Tag Archives: Lady Margaret Beaufort

The mystery of the disappearance of Henry Pole…in the Tower

princes_in_the_tower_2When we think of children disappearing into the Tower and never being seen again we tend to think of Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York – a.k.a. The Princes in the Tower.  Henry Pole the Younger, the teenage son of Lord Montagu and grandson of Margaret of Salisbury was sent to the Tower in November 1538 – he was not charged, he was not executed…he simply failed to re-appear in public – and he doesn’t have the same cachet as the Princes in the Tower so tends to remain largely forgotten

margaret salisburyMargaret of Salisbury was the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville.  She had been orphaned at five years old when George had an unfortunate accident in the Tower with a large barrel of Malmsey wine.  She and her younger brother Edward grew up under the rule of their uncles Edward IV and Richard III.  In 1485 when the Plantagenets lost the Crown on the field of battle at Bosworth Margaret found herself being handed into the wardship of Lady Margaret Beaufort, who in all fairness seems to have had a protective instinct for young women (perhaps not surprising given her own history).  So, Margaret of Salisbury was about fourteen when she was married off to a loyal Tudor supporter – Sir Richard Pole and sent off to the Welsh marches where she could be safely ignored.

 

Unfortunately for the long term survival of the Pole family, despite the fact that Margaret had been deliberately married to a man whose loyalty was to the Tudors and who was far below Margaret in social status – though as the daughter of an attainted traitor this was not such an issue Margaret remained close to the court. When Henry VIII became king it was he who returned to Margaret the title of Countess of Salisbury whilst her eldest son, Henry, became Lord Montagu.  It was probably just as well that Henry VIII had taken a shine to the family when Sir Richard died in 1504 the family had been so impoverished that they had to borrow money to pay for the funeral. There were five little Poles bearing Plantagenet blood in their veins – Henry, Reginald, Geoffrey and Arthur (who died of sweating sickness) as well as a daughter named Ursula who had thirteen children of her own.

 

katherine of aragon sil meMargaret’s loyalty was to Katherine of Aragon and to her daughter Princess Mary to whom she was governess and godmother. (Along with Margaret her sister-in-law Eleanor Pole was also a lady-in-waiting to Katherine. Eleanor was related through marriage to Lady Margaret Beaufort’s extended family.) Despite this and their conservative adherence to Catholicism (something they had in common with much of the old aristocracy – the Courtenay family were caught up with Elizabeth Barton the so-called Nun of Kent) they managed to walk on the tightrope of faith that Henry VIII strung up when he divorced Katherine and married Anne Boleyn.

 

Matters were not helped between the Tudor and Plantagenet cousins when Margaret’s son Reginald Pole – Henry VIII’s “pet” learned academic who had been educated at Henry’s expense wrote a book snappily entitled Pro ecclesiasticae unitatis defensionein 1536. It denounced both his marriage to Anne Boleyn and his religious policies – in short it did not have the content that Henry wanted. The Pole family in England wrote letters castigating Reginald, sure that they would be read before reaching their intended recipient. Pole wrote back to his mother telling her not to interfere with his conscience. Despite his high moral tone Pole started to have to look over his shoulder.  Men were sent to assassinate him on Thomas Cromwell’s orders. Requests were sent to have him bundled up and sent home to face the music.  It probably didn’t help that the Pope made him a cardinal at more or less the same time.

 

The Poles retreated from court and very sensibly kept their heads down – presumably quite liking the idea of keeping them.  It wouldn’t be enough to save them.  In 1538 the so-called Exeter Conspiracy was revealed when in August Margaret Pole’s youngest son Geoffrey was arrested and taken to the Tower.

 

Henry Pole, Lord Montagu was familiar with the process of being arrested for treason, after all he had been arrested for in connection to the 3rdDuke of Buckingham’s plot against the king in 1520. Stafford had been found guilty of treason based on evidence given by his servants – the evidence was hearsay rather than concrete proof of plotting but it was enough to get him executed in 1521. Henry Pole had been released and had demonstrated loyalty to Henry VIII in a variety of capacities.

