Tag Archives: Mary Tudor

Sir William Brooke, royal favourite and duelling victim

Lord Cobham.jpgSir William Brooke (1565-1597) was the son of William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham Warden of the Kent Cinque Ports (1527 to 1597) pictured at the start of this post. He was of a similar vintage to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and Elizabeth’s replacement for Dudley in the royal favourite stakes after his death in 1588. Like other Elizabethan gentlemen he did a stint in the continental religious wars being knighted by Essex in 1591 at Dieppe.  He was, in short, one of the new breed of men in Elizabeth’s court.

Having done his time abroad he was then returned to Parliament as MP for Rochester at the behest of his father.  Lord Cobham was not terribly amused that of the two MPS for Kent it was Sir Robert Sidney (brother of Sir Philip Sidney, nephew of Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester) who was returned as the senior parliamentarian.  Elizabeth noted that it wasn’t very helpful that  both men were abroad at the time. The fact that Brooke was also outlawed was also an issue. Elizabeth had decreed that members could not take their place until they had settled with their creditors. The matter must ultimately have been settled to Elizabeth’s satisfaction because he is described by Margaret Cavendish as one of her favourites.  Certainly, in June 1597 William had been made Keeper of Eltham Great Park though whether it was because he was a royal favourite or because his family was an important one is something that probably bears further consideration.


The family links with Elizabeth are in themselves interesting. Clearly being a Kent family the Boleyn equation  and Kent gentry affinity comes into play. Anne Boleyn sent George Brooke 9th Lord Cobham (1497-1558) a letter telling him about the birth of Elizabeth in September 1533 but he was also one of the judges that tried the queen just three years later. The following year at the christening of young Prince Edward it was Lord Cobham – our William’s grandfather- who carried consecrated wafers for both the illegitimised Tudor princesses.


George’s story continued to be tied to that of Henry VIII’s children and it is evident that he was of the reforming persuasion in his beliefs and the way in which he had chosen to have his children educated. The reign of Mary Tudor was made difficult not only by his faith but by the fact that he was related to Sir Thomas Wyatt through marriage. Wyatt even wrote to him demonstrating the belief that Cobham would side with him against Mary to put Elizabeth on the throne. He and his sons were arrested and there can be no doubt that Thomas Brooke had sided with Wyatt until the end. After that Lord Cobham who spent some time in the Tower kept his head down. He entertained Cardinal Pole and he made enquiries about heritics.. He died just before Mary so never saw Elizabeth ascend to the throne but the new Lord Cobham, William who had also been imprisoned in the Tower for his suspected part in Wyatt’s rebellion was on hand to play his allotted part in Elizabeth’s court and the administration of Kent as well as the Cinque Ports.

Clearly our Brooke was a bit of an Elizabethan wild boy and this led to his untimely end when he insulted Elizabeth Leighton the slightly pregnant lover of Sir Thomas Lucas of Colchester. Lucas called him out and he was mortally wounded one cold December morning in Mile End at a rapier’s end.  He was carried home where friends and family visited him as he lay dying.

Brooke had made his will in June having gone on a sea voyage but on the morning of his death he had added an undated codicil to the will which left everything to his brother George:

‘Your jest and my haste would not suffer me to acquaint you with what I am gone about this morning, what hath called me out so early. I send you enclosed within these what I shall leave behind me. My will and meaning is you should have all lands, leases and prisoners which I desire you may as quietly enjoy as I sincerely mean…Wishing you the best fortune, your loving brother William Brooke

The will was proved on the 25 December 1597. For those of you who like to know these things, George Brooke was executed for plotting against James I in 1603.

One letter described William Brooke as “misfortunate.”  Two arrest warrants were issued for Lucas by the privy council – on on the 24th of December and a second on the 30th. This was was very unfortunate for Elizabeth Leighton who bore an illegitimate child also called Thomas who would not meet his father until he was six years old when James I pardoned Lucas and he was able to return home. He and Elizabeth went on to have seven more children of whom the youngest, Margaret would go on to serve Queen Henrietta Maria and marry the Marquis of Newcastle going down in history as Mad Madge.  She would also write her biography, just because she felt like it even though society disapproved of the idea of women writing books for publication and tell the story of her father’s duel.

Henry_Brooke,_11th_Baron_Cobham,_by_circle_of_Paul_van_Somer.jpgIt is perhaps not surprising that Lucas found himself at the wrong end of an arrest warrant, William Brooke’s father the 10th Lord Cobham (who had died on March 6 1597)  was a man with clout. Brooke’s sister Elizabeth was the wife of Sir Robert Cecil – the most important man in the kingdom. She had also died at the beginning of 1597 but there were still family and political ties that were wielded by the new Lord Cobham – Henry Brooke – pictured left. He had been invested as Warden of the Cinque Ports on the same month that his father died.

In addition to which Whitaker makes the salient point that Elizabeth was already tetchy with the Lucas family because Sir Thomas’s sister Anne had gone to court to serve as a lady in waiting but then married for love against the queen’s wishes.  Anne had defied the queen to marry Arthur Throckmorton who was the younger brother of Bess Throckmorton who, of course, irritated Elizabeth monumentally by marrying Sir Walter Raleigh demonstrating once again that everyone in the Tudor court is related somehow or another!


And who would have thought that in reading around the topic of Margaret Cavendish as part of the Stuarts in Derbyshire course I am currently delivering that I should encounter a tale of Tudor passion that correlates to Elizabeth I and her various favourites which happens to be  part of another course that I am currently teaching.

Whitaker, Katie. (2003) Mad Madge. London: Chatto and Windus







Filed under Sixteenth Century, surprising connections, The Tudors

Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox

margaret-douglas-countess-2Margaret Douglas is an important link in the Tudor family tree and its later prospective claimants to the English throne.  Unsurprisingly given that the Tudors are involved there are some dodgy family trees involved and not a little tragedy.


