Margaret Beaufort – the pictures

BeaufortLadyM_CU_SJ_170smI tend to think of Lady Margaret Beaufort looking rather austere in a wimple and black gown as pictured left.   Melanie Taylor, art historian (https://melanievtaylor.co.uk) very kindly told me about the image of Margaret at prayer which hangs in St John’s College, Cambridge.  It was painted by Rowland Lockey who was Nicholas Hilliard’s apprentice.    He was born in 1565 and his best known picture is probably that of Sir Thomas More and his family.  The image of Lady Margaret was presented to St John’s in 1598 by Julius Clippersby – Roy Strong says it was Juliana Clippersby who gave it to the college, making it less of a primary source than you might have imagined on first looking at it.  It certainly accounts for the abundance of Tudor royal images and coats of arms.

 

margaret-beaufort hever.jpgA quick check on the National Portrait Gallery website revealed eighteen images associated with Henry Tudor’s mother in their collection.  They all picture her dressed as a widow. There are other portraits dotted around the countryside including the one at Hever Castle pictured left which features an expensive cloth of state, trademark widow’s wimple, black frock and prayer book.  We tend to think that the black dress she is most commonly associated with is akin to a monastic habit but in actual fact the fabrics and dyes made her clothing some of the most expensive available.  The robes she wore were the same quality as those worn by Henry VII’s queen and during one Christmas celebration they wore identical garments.

Let’s make no mistake here.  There was a degree of nunliness (is that even a word?) about the king’s mother especially during her last decade. Despite the fact that her last husband Lord Thomas Stanley was very much alive Margaret had taken a public vow of chastity in 1499 and thereafter the pair lived separate lives. Margaret was enrolled in the lists five religious houses- Charterhouse, Croyland, Durham and Westminster are listed by the Catholic Encyclopaedia.  Essentially she took vows under canon law that enabled her to continue living in the public sphere rather than the secluded world of a nunnery.

Her friend and confessor John Fisher developed this image of her in his sermon about Margaret entitled A Mornygne Remembrance.  He compared her to Martha, a woman of action, but who combined her capabilities with prayer, fasting and abstinence.  Records of her gifts and patronage also develop the theme of piety.  She helped found the Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus in England during this period – the letters IHS which are so common in churches today were little used before this period (Unfortunately her patronage of the cult meant that it was very markedly Catholic which proved somewhat of a problem during her grandson’s reign.)  In her later years she attended several masses daily that caused her back problems. Please, no one comment on the possibility of a guilty conscience – draw your own conclusions – pious woman or maniac murderer of princes wishing to atone – take your pick. Since Fisher didn’t break the confessional its all circumstantial!

Tomb-of-Lady-Margaret-Beaufort-Countess-of-Richmond-and-Derby-at-Westminster-Abbey.jpgIt turns out that there is only one original known likeness of the redoubtable matriarch of the Tudor family – her funeral effigy cast by Italian Master Pietro Torrigiano. He also  created the wonderful sculpture of Henry VIII as a little boy and the bust of Henry VII. The face was probably taken from her death mask – so not one of her better days. Interestingly as well as the Beaufort arms the Stafford knot features in the imagery around her effigy.

All the rest of the images of Margaret were created during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at a time when all those new manor houses with their brand new long galleries required populating with portraits demonstrating loyalty to the monarchy.  The images may have been created from an original now lost or perhaps from the effigy in Westminster.

 

Unknown-woman-formerly-known-as-Lady-Margaret-Beaufort-Countess-of-Richmond-and-Derby.jpgThe portrait that I’m particularly fond of is purported to be Margaret Beaufort in her youth but unfortunately the headdress doesn’t match to the correct period but to a time closer to the beginning of the sixteenth century.  The National Portrait Gallery identifies it as an Unknown Lady. Despite that you can see how the folded hands, the rings on her fingers, and headdress would lead to the idea that it was Margaret Beaufort. The portrait has been in the National Portrait Gallery since 1908.

 

Davis, David J.  (2013) Seeing Faith, Printing Pictures: Religious Identity during the English Reformation. 

 

Margaret Beaufort

478px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGI’ve blogged about Henry Tudor’s mother before and am always surprised at the reaction she seems to provoke including that it’s obvious that she was responsible for the murder of the princes – by which people do not mean that she was stalking the corridors of the Tower of London beating small boys to death with her psalter but that she “must” have reached an accommodation with the Duke of Buckingham who she was seen talking with during a “chance encounter” on the road prior to the rebellion which led to his execution (and he was family after all)  in 1483. I have also been accused of being biased against her as well as biased in her favour in the same post.  To which my response was – eh?

