Catherine of Aragon – queen of England

catherineofaragon_1769901iHistory might have been very different had the baby boy born on New Year’s Day 1511 survived beyond the first perilous months of infancy. Starkey records that two hundred and seven pounds of gunpowder were used to celebrate the child’s birth.

 

Little Prince Henry, Duke of Cornwall lived for fifty-two days. He was buried at the end of February. Catherine although she became pregnant readily enough either miscarried or produced infants who died: seven in all. Sir Loyalheart still wore lover’s knots on his jousting armour but the much needed heir had yet to make an appearance.   By 1514 the first rumours of a possible divorce were bandied about but in 1516 Princess Mary was born and there was renewed optimism.

 

In the meantime Henry went to war with the French and Katherine became regent of England and Wales. It was she who was in charge of England when the Earl of Surrey fought and won the Battle of Flodden. Meanwhile Henry’s father-in-law let him down with regard to France. Ferdinand signed a peace deal with the French having inveigled Henry into a war against them. It cannot have helped his daughter’s marital relations. Ultimately Henry would marry his youngest sister to King Louis XII of France. Spain went from being an ally to an enemy. Later Henry would propose that his daughter Mary, should marry to cement a French alliance when all Catherine wanted was for her daughter to marry her nephew, Charles, the son of Juana and Philip.

 

Charles V was a disappointment to his aunt. Catherine worked carefully after Princess Mary’s proxy marriage to the French dauphin in 1518 to bring her own plans about. He visited England and in 1523 launched an invasion of France along with the English but he failed to fulfil his side of the deal. Then Charles won the Battle of Pavia against the French and dropped the English because he no longer needed them. He deserted his aunt as well.

 

There had been other changes over the years. Henry came to rely on Wolsey during his time in France in 1513. He didn’t turn to Catherine so readily for advice when he returned to England. In 1515 Wolsey became Lord Chancellor. He would remain at the heart of Henry’s government until his fall in 1529.

 

If Catherine was finding life difficult with Henry and with shifting European politics she gave no sign of it. In fact she became increasingly popular with her English subjects. There had been riots in May 1517 and Catherine had interceded on behalf of the condemned apprentices.

 

Catherine’s last known pregnancy occurred in 1518. By 1523 her good looks had faded and she’d become somewhat on the fat side. Francis I of France described her as “old and deformed.” Then, to add injury to insult, in 1525 Henry unveiled a son. Henry Fitzroy was Henry’s son with Bessie Blount and he was six years old. Catherine was not amused. The row was tremendous. If only she’d realised it, things were about to get worse.   In 1525 Henry stopped sleeping, it would appear, with Catherine. He may also have put his current mistress Mary Boleyn to one side.

 

In May 1527 the King’s Great Matter was discussed. Henry wanted to be rid of his Spanish wife. He wanted a divorce. He claimed that he was concerned for his immortal soul.  He should never have married his brother’s wife. He felt that his childlessness- because clearly girls didn’t count- was a consequence of his sin. He also wanted to marry Anne Boleyn who’d refused to become his mistress.

 

Poor Catherine had lost her looks, her fertility, her political influence and now she was going to lose her husband.

 

 

Catherine of Aragon – humble and loyal

catherine of aragon emblemEach of Henry VIII’s wives chose their own motto and emblem. Anne Boleyn’s motto was ‘Most Happy.” After that Henry’s queens must have chosen their motto with rather a lot of care and not a little dread.

