Tag Archives: Margaret Beaufort

Great Malvern Priory and Henry VII

IMG_7791.jpgHenry VII stamped his presence as King of England on Great Malvern Priory. His is the least of the medieval windows.  His son destroyed the monastery.

The window is called the Magnificat Window and tells the story of the Incarnation and scenes from Christ’s life including his presentation at the Temple and turning water into wine.

The bottom lights, or panes, depict the donors and send a significant political message alongside the joys of the Virgin Mary. The key donor is King Henry VII.  He is pictured along with his queen, Elizabeth of York.  Sadly her image is lost. There are tiny Tudor roses as well as the Tudor heir, Prince Arthur. Pictures of Arthur are rare so this is a treasure, that Worcester Cathedral copied.  The window was placed in 1501 or early 1502 to celebrate the Tudor success of an heir married to a Spanish princess. Arthur, the red and white rose combined, died in 1502 at Ludlow a few months after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so the grand window with its less than subtle political message, trumping the Plantagenet west window of Richard, then duke of Gloucester, is rather flawed.

IMG_7789.jpg

Two other donors feature.  There is Sir Thomas Lovell on the far left, then Sir John Savage, his image is gone as well, and finally Sir Reginald Bray.

Lovell, a Norfolk man, was attainted by Richard III but under Henry VII, having fought alongside him at Bosworth, became chancellor. In 1487 he fought with Henry at the Battle of Stoke and in 1489 he became Constable of Nottingham Castle.  He had links with the Malvern area. He was also an executor for Margaret Beaufort. He died in 1524 having served Henry VIII but increasingly sidelined by the rise of Wolsey although in 1506 it was Lovell who went to Dover to collect Edmund de la Pole and transport him to the Tower.  It is said that Lambert Simnel attended Lovell’s funeral.

Sir John Savage, another of Henry VII’s privy council, commanded the left wing of Henry Tudor’s army at Bosworth.  He was also the nephew of Margaret Beaufort’s husband Thomas, Lord Stanley. The Savages were a Cheshire family with strong connections to Macclesfield. They were also linked to Malvern Chase being keepers of Hanley Castle. Savage and his father were both Sheriff of Worcestershire.

IMG_7792.jpgSir Reginald Bray was a Worcestershire man and as Chrimes observes it is unlikely that Henry VII, if he had been the key donor of the window, would have placed Savage, Lovell and Bray alongside his son – or himself for that matter.  Far more likely then that Bray and his fellow privy councillors paid for the window which Henry VII graciously permitted (Chrimes: 337). To find out more about Bray double click on his name.

Chrimes, S.B. (1999) Henry VII (The Yale English Monarch Series)

Wells, Katherine. (2013) A Tour of the Stained Glass at Great Malvern Priory.  Friends of Great Malvern Priory.

 

 

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Margaret Beaufort’s other family part 2

478px-Lady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPGMargaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe, Margaret Beaufort’s (pictured  at the start of this paragraph)  mother, was married in the first instance to Sir Oliver St John who died in 1437. From this union Margaret Beaufort had seven siblings; two brothers and five sisters.

 

The eldest of the five daughters was called Edith and she married Geoffrey Pole who owned land in Cheshire. Edith, about whom not much appears to be known, died in 1459.  She had a daughter called Eleanor Pole who served as one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies-in-waiting (double click on the link to open a new window with my post about Eleanor).  And that might have been that apart from the fact that her son Sir Richard Pole, a loyal supporter of the Tudors married the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, the one who was allegedly drowned in a vat of Malmsey.

 

Just so we’re clear, Sir Richard Pole a Lancastrian of Welsh descent via his father Geoffrey was Henry VII’s cousin because Richard’s mother Edith was Henry VII’s aunt.  Margaret Beaufort had fond memories of her all to short childhood growing up with her St John kin. She took an interest in her extended family and it is perhaps not surprising that they lurk in the background of Tudor history.

 
As family Sir Richard Pole was trusted by Henry VII. He was married off to Margaret Plantagent the niece of Edward IV and Richard III and whose brother the youmargaret salisbury.jpgng Earl of Warwick was kept locked up in the Tower until he was executed –. Henry VII was satisfied with letting the blood of Margaret’s brother and marrying her to a minor member of his own family.  Even Shakespeare, the Tudor spin doctor, said of this union; “His daughter (the Duke of Clarence’s) meanly have I match’d in marriage.” They went on to have five children and must have thought that they had weathered the Wars of the Roses storm.

It cannot, sadly, be said that Henry VIII trusted the Poles. The Poles were doubly his cousins – through their relationship to Margaret Beaufort and through the fact of their descent from George Duke of Clarence. Despite Sir Richard Pole’s loyal service to two generations of Tudors, his wife and sons were rounded up and executed on account of their Plantagenet blood  and their Catholicism– an irony for the Pole children given their Lancastrian heritage and links to Margaret Beaufort.