The main problem for Margaret would seem to be the question – Who gains?  And quite obviously, her son Henry Tudor became king of England.  Couple that with means, motive and opportunity and Margaret Beaufort has to be included on the suspect list -she was after all Lady Stanley by this point and had a prominent position at court until she blotted her copy books and found herself under house arrest.  Even if she didn’t have access to the Tower, the Duke of Buckingham did and Lord Stanley was part of Richard III’s circle of power (though not part of the inner circle.) Everyone in power or with money had access to the kind of men who would kill children – even women if they had trusted servants.  It was not until Josephine Tey’s wonderful book entitled The Daughter of Time which was published in 1951 that anyone pointed the finger at Margaret although there had been doubts about Richard III’s involvement for centuries.

Henry Tudor didn’t launch an inquiry to find out what had happened in 1485 – nor was there any religious rite for the pair of princes which seems odd given that he had to revoke their illegitimacy in order to marry their sister Elizabeth – so it would have been only polite to mark their demise.  But then who wants to draw attention to their presumed dead and now legitimate brothers-in-law and the fact that your own claim to the throne is a tad on the dodgy side?  Edward IV didn’t want Henry VI turning into a cult so why would Henry Tudor want Edward V turning into a cult? And there is also the fact that having a mass said for the souls of the dead is one thing but what if one or more of the boys was still alive – it would be a bit like praying for their immediate death.  Which brings us to Perkin Warbeck.  Or was he?  No wonder the story continues to fascinate people and excite so much comment.

However, back to Margaret Beaufort and the point of today’s post.  Strong women in history often get a bad press both during their life times and in the history books – assuming they manage to get out of the footnotes because until fairly recently history was written from a male perspective – and Victorian minded males at that – women were supposed to be domestic and pious, they were not supposed to step out from the hearth and engage in masculine activities nor were they supposed to be intellectually able (the notable exception to this rule being Elizabeth I.)

Margaret Beaufort began life as a typical heiress – tainted by the apparent suicide of her father the Duke of Somerset- Once her father died she was handed over to a guardian, in this case the Duke of Suffolk.  Suffolk effectively gained control of Margaret’s wealth and also had the power to arrange her marriage – which he duly did – to his own son John de la Pole.  This marriage would be dissolved before Margaret left childhood. Margaret never considered herself to have been married to John.  The fact that it was dissolved on the orders of no less a person than Henry VI demonstrates that she was a pawn on a chess board – just as most other heiresses were at this time.  There was also her links to the Lancastrian bloodline to be considered. Her great grandparents were John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford (and no I’m not exploring the legitimacy of the legitimisation of their family in this post) but at the time of her marriage to Tudor there were male Beauforts available who would have taken precedence in such matters.  Margaret was also descended from Edward I via her maternal grandmother Lady Margaret Holland but that’s neither here nor there for the purposes of this post other than to note it was another source of Margaret Beaufort’s wealth.

Her lot was to marry and produce children. To this end Henry VI arranged a marriage between Margaret and his own half-brother Edmund Tudor who he had created Earl of Richmond but who now needed the money to go with the title.  When the pair married on 1st November 1455, she was twelve.  Edmund was twenty-four.  By the following year Margaret was a widow and two  months after that a mother.  Let’s not put modern morality on Edmund’s actions.  Had Margaret died before she became a parent her estates and income would have reverted to her family rather than to her husband.  It was in Edmund’s financial interests to begin married life as soon as possible. It is probably for this reason that Edmund chose not to defer consummation until Margaret had matured somewhat.

Humphrey Stafford duke of buckingham.pngIn March 1457 Margaret married for a second time (or third if you’re being pedantic) to the Duke of Buckingham’s second son- Henry Stafford.  This was a marriage that had been negotiated by Margaret’s mother Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe.  Jasper Tudor may also have been involved as he escorted Margaret from Pembroke and had his own financial interests to consider.  The Duke of Buckingham (pictured left) was a powerful political ally in that he was as powerful as Richard of York (pictured right).richard-plantagenet-3rd-duke-of-york-2  It was a marriage that would protect Margaret’s interests but which would separate her from her son who was now in the guardianship of Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke.  After the Battle of Towton in 1461 young Henry would be placed in the care of the Yorkist Herbert family.  Margaret would never have another child – even if she could visit this one on occasion whilst he was resident with the Herberts before he and Uncle Jasper fled across The Channel in 1471 following the short-lived second reign of Henry VI.

It was during this marriage that Margaret Beaufort began to develop the skills that would help her son to the throne.  Sir Henry Stafford, was a third cousin and some eighteen years older than her.  Although he was a Lancastrian and fought on the loosing side at Towton he soon sued for pardon.   During the 1460s Sir Henry rose in the Yorkist court.  He demonstrated the necessity of being politically realistic.  In 1468 Margaret and her husband entertained Edward IV at their hunting lodge near Guildford.   For whatever reason Sir Henry fought against the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet and eventually died of the wounds he received there.  Pragmatism would see Margaret into another marriage and into a role at the courts of  Edward IV and Richard III.