 

Catherine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife. They married in 1509 with Henry honouring a promise to marry his brother’s widow.  Catherine had become a penniless princess after Prince Arthur’s death in 1502 whilst her father-in-law and father argued about her dowry and whether she would marry Prince Henry or Henry VII or be sent home.  The death of Henry VII enabled seventeen-year-old Henry to rescue his princess.  Thomas More’s collection of poems celebrating the marriage of the royal couple, the so-called Coronation Suite, is liberally decorated with intertwined Tudor roses and pomegranates. The Museum of London houses a badge showing a pomegranate and a Tudor rose combined. Other examples of a rose morphing into a pomegranate have been found elsewhere and help demonstrate the popularity of the marriage between Henry and Catherine. Click on the image at the start of the post to open up a new window. For a while they were a fairy tale couple.

pomegranate and tudor rose

 

Catherine’s motto was ‘humble and loyal’ and her emblem was a crowned pomegranate. The pomegranate, originally the heraldic symbol for the city of Granada, represents life, fertility and marriage. The representation of marriage comes from the Greek myth featuring Hades and Persephone. Persophone was kidnapped by Hades and while she was in the Underworld she ate six pomegranate seeds. Persophone, as a consequence of eating the seeds and a ruling by Zeus, was required to spend six months of the year with Hades. The pomegranate came, somewhat ironically in Katherine’s case, to represent the insolubility of marriage. Clearly Katherine’s spouse had other ideas given that in May 1533 having failed to acquire a papal annulment he simply severed the insoluble tie by declaring himself to be head of the Church in England and divorcing himself from his wife of twenty-four years in order to marry Anne Boleyn who was a little bit pregnant.  It had taken eight years for Henry to get what he wanted but ultimately Catherine, despite her stubbornness and determination, was removed and exiled to Kimbolton Castle where she would die in 1536 little mourned by Henry but revered by her subjects, by her friends and enemies alike – Thomas Cromwell, the agent of her fall, admired her immensely for her intellect and powers of argument.

During that all that time Catherine had indeed been humble and loyal.  She’d done everything required of a queen from hand stitching Henry’s shirts, making blackwork popular and giving it its alternate name of Spanishwork, to being regent in his absence.  Whilst Henry VIII was off on a jolly in France pretending to have a war in 1513 it was Catherine who oversaw the victory at Flodden which also saw the death of her brother-in-law James IV of Scotland.

In the Bible the pomegranate represents fertility and abundance. Sadly for Katherine the arrival of heirs produced one tragedy after another. One baby boy lived a month before dying. In 1516 the Princess Mary was born but the passage of time and one pregnancy after another was taking its toll on the queen in both her looks and outlook on life. The one thing that was required of a queen was to produce a male heir.  Always pious, she turned increasingly to prayer for comfort bringing us to the final meaning of the pomegranate. In medieval art pomegranates are linked to resurrection and eternal life.   Henry also turned to the Bible, for an explanation rather than consolation.  He reasoned that he had sinned in taking his brother’s widow as his wife.

Henry_VIII_Catherine_of_Aragon_coronation_woodcut

 

Katherine’s daughter Mary took her mother’s pomegranate emblem for her own. The British Library houses a book of Mary’s depicting the pomegranate on its cover.

 

 

 

 

Sir Nicholas Throckmorton – ambassador

thoclkmortonInevitably whilst looking at Raleigh my attention has drifted to Bess Throckmorton; Raleigh’s wife and the love of his life. From there my mind has wondered to Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, Bess’s father. A man who seems to have been as outspoken as Raleigh himself and regarded by the Spanish as ‘dangerously clever’ – though that doesn’t seem to have stopped him from getting into some unpleasant scrapes which ultimately ended with his disgrace.

 

Sir Nicholas served four Tudor monarchs as well as the Duke of Richmond, Henry Fizroy. Nicholas was related to Sir William Parr and at the time he was Fitzroy’s chamberlain which explains Throckmorton’s entry into such a prestigious household. Throckmorton’s mother was Catherine Vaux of Harrowden and it was through her that the relationship to the Parr family came – meaning that Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife was Throckmorton’s cousin. Throckmorton was a younger son so he needed every family connection he could find if he was to make his way in the world.