Margaret’s mother was the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England and Elizabeth of York.  She was born in November 1489 and at the time when she married James IV of Scotland she was just thirteen.  In 1512 she gave birth to a son James (other children died in infancy) but then the following year her husband died at the Battle of Flodden.

archiboldouglas.jpgJames V was king but an infant.  There followed the usual power struggle.  The key families were the Stewarts, Douglases and Hamiltons. on 6 August 1514 without consulting her council or her brother Margaret married the pro-English Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus.   This effectively caused the Douglas faction to advance up a large ladder in the courtly game of snakes and ladders.  A civil war resulted and Margaret was replaced as regent by John Stewart Earl of Albany – who was anti-English.  Margaret having been queen and regent now slid down several rungs of importance and life became very difficult not least when Margaret lost custody of the young king and of his brother called Alexander who had been born after the Battle of Flodden. Margaret, fearing for her safety and the safety of her unborn child by the earl of Angus made plans to escape Scotland.

Her first step was to go to Linlithgow from there she escaped into England and little Margaret Douglas made her way into the world on 8 October 1515 at Harbottle Castle in Northumberland by the end of January news arrived from Scotland that the infant Alexander was dead.  Margaret Douglas born of an English mother in an English castle was treated as English rather than Scottish throughout her life and in terms of the English succession. Margaret Tudor’s husband the earl of Angus now deserted his wife and made his peace with the earl of Albany…and his other wife.

Angus had been married to Mary Hepburn but he had been widowed.  What Margaret Tudor didn’t know was that he had entered into a relationship with Lady Janet Stewart of Traquair before marrying her. They were ether engaged or married.  In either event Angus was contracted to another woman making his marriage to Margaret Tudor effectively bigamous. Angus wanted the return of his family lands which Albany had confiscated and in the meantime he took up residence with Lady Janet in one of Margaret’s properties.  As with Mary and Elizabeth Tudor the small fact of her father’s complicated love life must bring into question the legitimacy of Margaret Douglas and therefore her claim to the English throne by right of descent from Margaret Tudor.

Henry VIII did not send for his sister until 1516 and ultimately Margaret Tudor did return to Scotland when Albany went to France in 1517.  This meant that Margaret Douglas also went to Scotland and became the centre of a struggle between her parents when he also returned.  The earl of Angus snatched the infant Margaret from her mother’s arms.  Her existence gave the earl of Angus power.  She was in line to the English throne after all.  Ultimately Margaret Douglas found some degree of sanctuary in the care of her godfather, Cardinal Wolsey who arranged for her to be housed in Berwick.

If that weren’t complicated enough Margaret Tudor divorced the earl of Angus and married Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.  It was a match that didn’t work particularly well.  Methven ultimately moved in with a mistress and Margaret Tudor tried to move back in with the earl of Angus.  James V regarded Methven as a trusted advisor and refused to permit the divorce. Margaret Tudor bowed to her son’s wishes but died in 1541.

But back to Margaret Douglas’s story. After Wolsey’s fall from power and death in 1530 she found home in the household of Princess Mary at Beaulieu where she had been living since 1528.   When she reached adulthood she was appointed as Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn which must have been difficult as she was a lifelong friend of her cousin Princess Mary.  During Mary’s reign she was considered as a possible heir to the throne.  It helped not only that she was close to Mary but that she was Catholic in her sympathies.

Meanwhile, back in the early 1530s at court Margaret  had grown into a beautiful and creative woman who wrote poetry.  She met and fell in love with Lord Thomas Howard.  He was one of Anne Boleyn’s uncles (a young brother of the duke of Norfolk).  The pair became engaged.  They had not sought royal approval. In July 1536 Henry VIII discovered the engagement and was not a happy man.  By that time Anne Boleyn had fallen from favour and both Mary and Elizabeth Tudor had been declared illegitimate.  This meant that Margaret Douglas was quite high up on the list of possible heirs to the throne.  She was a very marriageable commodity. Margaret broke off the engagement but by then both she and Lord Thomas had been thrown into the Tower and charged with treason.  He died of natural causes on 31 October 1537. Margaret had been released from custody a few days previously.

Unsurprisingly given her mother’s complicated love life and Henry’s eye popping disapproval of his sister Margaret Douglas now found herself declared illegitimate by Act of Parliament.

In 1539 Margaret is on the list of Anne of Cleve’s ladies in waiting.

In 1540 she was back in hot water when she had an affair with Sir Charles Howard.  It probably didn’t help that he was closely related to Katherine Howard.  She was sent to Syon House but moved from there when Katherine Howard was also sent to Syon in disgrace.  She might have remained in obscurity if the earl of Angus hadn’t popped back up to cause trouble in Scotland.

In 1543 Margaret Douglas was one of Katherine Parr’s bridesmaids.

matthew stuart.jpgMargaret finally married in 1544. He was a Scottish exile and his name was Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox.  The pair lived at Temple Newsam near Leeds, a gift from Henry VIII to his niece upon her wedding.  They had two sons – Henry Stuart Lord Darnley who would marry Mary Queen of Scots and end up murdered in an orchard in Kirk o Fields in 1567 and Charles Stuart who would fall in love with and marry Elizabeth Cavendish – Margaret Douglas’s grand-daughter was Lady Arbella Stuart.  Neither Henry Stewart nor Charles nor even Arbella would have been considered a legitimate claimant to the throne by Henry VIII who excluded Margaret Lennox from the succession through his will because she made no secret of her Catholicism.




Margaret Douglas  even lost her claim to the earldom of Angus because of her husband’s part in the Rough Wooing. Margaret was Angus’s only legitimate child but he left everything to his nephew. Margaret never stopped contesting the fact that her father had broken the entail that should have seen her inherit an earldom.

Matthew Stewart, Lord Lennox  was shot in the back and died in 1571 whilst fighting in Stirling. The marriage between the pair had probably been political but if the Lennox Jewel is anything to go by Margaret and her husband had fallen in love with one another.

lennox jewel.jpg


Whilst Mary Tudor was on the throne Margaret Douglas was at the centre of the royal court but once Protestant Elizabeth ascended the throne Margaret’s life became difficult not only because she insisted that Mary Tudor had said she ought to be queen but because of her Catholicism. Mathew Stuart found himself in the Tower and Margaret spent time under house arrest at Sheen.

margaret douglas hilliardHaving lost her own claims to the English crown Margaret then worked on her eldest son’s claims.  Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, was she claimed a contender for both the English and the Scottish crowns. Margaret was careful to send Henry to visit Mary Queen of Scots in France on several occasions.  Her scheming would ultimately result in Darnley becoming Mary Queen of Scots’ second husband and effectively doubling their claim to the English throne.