 

In August 1538 however, he was not in the Tower he was wondering what his little brother Geoffrey was saying and what charges that he might face.  Margaret Pole wrote for permission to visit Geoffrey and to ask what he had done.  In October 1538 Geoffrey was finally questioned – a couple of months in the Tower kept in isolation was enough to make him say what Thomas Cromwell wanted to hear. In November the treason net stretched around the Pole family.  Henry VIII would have vengeance against Reginald and also surety that those pesky Plantagenets wouldn’t regain the throne. Geoffrey devastated that he had destroyed his own family rather than face further rather more active torture made two attempts on his own life.

 

Lord Montagu, his teenage son Henry, Montagu’s brother Sir Geoffrey, Montagu’s father-in-law Sir Edward Neville and his cousin Henry Courtenay, and Courtenay’s son were arrested on charges of conspiring to depose Henry VIII and replace him with Courtenay. Henry VIII’s proclamation about the plot identified that the plotters also conspired to validate their actions by marrying Princess Mary off either to either young Henry Pole or Edward Courtenay. It would have to be said that their Plantagenet blood made the need to justify their attempt on the throne with marriage to a Tudor somewhat unnecessary but it certainly gave Thomas Cromwell the opportunity to arrest as many scions of the Plantagenet bloodline as possible.

 

Margaret Pole was taken along to the Tower with her grandson having been rigorously questioned by William FitzWilliam, First Earl of Southampton without any notable success.  Margaret would be attainted in 1539 but the only evidence was a coat bearing the insignia of a pilgrim of the Pilgrimage of Grace – there was no suggestion that it belonged to her personally.  She would be messily executed in 1541 without trial.  The attainder meant there was no need for one.  Up until that time her existence in the Tower – complete with a furred gown can be traced in Henry VIII’s accounts along with that of her grandson.  A novel entitled The Courier’s Tale, by Peter Walker, about Michael Throckmorton of Coughton Court, Reginald Pole’s messenger and agent includes an after note about the historic traces that remain of Henry Pole in Cromwell’s documents – there is a suggestion that Henry Pole was simply forgotten and allowed to die.

Letters written by Reginald Pole in Italy and also the testimony of Sir Geoffrey Pole sent Montagu and Courtenay senior to their deaths. Edward Courtenay remained in the Tower until Mary Tudor became queen in 1553 and then became caught up in Wyatt’s Rebellion the following – Mary politely suggested that he might like to travel more widely.

Henry Pole the younger simply disappeared without trace. It is of course possible that he died of natural causes but given the circumstances it is all to believable that he was simply bumped off in time-honoured fashion.

Bernard, G.W. The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church

Pierce, Hazel. Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury 1473-1541: Loyalty, Lineage and Leadership

 

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Elizabeth Denton

Henry-VIII-enjoyed-gambli-008I have just been re-reading Philippa Jones book on Henry VIII’s wives and mistresses.  She suggests that Elizabeth Denton nee Jerningham was Henry VIII’s, or Prince Henry as he was then, first bit on the side.  Not only that but she was hand selected for the role by Lady Margaret Beaufort which rather knocks the idea of her saintly piety to one side; though it might give an insight into the prevailing views of the rights of kingship. Its a thought that certainly made me sit up and take notice!

The idea that Jones puts forward is that young men’s minds inevitably turn to the birds and the bees.  Lady Margaret Beaufort eager to avoid scandal and a mistress likely to make demands selected the lady mistress of the royal nursery for the role of…er…lady mistress on the grounds that she would know her place and not make any trouble.

For a man whose marital history has caused scandal for the last five hundred years relatively little is actually known about his mistresses and potential children but then the evidence against Denton seemed a little, well, vague.  As Licence observes the claim rests entirely on the evidence of grants given in 1509 and in 1515.