 

Sir Nicholas’s fortunes remained linked to those of the Parr family. He turned up on the Scottish Borders in the service of the Parr family just in time for the so-called Rough Wooing. He turned up in Scotland again in 1547. It was Nicholas Throckmorton who was sent south with the news that Protector Somerset had won the Battle of Pinkie.

 

Despite having gained his foothold in the rungs of the Tudor social and political ladder through his links to the Parrs and to Somerset he seems to have been unaffected by Admiral Seymour’s goings on or indeed the fall of Somerset. In short Throckmorton was one of Edward VI’s men and a good protestant to boot.

 

His name appears on the device naming Lady Jane Grey queen but equally it is supposed to have been Throckmorton who sent word of Edward VI’s death to Mary – perhaps a case of having his cake and eating it. It was only when Throckmorton began agitating about the restoration of Catholicism that he got himself into trouble with Mary suggesting that she didn’t hold his affirmation of Lady Jane Grey against him. The trouble was he wasn’t that keen on Mary’s chosen husband, Philip of Spain and became involved with the Wyatt Plot.

 

In April 1555 he was charged with treason for his part in the plot. However, when he came to trial the jury acquitted him despite the judges hostility: a fact which didn’t go down well with Mary who promptly had the jury incarcerated for nine months and heavily fined when they were eventually released.

 

Throckmorton took himself off to France rather than face the possibility of any more of Mary’s hospitality. He left his wife at home (she refused to live in France) but ultimately was allowed to return and take up government post. But by this point he was in correspondence with William Cecil and Princess Elizabeth, no doubt lining himself up to serve his fourth Tudor.  When Elizabeth came to the throne Throckmorton wrote suggesting who would be her best advisors and in 1560 when Cecil and Elizabeth were out of sorts with one another Cecil said he would depart from his role as Elizabeth’s minister if Throckmorton replaced him.

 

Nicholas returned to France as ambassador from 1559-1562. It was his job to try and dissuade Mary, Queen of Scots, from displaying the arms of England. Throckmorton was also in France when the scandal of Elizabeth I’s love for her Master of Horse Robert Dudley became laden with overtones of murder. Amy Robsart’s death at Cumnor near Abingdon caused tongues to wag (Throckmorton wrote of “her neck” being broken “with other appurtenances” and Throckmorton didn’t hesitate to describe what people were saying. He also announced that “Every hair of my head stareth!” His letters to Cecil at this time are so distinctly undiplomatic that his friends warned him to write no further on the subject. Ironically it was the same Robert Dudley now Earl of Leicester who offered a final home to Throckmorton when he was disgraced for his part in trying to marry Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk but more of that shortly.

 

Throckmorton was ultimately undone by his regard for Mary Queen of Scots who he’d known since she was a child in France. He was sent to Scotland to prevent Mary from marrying Lord Darnley – not one of his greatest successes, though at least Elizabeth didn’t have to send anyone to rescue him as had been the case when he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Catherine de Medici. He was also sent to negotiate for Mary’s release when she was deposed but the Scottish nobles knew he was sympathetic to Mary so weren’t terribly pleased to see him. Once Mary was imprisoned in England he plotted for her to marry the Duke of Norfolk. It appears that Throckmorton thought that if she was married and ‘respectable’ then she could be released from captivity. He regarded a marriage to Norfolk as a safe marriage. He also thought that the Duke of Norfolk’s proposal was in line with what the queen wished.

 

Unsurprisingly Throckmorton soon found himself incarcerated; this time in Windsor Castle. His actions were deemed foolish but not treasonous. He was released possibly because in the years since he’d objected to Elizabeth’s marriage to Robert Dudley he’d become one of Dudley’s political advisors. However, he’d also managed to remain on reasonably good terms with William Cecil because he wrote to Cecil begging for him to intercede with the queen.  It should be added that it is quite possible that Cecil who was fiercely anti-Mary may well have shown Elizabeth the inflammatory letters which Throckmorton wrote when he was the English Ambassador in France.

