An inconvenient almost royal romance – Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart, Earl of Lennox.

Arbella StuartElizabeth I is a monarch of notoriously dodgy temperament.  She was also prone to locking people up who got married without asking her permission first – Sir Walter Raleigh and Bess Throckmorton being a notable example as indeed were Ladies Katherine and Mary Grey when they married without their cousin’s approval.  It is perhaps not surprising then that when another scion of the Tudor family tree married on the quiet that there was repercussions.  Aside from Liz’s dodgy temper there was the fact that under the 1536 Act of Attainder it was necessary for people in line to the throne to acquire Royal Assent before marrying.  The fact that permission wasn’t usually given was, under the law, neither here nor there.

In the Autumn of 1574 Bess of Hardwick, wife of the earl of Shrewsbury, who was at that time entertaining Mary Queen of Scots as a long term “house guest” left Chatsworth where the Scottish queen was imprisoned and travelled to Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire.  Rufford had been acquired by Bess’s second husband, William Cavendish who had been rather heavily involved with the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

bessofhardwick

Rufford Abbey was a very convenient place.  It was getting on for thirty miles away from Chatsworth and it was handily close to the Great North Road. Bess was on her way to meet an important guest.

The guest was Margaret Stuart, Countess of Lennox.  Her parents were Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII, and Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.  She was Elizabeth’s cousin and in line to the English throne – apart from the fact that Henry VIII had excluded her because of her Catholicism.  There was also the small matter of Margaret Tudor’s complicated marital arrangements which had cast doubt upon Margaret Douglas’s legitimacy.  In any event Margaret having realised that her own claim to the throne was nothing but a dream had concentrated her ambition into her two sons by her husband Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The older boy, Henry Stuart (don’t ask me about why Stewart/Stuart is spelled the way it is) had married Mary Queen of Scots and got himself murdered.  Given the link between Mary and Margaret as well as their shared Catholicism the English Privy Council had stipulated that Margaret should not come within thirty miles of either Chatsworth or Sheffield if Mary Queen of Scots was in residence.  They suspected plots. However, Margaret had been given permission to travel between her home in Hackney to her home in Yorkshire, Temple Newsam.  Permission had been granted for her to travel on 3 October 1574.

Mid October 1574 – Margaret began her journey north.  She broke her journey with a stay at the home of Katherine Bertie, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby.  Readers of the History Jar might recognise Katherine Bertie as Katherine Willoughby, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon’s loyal lady-in-waiting, Maria de Salinas.  She became the duchess of Suffolk when she married the widowed Charles Brandon, was a friend of Katherine Parr and has been identified by some historians as a perspective wife number seven for Henry VIII.  Margaret and Katherine Bertie had known each other since they were young women.  They had a friend in common – Bess of Hardwick had entertained Katherine when Katherine went to Buxton to take the waters in 1575 and she stayed at Chatsworth.  There had been some talk of Bess’s daughter Elizabeth Cavendish marrying Katherine’s son Peregrine Bertie.

charles stuart earl of lennox.jpgBess invited the Countess to stay at Rufford during her journey north. Travelling with Margaret was her other son  Charles Stuart.  He was nineteen at that time and already earl of Lennox – though not necessarily terribly wealthy.  For once this does not seem to have bothered Bess.

Margaret became unwell whilst staying in Rufford.  Bess cared for her guest personally.  After all Margaret was a Tudor even if both host and guest were countesses.

Elizabeth who had accompanied her mother and young Charles were left to their own devices.  The pair fell in love and got themselves firmly engaged.  Neither mother raised any objections.  In fact it appears that Bess smoothed the way.  She leant Margaret a large some of money and the fact that Elizabeth Cavendish had a dowry of £3000 probably helped.

– The Earl of Shrewsbury, who must have been horrified when he discovered what had been going on, wrote to Lord Burghley to inform him of his step-daughter’s secret marriage to Charles Stuart, Earl of  Lennox  at Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire without royal permission.

– Lord Burghley replied that the marriage would be trouble. He was not wrong.

4 November – Shrewsbury replied to Burghley explaining how the young couple had fallen in love.  He stressed that the marriage was not a secret and that he was hiding nothing.  The reality was, of course, that royal permission had not been sought – Charles Stuart was a direct descendent of Henry VII and the son of an English subject so a possible claimant of the Crown.