 

 

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Margaret Beaufort’s other family

Stained_glass_in_the_Burrell_CollectionDSCF0301_07.jpgThe Wars of the Roses or The Cousins War as it was called at the time is complicated enough without looking too closely at the relationships that existed between the women of the period and the links forged by marriages often arranged to secure family alliances and extend land holdings. Yet, to do so gives a new insight into the power dynamics, politics and family relationships of the period and also of the Tudor period given that Henry VIII emulated his father when he approached mid-life by starting to execute members of his nobility with too much Plantagenet blood in their veins.

 

Margaret Beaufort and her assorted extended family is typical of the far reaching links that often seem to run counter to what might be expected from the overarching political affiliations depicted in history books. Her mother was Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. Margaret Beauchamp was married three times. She had children by all three of her husbands. These children were Margaret Beaufort’s half-siblings and thus aunts and uncles of Henry Tudor, thought much less publicized than Jasper Tudor. Margaret Beaufort’s youngest half-brother, John born sometime around 1450, was the child of Margaret Beauchamp’s third marriage to Lionel de Welles, the sixth baron Welles.

 

Lionel died at the Battle of Towton in 1461 fighting on the Lancastrian side. Barons number seven and eight (Lionel Welles’ son and grandson from a previous marriage) had their heads chopped off for plotting against Edward IV in 1470. This resulted in an Act of Attainder and the removal of titles and estates most of which were situated in Lincolnshire. John Welles, not put off by the severing of heads from shoulders, continued the family tradition of loyalty to Lancaster by becoming involved with Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He then scarpered across the Channel where he joined his nephew Henry Tudor.

 

So far so good – though I admit a family tree would help. He returned to England in 1485 by his nephew’s side, was knighted and got his lands back. He also acquired a bride some nineteen years his junior and who tied him more closely than ever to the royal family.

 

His bride was Cecily Plantagenet, the second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to survive to adulthood (her elder sister Mary died young). She had been offered as a bride to King James III of Scotland’s heir in 1474 – and in 1482, the year before Edward IV’s death, to the Duke of Albany although there was the slight problem of Albany already having a wife.

 

Cecily’s grand Scottish match came to nothing. Instead her father died and she found herself in sanctuary for the second time in her short life and no longer a princess. Her parents’ marriage was declared invalid on account of her father’s alleged pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Butler making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and Cecily and her siblings illegitimate.

 

Richard III arranged for his niece to marry Ralph Scrope the younger brother of a northern baron. The marriage was swiftly brought to an end once Henry VII gained the throne. Cecily was required at court and in the hands of a good Lancastrian rather than a supporter of Richard III. In 1486 she carried Prince Arthur to his baptism and in 1487 she accompanied her sister Elizabeth, Henry VII’s wife, to her coronation. By the following year she was married to Henry VII’s less well-known uncle John Welles. This was a clever move on Henry’s part. It rewarded his uncle for his loyalty and ensured that Cecily didn’t acquire an overly ambitious husband.

 

It was, however, a marriage that makes for complicated family ties. Cecily as well as becoming Henry Tudor’s sister-in-law also became his mother’s (Margaret Beaufort) sister-in-law; something of an irony bearing in mind that Margaret Beaufort in the red corner and Elizabeth Woodville in the white corner (Cecily’s mother) were consummate rivals and only united in 1483 against a common foe in Richard III (if popular history is to be believed and we set aside the fact that Elizabeth Woodville not only accepted Margaret Beaufort at court whilst Edward IV was alive but asked her to be godmother to one of her daughters at a time when both women might reasonably have supposed that their positions were established and secure…I did say it was complicated).

 

Cecily and John had two daughters both of whom died in childhood. John died in 1499 and Cecily continued with her duties at court where she seems to have been something of a favourite. She was part of Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Records state that she carried the bride’s train and danced with Prince Arthur at the festivities afterwards. Jones and Underwood note that during this time she and Margaret Beaufort spent time together and seem to have grown to like one another.

 

She was also financially secure. Welles having died without children left a will giving Cecily an interest in his estates for her lifetime. He named her as executor of his will along with Margaret Beaufort’s, and now Henry VII’s, long trusted henchman Sir Reginald Bray.

 

Behind the scenes Cecily was taking her life in her own hands. History knows relatively little of the arrangements behind her first marriage to Ralph Scrope but in all likelihood it was arranged by Richard III who’d promised his nieces marriages to gentlemen (but not nobility of the first order). Her second marriage was obviously political. In that Cecily’s life was no different from countless other women of the period but she was about to break the rules. In 1502, Cecily married Thomas Kyme of Friskney, a Lincolnshire esquire, without royal license and socially far below her in rank.