Inevitably the match between Margaret’s second son (Charles) with his claim to the throne and Elizabeth Cavendish in November 1574 en route between London and Temple Newsam did not go down very well with Elizabeth I who suspected her cousin of Catholic plotting in Yorkshire.  Lady Arbella Stuart would pay a heavy price for her royal blood.

Arbella Stuart

Margaret was summoned back to London and sent to the Tower for her part in arranging the match between her son and Elizabeth Cavendish.  Elizabeth Cavendish’s mother escaped the Tower but Bess of Hardwick gave Elizabeth a blue satin cloak lined with velvet that Christmas suggesting that she knew that she was on a bit of a sticky wicket!

After the death of Margaret’s son Charles she concentrated her efforts on Arbella to whom she left her casket of jewellery when she died:

All the rest of my jewels goods chattels movable and unmovable, my funerals and legacies performed and my due debts paid I give and bequeath to the Lady Arbell Daughter of my son Charles deceased. Provided always and I will that where the one of my said Executors Thomas Fowler hath for sundry and divers bargains made for me and to my use by my appointment, authority and request entered into sundry bonds and covenants of warranties in sundry sorts and kinds that by law he may be challenged and constrained to answer and make good the same he the said Thomas Fowler my said executors shall out of my said goods, chattels movables plate and jewels whatsoever be answered allowed satisfied recompensed and kept harmless from any loss recovery forfeiture actions suits demands whatsoever may be and shall be of and from him my said executor lawfully recovered and obtained by any person or persons at any time or times after my decease. And provided also and I will that the rest and portion of my jewels, goods or movables whatsoever shall fall out to be shall remain in the hands, custody and keeping of my said executor Thomas Fowler until the said Lady Arbell be married or come to the age of fourteen years, to be then safely delivered to her if God shall send her then and so long to be living.

After her death on 9th March 1578 Elizabeth paid for her cousin to be buried in Westminster Abbey.  It is perhaps not surprising given the tumultuous life that she led that there is even a conspiracy theory around her death.  She dined with the earl of Leicester a few days before she died and that gave rise to the rumour that she was poisoned.


Weir, Alison.(2015) The Lost Tudor Princess. London:Vintage


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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century

England’s Forgotten Queen – the use of wills.

lady-jane-greyHow many of you watched Helen Castor’s new three part series on Lady Jane Grey last night entitled England’s forgotten queen?  Its on BBC4 at 9.00pm on Tuesday evening.  I’m sure its on the Iplayer as well by now.

I usually think of Helen Castor in connection with the Wars of the Roses and I know that her history is thoroughly researched.  I’d have to say that I enjoyed her outline of events as well as the discussions about primary sources. I loved the fact that Lady Jane Grey was the first queen proclaimed by printed proclamation rather than a hand written one and that it required three pages to explain how she’d landed the crown rather than Henry VIII’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth. I enjoyed the dramatisations less but that’s probably just me.

But back to Lady Jane Grey and those wills.  On 30th December 1546 Henry VIII made his final will.  He died almost a month later on the 28th January 1547.  The succession was straight forward.  Henry VIII was succeeded by his son Edward VI – though interestingly Edward V was never crowned, disappearing instead quietly in the Tower (this is not the time to start pointing fingers at who did it.  Suffice it to say the V is a ghostly imprint upon the chronology of England’s monarchy.)

1531_Henry_VIIIMaking Henry VIII’s will was probably a tad on the tricky side to draw up as it had become illegal to speak about the king’s death thirteen years before it was drawn up in 1535- verbal treason.  Normally a family tree would have been sufficient to identify who was going to inherit what but Henry’s matrimonial past was complex to put it mildly.  Parliament had passed two Succession Acts – one in 1536 and the second in 1544.  Both of them empowered Henry to nominate his heir.  There was even a proviso for the appointment of a regency council.  Henry clearly thought that being dead was no barrier to dictating the way things should happen.

The will aside from giving directions to be buried next to his “true wife” Jane Seymour in Windsor and giving money to the poor obviously launched by placing Edward on the throne.  It then ran through a variety of scenarios about who should inherit in the event of Edward’s demise without heirs.  Rather optimistically for a man of increasingly poor health he identified that any children by Queen Catherine or “any future wife” should inherit.   He then identified his daughters, both of whom had been made illegitimate by that time – first Mary the only surviving child of Catherine of Aragon and then in the event of her not surviving or having children, her sister Elizabeth the only surviving child of Anne Boleyn.  So far so straight forward and very typical of Henry to decide who was and who wasn’t legitimate based on his particular plans – or even that they could inherit even if they were illegitimate so long as Parliament ratified it.

He identifies his nieces and their families after that.  His elder sister Margaret had married James IV of Scotland but Henry’s nephew James V was already dead.  That just left his great niece the infant Mary Queen of Scots.  Really, because she was descended from the eldest sister the little queen should have been identified next in Henry’s will but aside from being Scottish and the daughter of Marie de Guise there was the small matter that the Scots hadn’t taken kindly to the proposed marriage of their little queen to Edward.  There was also the issue that in Scotland Cardinal Beaton  had been murdered and the pro-French were becoming increasingly important (for the time being at any rate.) In any event Henry ignored the senior female line of the Tudor family tree and identified  the heirs of his younger sister Mary who had married Charles Brandon (duke of Suffolk).  Mary died in 1533 aged just thirty-seven.  She did however have two surviving daughters, Frances and Eleanor.  Frances was married to Henry Grey the Marquess of Dorset. They had three daughters Jane, Katherine and Mary.  Henry’s will went on to say that after the heirs of Frances that the heirs of Eleanor married to Henry Clifford earl of Cumberland would be by default his rightful heirs.

As Susannah Lipscomb observes Henry’s will is an intriguing document and its easy to see why it ended up being so roundly contested.  You have to admire Henry’s consideration of the possible scenarios and his plans for each eventuality.  It’s interesting that Frances wasn’t identified as a contender for the crown only her heirs.  What was it about Frances that Henry didn’t like?  Lipscomb observes that her husband Henry Grey wasn’t on the list that Henry VIII proposed as Edward VI’s councillors so it may simply have been that he didn’t like the man very much.

Unfortunately for Henry soon after his death the idea of a regency council was rather badly mauled by Edward VI’s Seymour uncles and by the time young Edward VI lay dying it was the duke of Northumberland who was the power behind the throne.