So, what have we got.  Well we know for sure that Lady Elizabeth Denton died in 1519 and that she was Henry VIII’s governess.  Already one of Elizabeth of York’s ladies, her wardrobe keeper, she was appointed in 1497 to the role looking after the royal children which would have been Henry, Margaret and Mary replacing Lady Elizabeth Darcy in the job.  The Princess Elizabeth was born in 1492 but died in 1495.  Prince Arthur had his own household.  We know that Lady Margaret Beaufort wrote the rules for the ordering of the royal nursery and that Elizabeth Denton received £20 per annum.  If nothing else we can always rely on the account books. Alison Weir speculates as to the role played by Elizabeth of York and the relationship she had with her younger children.

Its those same account books that give the ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth Denton’s having been the lady mistress of the nursery in more ways than one.  In 1509 she was awarded an annuity of £50 a year as well as the keepership during her lifetime of Coldharbour, Lady Margaret Beaufort’s former London residence.  In addition there was a tun of Gascon wine delivered each year throughout her life (Hutchinson).  It is based on this very generous remembrance that Jones bases her hypothesis.  She argues that royal servants might receive allowances but this was a very generous allowance indeed suggesting that Elizabeth Denton had done rather more than the known facts would account for.  This is the problem with many of Henry VIII’s women. Unless they end up married to him there’s very little concrete fact to go on.  It all comes down to looking at the evidence; adding up two and two to arrive at mistress or illegitimate offspring.  For a very public monarch much of Henry’s life is surprisingly private.

If we apply the same rule regarding the giving of grants and annuities across the board we should also be looking askance at Anne Oxenbridge another nursery maid who received £20 a year for life in 1509. In fact Hutchinson reveals that a whole series of generous annuities and appointments that were made by Henry at this time celebrating the start of his reign and rewarding loyal service to his parents by many men and women but no one is accusing Henry’s male french tutor of being up to no good! Nor for that matter has anyone suggested that Elizabeth Saxby who was also in receipt of a grant at this time was being paid for any of ‘those kinds of service’ rendered. It is a known fact that Henry VIII wanted to appear much more generous than his legendarily parsimonious father- so perhaps its not unreasonable that he should have looked kindly upon the men and women who cared for him during his childhood.

We know that an Elizabeth Denton went with Princess Margaret to Scotland in 1503 and that she probably returned when King James ordered that the number of English women serving her was to be reduced.  We also know that she lived in the precinct of Blackfriars until her death and that she raised her own monument, her husband John  having predeceased her before the contentious grant was given.

Nothing is known about John Denton but Alison Weir mentions a William Denton who served as Elizabeth of York’s carver as well as the king’s in receipt of £26 per year.

Elizabeth went on to be appointed to the care of Princess Mary’s nursery in 1516 having been appointed to the same position for the short lived Prince Henry in 1511. This in itself would suggest that she was a woman thought to be of sound moral values rather than femme fatale. It is, perhaps, unlikely that Henry would have put a woman of dubious morals in charge of his children’s welfare.

In fact, as much as I would have liked to have posted a highly inflammatory article I can’t because there is no direct existing evidence, that I know of, that Henry VIII was permitted a mistress before his marriage and that both his father and grandmother kept a very close eye on him indeed. Ambassadors recorded that he was kept as closely as a maiden which might, perchance,  account for his delight in the romantic chase of his various wives’ ladies in waiting once he became king. Having said that it does make an excellent story and Henry was known to like a more mature lady during his early years… and no, last time I checked just because its a good story doesn’t make it good history.

The next post, reflecting the fact that I am somewhat  Tudor orientated at the moment, will be about Cardinal Wolsey – someone else known for their flamboyant dress sense.  Not only was he Henry FitzRoy’s (Henry VIII’s only openly acknowledged illegitimate child) godfather but he also had a ‘nephew’ of his own.  Just think what the Sunday papers would have made of it, had they existed!