 

Henry VII was not amused.

 

However, Cecily and Thomas had an unexpected ally in Cecily’s sister-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Margaret permitted Cecily, of whom she appears fond, to stay in her house at Collyweston until the king’s anger had time to simmer down. She also began negotiations on Cecily’s behalf. As you might expect much of Henry’s anger was about loss of prestige, something important to the parvenu Tudor. But, almost as important to Henry VII was his treasury. As soon as the marriage came to light Henry set about removing the Welles’ estates from his sister-in-law but Margaret, canny negotiator, ensured that Cecily retained some of her lands and was able to pay her way out of trouble though not back into royal favour which may explain why she didn’t attend her sister, Elizabeth of York’s funeral – a noticeable absence after all the other key events she’d played an important role in.

 

Cecily appears to have continued to be often in Margaret Beaufort’s company and when Cecily died in 1507 it was Margaret Beaufort who paid most of her funeral expenses.

 

Jones, Michael K and Underwood, Malcolm G.(1992) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

 

 

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Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe

beauchamp.jpgWho?  Well, she’s the maternal grandmother of Henry Tudor. In the great scheme of things John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset could have looked for a more prestigious marriage but he’d been a prisoner of the french for seventeen years and was hugely indebted on account of the ransom that had to be paid for his release.

Margaret, the daughter of Baron Beauchamp, was something of an heiress.  He brother had died young and without children. She married Sir Oliver St John who fathered several children and then died in France as a result of being involved in the Hundred Years War freeing Margaret up to marry the Duke of Somerset who was swiftly got his new bride pregnant and went back to fighting the French. A girl child duly arrived called Margaret.  The day before little Margaret Beaufort’s first birthday which fell on the 31 May 1444 her father died, in all probability by his own hand as a result of not doing terribly well in his campaign against the French.

Margaret Beauchamp widowed for a second time now spent three years without a husband at her home in Bletsoe where her daughter seems to have enjoyed a brief but happy childhood amongst her five half-siblings although she was given in wardship to William de la Pole, Earl -later Duke- of Suffolk. History isn’t entirely sure when Margaret Beaufort left her mother’s care although we do know that Margaret Beaufort remained loyal to her wider St John family throughout her life.  We also know that Suffolk arranged for his ward to marry his own son only for the whole  house of cards to come tumbling down when Henry VI became involved, ordered Margaret Beauchamp to bring her daughter to court in 1453 and gave Margaret who was a significant heiress as a bride to his own half-brother despite the fact that the child was already married to John de la Pole.  This childhood marriage was swiftly annulled and Margaret Beaufort always spoke of her marriage to Edmund Tudor as her first marriage.

 

Margaret Beauchamp married for a third time to one Lionel, Lord Welles who managed to survive longer than husbands one and two but who carelessly got himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461.

Lord Welles was a supporter of Margaret Beauchamp’s brother-in-law Edmund Beaufort (now Duke of Somerset – the one rumour said may have fathered Margaret of Anjou’s son rather than Henry VI). Lionel was part of the extended Clifford and Greystoke families for those who like a northern link. He was also an unsuccessful Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and served as deputy  Lieutenant for Calais on behalf of Edmund Beaufort who got himself killed in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.

We know very little else about Margaret Beauchamp except that she had a book of hours because it passed into the hands of her daughter Margaret Beaufort.  It is often referenced in texts because of Margaret Beaufort’s habit of annotating it. Double click on the image at the start of this post to open the British Library page with information about the Beaufort/Beauchamp Book of Hours.

Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe died in 1482 and was buried in Wimbourne Minster – so we also have a good idea what she may have looked like from her effigy which lays alongside that of her second husband – John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

 

Jones, Michael K. and Underwood, Malcolm G. (1993) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

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Eleanor Pole

eleanor pole.jpgKatherine of Aragon’s household included thirty-three ladies in waiting according to Harris. No doubt as the years passed and Henry’s eyes and hands wandered Katherine wished several of them many miles away from the royal court. However, it is interesting to note that in the early years there was a sense of continuity between the household’s of Elizabeth of York and Katherine of Aragon. One of the women who served both Elizabeth and Katherine was Eleanor Pole.  It should also be noted that once Henry began to play his royal game of divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived many of the ladies-in -waiting found themselves in situ rather longer than the various queens they served.

 

It is also interesting to note the way in which the Tudors sought to employ their family in much the same way as earlier monarchs had done. Eleanor’s mother was Edith St John – making Margaret Beaufort Eleanor’s half aunt; so Henry VII was some sort of cousin. More practically Eleanor’s father had served Henry VI and was in cahoots with Jasper Tudor. Weir notes that Eleanor was one of Elizabeth’s favourite women and that Henry VIII eventually awarded her a pension.