Henry VIII had stipulated that his daughters Mary and Elizabeth had to accept the order of succession on pain of their exclusion from the succession.  What Henry hadn’t accounted for was that his son Edward would write his own will.  A perusal of  Edward’s will was one of the highlights of last night’s programme on Lady Jane Grey.  It revealed poor penmanship and a last minute change of plan.  Logically if one king could leave a kingdom in his will as though it was a personal possession with the connivance of Parliament and its two supporting acts – it isn’t such a great leap that another king should do exactly the same.

edward-smEdward’s “devise” differed from his father’s in that he excluded Mary – she was just far too Catholic for devoutly Protestant Edward.  He also excluded Elizabeth- because she was legally illegitimate and because by that time, if we’re going to be cynical about it, John Dudley duke of Northumberland had acquired Lady Jane Grey as a daughter-in-law and wanted to remain in charge.  In excluding Mary Queen of Scots young Edward was simply following his father’s will. At first, as Castor revealed last night, the will only considered the possibility of male heirs – either his own or those of the Grey sisters.  As his health unravelled the amendment was made in two words which made Lady Jane Grey his heir; L’ Janes heires masles,” turned into “the L’ Jane and her heires masles.”  Simple really – though it did rely on Mary and Elizabeth accepting the turn of events or being rounded up sooner rather than later.

John_Dudley_(Knole,_Kent)Ignoring the  problem of Henry VIII’s daughters there was the small mater of Parliament.  The Third Succession Act of 1544 left Mary and Elizabeth illegitimate but placed them in line for the Crown.  Henry VIII’s will is backed up by Parliament.  It is not simply a personal document.  It is held up on the shoulders of law.  Edward’s on the other hand assumes that because one king has willed his kingdom to his heirs that another could do the same.  The problem for the duke of Northumberland was that Edward did not live long enough for the legal process to be fulfilled by an act of Parliament.

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2015) The King is Dead: The Last Will and Testament of Henry VIII

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Filed under Queens of England, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

The Vernons of Haddon Hall – “King of the Peak”

george vernon.jpgSir George Vernon was born around 1508 but his father, Richard, died in 1517 whilst he was still a child so the Vernon lands were subject to the rules about wardship- which always ran the risk of financial loss but in George’s case his guardians, who included Cardinal Wolsey, appear not to have drained his resources.  In fact by the time of his death in 1565 the peerage records the fact that he had possession of thirty manors.   Sir Henry Vernon, George’s grandfather pre-deceased his son by only two years.

George’s mother, Margaret,  was descended from the Dymoke family of Lincolnshire (hereditary champions of the monarch) married secondly Sir William Coffin (who died in 1538) and then for a third time into the Manners family – Sir Richard Manners.  As you know if you read the History Jar regularly I love the way that footnotes turn up in the strangest of places and in this particular instance it should be noted that Margaret’s claim to fame was that she was one of Anne Boleyn’s ladies whilst she awaited her trial and execution. At that time Margaret was still married to her second husband. Interestingly Ives notes that the Manners family were loyal to the Boleyn faction.  They gave Ann embroidered sleeves for her New Year’s Day gifts whilst Anne in her turn, as evidenced in the Rutland MSS, gave her ladies palfreys and saddles on her first Christmas as queen in 1533 (Ives: 258). Weir has more to say on the topic of Lady Margaret Coffin during Anne’s confinement in the Tower.  Margaret shared Anne’s bed chamber, sleeping on the pallet bed by her side – apparently Anne had never liked Margaret Coffin- so it probably wasn’t a comfortable experience, not least because Margaret and the other four women who served Anne were reporting to Sir William Kingston, Anne’s warder, who described Margaret as “good and honest.” Weir goes on to say that William Coffin was the queen’s Master of Horse being related to the Boleyns possibly resulted in the role but he was also a gentleman of the Privy Chamber and was one of the party who conspired against Anne at the beginning of May 1536. William would be knighted in 1537 and continue as Master of the Horse. His wife would go on to serve Jane Seymour – which just goes to show that even in Derbyshire the comings and goings of Henry’s queens were of political importance to leading families.

But back in April 1522 little George’s wardship was given jointly to Cardinal Wolsey and to Lady  Tailboys – which accounts for his marriage into the Tailboys family.  And as another aside it should be noted that Margaret Tailboys had a brother called Gilbert who married a woman in 1520 called Bessie Blount – meaning that George Vernon’s sister-in-law  was the woman who gave Henry VIII his only acknowledged illegitimate child. Margaret Tailboys died on March 25 1558 having produced two daughters; Margaret and Dorothy.  George would now marry Maud (or Matilda) Longford – the Longfords were a Derbyshire family.

Practically it was George’s uncle, John Vernon (who owned Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire), who ran the estate whilst George was a minor and it was John’s advice that saw George settled on a career path in the law after a stint at university.   By the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 George had come into his own and was fulfilling the role of a member of the  gentry as JP and later as MP for Derbyshire in 1542 (he only served the once). By 1545 Sir George was extending and modernising Haddon Hall- not to mention ensuring that Henry VIII’s arms were on prominent display.  He was knighted at the coronation of Edward VI. The Parliamentary biography of George notes that he was on a list to be raised to the barony but it never happened nor did he become sheriff although he was nominated some nine times.  He appears to have blotted his copybooks with the powers that be! Certainly in 1557 he failed to yield £100 in a forced loan demanded by Queen Mary. His approach to law and order wasn’t necessarily terribly in keeping with the concept of innocent until proved guilty either – legend states that he hanged at least one man without trial.

In 1564 Bishop Bentham, who perhaps hadn’t heard about the summary justice that Vernon meted out, said of him ‘a great justice [in] religion as in all other things’, renowned ‘for his magnificence … for his kind reception of all good men, and his hospitality’. And George was noted for his extreme hospitality – hence the by-name of “King of the Peak.” The household accounts of 1564 reveal a host sparing no expense on his guests.  The earl of Worcester’s minstrel was paid the princely sum of 13s. 4d. The is also mention of a tun of wine, malmsey, muscadel and every assortment of meat and fish that the reader could imagine – though the 18 blackbirds presumably won’t be high in the modern list of Christmas must haves!.   The title of King of the Peak was one that Alan Cunningham couldn’t resist when he told the story of Dorothy Vernon’s elopement in 1822. And yes, I shan’t be resisting the temptation to explore the story of Dorothy Vernon in another HistoryJar post.

