Tag Archives: Sir Nicholas Carew

Three queens in one year – all quiet on the mistress front.

jane seymourBy January 1536 Henry  had developed an interest in Jane Seymour despite the Boleyn family’s best efforts to keep him distracted with their own young women. Famously Henry told Anne to mind her own business as her betters had done when she confronted him on the topic.

On the 7th January 1536 Catherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle.  At the time poison was suspected, especially when it was revealed that her heart had blackened. At the end of the month Anne Boleyn mis-carrried the child who had he survived would have ensured her safety. Rather than being free of a woman many people regarded as Henry’s queen, Anne was now anxious that she was in a situation where Henry might feel able to rid himself of a woman who had not delivered a male heir. The seven year hunt had proved rather more exciting that married life. She was correct in her surmise.  It probably didn’t help that she and Thomas Cromwell had a bit of an argument that turned into a power struggle.

On 14 May 1536, having been arrested on charges of adultery, Anne’s marriage was declared invalid – meaning that Henry had his cake and ate it because he was free to marry again but technically Anne couldn’t have been guilty of adultery (even if she had been having a relationship which most historians think not) if she wasn’t married – so therefore she couldn’t have been executed for treason.  It may have been this logic that led Anne to think that Henry would commute her sentence to exile into a nunnery.  On May 17th her co-defendants were executed including her brother George.  Anne was executed on the 18th. The way was clear for Henry to take a new wife.

Jane was, of  Plantagenet descent, the polar opposite of Anne.  She was a traditional sort of girl with traditional religious leanings. And yes, she was one of Anne’s cousins as well as Henry’s.  Jane like Anne before her had shifted from lady-in-waiting to queen in waiting and like Anne before her Henry removed her from court so that no scandal should attach itself to her whilst he disposed of his unwanted spouse.  Jane was shipped off to Beddington near Croydon.  It was the family home of Sir Nicholas Carew – his young wife Elizabeth was another notch on  Henry’s bedpost and Carew had been providing locations for Henry to meet with women for a very long time at this point in proceedings (it didn’t help him very much in 1539 when he was executed for treason.)

By the 20th May Jane Seymour became wife number three or in Henry’s mind wife number one as the previous two had been demonstrated to be illegal.

1536, as well as being the year of three queens was also a horrible year for Henry in other respects. In July Henry FitzRoy died.  He was seventeen years old.  In October the Pilgrimage of Grace erupted in Lincolnshire, spreading to Yorkshire, Cumberland and Westmorland.  There was also a bit of a rumpus in the West Country.

So far as Henry was concerned the good news was that Jane  became pregnant and on the 16th September 1537 took to her chamber where she produced a boy on the 12th October.  He was baptised Edward on the 15th and by the 24th Jane was dead due to complications of childbirth.  Since the pair were still in the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship there is no evidence of a mistress although given Henry’s track record when his wives became pregnant it isn’t to say there weren’t any!

Thomas Cromwell took advantage in the hiatus to set up more tractional marriage negotiations with continental treaties in mind.  Henry may have consoled himself with one of Jane’s young ladies in waiting;  Anne Bassett, the young step-daughter of his uncle Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle. I have posted about her previously.  Double click on her name to open a new window and read the earlier post.

 

 

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Henry VIII- Sir Loyal Heart?

1531_Henry_VIIIThis particular post and the next five which will follow all this week are by way of a reminder to me about Henry’s wives, mistresses and alleged children.  Although he only ever acknowledged Henry FitzRoy, the son of Bessie Blount who he created duke of Richmond and Somerset there is speculation about other children.

1509 – 1527 – Henry ascended the throne aged seventeen and promptly married his widowed sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon.  She was twenty-three and the archetypal princess in need of a heroic knight having been kept in limbo by the machinations of her father Ferdinand of Aragon and Henry VII who were as tight fisted as one another.

Henry saw himself as Catherine’s knight errant riding to her rescue.  Unfortunately things soon went badly wrong when Ferdinand manipulated his young son-in-law into going to war with France and then making a peace which served his purposes rather than Henry’s.  At home Cardinal Wolsey gained the king’s ear and Catherine failed to provide Henry with an heir to the throne.  It wasn’t long before mistresses abounded but Henry continued to wear love knots on his jousting armour with his initials inter-twined with those of Katherine.

The birth of Princess Mary in 1516 squashed rumours that Henry was looking to have his marriage annulled but matters can’t have been helped as Katherine became more and more pious, even wearing a hair shirt. In addition Katherine was troubled by an infection of the womb that may have caused an unpleasant smell.  In 1525 Henry stopped living with his wife.