Eleanor’s brother Richard Pole served Prince Arthur and went on to marry the daughter of the Duke of Clarence: history knows her as Margaret, Countess of Salisbury meaning that Richard Pole was the father of Cardinal Reginald Pole and Eleanor, at the risk of being obvious, was his aunt demonstrating that everyone was related to everyone else one way or another at the Tudor court. The Poles’ closeness to the crown through the link to Margaret Beaufort explains their position at court…not of course that family ties would stop Henry VIII from executing Eleanor’s sister-in-law who had far too much Plantagenet blood flowing through her veins.

 

Evidence of Eleanor’s time at court can be found in Elizabeth of York’s account book. There are details of her salary and also of occasions when she lent the queen money including three shillings to give as alms to a poor man. Her alarm and the time she spent at court reflects that service to the queen was not only a duty but also a career for many aristocratic women who would be expected for promote their family when the opportunity arose.

Eleanor married Ralph Verney of Buckinghamshire. He was Lord Mayor of London and began his rise to prominence with the ascent of the Tudors to the throne. The Verney papers suggest that Ralph, a second son, was one of the esquires at Elizabeth of York’s coronation. By 1502 Ralph had become respected enough to marry Eleanor – who was after all family to the Tudors as well as a lady-in-waiting. Eleanor demonstrates rather effectively that Ralph Verney was on the rise.

 

Eleanor died in 1528 and is buried in King’s Langley Church Hertfordshire with her spouse as shown in the image at the start of this post.

 

(1838) Letters and Papers of The Verney Family Down to the End of the Year 1639 published by the Camden Society  https://archive.org/details/verneyfamily00camduoft

Harris, Barbara Jean. (2002) English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers. Oxford: OUP

Weir, Alison (2014) Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen. London: Vintage

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The death of Henry VII

henry_deathbed_largeKing Henry VII died on 21st April 1509 at Richmond Palace. He’d not been well since the spring of 1507 when it was feared that he would die of a severe throat infection.  In fact he’d been taken ill shortly after Prince Arthur’s death in 1502 at which point there must have been real concern for the stability of the Tudor succession but he survived long enough for his remaining son to reach maturity.  In 1508 Starkey noted that Henry VII suffered from an acute rheumatic fever followed by “a loss of appetite and bouts of depression”. He was ill again at the beginning of 1509. It is thought to have been tuberculosis. His funeral effigy made from his death mask shows a man made old by illness and the burdens of kingship not to mention all those Yorkist plots and rebellions.henry7deathmask

 

On the 20th April, Henry VII summoned his confessor to administer the last rites. He died on the 21st April surrounded by clerics including his confessor Richard Fox the Bishop of Winchester, ushers and members of his household as well as three doctors who can be identified by the urine bottles that they are holding.

 

News of Henry’s death remained a secret until the 23rd of April when seventeen-year-old Henry was proclaimed King Henry VIII. The reason for the secrecy was to ensure a smooth transition of government. Whilst two de la Pole brothers were in the Tower another, Richard, was abroad plotting Yorkist plots. There was also Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham and possible claimant to the crown.

 

As Hutchinson says, for forty-four hours there was rather a lot of activity ranging from summoning councilors who then began thrashing out the format that government would take to playing hunt the old king’s treasure. £180,000 was secured and accounted for. The king who took the throne and found an empty treasury had become a very wealthy monarch indeed: not popular but wealthy.  It’s perhaps not surprising that one of the first things that Henry VIII did was to have Henry VII’s tax collectors Empson and Dudley attainted of constructive treason and executed.

 

As for the format of Henry VIII’s government, well, he was seventeen. He would come of age when he was eighteen in June. Earlier medieval monarchs had ruled from younger ages but times had changed. Margaret Beaufort, her son’s informal and constant advisor, was the chief executor of Henry VII’s will. She was also the oldest member of the royal family. If you were picky about it you could also argue that because England had no salic law prohibiting women from the crown it was she rather than her son who ought to have been crowned in the first place. Now, she set about advising her grandson on who his councilors ought to be. It would appear that Henry VIII took his grandmother’s advice. Margaret died the day after Henry came of age.

 

Meanwhile Henry VII’s ministers were still popping in for a chat with their old master, guards still stood at the door to his chamber (for rather obvious reasons), trumpets were being blown and food tasted for the monarch who was well passed the need to have his meals checked for poison. To all casual viewers it was service as normal. Whenever the new king put in an appearance he was still addressed as Prince Henry. Official business was conducted in the name of Henry VII.

 

However, someone somewhere must have looked a bit more fraught than usual because the Spanish ambassador certainly had an idea that something was afoot and he wanted to know what it would mean for Katherine of Aragon who was living a strange half life as a penniless princess whilst her father and father-in-law argued about finances and marriages. In London panicky merchants were seen out and about but when all was said and done there was a smooth swap of monarchs – the first time peaceful transition  had occurred since the Wars of the Roses began.  Being rather arbitrary about it, since May 1455 (dated to the First Battle of St Albans).

