Tag Archives: Reginald Pole

“Never the mother!” – The Boleyn Girls, their cousins, the king and a laundress.

Mary_Boleyn-248x300.jpgMary Boleyn took part in a court masque on March 4 1522 when she was about twenty-two.  The theme was love and the title “Chateau Vert.”  Anne Boleyn, newly arrived from France, played the part of Perseverance whilst Mary played kindness.  There were eight ladies in total dressed to the nines waiting in a castle for their lords to arrive.  There were also eight choristers dressed as unfeminine behaviours such as unkindness and rather alarmingly strangeness – demonstrating that being an oddity was not something that Henry found at all endearing.

Henry’s relationship with Mary is only written about by his cousin Cardinal Reginald Pole – he pointed out, rather unhelpfully from Henry’s point of view, that if you are trying to divorce your wife because she was married to your brother but denies the marriage was ever consummated, where does that leave the woman you want to marry if you’ve had an affair with her sister?  Henry wasn’t amused.  Other than Pole’s evidence there’s not a great deal of  concrete information – which is typical of Henry’s mistresses and encounters.

Mary does fit to the pattern that emerges in Henry’s earlier relationships – in that when she returned from the service of Queen Claude where she is alleged to have had a relationship with Francis I she was married off on February 4th 1520 to Sir William Carey – one of Henry’s gentlemen.  The usual 6 shillings and 8 pence is identified in the king’s accounts as a perfectly proper gift.  But by Easter 1522 Henry was riding into jousts with the motto  “she has wounded my heart” and then there was that masque – the ritual of courtly love was being played out.  It almost seems that King Henry was in love with the idea of being in love.

In 1523 Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn.  The boat had been purchased from Thomas Boleyn so could have arrived already named.

Of course the Catholic and reforming factions got to grips with the Boleyn girls- one group tried to paint them as a pair of scheming femme fatals whilst the other faction were more keen on emphasising their learning and culture.  It wasn’t long before the rumour was circulating that when he first became king, Henry, who as we have seen in the case of Anne Stafford, liked the older lady had a fling with Elizabeth Howard – Mary and Anne’s mother.  This particular rumour survives curtesy of a letter from George Throckmorton who  said that Henry on being accused of “meddling” with Anne’s mother and sister blushed and said “never the mother” – demonstrating at least that Mary was his mistress.  Nicholas Sander, a Jesuit priest went one better and according to Licence announced that not only had Henry had an affair with Elizabeth but that Anne was the result of the liaison – Thomas Boleyn being abroad during some very key dates.  This is definitely a nasty smear and when looking at the broader picture it is possible that Mary got caught up in the campaign to blacken the Boleyn name.   There is very little evidence from the time to suggest that she had an affair with Francis.  Licence also points out that the french king had an unfortunate social disease which Mary ran a high risk of catching but appears not to have done so, nor do her children bear any signs of the disease.  Of course, as with all these things its a matter of speculation and what little evidence there is can be argued both ways.

 

In any event Sir Thomas Boleyn suddenly became the king’s treasurer – presumably because he was a talented book-keeper and manager as averse to Henry being naughty with his youngest surviving daughter – let us not forget that emerging pattern of behaviour whereby the family of the king’s new mistress suddenly become financially more stable, acquire lands and new positions.  Sir Nicholas Carew got his own tiltyard in Greenwich when Henry was interested in Nicholas’s young wife Elizabeth.

 

catherine careyKatherine Carey was born in 1524 or possibly 1523.  Whose child was she: William Carey’s or the King’s?  Henry granted Carey estates and titles in Essex (so that was all right then).   If the child was Henry’s it was considered somewhat poor manners to claim the child of another man’s wife as yours and beside which she was a girl.  She first appears in the court records as a maid of honour to Anne of Cleves in 1439- so early teens which is about right.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys when she was sixteen and have sixteen children.

It is clear that Katherine Carey was close to her cousin and possibly half-sister, Princess Elizabeth.  As she prepared to flee England for Protestant Germany on the accession of Queen Mary she received a letter from Elizabeth signed “cor rotto” meaning broken hearted.  Katherine did not return to England until Mary died. She was appointed Chief Lady of the Bedchamber making her one of Elizabeth’s most trusted women – nothing wrong with that they were cousins – but were they more?  When Katherine died in 1569 Elizabeth had her buried in Westminster Abbey.  The notoriously parsimonious queen paid £640 for the funeral – fit in fact for a princess.