Key facts:
1510 – Lady Anne Stafford – the sister of the duke of Buckingham and wife of Lord Hastings. She was also Henry VIII’s cousin and eight years older than him. The alarm was raised by Anne’s sister Elizabeth who spoke with her brother Edward. He caught Sir William Compton in her chamber.  Anne’s husband was summoned; Anne was packed off to a nunnery; there was a scandal; Katherine of Aragon was deeply upset; Edward informed Henry that a Tudor wasn’t good enough to carry on with his sister.  It is perhaps not terribly surprising that Buckingham ended up being charged with treason in 1521 and executed.  Henry appears to have continued his affair until about 1513.  Meanwhile, Sir William Compton was close to the king.  He was a gentleman of the privy chamber and appears to have arranged for the king to entertain ladies in William’s house on Thames Street as well as facilitating the discrete arrival of ladies in Henry’s bed chamber at court.

1513 Ettiennette de la Baume  After the Battle of the Spurs and the Siege of Tournai Henry went to Lille where he stayed with Margaret of Austria, the regent of the Netherlands as well as sister to Emperor Maximillian.  Henry was reported as dancing in his bare feet and shirt sleeves with “Madam the Bastard.”  History has no idea who the lady might be.  However, the following year Henry received a letter from Ettiennette who was one of Margaret’s ladies.  She sent a bird and medicinal roots as well as a reminder that Henry had spoken “pretty things” to her and promised her 10,000 crowns or angels when she was married- a generous gesture!

1514- in the same year as receiving the letter from Ettiennette Henry placed the whole court in mourning “for love of a lady.”

Elizabeth Carew- Elizabeth was just twelve when she gave birth to a son.  She was the wife of Henry’s bosom buddy Sir Nicholas Carew.  He was a champion jouster and friend of the king’s.  Like Compton he facilitated opportunities for Henry to be alone with the ladies.  It has been suggested that one of the ladies was his own wife.  Henry gave the happy couple the standard Tudor wedding present of 6 shillings but Elizabeth’s mother received £500 whilst Elizabeth was given presents of jewels and a mink coat.  Make of it what you will – he might have just been being generous to the wife of a very good friend.

bessieblount1Bessie Blount – Bessie was one of Catherine’s maids-of-hounour.  When she first arrived at court she is estimated to have been about eleven years old. We know that she was well educated and that she took part in the masque that occurred at court. In July 1514 her father received £146 in advance wages and there is also the evidence of a letter from Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk where he makes a courtly gesture to both Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Carew.   She was married off to Gilbert Tailboys, a gentleman in Wolsey’s household.

1514- Jane Popincourt – The frenchwoman began her career in 1498 in service of Elizabeth of York but transferred into the household of Mary Tudor and from there into Katherine of Aragon’s household.  She achieved notoriety in 1513 when  Louis d’Orleans, the Duc de Longueville was captured and sent to the Tower.  She visited him often and commenced an affair.  When Mary Tudor was sent off to France to marry King Louis XII Jane should have gone with her as a lady -in-waiting but Louis struck her name from the list because she was an immoral woman announcing,  “I would she were burned.” She did finally return to France in 1516 received a parting gift of £100 from Henry.  Their affair had begun in 1514 when Katherine of Aragon was heavily pregnant.

Mary Boleyn- famously Henry owned a boat called the Mary Boleyn but he may have purchased it from Mary’s father. Mary, somewhat notoriously, was mistress of Francis I, the King of France before catching Henry’s eye.  When she returned to England she was married, rather promptly, to Sir William Carey a Gentleman of the Chamber. The wedding gift from the king was the usual 6 shillings.  The only written evidence that Mary was Henry’s mistress comes from Cardinal Pole.

 

Children

1519- birth of Henry FitzRoy, son of Bessie Blount followed in 1521 by a daughter called Elizabeth who received the name Tailboys.  There are some doubts about the dates. Bessie’s third child, George, was definitely her husbands so far as historians can tell these things.

1524- birth of Catherine Carey, daughter of Mary Boleyn.  She went on to marry Sir Francis Knollys.  Henry Carey was born in 1526.  However, Mary would have been pregnant with him in 1525.  It has been suggested that Mary’s pregnancy with Henry causedKing Henry to look more closely at Mary’s sister Anne.  Henry Carey’s parentage has always been much speculated upon. Understandably King Henry did not acknowledge either of these children as his because it would have rather sunk his argument about cohabiting with an in-law at a point when he was trying to divorce Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn.
 

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Sir Nicholas Carew and his wife

sir nicholas carew.jpgSir Nicholas Carew of Beddington near London was a childhood friend of Henry VIII – not that it stopped the Tudor tyrant from lopping off his friend’s head in 1539 of course.   He was a champion jouster, diplomat and a bit of a naughty lad.  He was one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber who was purged from court in 1518 for being a bad influence on Henry. Hart reports that he arranged private tete a tetes for Henry and his lady friends at his home.