 

Throckmorton’s end was recorded by Robert Dudley;

We have lost on Monday our good friend Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, who died in my house, being there taken suddenly in great extremity on Tuesday before; his lungs were perished, but a sudden cold he had taken was the cause of his sudden death. God hath his soul, and we his friends great loss of his body.

He died in London on 12 Feb 1571 and was buried in the church of St. Catherine Cree, Aldgate. His daughter Elizabeth known as Bess was one of Elizabeth’s maids of honour and ultimately Bess would be banished from court having done her own stint in the Tower for daring to fall in love, something which her father had castigated the queen about many years earlier.

Lady Eleanor Brandon

Brandon,Eleonor01The Act of Settlement in 1701 ensured a Protestant succession upon the deaths of King William III (That’s the William in William and Mary) and his niece Princess Anne who would become the last Stuart monarch dying in 1714. Since then, the title of princess has been clearly designated. The daughter of a monarch is a princess. The daughter of a prince is a princess. The daughter of a princess on the other hand is not a princess unless her father is one of the above.

 

Before the advent of the Hanoverians the title was less regularly used and it was not always clear how diluted royal blood was deemed to have become. Mary Tudor was undoubtedly a princess being the daughter of King Henry VII of England. She was also the Dowager-Queen of France having been married off for political reasons to the elderly Louis XII of France who expired three months after the wedding – the moral here being don’t marry a bride more than thirty years your junior… perhaps. However, although Mary was known throughout her life as ‘The French Queen,’  and whilst her daughters Francis and Eleanor were important in terms of the Tudor dynasty they were not, by Hanoverian standards princesses because their father was neither a prince nor a king.

 

After Louis XII died Mary batted off a number of suitors and married the man she’d fallen in love with whilst she was a princess back at home in England. Charles Brandon was the Duke of Suffolk. His father had been Henry VII’s standard-bearer at the Battle of Bosworth. Following the death of his father at Bosworth Charles was raised at court. He was a favourite of young Henry and was described in one letter as a ‘second king.’ Even so the pair of star struck lovers had enough common sense to undergo a private ceremony in France before returning home and then to get Cardinal Wolsey to break the news to Henry VIII that his sister, whom he had promised could marry whosoever she wished, was married to Brandon. He was not amused. The pair ended up giving the grasping Henry all her dowry and plate as well as agreeing to pay £1000 each year for the next twenty-four years.

 

Eleanor was their second daughter and at that time was so unimportant that her birth was not recorded accurately – so sometime between 1518 and 1521. In 1533 she was contracted to marry, Henry Clifford, First Earl of Cumberland who was also a second cousin through the maternal line. An account is given in that same year of Eleanor and her sister Frances as mourners at their mother’s funeral.

 

The marriage between Eleanor and Henry Clifford, like most noble matches was about land and power.  The pair, who spent much of their married life at Brougham Castle, seem to have been genuinely fond of one another – she refers to him as “dear heart” in her letters. As for Henry Clifford, he celebrated his marriage into the Tudor family by extending Skipton Castle with the addition of a tower and a gallery.  After all, its not everyday you marry into royalty.

 

In 1536, Eleanor acted as chief mourner at Catherine of Aragon’s funeral, as her cousin the Princess Mary was refused permission to attend because of her intransigence in the matter of her personal beliefs and her determination to uphold her mother’s wishes. It suggests that Eleanor was as close as her mother had been to Catherine of Aragon. This is confirmed by the circumstantial evidence that she does not seem to have had any role in the households of any of Henry’s queens apart from Katherine Parr – perhaps it was the northern link.

 

Alternatively it may be that Eleanor was not in robust health. We know that she bore three children – two of whom, Henry and Charles, died young. There are letters from her father, her husband and one from her which contain information about her own poor health:

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 Anne Brandon 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.

