Tag Archives: Windsor

Scandal at Chelsea: the courtship and marriage of Katherine Parr and Sir Thomas Seymour

katherine parrHenry VIII was buried on 16th February 1547 at Windsor with Jane Seymour.  Their son Edward was now king with a five man regency council nominated by Henry VIII.  It wasn’t long before Edward Seymour had nobbled the council and rather than five equal men had become Lord Protector.

Katherine Parr moved to Chelsea with her two hundred servants, one hundred and fifty man yeoman guard, Elizabeth Tudor and the queen’s jewels which Henry VIII’s will gave her permission to wear until Edward was of an age to be married.  The will also stipulated that Katherine was to be accorded the honour of first lady in the land which rather irritated Anne Dudley the wife of Edward Dudley the newly styled Lord Protector (March 1547)  who felt that honour ought to go to her.  Edward  created himself Duke of Somerset and  also become Earl Marshal given that the hereditary Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk was sitting in the Towner on charges of treason.

thomas seymourEdward’s younger brother Thomas felt aggrieved.  Even though he was now the Lord High Admiral (sounds vaguely Gilbert and Sullivan), Baron Sudeley and a privy councillor he felt it was somewhat unfair that his brother was the Lord Protector.  What resulted was two years of rampant ambition, scandal and tragedy followed by Thomas’s execution on three charges of treason not that he was ever brought to trial.

Thomas began a campaign against his brother beginning by giving his young nephew pocket money and bribing one of Edward VI’s men, John Fowler, to say nice things about him; he started reading up the law books with a view to demanding to being made Edward’s co-protector and he began looking around for a royal bride.  He started of by asking the Privy Council if he could marry thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor.  The Privy Council said no but Elizabeth’s governess Kat Ashley was rather taken with the smooth talking charmer which was unfortunate when Sir Thomas turned his attentions from Katherine Parr to her young step-daughter.

John Fowler, the servant bribed to say nice things about Thomas to King Edward, was asked to find out the king’s view on the matter.  Edward thought that Thomas should either marry Anne of Cleves or “my sister Mary to change her opinions.”

Thomas trotted back to the Privy Council to request the hand of Mary Tudor.  On this occasion the Duke of Somerset explained that neither one of the brother should look to be king or to marry a king’s daughter. The brothers argued violently and when Mary was informed of the proposed match sometimes later laughed at the idea.

That just left the dowager queen.  Katherine Parr was thirty-five years old and before the king had made his intentions to claim her as wife number six clear on 1542 she had been linked romantically to Thomas.  This time Thomas didn’t check to see what the Privy Council thought about the idea. He began to visit Katherine at her home in Chelsea in secret.   By the end of April 1547 or the beginning of May the couple decided to marry – even if society would regard it as an indecently hasty match so soon after Henry VIII’s demise.  This was thrice-married Katherine’s chance of happiness and she intended to grab it with both hands.

Katherine had been married first to Sir Edward Borough – he was not a well man. After that she married John Neville, Lord Latimer who was much older than Katherine (approximately twice her age) and, of course, thirdly, she had married Henry VIII.  Katherine, thanks to Latimer, was left a wealthy woman so should, by rights, have had more choice in who she wed next  if at all. Sir Thomas Seymour courted her but Henry VIII had noted her care of Lord Latimer and seen her in Mary Tudor’s company.  In July 1543 Katherine Parr became queen of England setting her romance with Thomas Seymour to one side and possibly disappointing Seymour’s aspirations to marry a wealthy widow.

Now though nothing was going to stop Katherine. They were married secretly in May and Katherine gave orders for a gate to be left unlocked so that her new husband could visit her in the middle of the night.

There was the small problem of telling the people who mattered.  Katherine knew that she needed her step-son’s approval. However, by June there was gossip.  Kat Ashley, Elizabeth Tudor’s governess met Sir Thomas at St James Park  and commented on his failure to pursue his match with Elizabeth and also commented on the fact that he was rumoured to already be married to the queen.

Katherine went to see Edward VI who had no objection to his step-mother’s marriage to his uncle.  Edward VI wrote to her confirming his views on the 30th May saying; “I do love and admire you with my whole heart.”  He agreed to keep the marriage a secret until the relationship between Thomas and Edward Seymour was better.  Katherine, however, felt that rather than relying on his brother’s kindness that Thomas should garner support for the match from leading members of the court.