The drawing at the start of this post was made by Sir Thomas Wriothesley for his book of funerals.  It is held by the British Library.  Double click on the image to open up a new window with more information about the people in the image and about Sir Thomas.

 

Hutchinson, Robert (2012) Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

Norton, Elizabeth. (2011) Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

Starkey, David. (2009)  Henry: Virtuous Prince. London: Harper Press

 

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Sir Reginald Bray – Tudor advisor, architect and spymaster

sir reginald bray.jpgSir Reginald Bray is often mentioned as Margaret Beaufort’s man of business and then as Henry VII’s advisor – a sort of Tudor prime minister and chancellor of the exchequer rolled into one politically astute package.  Bray first came to Tudor attention when he was master of the household to Margare Beaufort’s third husband (if you count the childhood proxy marriage and annulment from John de la Pole), Henry Stafford and given that Richard III issued him with a pardon of Lancastrian sympathies. His father is mentioned by Leland as one of Henry VI’s doctors. Indeed Sir Reginald is also mentioned as doctoring Henry. There seem no end to the man’s talents. In the meantime after Sir Henry Stafford’s death, following injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, Bray continued as the steward of Margaret’s household.

 

Somehow or other Bray often found himself at the centre of things. Whilst Margaret Beaufort was conspiring with the Duke of Buckingham  in 1483 it was Bray who carried messages for Buckingham on the advice of his ‘house-guest’ Bishop Morton of Ely who described Bray as “secret, sober and well-witted.” Following Bosworth it was Bray who allegedly retrieved Richard’s crown from a thorn bush so that Lord Stanley could place it on his step-son’s head. It was Bray who told Henry VII during his progress to York in April 1486 that Lord Lovell and the Stafford brothers (Sir Thomas and Humphrey) intended to break out of sanctuary in Colchester. Henry initially didn’t believe him because Bray’s source would not reveal the name of the person who had told him the information. On a later occasion Sir Francis Bacon records that bray paid a bribe of £500 from the king’s privy purse to Sir Robert Clifford to betray Perkin Warbeck.

 

Bray appears to be something of a polymath since not only did he do finance and spying but also a spot of doctoring and architecture. He had a hand in the design of Henry VII’s chapel at Westminster and also St George’s Chapel Windsor. The image  of the Sir Reginald on the left hand side of the picture in this post comes from the Henry VII window at Worcester Cathedral. Sir Reginald was one of the donors.

 

Sir Reginald reaped the rewards for his service. As well as being made a knight of the Bath he also became a knight of the Garter, was granted the constableship of the castle of the castle of Oakham in Rutland, and was appointed joint chief justice of all the forests south of Trent, and chosen of the privy council. After this he was appointed high-treasurer and chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He was also made keeper of the parks of Guildford and Henley, with the manor of Claygate in Ash for life. He was also high steward for the university of Oxford and a member of Parliament.

 

In Jun 1497 following the Cornish Rebellion and the Battle of Blackheath he was rewarded with more titles. He also landed Lord Audely’s estate in Surrey when the unfortunate lord was found gulty of treason and lost his head.

He was born in Worcester in 1440 and buried in St George’s Windsor in 1503 after a career devoted to the Tudors. Edmund Hall extolled him as “a sage and grave person.”

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Henry VII – king of ‘spin’?

henryviiHenry VII’s claim to the throne was weak – and that’s putting it mildly. There was only the thinnest of Plantagenet threads running through his blood. Even that had to be legitimised in 1397 by Richard II who issued Letters Patent to that fact when the children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford (they’d finally married the previous year) were bought into Parliament along with their parents to stand beneath a canopy of State. Pope Boniface IX had already issued a papal dispensation legitimising the Beaufort clan. However, Henry IV added a note into the legal record in 1407 stating that the Beauforts were not to inherit the throne. It might not have been strictly legal but it weakened Henry’s already weak claim.  In addition to which England did not have a salic law prohibiting women from the crown so technically the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth should have seen the crowning of Queen Margaret.

 

Henry was able to make a play for the throne simply because by 1483 there weren’t many Lancaster sprigs left – the Wars of the Roses took a terrible toll on the aristocratic male population who counted themselves as having direct male descent from Edward III whether they were for York or for Lancaster. George, Duke of Clarence’s son, Edward – the young Earl of Warwick, was a child. The Duke of Buckingham claimed Plantagenet blood but like Henry Tudor’s it came from the Beaufort line and a junior one to Henry’s. There were others descended from female lines including the de la Poles who would be regarded as a key threat to the Tudors.  After Henry came to the throne as well as demonstrating prudent fiscal policy Henry also demonstrated a dab hand at pruning the Plantagenet branches still further – as did his son, to ensure that the Tudor dynasty continued.

