Tag Archives: Sir William Compton

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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Cardinal Wolsey and the king’s women

wolseyCardinal Wolsey suffers from being the image of the Catholic Church prior to Henry VIII’s break with Rome and consequentially a figure for anticlerical comment.  He was also not careful about being nice to folk on the way up the greasy pole of ambition forgetting that he might well meet them on the way back down.  There were plenty of members of the nobility who were more than happy to bring him down to earth with a bump most notably the duke of Norfolk.  Today’s post, however, is about Cardinal Wolsey’s role in Henry VIII’s somewhat tangled love life.

Portrait_of_Anne_StaffordWolsey appears in a legal capacity in relation to Anne Stafford, the wife of Lord Hastings.  Anne was the daughter of the duke of Buckingham.  Her older sister Elizabeth was the wife of the earl of Sussex.  Both sisters served Catherine of Aragon.  A scandal broke during May 1510. We know of it thanks to the gleeful writings of Spanish Ambassador Luis Caroz.  What appears to have happened is that Henry, now that Catherine was pregnant, looked elsewhere for diversion.  He looked in the direction of his cousin Anne Stafford.  She was eight years older than him, married for the second time but childless (she went on to have eight children with Lord Hastings).  Somehow or other Elizabeth got to hear about the dodgy goings on and spoke with her brother who in turn summoned Lord Hastings.  Sir William Compton, one of the king’s friends, was caught in Anne’s private chamber.  There was a lively discussion with the duke of Buckingham announcing that his sister wasn’t for the likes of Compton or for Tudors either (he probably came to regret that particular phrase).  The upshot of it was that Hastings took his wife away from court to a nunnery where neither Compton or Henry could dally with the lady in question.  Henry VIII was deeply unhappy and banished Elizabeth and her husband from court for being a pair of tattletales which meant that the scandal came to the attention of Catherine of Aragon resulting in a very unpleasant argument between the royal couple.

Three years later Henry gave Anne a very expensive New Year’s gift well beyond what protocol or courtesy dictated giving rise to speculation that the couple resumed their relationship.  Double click on Anne Stafford’s image to open a new page and an earlier post from the History Jar on the subject.

Where does Wolsey fit into this?  Well in 1527 he had Sir William Compton charged with adultery with Anne.  Compton swore an oath that he hadn’t been up to any such thing but his will written in 1522 suggests otherwise as not only did he ask for prayers to be said for Anne but he left money for her use as well.

 

Let us move to the next mistress – Bessie Blount (b 1499 ish).  It is speculated that Henry’s affair with Bessie began sometime after 1513 during one of Catherine of Aragon’s periods of ill health but no one is certain of this.  There is a letter in existence from Charles Brandon (Mary Tudor’s second husband) to the king giving his very best wishes via the king to Bessie Blount and to Elizabeth Carew (who may well have been yet another royal mistress).  The letter gives rise to speculation that Brandon may have had a fling with Bessie prior to Henry showing interest, equally it might all have been part of the ritual of courtly love and have meant nothing at all or, equally, Brandon knowing the king’s interest in the ladies doing a spot of creeping. What we can be certain of is that in 1518 Catherine of Aragon miscarried a girl and that a month later Bessie Blount produced a bouncing baby boy.

Evidence suggests that Wolsey was given the task of arranging for Bessie to have somewhere suitable for her laying-in at the Priory of St Lawrence near Chelmsford or Jericho as it was known.  The evidence is based on the fact that Wolsey was absent from London for much of June 1519 which coincides with Henry Fitzroy’s birth.  Thomas Wolsey also became the child’s godfather. Fitzroy remained under the care of the cardinal until he fell from favour in 1529 when he moved under the auspices of the Howard family.

Queen Anne BoleynThe next mistress in our story proved to be Wolsey’s downfall.  Popular history has it that it was Wolsey who split the young lovers Henry Percy and Anne Boleyn from one another in 1523. Percy was the heir of the earl of Northumberland and was part of Wolsey’s household whilst Anne was nothing but a ‘foolish girl.’  George Cavendish, Wosley’s biographer, notes that the leading aristocratic families were happy to have sons in Wolsey’s household.  He was at the heart of power after all.  Cavendish says that Henry had already taken a shine to Anne Boleyn and wished to put a spoke in Percy’s plans to marry the girl. Wolsey sent Percy home with a flea in his ear to marry the girl his family had already selected for him; Mary Talbot, daughter of the earl of Shrewsbury.  In 1532 Mary Talbot claimed that Henry Percy had been pre-contracted to Anne Boleyn and thus her marriage was null and void.  Given that Henry was in hot pursuit of Anne Boleyn at that time it wasn’t the most politically astute thing to have been saying. Even though Henry no longer looked to Rome a dispensation from the Archbishop of Canterbury exists thawing that all impediments to marriage between Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were removed  including the unknown ones!