At my lodge at Carlton, the 14th of February.
And, dear heart, I pray you send for Dr Stephens, for he knoweth best my complexion for such causes.
By your assured loving wife, Eleanor Cumberland

 

 

In the same year that Catherine of Aragon died Eleanor was staying in Bolton Priory with her infant son, when the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted around her.  Skipton Castle was besieged and the pilgrims threatened to use Eleanor as a hostage. To ensure that Henry Clifford did what they wanted of him – the message, according to Stickland, was that if Clifford failed to comply  with the pilgrims demands then Eleanor would be handed over to ‘ruffians.’ Being a Victorian lady writer Agnes Strickland passes over the terror of that particular fate.  Fortunately for Eleanor there was a knight errant at hand. Robert Aske, leader of the Pilgrimage of grace, had a brother called Christopher. It was he who offered Eleanor protection.   Along with the Vicar of Skipton he escorted Eleanor and her son through the camp and across the moor to safety under cover of darkness.

 

The religious uncertainites of the period seem to have haunted Eleanor once more at a later stage of her life when she was mentioned as having a connection to Anne Askew. Fortunately for Eleanor it would appear that Anne approached her but nothing came of it.

 

Henry VIII died in 1547 as did Eleanor who passed away whilst residing in Brougham Castle. She was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton. It is interesting the at the wording of Eleanor’s epitaph gives her the title “Grace” – a reminder, perhaps, that to her family and to her people she was a princess.  Henry Clifford was, apparently, bereft for months afterwards to the point that his household thought that he had died and set about laying him out.  He recovered sufficiently to remarry. Henry VIII, as might be expected of a man who turned his kingdom upside down, wrote a will which identified the order in which his children would inherit the throne. If they did not survive he identified the children of Lady Frances Grey, Countess of Dorset and then those of Lady Eleanor, Countess of Cumberland to follow after him- bypassing the children of his other sister , Margaret Tudor, completely. It was perhaps fortunate that Eleanor did not live long enough to know the fate that befell her niece Lady Jane Grey or the difficulties that her only surviving child, Margaret, would face as a result of their Tudor blood and Henry VIII’s will.

A monk, a bishop and a heretic – Robert Ferrar

foxe289Robert Ferrar, a lad from Halifax, was an Augustinian Canon who showed sufficient talent to leave Yorkshire and go to Oxford University where he became a student at Merton University.  The Augustinians had a policy of each of their houses sending at least one monk to receive an education.

It was probably while he was at Oxford that he came under the influence of reformers  and the works of Tindale.  Certainly when Cardinal Wolsey investigated heresy in Oxford Ferrar was one of the men arrested and punished.  Wolsey forced the students who had been discovered with banned books to witness their destruction.  He was, however, allowed to complete his education.

Ferrar returned to Nostell Priory in 1533.  Three years later, Thomas Layton, one of Cromwell’s visitors arrived at the monastery to conduct its visitation.  The prior was very sick.  In fact, he died not long afterwards.  Ferrar was appointed prior probably because of his reforming sympathies.  When the monastery surrendered in 1539 he received a pension, eventually married and had three children.

Ferrar’s quiet family life intersected with his role in the Reformation Church of Edward VI.  He was appointed chaplain to Edward Seymour (the Lord Protector) and  then Archbishop Cranmer as well as Bishop of St David’s.  In this latter role he helped to reform the Welsh church.  It was this that brought him into conflict with his parishioners and resulted in him being imprisoned in London upon the fall of Seymour where he remained until Mary Tudor came to the throne.

Ferrar was in difficulties not only because he was a protestant but also because he was married.  Mary refused to recognise the legality of Ferrar’s marriage and he was deposed of his see.  He was tried for heresy by Archbishop Gardiner and found guilty.  He refused to recant.  He was sent from London to Carmarthen in February 1555 where he was placed on trial.  Eventually he was burned at the stake.  Foxe recounts the fortitude with which he met his end.  Double click on the image to go to Foxe’s account of Ferrar’s trial, imprisonment and death.