 

DSCF2105.JPGWhatever one might think of the twists and turns of the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485, not to mention the Stanley turncoats, the fact is that Richard III’s army gave way to Henry’s and Richard lost his life. Henry became king of England on the battlefield by conquest and thus by God’s will – Divine Right – working on the principle that God had given Henry the power to overcome Richard III. Yes, I know that some of the readers of this post are going to mutter about treachery but the view is a valid one when one takes account of the medieval/early modern mind set. The badge to the left of this paragraph is in the keeping of the British Library and it reflects this fact.  Henry wasn’t shy about reminding people.

bosworth-windows.jpgThere were also ballads entitled ‘Bosworth Field’ and the ‘Ballad of Lady Bessie”.  The earliest printed version (well – a summary) dates from the sixteenth century and there is some question as to whether these ballads are pure fiction, their reliability is questionable. However, it is not unreasonable to assume that Henry would have encouraged ballads like this in order that ordinary people heard about the fact that someone who was really very obscure had taken the crown on the battle field.  According to the ballad – in a king on king struggle to the death Henry was personally victorious…history is after all the winners version and does not necessarily take all the facts into consideration. Double click on the image on the right to open a new window linking to the American branch of the Richard III society and a version of the ballad.

 

Henry was equally swift to ensure that the written word reflected not only the Tudor right to rule but how much better they were than their immediate predecessors.  Polydore Vergil arrived in England in 1502 to collect Peter’s Pence but as a humanist scholar Henry VII was keen to have him on board.  It is thought that he began writing the Anglica Historia in 1505, although it wasn’t published until 1534. Double click on the title to open a new window and the online version of Vergil’s unashamedly pro-Tudor writing.  In this excerpt we see Vergil extol Henry’s virtues as he took up the reigns of office:

 

His chief care was to regulate well affairs of state and, in order that the people of England should not be further torn by rival factions, he publically proclaimed that (as he had already promised) he would take for his wife Elizabeth daughter of King Edward and that he would give complete pardon and forgiveness to all those who swore obedience to his name. Then at length, having won the good-will of all men and at the instigation of the both nobles and people, he was made king at Westminster on 31 October and called Henry, seventh of that name. These events took place in the year 1486 after the birth of Our Saviour.

 

There were other contemporary chronicles, principally The Great Chronicle of London and the Chronicle of Calais as well as later chroniclers including Edward Hall who wrote The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancastre and Yorke, more commonly known as Hall’s Chronicle – Hall was born in 1497.  Sir Thomas More wrote about the reign of Richard  III – he was four in 1485. And, of course, there was Holinshed’s Chronicle which heavily influenced Shakespeare. It made its first appearance in 1577. All of them were vehicles for the Tudor State one way or another.

gold medal.jpgBack to Henry – having driven home the message that he was king by Divine Right and because he was better (yes, I know its Tudor spin) than his predecessors because he paid attention to the country and didn’t murder small boys he also needed to make it clear that the Tudor dynasty was a fresh start. The pope had been so glad that the English had stopped slaughtering one another that he didn’t hesitate in signing the dispensation that allowed Henry to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. He  was swift to honour his pledge to marry her, once the stain of illegitimacy had been revoked by Parliament. A medal was struck commemorating the marriage in 1486. This rare survivor is in the hands of the British Museum.  Double click on the image to open a new page with information about the medal. Elizabeth wasn’t crowned until the Tudor dynasty looked like becoming a certainty. Henry did not want to be seen as Elizabeth’s consort. He wanted it to be understood that he was king in his own right.

marriagebed + henry tudorBizarrely Henry VII’s marriage-bed came to end up in a car park in Chester.  However, since it’s identity has been verified the magnificent carvings can be used to tell the story that Henry wanted to tell in his union with Elizabeth of York Double click on the image to open a window and find out more.

 

DSC_0002Which – brings us back to the dodgy bloodline.   Henry got around the problem by simply using a much older legacy. He claimed that he was descended from the ancient British hero Cadwallader, and produced pedigrees to prove it.  He fought under the red dragon at Bosworth and a red dragon was swiftly added to the permitted armorial supporters before his coronation. Cadwallader was reflected on his coat of arms as shown in the first image in this post. The white greyhound is the Richmond greyhound but the red dragon, which flew on Henry’s banner as he marched through Wales from Pembroke belonged to the ancient king. Other images show Henry’s coat of arms also bearing a portcullis. This came from the Beaufort armorial bearings.