Margaret, rather like the redoubtable Tudor Bess of Hardwick, had a very businesslike approach to marriage – as is demonstrated by her marriage to Thomas Stanley.  Bess married for money whilst Margaret married for security, access to a power base, and, it would appear, for the chance to bring her son safely home from exile.   Who can blame her?  She been married off twice in her childhood due to her wealth and family links.  The man she regarded as her first husband, Edmund Tudor, had died whilst in the custody of his enemies albeit from plague.  Her second husband had relinquished his Lancastrian loyalties demonstrating real-politic and then died of wounds sustained in one of the intermittent battles of the period.  Why would Margaret not marry someone close to the seat of power who could keep her, her inheritance and potentially her son safe?  The fact that she married only eight months after the death of Sir Henry Stafford is not suggestive of undue haste, rather a desire to ensure that she had a role in the decision making.

The other thing that Margaret learned during her time as Lady Stafford was the importance of loyal servants not to mention a network of contacts.  Reginald Bray began his career as Sir Henry’s man but would go on to become Margaret’s man of business, trusted messenger and ultimately adviser to Henry Tudor.  So far as the contacts are concerned she had an extended family through her mother’s various marriages and  her own marriages.  As a woman of power i.e. Lady Stanley she had influence at court.  She knew people and it would appear from Fisher’s biography had a capacity for getting on with them (not something that modern fictional presentations tend to linger on.)

In 1483 Margaret was heavily involved in the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III.  Her agent was Reginald Bray. Polydore Virgil – the Tudor historian- made much of Margaret’s role at this time. During the reign of Edward IV  she had petitioned for Henry’s return home as the Earl of Richmond now, in the reign of Richard III, she plotted to make her son king.  She arrived at an accommodation with Elizabeth Woodville so that Princess Elizabeth of York would become Henry’s wife – making it quite clear that by this point Elizabeth Woodville believed her sons to be dead.  Autumn storms caused Henry’s boats to turn back before the rebellion ended in disaster but he swore that he would marry Elizabeth of York.  Not only would such a marriage reunite the two houses of Lancaster and York but it would legitimise Henry as king – should the situation arise.  Pragmatic or what?

As a result of her involvement with the 1483 plot Margaret found herself under house arrest and all her property in the hands of her husband.  Her wealth wasn’t totally lost and Lord Stanley connived to allow her continued communication with her son.  Margaret was no longer a pawn on the chess board she had become an active player – and furthermore knew how to play the various pieces to best advantage and to hold her nerve.

There is popular acceptance of men such as Edward IV and the Earl of Warwick – politics and violence in the fifteenth century were suitably manly pastimes. It was an era when “good” men did “bad” things to maintain stability. We know that Edward must have ordered the murder of Henry VI following the Battle of Tewkesbury but he has not been vilified for it – you can’t really have two kings in one country without the constant fear of civil war.  He ordered his own brother’s execution – but again he is not vilified for it – after all George Duke of Clarence had changed sides more often than he’d changed his underwear by that point.

By contrast Margaret Beaufort, despite Fisher’s hagiography, has not always been kindly portrayed in recent years – words like “calculating” are hardly positive when it comes to considering the child bride who became a kingmaker thanks to her own marriages and her negotiations with Elizabeth Woodville.  Come to think of it Bess of Hardwick has had more than her share of bad press in the past as have women like Elizabeth Woodville and Henry VI’s queen Margaret of Anjou.  Ambitious women, whether for power or money, were not and are still not treated kindly by posterity – possibly because they stepped out of their allotted role and refused to behave as footnotes.

DO I think she did it?  In all honesty?  I don’t know but probably not. I don’t have any evidence that says she did and neither does anyone else. I would also politely point out that she did not have custody of the two princes nor was she responsible for their safety.  Did she benefit from their deaths – yes- but she would have been a fool not to and no one has ever accused Lady Margaret Beaufort of being one of those. There were plenty of other people who could have arranged their deaths and been on the scene to benefit much faster than Henry Tudor who was in Brittany at the time. But as I said at the start of the post people do feel strongly on the subject – here’s a picture to give you a flavour.

Picard-Beaufort-Princes-300x229.jpg

https://www.royalhistorygeeks.com/why-margaret-beaufort-could-not-have-killed-the-princes-in-the-tower/  It’s worth looking at the comments -for every argument made in the History Geek post there is a counter argument.  For those of you who want to see the argument that she could have had the princes killed go to: https://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/margaret-beaufort-and-the-princes-in-the-tower/

I shall be talking to the U3A Burton-On-Trent, Rolleston Club on 27th February at 10.00 am on the topic of Lady Margaret Beaufort.  There’re bound to be questions!

Licence, Amy. 2016 Red Roses. Stroud: The History Press

Jones, Michael and Underwood, Malcom. (1992)  The King’s Mother. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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

 

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!

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.