 

 

 

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Personal religion – A Tudor psalter and Book of Hours

H8P_4.jpgA psalter is a personal book of psalms. Henry VIII’s psalter was written in Latin and illuminated by Jean Mallard, a Frenchman who had worked for Francis I but moved to England.  He appears in Henry’s accounts from 1539-1541.   Henry then added his own notes in the margin in much the same way that other psalter owners contemplated the psalms and wrote down important information.

Henry VIII is shown as King David – his favourite biblical character.  The psalter is in the possession of the British Library.  It’s seven miniatures provide an interesting view of the Henry VIII.  This image shows Henry in his private chamber contemplating the word of God day and night – an idea that many of his subjects might have found somewhat ironic not to mention Henry’s idea that he was amongst the blessed – he was after all God’s representative on Earth and Defender of the Faith.  He even had a medal struck to that effect in 1545 some two decades after the Pope awarded him the title and before he’d broken with Rome.  Double click on the image to open a new window at the British Library’s website. Amongst the illustrations are  Henry taking on the French Goliath.

Henry’s role model for his book of personal devotions may well have been his paternal grandmother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, who was well known for her own piety.  She had control of the school room and royal nursery during Henry’s childhood.  Amongst Lady Margaret’s prized possessions, apart from a piece of the True Cross, was her Book of Hours also known as The Beaufort Book of Hours.

A Book of Hours is a book of prayers that follows the canonical devotions – or the cycle of prayers said by monks and nuns.  At the heart of any book of hours for private use were the prayers for the Virgin Mary to be said eight times a day. Wealthy women often received richly decorated books of hours as part of their wedding present or dowry. They then recorded key family events in their prayer books.  Lady Margaret Beaufort was no exception to this.

Her Book of Hours also contained a calendar of saints days and she used this to mark in important events in her own family including the birth of Henry VIII although it is not as carefully recorded as the birth of Henry’s older doomed brother Arthur.  She also owned Richard III’s Book of Hours which he may have taken with him to Bosworth. She did not systematically remove his name from the text but did add her own at the back.

It is perhaps not surprising that I can think of two Books of Hours without very much effort.  Further study reveals that there are almost eight hundred of them in existence in various libraries as well as being depicted in various images. Owned by the very wealthy these books not only bespoke their piety but also their wealth as the miniatures and illuminated letters were expensive commodities. Duffy explains that several of the later Tudor Books of Hours were given by Elizabeth of York to members of the court but that these were not so richly illuminated and that there were increasing numbers of more cheaply printed Books of Hours which made the apparently generous habit of this gift giving a little more to Henry VII’s liking no doubt.

In fact the more closely you look the more that it is possible to find evidence of royal Tudor piety.  We even have Henry VIII’s rosary which is on loan from Chatsworth to the National Portrait Gallery.  He had many others which are listed in inventories of his possessions.  He used his rosary throughout his reign even though the growing tide of Protestantism would dismiss them as Popish by the time his daughter Elizabeth was on the throne. On a more anonymous but perhaps more moving note several rosaries were salvaged from Henry’s flagship the Mary Rose.

Duffy, Eamon. Marking the Hours: English People and their Prayers 1240-1570

 

 

 

 

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Lady Margaret Courtenay nee Beaufort

MargaretCourtenay_ColytonChurch_DevonThe prelude to the Wars of the Roses and the wars themselves are notable by the role of a number of ambitious and dynastically important women who even managed to get their portraits painted in an age when it wasn’t done to waste paint on the female of the species. There are other women though, wives, mothers and sisters who were part of the Plantagenet tangle but who remain largely in the shadows – leaving modern observers to wonder what they felt about the feuds and wars that saw their families at one another’s throats – and of course to wonder what they looked like. Lady Margaret Beaufort is one such  woman… not the mother of Henry Tudor – the aunt of the much more famous Lady Margaret Beaufort.