Sir George died on the 31 August 1565. His daughters Margaret and Dorothy inherited his lands.  Their husbands were the earl of Derby and and the second son of the earl of Rutland respectively. Sir George left clear instructions in his will about which of his manors were to be used to pay off his debts and pay for his funeral.  He and his two wives are buried in All Saints Church, Bakewell.

Ives, E.W. (1986).  Anne Boleyn. Oxford: Blackwells

Weir, A. (2009) The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn. London: Jonathan Cape


Sir George "King of the Peak" Vernon & wives


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Edward Courtney, Earl of Devon

edward courtney.jpgEdward Courtney was the only surviving son of the Marquess of Exeter born in 1526.
More significant  was the fact that he was the great-grandson of Edward IV.   Katherine, the sixth of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s children to survive babyhood, was married off to Sir William Courtney a loyal Lancastrian in the aftermath of Bosworth which must have been a bit of a comedown from an earlier proposal for her to marry either a Scottish or a Spanish prince but better by far than scuttling around in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately for poor old William he somehow became inveigled into a conspiracy to put Edmund de La Pole on the throne in 1502 and spent the rest of Henry VII’s reign in custody – it’s fairly safe to say that the Courtneys were framed.
Katherine Courtney of York.jpgWhen Henry VIII came to the throne he had his uncle by marriage released from prison but persuaded his Aunt Katherine to renounce her claim to the earldom of March- and the Mortimer inheritance which caused so much mayhem during the Wars of the Roses- and following the death of William in 1511, Katherine took a vow of chastity.  This seemed to go down well with Bluff King Hal who gave her the rights to the income from the Courtney lands during her life time, drew her son Henry into the inner court circle and made her godmother to the Princess Mary in 1516. The problem so far as her grandson Edward would be concerned would be that little drop of Plantagenet blood.  It had been alright for Katherine to sign herself ‘the excellent Princess Katherine, Countess of Devon, daughter, sister and aunt of kings’ (Westcott) but royalty wasn’t such a good thing to have in one’s bloodstream during the mid-Tudor crisis and especially not if one fancied wearing a crown rather than a coronet.
Edward Courtney looked all set for a charmed life – he was a cousin of the Tudors and his grandmother had been a respected member of the inner family circle.  He’d spent time in the household of Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk – presumably to learn the art of being a gentleman.
Unfortunately for Edward his father Henry Courtney  came up with the wonderful wheeze of marrying young Edward off to the Princess Mary – you’d have thought he’d have learned from his own father’s experiences.   In addition, Henry’s second wife (and mother of Edward) Gertrude Blount was a daughter of Baron Mountjoy who had served Katherine of Aragon since her arrival in England – Blount, a Derbyshire man  and Katherine’s chamberlain- had a bit of a torrid time of it during the 1530s but Gertrude remained unswervingly loyal to Katherine – and yes, Gertrude was related to Bessie Blount (Henry VIII’s mistress and mother of Henry Fitzroy) but this isn’t the post for that particular amble around Tudor family trees. The Mountjoy clan and the Courtneys were identified as members of the Aragonese faction as supporters of Katherine were called. Henry  Courtney was not only related to the Poles and the Nevilles but on good terms with them – they, being Catholic, were decidedly grumpy about the break with Rome. Put in a nutshell Courtney managed to get himself caught up in one of Thomas Cromwell’s snares in 1538 to keep anyone with a claim to the throne under lock and key- the planned match between Edward and Mary being the icing on the cake so far as Cromwell’s evidence was concerned, so as to speak.
In November 1538 Gertrude, Henry and twelve-year-old Edward found themselves in the Tower.  Henry was executed at the beginning of December and Edward remained a prisoner for the next fifteen years. Henry paid for his distant cousin’s food and education. Upon Henry VIII’s death the regency council and the duke of Somerset decided that an adult male with Plantagenet blood was better in the Tower than out of it – so there he remained, although he now had the company of Bishop Gardiner.  The pair took something of a shine to one another.  Edward referred to the bishop as “father” and Edward became Gardiner’s protégée.
In August 1553 Princess Mary fresh from Framlingham arrived in London to claim her throne from Lady Jane Grey.  A month later Edward was created earl of Devon and Reginald Pole described him as the “Flower of English Nobility” on account of his learning –  let’s face it there wasn’t much else for him to do in the Tower to while away the hours other than read, translate various ancient works and play the lute.
On 1 October 1553 Courtney took his place in Mary’s court by bearing the sword of state at her coronation.
Edward now spent considerable amounts of time running around London with the wrong kind of women – but I don’t suppose he’d had much opportunity for drunkenness and debauchery whilst in custody. Queen Mary was not impressed.
Meanwhile Mary was determined to marry into the family of Charles V.  It had been her mother’s wish and she refused to consider any other options – no matter what anyone else might say on the matter. The thought of Philip II of Spain made quite a lot of English gentlemen feel a little nauseous. Gardiner did try and suggest Courtney as a match but it was no go.  Instead, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Peter Carew came up with the idea of Courtney marrying the Princess Elizabeth – voila Protestant, English – Tudor/Plantagenet- what more could one wish for? Sir William Paget the Tudor administrator was keen on the match as well.  Obviously Gardiner wasn’t so keen on the idea – him being very catholic and everything but Courtney whose freedom seems to have done strange things to his personality and common sense thought it was a terrific plan, as did the recently freed duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey.
The plan for the regions to rise up did not go well.  The council found out that there was rebellion in the air and various parties ran around in ever decreasing circles until they were rounded up and placed under arrest – the only exception was in Kent where Wyatt’s rebels advanced upon London and caused quite a lot of panic. Henry Grey scarpered to the Midlands where he met with indifference or hostility whilst Gardiner slapped Courtney metaphorically around in order to find out exactly what he knew.  Gardiner had no intention of languishing in the Tower or loosing his head although it looks as though Gardiner did try and keep Courtney out of trouble no matter what the rest of the Privy Council and the now very influential Spanish Ambassador had to say on the subject.
Ultimately Wyatt’s Rebellion foundered and Edward Courtney found himself back in the Tower once more scratching his head and looking vaguely bewildered. Unfortunately for Courtney, Wyatt had been tortured and had incriminated the earl in the hope, it is believed,  of securing a pardon.  The two men would meet on the 11 April 1554 when Wyatt went to the block and is said to have begged Courtney’s pardon. Wyatt made it quite clear before his execution that neither Courtney nor Elizabeth had been involved in his rebellion. Henry Grey went to the block and so too did Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley who had no part in the plot and were not intended to benefit from the plot – it was an opportunity to tidy up loose ends. But not as it turned out to get rid of Courtney and Elizabeth.
At the end of May 1554 Courtney was sent to Fotheringhay where he stayed for a year. Then he took a journey, presumably for the benefit of his health to Brussels and from there to Venice.  Unfortunately the Spanish took a dim view of the earl and were planning to have him assassinated – the assassin changed sides in Venice thus saving Courtney from an untimely end.
It does appear that Courtney couldn’t help but dabble in treason as the moment he arrived in Italy he hooked up with Sir Henry Dudley, one of Northumberland’s sons, and between them they came up with a harebrained plan to murder Mary  and replace her with Elizabeth – with Courtney as royal spouse. There was even talk of a possible match to Mary Queen of Scots  thanks to Henri II of France.
On the 18 September 1556 Edward Courtney died in Padua where he had enrolled as a student. There were rumours of poison but in reality he’d caught a chill whilst out hawking. A letter sent to Queen Mary by Peter Vannes provides an account of events, “for his Honest recreation… to see his hawks fly upon a wasted ground, without any houses” was caught “in a great tempest of wind and rain” Rather than leave his sport he’d refused to get changed out of his wet clothes and by the end of the week “entered into a continue hot ague, sometimes more vehement than at another… so that his tongue had so stopped his mouth, and his teeth so clove together” that he couldn’t take the Sacrament at the end.
Inevitably with an unexpected death in a time of intrigue and treason there are always conspiracy theories. Poisoning is a favourite so far as Courtney is concerned but I have also read that he may have died of syphilis – that other perennial Tudor exit strategy. The earldom of Devon was extinct  as there were no more male sprigs. Four girls inherited his estates but not the title. There was also one less contender for the throne.
Ian W. Archer, ‘Courtenay, Edward, first earl of Devon (1526–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6449, accessed 17 March 2017]
Margaret R. Westcott, ‘Katherine, countess of Devon (1479–1527)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/70277, accessed 17 March 2017]