Someone broke the news to Elizabeth I.  The queen was predictably and probably alarmingly annoyed.

2 December – Shrewsbury sent another letter to Burghley saying that he had heard that the news of the wedding hadn’t gone down particularly well and begged Burghley to intercede on his behalf.  He also wrote to the queen – making it clear that none of it had been his idea and that he and Bess were the queen’s very loyal servants  (You can almost hear the gulp).

17 November- Margaret Lennox was ordered to return to London.    Charles Stuart was to return to London with his bride (Elizabeth Cavendish).  The journey took the rest of the month and into the beginning of December.  Perhaps it was bad roads and lame beasts or perhaps Margaret wanted time for her cousin to calm down.

3 December – Countess of Lennox in Huntington.  She wrote to the earl of Leicester and Lord Burghley asking for help.  She sent a second letter to Burghley on the 10th December.

12 December Margaret Lennox arrived in King’s Place, Hackney.

13 December Margaret Lennox appeared before the Privy Council.  Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon in charge of investigation.  No plot to involve Mary Queen of Scots was uncovered and there was no evidence that the marriage was anything other than a young couple falling in inconvenient love.

27 December.  Margaret was placed under arrest and carted off to The Tower. The version of events that the earl of Shrewsbury had recorded in his letters did not quite tally with the story that Margaret had told on her return to London.  Charles and Elizabeth were placed under house arrest.  It was the third time that Margaret had been incarcerated (the first was when she fell in love with Sir Thomas Howard in the reign of Henry VIII; the second when her eldest son married Mary Queen of Scots and now because Charles had married without permission to the daughter of the woman who was effectively Mary Queen of Scots’ gaoler.)

On the same day the Earl of Shrewsbury wrote yet another letter saying that no ill will had been intended.  Bess of Hardwick was now ordered to London as well.

1575

January – some historians say that Bess of Hardwick was given the opportunity to contemplate the error of her ways in the Tower at this time but others disagree.

Bess was allowed to return home where the presence of Mary Queen of Scots continued to cause difficulties and where the marriage of Gilbert Talbot and Mary Cavendish now resulted in the birth of an heir – George and increased family friction.  The worry of his high status prisoner and the fact that he wasn’t being paid for maintaining her were having unfortunate effects on the earl of Shrewsbury’s personality.

Ultimately Margaret was released back to Hackney as there was no evidence of a master plot to free Mary or to kidnap James from London.

10 Nov (ish) – Birth of Arbella Stuart probably at King’s Place, Hackney. There is a letter from Mary Queen of Scots to her new niece and a reply from both Margaret and Elizabeth.

Christmas – Bess of Hardwick gave the queen a cloak of blue satin trimmed with velvet as a New Year’s gift.

1576

April – Charles Stuart died.  Arbella was barely six months old.  Lovell suggests that Charles had always been delicate and perhaps this was another reason that Margaret had encouraged the match with Elizabeth Cavendish.  Arbella should now have become the Countess of Lennox in Scotland it was argued that it was King James VI of Scotland who should have title and rights to the estates because he was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley’s son.  Mary Queen of Scots wrote in her will asking hr son James to grant her niece, his cousin, Arbella the earldom.  James never did.

 

Elizabeth Cavendish would die six years later in January 1582.  She was just twenty-six years old.  Arbella would be given into the wardship of Lord Cecil and her day to day care into the hands of her grandmother Bess of Hardwick.

 

Armitage, Jill. (2017) Arbella Stuart: The Uncrowned Queen.  Stroud: Amberley

Gristwood, Sarah. (2003) Arbella: England’s Lost Queen London: Bantam Press.

Lovell, Mary S. ( 2012)  Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth. London: Little Brown

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.

 

 

Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby

LadyMargaretCliffordHenry VIII’s will specified the order in which his relations were to inherit the throne. He began with his own children and then progressed to his nieces – the English ones descended from Princess Mary Tudor, once married to Louis XII of France, then to Charles Brandon, were identified as having a superior claim to the descendants of Margaret Tudor. Mary was actually the third daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York whilst Margaret was the first daughter born to the new dynasty – so technically speaking Henry VIII played fast and loose with the order of inheritance in any event…possibly the least of his worries. However, the 1544 Act of Parliament enshrined the whole thing in law and presumably no one liked to mention the discrepancy to Henry.

