-spring to demonstrate that they were in fact their off spring. Margaret duly presented the infant prince only to be stonewalled by her incapacitated spouse.

 

But then there was a change in the king’s health, news of which sped around the country, “Blessed be to God, the King is well and has been since Christmas day” (The Paston Letters). So, Christmas 1454, if you were Margaret was a time of celebration – less so if you were Richard, Duke of York.

 

300_2511351The causes of Henry’s incapacity are much debated. It is possible that it was a hereditary condition. His grandfather, Charles VI of France (father of Katherine of Valois) believed that he was made of glass and would shatter if anyone touched him. A state of mind which did little for the stability of France and which was partially responsible for allowing King Henry V to  become a hero to his people by soundly trouncing their cross-Channel neighbours.

The fact that Henry V gained an empire which his son managed to lose didn’t go down particularly well with the natives and added to the general feeling of dissatisfaction with Henry VI and his queen.  Margaret of Anjou being from Anjou – i.e. french- didn’t help matters very much either.

Alternatively it has been suggested that the stresses of the loss of Normandy and then Gascony may have contributed to Henry’s breakdown as might Margaret of Anjou’s pregnancy.

 

Whatever the cause, Henry never fully recovered from his vacant period and his lack of control didn’t help the escalating tensions between the different factions at court nor the spiralling violence between the assorted nobility – the Nevilles and the Percys being the most obvious example of blood feuding at its worst. Open warfare was only a matter of time but then hindsight is a wonderful thing.