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Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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





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Eleanor Brandon, Countess of Cumberland…

eleanor brandon.jpgIt is sometimes easy to forget that Henry VIII had more than one English niece who featured in his will.  Henry’s sister, Mary Tudor, married Charles Brandon who was elevated to Duke of Suffolk.  They had two children who survived childhood, Frances and Eleanor. I’ve posted about Eleanor before.  Double click here to open the post in a new window. This post is by way of a precursor to a post about Lady Margaret Stanley (no, not Henry VII’s mother better known to history as Margaret Beaufort but her great-granddaughter born Lady Margaret Clifford.)

Frances Brandon, the elder of the two girls, married Henry Grey and bore three children who survived to adulthood: Lady Jane Grey, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.  All three of her daughters were blighted by their Tudor blood and claim to the throne. Lady Jane Grey or Dudley as she was by then was executed by her cousin Queen Mary whilst Catherine and Mary became in turn “heir presumptive”; each married for love and each in turn was imprisoned by their other cousin Elizabeth I, one starved to death and neither was allowed to see her husband again.  The treatment of the Grey girls was not Elizabeth’s finest hour.  Lady Mary died on the 20 May 1578.

The role of heir presumptive was then passed to Lady Margaret Stanley, Countess of Derby.  Her claim came through her mother – Eleanor Brandon.  Needless to say Lady Margaret soon found herself under house arrest just as her two cousins had done.  She didn’t make the mistake of marrying for love – she and her husband were long married by then and estranged.  No, Lady Margaret was something of an alchemist and a follower of astrology – she had apparently wanted to know what the chances of Cousin Lizzie popping her clogs might have been.

So back to Eleanor Brandon – she was born some time between 1518 and 1521 meaning that when she died in 1547 she was at most twenty-eight.  Henry VIII was a guest when Eleanor married her husband in 1535.  Henry Clifford, the First Earl of Cumberland and Eleanor’s father-in-law  was determined to make his home fit for a princess and promptly extended Skipton Castle, adding an octagonal tower and long gallery to make it more pleasant. The Cliffords had sold off some of their estates to pay for the rebuilding work and also to pay for the wedding. It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the young couple spent much of their early married life at Brougham Castle.

Eleanor turns up the following year in the capacity of chief mourner at Katherine of Aragon’s funeral in Peterborough Cathedral. Interestingly Frances Brandon didn’t fill the roll – perhaps it was because Frances was pregnant at the time.That same year Eleanor was rescued from the Pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace by Christopher Aske and taken to safety rather than being turned into a hostage for Lord Clifford’s co-operation. She ended up holed up in Skipton Castle. Eleanor appears to have suffered from ill health for quite some time after this but by 1546 she is listed in the household of Queen Katherine Parr – who had experienced her own difficulties at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace as Lady Latimer.

Henry VIII died at the beginning of 1547, his niece died at the end of autumn the same year – in November (or possibly September depending on which source you read).  Henry Clifford, by now the second earl, went into a bit of a decline, burying his wife in Skipton Church where he’d buried his two infant sons. Ann Clifford, in her family history went on to explain:

…he fell into an extream sickness, of which he was at length laid out for a dead man, upon a table, & covered with a hearse of velvet; but some of his men that were then very carefull about him perceiveing some little signs of life in him, did apply hot cordials inwardly & outwardly unto him, which brought him to life again, & so, after he was laid into his bed again, he was fain for 4 or 5 weeks after to such the milk out of a woman’s breast and only to live on that food; and after to drink asses milk, and live on that 3 or 4 months longer.

Henry Clifford recovered and married for a second time.  He also had the common good sense not to get tangled up in the plots of the Duke of Northumberland who initially tried to arrange a marriage between his own son Guildford Dudley and Lady Margaret Clifford, Eleanor’s only surviving child.