Penn’s acclaimed book about Henry VII demonstrates the lengths that Henry went to in order to secure his kingdom and his dynasty.  An article published in The Guardian in 2012 notes that Henry didn’t just use the red dragon he also made use of the red rose of Lancaster – a somewhat obscure symbol at that time- which was then united with the white rose of York to create the Tudor Rose signifying the union of the two houses and the end of the thirty years of conflict.  He then proceeded to plant his roses everywhere: on architecture, on pre-existing manuscripts and on new documents. Double click on the image of Henry’s banner to open a new page with the full article.

 

Another well used symbol locating Henry’s right to be king in conquest is the image of that crown perched on a wild rose bush. This was a reminder that Henry had won his crown on the battlefield. In an age of low literacy it was important for there to be symbolism that people understood. Henry was a master of propaganda, right down to the Tudor livery of green and white. White symbolised purity whilst green represented renewal.

DSCF2103Henry also looked to the legend of King Arthur.  Unsurprisingly Henry simply claimed him as an ancestor and reminded folk of Merlin’s prophecy that Arthur would return with the union of the red king and the white queen.  It probably isn’t co-incidence that Malory’s Morte d’Arthur was one of the first books off Caxton’s printing press in England. Elizabeth of York went to Winchester which Malory claimed was Camelot in order to have her first child.  Prince Arthur was duly born and baptised in Winchester.  The Italian humanist, Petrus Carmelianus wrote a poem to celebrate the birth and the end of the civil war.  One of the illustrated pages shows the royal coat of arms being supported by two angels (back to Divine Right). It might also be worth noting that Petrus went on to become Henry VII’s Latin secretary and chaplain.  Double click on Petrus Carmelianus to open a new page with an illustration of one of the pages from his poem. Henry also reinstated Winchester’s round table which dates from the reign of Edward III.  This together with a small number of King Arthur related tapestries and images, according to the article on the subject by Starkey, is all that remains of Henry’s arthurian public image strategy – one which he’d borrowed, it should be added from earlier Plantagenet kings including Edward III and Edward IV.roundtable.jpg

In other respects Henry simply took up long established traditions such as being portrayed in manuscripts as a king, including one where he was depicted as a classical hero and issuing coinage which showed a very lifelike looking Henry.

The most easily accessible online image in a manuscript of Henry as king can be found in the British Library. The book called Henry VII’s book of Astrology shows him sitting on his throne in royal regalia receiving the book of astrology as a gift. Obviously Fate and the stars were on Henry’s side when he became king. Double click on the image from the manuscript to open a British Library article about the imagery in the text.  The manuscript itself has been digitised and pages can be viewed on the British Library website Astrology was a ‘proper’ science. All the Tudors had court astrologers – the most famous being Dr John Dee during the reign of Elizabeth I.

henry vii receiving book.jpgHenry VII’s astrologers appear not to have been a particularly able bunch.  One predicted that Elizabeth of York would live until she was eighty whilst William Parron’s 1503 manuscript predicted that young Prince Henry would grow up to be a good son of the Catholic Church. Parron had originally found favour by predicting that all of Henry VII’s enemies would die…

 

 

 

 

 

Doran, Susan. The Tudor Chronicles. London:Quercus

Penn, Thomas. (2012) Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England. London:Penguin

Starkey, David, “King Henry and King Arthur,” in Arthurian Literature XVI, ed. James Patrick Carley, 171-196. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 1998.

 

 

 

 

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Henry Tudor…takes a festive oath

 

elizabeth of yorkA Christmas romance – how lovely…

 

Edward IV died unexpectedly in April 1483. For Elizabeth Woodville this was a disaster, especially when her brother-in-law Richard became the Protector. Now is not the time or the place to look more closely at the possible permutations of what happened to young Edward V and his brother Richard in the Tower or what Richard’s plans and rationale were for claiming the crown himself; suffice it to say rather a lot of mud was slung at the time and has continued to be thrown since.

 

Elizabeth Woodville took herself, along with her remaining children, into sanctuary at Westminster. Whilst she was there she and Margaret Beaufort – presumably working on the principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend in Elizabeth’s case- came up with a plan to marry their children. Henry Tudor, Margaret’s Lancastrian son and dubious claimant to the throne would marry Elizabeth of York the eldest daughter of Edward IV. There was the small issue of Edward’s possible pre-contract in marriage rendering the princess an arrival on the wrong side of the blanket but by this stage in proceedings there were no other Lancastrian claimants and it was Richard who was suggesting the legitimacy of his nieces and nephews was open to question in order to claim the throne for himself.

 

henryviiIt was against this backdrop – Jane Austen never came up with a romance like this one- that on Christmas Day, 1483, at Rennes Cathedral in Brittany, where he was in exile but writing and receiving lots of letters that Henry Tudor took an oath that he would marry Elizabeth just as soon as he got his mitts on the crown. The rest as they say is, er, history.