 

 

Our Lady Margaret Beaufort was born at the turn of the fifteenth century, the daughter of the First Earl of Somerset, John Beaufort. This means, that her paternal grandparents were John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Her mother was Margaret Holland, a daughter of the Earl of Kent – so descended from King Edward I through his second wife and the niece of King Richard II.

 

She married Thomas Courtenay the Fifth Earl of Devon in 1421.   Their son was Thomas Courtenay, the sixth Earl of Devon. He was executed in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton in April 1461 an attainted traitor. He was succeeded by his brother John who died in 1471.

 

Margaret’s husband contributing to the growing antoganism between the Houses of York and Lancaster during Richard, Duke of Lancaster’s first protectorate in 1453. He’d been conducting a feud with Lord Bonville which spread disorder through the southwest since he came of age.  As you might expect, the feud was to do with territory and position – both of which required patronage.   Despite his marriage to Margaret Beaufort he felt sidelined from his rightful position by Lord Bonville. Matters didn’t improve when Bonville married the Earl of Devon’s aunt nor indeed when Cardinal Beaufort died and the power at court transferred into the hands of the Duke of Suffolk (de la Pole) who Bonville looked to for support.

 

One thing led to another. The Earl of Devon, despite his marriage into the Beaufort, and therefore Lancaster clan – sidelined from the court party, found himself drawn ever closer to Richard, Duke of York who represented the opposition.   Ultimately the Earl of Devon spent some time considering the error of his ways in Wallingford Castle – no doubt his wife uttered the immortal words ‘I told you so’…

 

The  next problem for the Earl of Devon and his friendship with Richard of York was that Richard was drawn into an ever closer alliance with the Nevilles who in their own turn had their own alliances; one of which was with…you’ve guessed it – that pesky Lord Bonville. In fact Bonville’s son married one of Richard Neville’s (Earl of Salisbury) daughters.  I wonder if the Earl of Devon gnashed his teeth and wailed when he thought about the way that events in distant London conspired to set him at a disadvantage against his enemy who seemed to have a knack of making important friends.

 

On the eve of the First Battle of St Albans it was the Earl of Devon who, despite his increasing alienation from York, who carried the Duke’s letters for him and handed them to the king.

 

As the kingdom unraveled into civil war things in Devon weren’t going any better between the Earl of Devon and Lord Bonville. A man was murdered, the Earl’s son Thomas was implicated. It was a national scandal reported in the Paston Letters. The Earl found himself in the Tower, not because of the murder, but after a nasty  incident involving the citizens of Exeter. And that might have been that had it not been for Margaret of Anjou – one of those significant women of the Wars of the Roses- who became the Earl’s patroness; married his son and heir off to one of her own kinswomen, provided him with status and put Bonville in his place – ensuring that the earl was loyal to the Lancaster cause thereafter– something that Margaret Beaufort hadn’t been able to achieve during her marriage to the earl.

 

Margaret Beaufort’s husband died almost ten years after his wife at Abingdon Abbey in 1458 and was succeeded by his son who’d been cleared of the murder of Nicholas Radford.

 

It is thought that Margaret Courtenay nee Beaufort, Countess of Devon is buried in St Andrew’s Church Colyton. The effigy at the start of this blog was identified as belonging to Margaret by the Courtenay and Beaufort arms.  So although we don’t know what the lady thought about the feuding which lasted throughout her life time we can hazard a guess as to what she looked like.  Having said that, as you might expect, things aren’t quite as cut and dried as could be desired.  The Courtenay Monument, as it is known, was named for Margaret Courtenay, the daughter of Princess  Catherine,  daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who married Sir William Courtenay, the tenth Earl of Devon  in 1495.  The earl may have regretted his liaison with a Plantagenet sprig when his brother-in-law a.k.a. Henry VII hustled him and his son off to the Tower of London.

 

 

 

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