He wasn’t away from court for long.  He and Henry probably had too much history.  Sir Nicholas was with Henry for the Siege of Tournai and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  In 1537 he turns up as one of the nobles in charge of the font in which the infant Prince Edward was baptised.

There was also the small matter of his wife – Elizabeth Bryan.  Elizabeth and Anne Boleyn were cousins.  Their mothers were half-sisters.  So, yes, Henry was related to Elizabeth to some degree.  She was of an age with Bessie Blount who we know to have been the king’s mistress because of the arrival of Henry Fitzroy, the king’s illegitimate son in 1519.  Kelly Hart draws on a letter written by the duke of Suffolk referencing both Bessie and Lady Carew.  It could have been a courtly love kind of letter which meant absolutely nothing but Hart points out that Henry gave the Elizabeth Carew very expensive New Year gifts and a very nice present when her son was born.  For those of you who are noble minded readers this was no doubt because Sir Nicholas was such a good friend.  For the more tabloid amongst you, handing over diamonds and pearls which rightfully belonged to Catherine of Aragon not to mention a nice new mink coat might sound suspiciously like gifts for a mistress.  The problem is that no one knows for sure.  There is only circumstantial evidence.

What we do know is that Bessie Blount and Elizabeth Bryan were ladies-in-waiting at the same time.  Harris records their appearance in court masques and dances.  She also notes that Henry often let them keep the costumes and jewels that they wore during their performances (2002:236).  We also know that Elizabeth was very young at this time.  She wasn’t yet thirteen when she gave birth to her first child. The pair were married by December 1514.  Henry gave the happy couple 6s 8d according to his accounts of the period.  This was a standard gift.  The gift of £500 to Elizabeth’s mother is harder to explain.  It also ought to be pointed out that Lady Bryan was appointed to be Princess Mary’s governess two years later -so once again we are back to making of the evidence what we will. It was either a generous gesture or something more sordid.

Sir Nicholas’s wife might have been rather too friendly with Henry and Sir Nicholas might have offered his home as a Tudor love nest but he drew the line at royal mistresses becoming queen.  He wasn’t keen on Anne Boleyn at all.  In part this was because he was a staunch Catholic. It was also because he was loyal to Catherine of Aragon.  He wasn’t fool enough to cross Henry about Anne but he did tell the imperial ambassador Chapuys about his sympathy for both Catherine and Princess Mary. It led him to join forces with Cromwell, not known for his Catholic sympathies (it’s more the enemy of my enemy is my friend school of thought), in order to topple Anne Boleyn. Sir Nicholas was said to be behind some of the rather dodgy rumours about Anne’s love life.

Unfortunately for Sir Nicholas having sent Anne off to the block he and Cromwell parted company.  Carew continued to champion Princess Mary and it looks like Cromwell took the opportunity to stitch Carew into the Exeter Plot of 1538 which sought to get rid of Henry and replace him with Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Valentine’s Day 1539 Sir Nicholas was found guilty of treason and executed on March 3 1539.  Chapuys wrote of the event in a letter to Charles V dated 31 December 1539 :

The grand Escuyer Master Carew was taken prisoner to the Tower, and the moment his arrest was ordered, Commissioners went to seize all his goods and his houses.  It is presumed that the King will not have forgotten to charge them to take the most beautiful diamonds and pearls and innumerable jewels which he formerly gave to the said Escuyer’s wife, the greater part he had taken from the late good Queen.

It would also have to be said that Chapuys didn’t have a good word to say about Henry by this point in proceedings. What we do know for certain is that Sir Nicholas’s land was confiscated by Act of Attainder.  Henry’s papers for 1546 reveal that some of his lands were given to Anne of Cleves for her life time. Sir Francis Carew was ultimately able to retrieve much of his father’s estates including Beddington

Elizabeth died in 1546 but Sir Nicholas lives on in his portrait by Hans Holbein.  He’s wearing full jousting armour. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that Sir Nicholas was framed by Thomas Cromwell and that Lady Elizabeth Carew had once been the king’s mistress.  Of course, you could also argue, equally effectively, that the virtuous  Lady Carew was at court in her youth and that Sir Nicholas, increasingly, dissatisfied with his master’s religious viewpoint turned to treachery.  No wonder there’s so much historical fiction out there!

 

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

Hart, Kelly. (2009) The Mistress of Henry VIII. Stroud: The History Press

Pemberton- Child (1013) Elizabeth Blount and Henry the Eighth, with some account of her surroundings. https://archive.org/details/elizabethblounth00chiluoft accessed 20/April/2016 at 17:03

 

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