Eleanor’s father, Charles, married three times.  Eleanor’s mother Mary Tudor was his second wife. He’d previously married secretly in 1508 and had two daughters. Eleanor mentions on of her elder half sisters in the only letter that survives from her:

“Dear heart,
After my most hearty commendations, this shall be to certify you that since your departure from me I have been very sick and at this present my water is very red, whereby I suppose I have the jaundice and the ague both, for I have none abide [no appetite for] meat and I have such pains in my side and towards my back as I had at Brougham, where it began with me first. Wherefore I desire you to help me to a physician and that this bearer my bring him with him, for now in the beginning I trust I may have good remedy, and the longer it is delayed, the worse it will be. Also my sister Powys is come to me and very desirous to see you, which I trust shall be the sooner at this time, and thus Jesus send us both health.

Certainly the letter confirms Eleanor’s ill health and the reference to sister Powys is to Anne Brandon who was married to Lord Grey of Powys.


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The death of Katherine of Aragon

catherine of aragonOn January 7 1536www.beautifulbritain.co.ukKatherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. Sir Edward Chamberlain and Sir Edmund Beddingfield, the late queen’s, er, hosts, wrote to Cromwell detailing the events of the day and asking for further orders as well as requesting a plumber to ‘enclose the body in lead.’

Cromwell then set about organising the funeral as well as dealing with the usual missives about monasteries.  On the 7th of January he had a letter from the Abbot of Whitby who’d been accused of piracy and another from Sir Francis Bigod who’d encountered a monk from Roche Abbey in York Castle accused of treason because he’d denied the supremacy.

Meanwhile Eustace Chapuys sent an account of Katherine’s final days to her nephew Charles V.  He’d hurried to Kimbolton on the 30th December. Chapuys noted that he’d been accompanied by one of Cromwell’s men and that he and the queen ensured that they always had witnesses to their conversation.  Katherine was careful not to be accused of plotting against her erstwhile spouse:

After I had kissed hands she took occasion to thank me for the numerous services I had done her hitherto and the trouble I had taken to come and see her, a thing that she had very ardently desired… at all events, if it pleased God to take her, it would be a consolation to her to die under my guidance (entre mes braz) and not unprepared, like a beast…I gave her every hope, both of her health and otherwise, informing her of the offers the King had made me of what houses she would, and to cause her to be paid the remainder of certain arrears, adding, for her further consolation, that the King was very sorry for her illness; and on this I begged her to take heart and get well, if for no other consideration, because the union and peace of Christendom depended upon her life.

Chapuys may have arrived in England as the Imperial Ambassador – a professional diplomat but it is clear that he had become fond of Katherine. He spent the next four days at Kimbolton and believing that her health had rallied took his leave promising to do his best to have her moved to better accommodation:

“And seeing that she began to take a little sleep, and also that her stomach retained her food, and that she was better than she had been, she thought, and her physician agreed with her (considering her out of danger), that I should return, so as not to abuse the licence the King had given me, and also to request the King to give her a more convenient house, as he had promised me at my departure. I therefore took leave of her on Tuesday evening, leaving her very cheerful.”

It was only when Chapuys arrived back in London and asked Cromwell for an audience with the King that he learned of Katherine’s death:

“This has been the most cruel news that could come to me, especially as I fear the good Princess will die of grief, or that the concubine will hasten what she has long threatened to do, viz., to kill her; and it is to be feared that there is little help for it. I will do my best to comfort her, in which a letter from your Majesty would help greatly. I cannot relate in detail the circumstances of the Queen’s decease, nor how she has disposed of her affairs, for none of her servants has yet come. I know not if they have been detained.”

The letter also demonstrates Cromwell’s efficiency organising Katherine’s funeral.  He even arranged for Chapuys to have black cloth for his mourning garb.  Chapuys declined the offer preferring his own clothes for the occasion.

Katherine had disposed of her affairs.  Recognising the end was near she had taken steps to ensure that her will was written.  There was also the famous last letter penned on her death bed to Henry.  Sadly, Tremlett suggests it was a work of fiction – but he also recognises that the letter may well reflect her feelings (why do all the best bits turn out to be fictions, amends and fabrications?):

The hour of my death now approaching, I cannot choose but, out of the love I bear you, to advise you of your soul’s health, which you ought to prefer before all considerations of the world or flesh whatsoever. For which yet you have cast me into many calamities, and yourself into many troubles. But I forgive you all, and pray God to do so likewise. For the rest, I commend unto you Mary, our daughter, beseeching you to be a good father to her. I must entreat you also to look after my maids, and give them in marriage, which is not much, they being but three, and to all my other servants, a year’s pay besides their due, lest otherwise they should be unprovided for until they find new employment. Lastly, I want only one true thing, to make this vow: that, in this life, mine eyes desire you alone, May God protect you.

When news of Katherine’s demise arrived in London Henry and Anne celebrated, famously by wearing yellow, but it is said that later Anne cried – perhaps she recognised that there was no one standing between her and Henry’s wrath anymore. She was pregnant at the time but by the beginning of summer she had miscarried a boy and her days were numbered.

‘Henry VIII: January 1536, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 12-26. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp12-26 [accessed 6 January 2017].

Tremlett, G. 2010  Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen.

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Agnes Howard nee Tilney

agnes tilney.jpgToday’s HistoryJar advent is Agnes Tilney better known as Agnes Howard, dowager duchess of Norfolk and Katherine Howard’s step-granny. Katherine was aged somewhere between fourteen and nineteen when she became queen on 28 July 1540. By November 1541 Thomas Cranmer had been presented with evidence he dared not ignore by religious reformer John Lascelles who may well have seen it as an opportunity to strike a blow at the conservative catholic faction headed by the duke of Norfolk. There followed a flurry of investigations and arrests. The 7th December 1541 saw the Privy Council investigating Katherine’s adultery and questioning “the lady of Norfolk” as this letter details:


“…all yesterday, they examined the lady of Norfolk, who denied all knowledge of the abomination between the Queen and Deram and pretended that she opened the coffers in order to send anything material to the King. Her denial makes for nothing, as they have sufficient testimony otherwise. Have today collected the material points touching her and lord William Howard ….that misprision of treason is proved against the lady of Norfolk and lord William, and that lady Howard, lady Bridgewater, Alice Wylkes, Kath. Tylney, Damport, Walgrave, Malin Tylney, Mary Lasselles, Bulmer, Ashby, Anne Howard and Margaret Benet are in the same case. Ask what the King will have done, and whether to commit lord William and his wife. All their goods are confiscated, with the profit of their lands for life, and “their bodies to perpetual prison.” Tomorrow at the lord Privy Seal’s house, will examine lady Bridgewater, and also Bulmer and Wylkes. Have sent for Mynster Chambre and one Philip, two principal witnesses against lord William and Lady Bridgewater. Christchurch, Wednesday night.