Steven_van_Herwijck_Henry_Carey_1st_Baron_Hunsdon

Mary Boleyn’s son, Henry Carey was born in 1525 according to the date on his memorial in Westminster Abbey but evidence suggests he was actually born in 1526 (no wonder Thomas Cromwell invented parish registers!)  The question then arises did Henry continue his affair with Mary once she had returned to court after the birth of Katherine? He doesn’t appear to have resumed his liaison with Bessie Blount  after she had her child and more importantly why didn’t Henry acknowledge the boy if he was indeed the king’s?  The answer to that one is fairly straight forward – King Henry had already demonstrated that he could beget sons, Bessie Blount (unusually) wasn’t married at the time she gave birth and there was the small matter of a possible interest in Mary’s sister Anne.  All that can be said is that Henry Carey is said to have looked like Henry VIII and Carey believed himself to be the king’s son as did John Hale the Vicar of Isleworth – a declaration that got him into rather a lot of bother with the monarch. Once again the evidence when delved into can be read two different ways as it is all circumstantial and comprises of ifs, buts and wherefores.

On June 22nd 1528 when Mary’s husband William Carey died of the Sweating Sickness leaving Mary with little visible means of support.  The wardship of young Henry was given to Anne Boleyn and the king had to intercede on Mary’s behalf insisting that Thomas Boleyn house his daughter.

Queen Anne BoleynBy 1527 it was clear that Katherine of Aragon wasn’t going to have any more children and Henry wanted a male heir.  Anne Boleyn wasn’t content with the idea of being the king’s mistress.  There followed a seven year courtship written about at length elsewhere on the Internet, a protracted court case and seventeen love letters found stashed in the Vatican, probably stolen on the orders of Reginald Pole.  History does not have Anne’s letters.  It is possible to imagine Henry having a private bonfire when he tired of Anne.

 

Mary,_Lady_Heveningham_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerAs with his first queen a pattern of pregnancy and miscarriage developed along with another princess with wife number two.  Henry was not best pleased.  Anne Boleyn recognised that Henry was at his most likely to stray during her pregnancies so it has often been suggested that the Boleyn/Howard family encouraged Mary or possibly her sister Madge Shelton to entertain the king in 1535 whilst Anne was pregnant. The Sheltons were Anne’s first cousins.  Their mother, Anne, was Sir Thomas Boleyn’s sister.   Rumour identified Mary Shelton as a potential fourth wife for Henry whilst Madge was linked with the unfortunate Henry Norris.

Unfortunately for Anne the pattern of pregnancies, miscarriages and mistresses continued.  The key mistress of Anne’s time as queen went on to become wife number three- Jane Seymour, yet another cousin of sorts.

It was during this period that Henry seems to have taken a fancy to one of his laundresses- a girl by the name of Joan Dingley.  She was married off to a man called Dobson whilst the resulting child called Etheldreda or even Audrey depending on the source you read was reared by the king’s taylor – a man called John Malte.  The king granted him ex monastic lands so that when he died it all passed to Ethelreda – the illegitimate daughter of the taylor at  face value was unexpectedly wealthy- especially as the lands went to Ethelreda rather than John’s other children and  she moved in esteemed circles. She married John Harrington who was in the king’s service and then Princess Elizabeth’s household  In 1554 she accompanied Princess Elizabeth to the Tower as one of her ladies and attended Elizabeth’s coronation in 1559 – she died the same year.

Mary Boleyn died in July 1543, seven years after her sister Anne died a traitor’s death, having married for a second time to William Stafford in 1534.  Stafford was a soldier and not a sufficiently grand match for the queen’s sister. Mary was banished from court by Henry and Anne because of the marriage.  Her family disowned her because she had dared to marry, for love, a younger son with few prospects.  She was forced to write to Thomas Cromwell asking for help.

 

Licence, Amy. (2014) The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII: the women’s stories. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

 

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Reginald Pole – White Rose and Cardinal

reginald pole.jpgThe Pole family descended from Margaret, Countess of Salisbury (the daughter of the duke of Clarence who was allegedly executed in a vat of malmsey and Isobel Neville – elder daughter of the earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker). She had four sons; Henry (Lord Montagu), Arthur, Reginald and Geoffrey.    There was also a daughter called Ursula. Had Richard III won the Battle of Bosworth and remained childless and Margaret’s brother the young earl of Warwick been deemed unfit to rule then his heirs would have been the Poles.

 

Young Reginald was born in about 1500.  He was educated by the Carthusians in Sheen and from there studied at the universities of Oxford and Padua and from there to Paris; all at the expense of his royal cousin King Henry VIII.  There is a note in Henry’s accounts describing him as “Mr Pole, the king’s scholar.”

In the summer of 1530 he became caught up in the King’s Great Matter.  In addition to using the Leviticus 20:21 and checking with Jewish communities in Europe as to their interpretation of the Old Testament in order to undermine Catherine of Aragon’s countering Deuteronomy argument, Henry also sent messengers  to the great university to elicit their opinions on the matter.  On May 1 Henry asked the University of Paris for an opinion and made Reginald his “dearest relative” the chief correspondent on the matter.

