This 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.
|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.
Bessie 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.
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.|