P.S.—Think they have all they shall get of Deram, who cannot be brought to any piece of Damport’s last confession; and would know the King’s pleasure touching the execution of him and Culpeper. Signed by Cranmer, Audeley, Suffolk, Southampton, Sussex, Hertford, Gardiner, Sir John Gage, Wriothesley, and Riche.


Misprison of treason was the charge arising from the 1534 Act of Treason which stated that it was treasonous to hide or not inform on someone else’s treason.


Agnes Tilney was the second wife of the second duke of Norfolk, or earl of Surrey as he was at the time of their marriage in 1497. His first wife had been Agnes’ cousin, Elizabeth. The pair married, with dispensation, four months after Elizabeth’s death. Agnes came from a Lincolnshire family which whilst gentry was not really of a high enough social standing for an earl – even one tarred with the white rose brush so it is possible that Thomas and Agnes married for love.


Thomas Howard worked hard during the reign of Henry VII to prove that he was a loyal subject of the Tudors having been notable for his support of Richard III and as time passed he was accepted into the Tudor fold. Agnes played her part at court and by the reign of Henry VIII they were sufficiently ensconced for Agnes not only to be one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting but to be one of Princess Mary’s godmothers and just for good measure she was also godmother to Princess Elizabeth having carried Anne Boleyn’s train at her coronation. She may have had mixed feelings about the crowning of her step-granddaughter – remember Anne Boleyn was a Howard as well- as she expressed loyalty to Katherine of Aragon. She overcame her devotion and did testify that she had been part of the group which had put Katherine and Prince Arthur to bed. As well as being named the second lady at court she also had a busy life as the duchess bearing her husband eleven children six of whom survived infancy.


Quite clearly she was a court lady , friends with both Wolsey and Cranmer, but she was also responsible for a number of young Howards and Tilneys, many of whom came from poorer branches of the family as well as other young people of good families who sent their children to work in the home of the duchess of Norfolk believing it would improve their chances in the Tudor world. Her homes at both Horsham and Norfolk House, Lambeth could be described as a finishing school for young Howard ladies and gentlemen (remember Francis Dereham who claimed he was as a husband to Katherine was of Tilney descent)– though clearly with decided overtones of St Trinians. Agnes may have committed herself to the care of these young Howard and Tilney wards but her direct involvement was scarce and her management lacking even though the young women of the household were under the supervision of an older woman called Mother Emet.


Young Katherine Howard joined Agnes’ household when she was about six years old. We also know that it was in about 1536 that Henry Manox was employed to teach Agnes’ young wards music. Manox clearly took advantage of the situation and it was at this time that Katherine began to join in with the household activity of allowing young men into the female sleeping quarters at night.


When news of Katherine’s teenage indiscretions were revealed by Mary Hall and her brother John Lascelles the dowager initially tried to bluff it out saying that Katherine could not be punished for what had happened before her marriage then hurried home to burn any incriminating evidence in the form of letters from Dereham which were contained in a trunk  or coffer that belonged to him. To get at the evidence she had to break the lock – an action which saw her being escorted to the Tower though not charged with treason on the grounds that she was old and unwell. Her denials were useless as Katherine’s relationship with Dereham only came to an end in 1539 when Agnes found out about it and beat Katherine. History does not know, however, how much the duchess knew about the relationship of her ward but the Tudors had their suspicions that Agnes knew more than she was letting on – as head of the household it was her job to know everything.  Even worse it was a group of Howard women who had written to Katherine asking for her to find a place in her household for Thomas Culpepper – if Katherine’s pre-marital affairs could be swept under the carpet then her affair with Culpepper connived at by Jane Boleyn nee Parker Lady Rochester  (a member of the Howard extended family being the widow of Agnes’ step-grandson) really couldn’t be ignored.


Dereham went to Ireland to make his fortune thinking that when he returned he and Katherine would be married. If this was the case and the pair had promised to marry one another then they were precontracted to marriage (which in Tudor terms was as good as marriage in which case Katherine was never truly married to Henry VIII so couldn’t have been guilty of adultery in a treasonous context with Culpepper.) But before Dereham could return to claim his intended bride Henry took a dislike to wife number four and Norfolk seeing a way of bringing Cromwell down looked about his extended family for single young women who might attract the king’s attention – Katherine Howard filled the bill – and as Dereham left for Ireland Katherine found herself appointed to be one of Anne of Cleves’ ladies in waiting. Agnes took over Katherine’s tuition on the duke of Norfolk’s order – possibly with classes on “how to become wife number five.”



Agnes clearly thought that with her arrest it was only a short walk to Tower Hill so took the precaution of making her will. The duke of Norfolk, who had used Katherine Howard as a device to gain political ascendency wrote to the king at about the same time distancing himself from his step-mother denouncing her for having known that Katherine was an unfit bride. Agnes was joined in the Tower by her son and daughter-inlaw and also her daughter Katherine. More than ten member of the Howard family were incarcerated. Lady Rochford would accompany Katherine to the block. The duke of Norfolk escaped arrest but Henry never trusted him fully again.


Agnes was released in May 1542 unlike her son and daughter-in-law who were sentenced to life imprisonment and confiscation of their lands and goods. Unsurprisingly Agnes was required to pay a financial forfeit. She died in 1545 and is buried in Lambeth.


The question arises did Agnes and the duke of Norfolk know that Katherine had already embarked upon two affairs and was possibly married to Dereham when they dangled her in front of the king. By this time Henry had treated two of his wives appallingly and his reign had been punctuated with judicial murder…consequentially if they did know they were either mind bogglingly optimistic to believe that they would get away with it or believed that they could control Katherine once she became queen. Increasingly I find myself thinking – poor Katherine.


Right I’m off to watch Lucy Worsely’s new series  on BBC 1 at 9 o clock on the six wives of Henry VIII.


Wilkinson, Josephine.(2016)  Katherine Howard: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s Fifth Queen. London: John Murray

‘Henry VIII: December 1541, 6-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 660-671. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp660-671 [accessed 25 August 2016].

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Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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



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


Filed under December, On this day..., Sixteenth Century, The Tudors