To recap – Frances and Eleanor Brandon were the only surviving children of Mary and Charles. There had been two little boys both called, somewhat confusingly, Henry Brandon. The older boy lived long enough to become Earl of Lincoln.  The younger boy was born in 1516 and died in 1522. The second Henry Brandon was born in 1523. He had been destined to marry Katherine Willoughby but after he and his mother died, the bereft duke of married his young ward in 1534.

Frances survived to adulthood, married Henry Grey and had three daughters – Lady Jane Grey, Lady Katherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  Grey managed to get himself executed in 1554. Frances swiftly married her master of horse, Adrian Stokes, and in marrying a commoner took herself out of the equation.

When Elizabeth I came to the throne her heir presumptive were in turn Katherine and Mary Grey. After they died, and Elizabeth without children of her own not to mention a coyness when it came to naming successors, it was inevitable that Henry’s will should be looked at once again.

Eleanor Brandon, Frances’ younger sister, died in 1547. She was predeceased by her two sons, Henry and Charles, who had died in infancy. Lady Margaret Clifford was the only surviving daughter of Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland  and Lady Eleanor Brandon.

She was the great granddaughter of Henry VII and according to Henry VIII’s will if anything happened to Elizabeth she would become queen of England. She therefore became Elizabeth’s heir presumptive. It was not a good place to be.

Before then she’d managed to avoid becoming a pawn in the game of crowns through her father’s forethought and then through her own lack of popularity. In 1553 the Duke of Northumberland had proposed to marry her to either his son, Guildford, or his brother, Sir Andrew Dudley, but Cumberland refused the match on his daughter’s behalf and took no part in the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen (sensible man).

Instead, Margaret was married with Queen Mary’s blessing in Westminster Abbey in February 1555 to Henry Stanley, Lord Strange. He was descended from the Woodvilles, Howards, Nevilles and a certain Thomas Stanley who happened to be married to Margaret Beaufort and who sat around on hillsides during key battles of the Wars of the Roses waiting to see how it would all pan out – landing the title Earl of Derby for his pains.

By 1557 Margaret was recorded as saying that Lady Jane Grey’s treason had excluded her sisters, Catherine and Mary Grey, from the succession, thus making Margaret, Queen Mary’s heiress presumptive…yes I know there was Elizabeth to take into consideration but Mary’s relationship with her sister was fraught by 1557.  Mary was fond of stating that Elizabeth had the look of lute player Mark Smeaton.  There was also the fact that Elizabeth was notably not Catholic whereas Margaret was.

Let’s just say that Lord and Lady Strange weren’t terribly popular so there wasn’t a rush of aristocratic types to support her claim for the throne.

Margaret had to settle for being a lady at court.  Poets dedicated their works to her and she spent huge sums of money. She spent so much money that she had to borrow from her own lady-in-waiting. Lord Strange had to sell land to settle her debts which probably didn’t help their relationship. By 1578 her creditors were hounding her in the streets of London – by that time she was the Countess of Derby and Henry had gone off to live with his mistress.

Unfortunately it was at about that time she became Elizabeth I’s heir presumptive.  It turned out that whilst Elizabeth could tolerate her cousin getting the odd dedication from artistic types she didn’t much like her sizing up the throne and crown.

Margaret had an interest in the sciences that she’d inherited from her father. She enjoyed dabbling in alchemy and astrology. In 1578 she was accused of employing a “magician,” named Dr. Randall, to cast spells to discover how long Queen Elizabeth would live. No one was interested in Margaret’s protests that Randall was a doctor dealing with her rheumatism. According to one source, Randall was hanged and Margaret was banished from court and spent the rest of her life, eighteen years in all, under house arrest in her home at Isleworth.

 

Interestingly she had two sons who survived to adulthood.  Both of them would become Earls of Derby in their turn: Ferdinando Stanley, 5th Earl of Derby (c. 1559 – 16 April, 1594) and William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby (c. 1561 – 29 September 1642).

Yes – I know that’s two adult English males with Tudor blood…albeit Stanleys. More on Ferdinado anon.