Mary Tudor was not so generous as her little brother.  When she received a letter from Thomas asking for her support in the matter she was horrified that a) he had aspired so high and b) that Katherine had so quickly forgotten the king who was “ripe in mine own remembrance.” Mary never seemed to forgive Katherine for marrying in haste and expressed concern that Elizabeth should continue to live in Katherine’s household believing that the newly weds had “shamelessly dishonoured” Henry VIII’s memory (you’d have thought that Mary would have been dancing on her late lamented parent’s grave given the way he treated both her and her mother.)

At the end of June 1547 the news of Katherine Parr’s marriage to Sir Thomas Seymour was public knowledge. Edward VI kept his promise to support them.  The Duchess of Somerset still had to give precedence to Katherine but she did exact a revenge of sorts in that she persuaded her husband to confiscate Katherine’s jewels which should by rights have been worn by the next queen of England but which Anne Dudley now modelled.

The problem was that Chelsea would not be free from Scandal for long.  In addition to her two hundred servants and one hundred and fifty yeomen there was the small matter of Elizabeth Tudor.  It wasn’t long before Sir Thomas began making inappropriate visits to his step-daughter’s bed chamber.  Kat Ashley didn’t immediately see any harm in his morning calls but Elizabeth took to rising earlier and earlier so that he would not catch her in bed.  Ultimately Kat took him to task for arriving in his night shirt with bare legs.  When he failed to see the seriousness of his behaviour Kat took the matter to Katherine Parr who made little of the morning visits, even joining in with them herself on occasion.  Society was in for another scandal and it looked as though Mary Tudor may have had a point after all.

Norton, Elizabeth. (2015) The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor. London: Head of Zeus

Weir, Alison. (1999) Children of England: the Heirs of  King Henry VIII. London: Jonathan Cape.

 

 

 

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On the trail of Amy Robsart

amy-robsart-by-t-f-dicksee.jpg!Large.jpegThis is episode two of my three part look at Amy Robsart’s life and death – as with any other historical death involving persons of political significance where there isn’t a clear cause there are always conspiracy theories – not that Amy was of political significance but her husband was.  So, this episode looks at what history does know without making any attempt to identify the probable cause of Lady Dudley’s demise – aside of course from her being found at the bottom of a staircase…and even the size and shape stairs are a matter of conjecture as we shall discover next time.

In the Summer of 1558 Amy and Robert settled into Norfolk. Amy had inherited money from her father and the pair began searching for a suitable home of their own. Remember at this stage of the story Robert was part of the Norfolk gentry thanks to his father-in-law’s links in the area. Elizabeth was still effectively a prisoner of her increasingly unwell sister Queen Mary.  Amy was not able to move into her childhood home because her half-brother inherited Stanfield Hall.

Everything changed for Robert, and thus for Amy, on the 17th November 1558 when Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth at Hatfield.  Dudley was by Elizabeth’s side the following day when the Great Seal was handed over to her.  One of her first acts was to make him her Master of Horse, in addition to a salary and four horses the post also gave him rooms at court and the right to touch the queen, helping her on and off her horse – no other man in England had that honour.  Cecil tried to dissuade Elizabeth by suggesting that Dudley could perhaps be a special ambassador to Spain but the queen overruled Cecil.   Dudley was now in constant attendance on the queen, helping with the preparations for the coronation and going hunting with her.  The following year he would accompany the queen on what would become an annual progress around part of her realm.

For Amy a time of homelessness followed.  She seems to have lived in the homes of men who owed their allegiance to her husband.  At first she stayed at Throcking in Hertfordshire.  This was the home of William Hyde.

By spring of the following year it was being reported by the Spanish ambassador as well as the Holy Roman ambassador that Amy Robsart was unwell and that Robert was waiting for her to die so that he could marry Elizabeth.  The queen did not disguise the fact that she disliked the idea of Amy’s existence or Robert being close to her in any way but in April 1590 Robert went to Throcking in Hertfordshire whilst parliament was in recess to spend Easter with his wife. His accounts reveal that he played cards with his host William Hyde and lost.