Reginald seems initially to have backed his cousin.  His letters record that Paris found in Henry’s favour but that the other faction were looking for a counter-opinion. (Bernard: 214).  By the end of the year, however, Reginald appears to have been having second thoughts. It was perhaps his concern over the divorce that led him to turn down Henry’s offer of the archbishopric of York following Wolsey’s demise.  Henry must have thought that Reginald would be in favour of the divorce to offer him the post.  He needed as many bishops on his side as possible. Henry offered the post to Reginald for a second time and saw him in person to discuss the matter.  Apparently the sight of Henry was enough to convince Pole that he couldn’t go agains this own heart on the matter.  He even sent a lengthy apology on the subject which no longer exists.  In it he warned of the dispute that might arise if Princess Mary was disinherited and reminded Henry of the Wars of the Roses – which was perhaps not an entirely sensible thing to do as it reminded Henry about who had the Plantagenet blood flowing through their veins and who might have been monarchs in other circumstances.

 

In January 1532 Pole went off to Europe to continue with his academic studies and to keep a low profile which he did until 1535 when Henry demanded that he wanted Reginald’s opinion on the subject of Henry’s supremacy, the divorce and the break with Rome.  Henry  helpfully sent him some books on the subject. By the time Henry had his answer Sir Thomas More and Bishop Fisher were dead as were the Carthusian monks of the Charter House in Sheen who’d taught him as a boy.  Reginald described Henry as a ‘wild beast’; being like a dirty barrel and incestuous (perhaps a reaction to the fact that Henry had an affair with Anne Boleyn’s sister Mary).  It was perhaps not a response designed to win friends and influence people nor was it a very private response as it was soon published all over Europe; later Reginald would claim that it was without his consent.

Henry politely suggested that Reginald return home for a face to face discussion.

By now Pope Paul III was in charge and he suggested that perhaps Reginald’s welcome would be rather too warm if he set foot on English shores.  It can’t have helped that the Imperial Ambassador, Chapuys, had suggested that perhaps Reginald might be able to marry the Princess Mary and take the crown from Henry in 1534. The small matter of Pole’s religious orders seems not to have worried the ambassador unduly (though Pole didn’t celebrate his first mass until Queen Mary was on the throne). Chapuys had already told the Pole family to keep Reginald in Europe rather than at home where he’d most likely have ended up in the Tower at the very least.

On 22nd of December 1536 Reginald was made a cardinal having made a name for himself in Rome where his humanist education leant itself to the reform of the Catholic Church from within.  To add insult to Henry VIII’s injury Reginald was made papal legate of England in February 1537.

Reginald’s actions reminded Henry that there was such a thing as a ‘white rose faction’.  The Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536 was ultimately used to round up Reginald’s mother and brothers following the Exeter Conspiracy.  It hadn’t helped Lord Montagu that he’d sent a letter to Reginald berating him for the contents of his book on the subject of Henry’s supremacy and the break from Rome. The poor man must have squirmed horribly when Thomas Cromwell turned up to visit him especially to read chunks of his brother’s rebuttal of Henry’s actions.  Even the Countess of Salisbury had written to Reginald demanding that he come home and face the music.  Both these letters had been seen by the King’s council before they were sent to Reginald (Seward: 295).  By 1539 Geoffrey was in the Tower and he in his turned implicated the rest of his family. He, his brother and his mother would be executed.

Reginald, in Europe, found himself facing assassination attempts that would continue throughout Henry’s life was increasingly disturbed by the extent to which the Church in England faced destruction.  Ultimately he sought the help of Francis I of France and also Catherine of Aragon’s nephew, Charles V, arguing that Henry was worse than the Turkish threat.  Charles chose not to invade England and Reginald’s name found its way onto a bill of attainder in 1539. Henry VIII had come to hate his Plantagenet cousin. For Englishmen who didn’t want to lose their catholicism he became an alternative to the Tudors.

 

It was only when Henry VIII’s daughter Mary took the throne after the brief reigns of her half brother Edward VI and the nine days queen Lady Jane Grey that Pole returned to England after a long career as a papal diplomat.  He’d even been suggested as pope.  Mary wrote to her cousin asking for spiritual guidance, his attainder was reversed and despite a lack of concord with Mary’s spouse Philip II of Spain he stepped foot on English soil once more at Dover in 1554.  The country was Catholic once more.  He sought now to heal the breach with Rome – notable amongst the victims of Mary’s determination to wipe Protestantism from English thoughts included the burning of Thomas Cranmer who Pole replaced as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Reginald Pole died on the 17th November 1558 on the same day as Queen Mary.  Their plan to return England and Wales to Catholicism bound to fail as Protestant Princess Elizabeth was now hailed Queen Elizabeth I.

The portrait of Pole pictured at the start of this post may be found at Hardwick Hall, a National Trust property, in Derbyshire.

Bernard, G.W. (2005) The King’s Reformation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press

Seward, Desmond. (2010)  The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors. London: Constable

 

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Eleanor Pole

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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