We cannot know whether Anne and Henry Percy really did love one another or the extent to which their relationship had developed.  We have circumstantial evidence in terms of Henry Percy weeping when Anne Boleyn was condemned and also the evidence of Cavendish as well as assorted hostile ambassadors.   To find out more about George Cavendish and his version of events double click on the image of Anne Boleyn to open a new page and an earlier post.

What we do know for certain is that Wolsey was unable to unravel Henry’s marriage from Catherine of Aragon and that this was what led to his fall from favour in 1529 even though Henry is said to have declared he couldn’t afford to lose the cardinal and sent him a ring as a token of his affections when Thomas became ill.  Come to think of it Wolsey didn’t get on very well with Catherine of Aragon either.  She regarded him as pro-french and thus anti-spanish as well as being the man who ensured that she was sidelined in politics by making himself indispensable to the king.

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Anne, Lady Hastings – royal mistress?

Portrait_of_Anne_Stafford.jpgAnne Stafford was Henry VIII’s cousin.  Her mother was Katherine Woodville and her father was the Duke of Buckingham who was executed in 1483 by Richard III. Incidentally Anne was born in 1483 so she was somewhat older than Henry VIII.  The Staffords were the premier noble family in the country.  There was  rather a lot of Plantagenet blood flowing through Anne’s veins and ultimately it would get her brother Edward executed in 1521 when he listened to prophecies that suggested that Henry VIII would fail to have sons and that Edward would himself be crowned.

We don’t know for sure that Henry had an affair with Anne Stafford or Anne, Lady Hastings as she was by that time but we do know that it caused a huge scandal and that Catherine of Aragon lost her temper with Henry as a consequence.

The story is as follows.  Catherine was pregnant with her first child.  Caring royal husbands did not, apparently, sleep with their wives.  They showed their love and consideration by getting themselves a mistress.  Both Anne Stafford and her sister Elizabeth were ladies-in-waiting which turned out to be Henry’s preferred hunting ground for mistresses. Elizabeth, who was one of Catherine’s favourite ladies, became suspicious and notified her brother, the duke of Buckingham, that Anne was involved with the king.

Chapuys, the imperial ambassador, tells the tale that the duke of Buckingham did not take kindly to the king pawing his sister even if he was the king, after all he was only a jumped up Tudor whilst Anne had good Plantagenet blood.   The duke of Buckingham arrived on the scene and took up his argument with Sir William Compton who is thought to have been acting as an intermediary for the king. At the very least there were harsh words.  There were certainly raised voices. Henry was not amused by the furore, especially when Buckingham took himself off in a huff and Lord George Hastings, Anne’s spouse, was summoned by his brother-in-law to deal with his errant wife.  Hastings’ response was to send Anne to a nunnery some sixty miles from court whilst Sir William Compton was forced to take the sacrament swearing that he hadn’t had his way with Anne. Clearly Hastings didn’t feel it appropriate to accuse his monarch of any underhand behaviour and let’s remember this Lord Hastings was the grandson of the man who Richard III had summarily executed.

Henry in the meantime seems to have had a bit of a major sulk as he reacted by  banishing Elizabeth Stafford from court.  It was this exile of her favourite snooping lady-in-waiting that caused Catherine of Aragon to become “vexed” with her husband.  According to Chapuys she “wept and ranted.” She might not have been terribly amused about his infidelity either but kings weren’t noted for their uxoriousness in those days.

Just to complicate things even further it would appear that Anne Stafford and Sir William Compton did have something of an understanding.  He left her land in his will and required that she be included in the prayers said for his family.

And yet, it would appear that whatever was going on behind the scenes that Anne and Lord George Hastings were happy enough in their union if their exchange of letters is anything to go by.  They also had seven children.

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

 

 

 

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