 

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Jane Shore

The Penance of Jane Shore in St Paul's Church c.1793 by William Blake 1757-1827Jane, or rather Elizabeth, Lambert was  a Londoner.  Her father John Lambert was a successful merchant who ensured his daughter received a good education and  spent time at court.  It is probable that John loaned money to King Edward IV to pursue his campaign against Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrians.  By 1466  Jane was married to a goldsmith by the name of William Shore on account, it is thought that young Jane attracted rather a lot of attention at court from wealthy men – sadly all of whom appeared to have been married.  One of her admirers was Lord Hastings another one was the king himself – Edward IV.

In 1467 Jane’s marriage to William Shore was annulled.  The cause given is Shore’s impotence which is a bit puzzling because he wasn’t an old man, even though Sir Thomas More described the goldsmith as ‘frigid.’  Even more peculiar, some ten years later, King Edward  gave his protection to Shore and his servants.  It is difficult to know whether William stood back to make way for his king – he certainly never remarried- or whether he just wasn’t interested in women.  In any event, Jane swiftly became King Edward’s favourite mistress.  He described her as the ‘merriest harlot in the realm.’  Her concern for others didn’t just extend to her ex-husband.  Even Sir Thomas More admitted that rather than profiting from her relationship with Edward IV herself she used her influence to help other people – a bit of a contrast with Edward’s lady wife who managed to irritate rather a lot of people by lining her own pockets and those of her family.

When King Edward died she became the mistress of Thomas Grey, stepson of the King and then took up with Lord Hastings- who’d admired her for more than two decades at this point. She was then implicated in a plot purported to have been formulated by Lord Hastings to bring about the overthrow of Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

According to Margaret Beaufort who had it from her husband Lord Stanley, Richard  had concluded the best thing to do was to become king himself.  Hastings had summoned Richard from Middleham when Elizabeth Woodville set a plan in motion to keep all the power within Woodville hands.  As a result of Hastings sending a messenger north, Richard was able to intercept the young king on his way from Ludlow to London and scupper the Woodvilles chances of controlling the kingdom.  Elizabeth Woodville had immediately sought sanctuary in Westminster along with her daughters and the Duke of York.  Hastings apparently had a change of heart once he realised that Richard was contemplating changing the role of protector for that of monarch and immediately began plotting against Richard.

Jane was apparently a key figure in this murky world of royal conspiracy – bizarrely Margaret Beaufort (yes, the mother of Henry Tudor – Lancastrian claimant to the throne), sent a letter explaining all of this to Elizabeth Woodville.  It’s not so far fetched because Margaret had made her submission to the Yorkist king following the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  At that stage no one thought of her teenage son as a possible king.  In the intervening years Margaret had become sufficiently friendly with Elizabeth Woodville to be a godparent to the Princess Bridget. And, in order to support her story she mentions Jane because, equally oddly, Elizabeth was on friendly terms with Jane… and who better to carry messages than Jane. (Who needs soap operas when the Plantagenets are available?)

Whatever the truth of the plot, whether there even was one, Richard swiftly accused Lord Hastings, Jane Shore and Elizabeth Woodville of conspiring against him.  Hastings was sent to the Tower and executed without a proper trial.  The whole affair was so hasty that there wasn’t even a block in place. Jane, deprived of her latest protector and incarcerated was accused of witchcraft (as incidentally was Elizabeth Woodville)  but the case was eventually dropped.  Instead Jane was charged with being a harlot – and having been Edward IV’s mistress, Thomas Grey’s mistress and also Lord Hastings floozie it was a charge that was going to stick. Jane, like Eleanor Cobham before her and countless other women, was  forced to walk through London barefoot in her shift with a taper in her hand in  penance for her sins – apparently the Londoners who had come out to mock her were moved by her dignity.

Jane was clearly a woman of some importance in this murky dangerous world. Richard was  troubled by her and sought to remove her from the picture altogether.  Edward usually discarded his mistresses pretty swiftly but Jane had remained friendly with him until his death – suggesting friendship and respect.  Certainly the king’s wife liked her and Margaret Beaufort felt able to trust her to carry messages -a reminder perhaps that England was ruled by a family rather than a bureaucracy (albeit a family who appeared to have joyously murdered, executed and plotted against one another). And yet her role in history is the one given to her by medieval society which sought to diminish her- a harlot.

Jane must have been a looker and had a sparkling personality because you’d think that this was going to be a story with a very unhappy ending but even after being unceremoniously dumped in Ludgate Prison she found a new man – not a turn key or a felon but the King’s solicitor.  Thomas Lynom must have fallen in love because he married her  even though the newly minted King Richard III told him that it was an inappropriate marriage.

Jane died in 1527 at the age of 82 having spent the rest of her life with Thomas Lynom and even become friends with Thomas More who admired her wit.

William Blake was interested in her story as this water colour demonstrates.

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