It may have been an uncomfortable visit.  Amy was unwell. She believed that she was being poisoned. William Hyde described Leicester as “My singular good Lord.” He even had one of his daughters baptised “Dudley.”  None the less, no one wants to be accused of poisoning their lord’s wife. It probably didn’t help that at a later date Amy was described as “sore troubled” at this time – and given the rumours about her spouse carrying on with the queen it is perhaps not surprising.  For some historians this is evidence of illness, an unsound mind or that Amy was being poisoned either with or without the knowledge of her husband.  So far as I am concerned from the point of view of this post it explains why Amy moved on from Throcking.

 

Robert Dudley’s account books reveal that he visited Amy in 1558 and 1559 when she stayed in Denchworth near Wantage.  It is also clear form his accounts and her correspondence that income from the land that she’d inherited was being paid directly to her and that she was writing to the steward of Syderstone – Mr John Flowerdew- about the sale of wool.

 

It seems that in May 1559 Amy made a brief visit to London by then Elizabeth had made Dudley a Knight of the Garter and the Venetian ambassador was noting the fact that Dudley was in “great favour.”  Amy saw a doctor, was described as eating well and feeling better.  It was the last time that she and Robert would meet one another before her death. From London she travelled to Suffolk whilst in London the gossips started to report that the queen was pregnant and that the father was Sir Robert Dudley.

During the early part of the Autumn Amy spent a few weeks at Compton Verney in Warwickshire.  Compton Verney was the home of another of Dudley’s followers.  Sir Richard Verney would be painted by Sir Walter Scott as Amy Robsart’s murderer in his novel entitled Kennilworth. He doesn’t come out of the story very well, for that matter, in Philippa Gregory’s novel entitled The Virgin’s Lover.

In November the Spanish Ambassador, Bishop de la Quadra wrote that there was a rumour that Robert Dudley was trying to kill his wife so that he could marry the queen.  The Holy Roman ambassador was sending similar information to his master Ferdinand I. Yet the French, with whom Dudley was closely associated at this time make no mention of it at all.

In December 1559 Amy was at Cumnor Place, some three miles from Oxford. It was the home of another member of Dudley’s affinity – Sir Anthony Forster and his wife.  He’d leased Cumnor Place from Dr George Owen, one of the physicians responsible for the care of Henry VIII.  The household included some of his relations – Mrs Owen is a key witness to Amy’s death (or rather key non-witness).  Amy’s room was the best chamber accessed from a staircase to the south of the great hall.  In addition to Amy, Cumnor Place was also home to her retinue of ten servants.  One of them a man named Bowes would carry news of her death and another, her maid, Mrs Picto would testify that Amy was in low spirits on the day of her death.  In August a gift arrived at Cumnor from Robert Dudley – his account books reveal he sent her gifts that ranged from horses to spices- and Amy ordered a new dress.

On Sunday September 8 1560 Amy ordered that all her household should go to the Fair of Our Lady at Abingdon which was about five miles from Cumnor.  Mrs Oddingsells, who may have been Sir Anthony Forster’s sister-in-law or possibly an impoverished member of the Hyde family cared for by Dudley, was shocked by the suggestion and later said that Sunday was a day reserved for servants and common folk to go to the fair and that she would have rather gone on a different day.  She also said that she didn’t want to leave Amy on her own.  Amy responded that Mrs Owen would join her for dinner – which she did.

Mrs Oddingsells did not go to the fair.  She and Mrs Owens played cards that afternoon.  Both women recalled hearing a crash but continued to play their game.

Later that day Amy was found at the foot of a pair of  steps or a shallow stair depending upon the source you read.  Her neck was broken and her head dress – according to the later anti-Leicester text entitled Leicester’s Commonwealth stated that her headdress was barely out of place. She was only 28 years old.

Amy’s man Bowes set off to give the news to Dudley but en route he encountered Dudley’s man Sir Richard Verney who happened to be in the area (let’s leave the co-incidence to one side for the time being).

News of Amy’s death reached Dudley on the 9th September at Windsor where he was staying with the queen. Dudley charged another of his men, his steward, – Thomas Blount- referred to as “Cousin Blount” in Dudley’s letters to investigate and to keep Amy’s half brother John Appleyard (from Amy’s mother’s first marriage) informed of his findings. Blount needed to find to whether death was by “chance or villainy.”

Robert arranged for Amy’s body to be buried at St Mary’s in Oxford – the bill for the funeral came to an astonishing £2,000 but he did not attend – custom said that he should not.  Instead he retired to his home at Kew and wore black for six months. Elizabeth ordered her court into mourning for a month or more.  Gristwood makes the point that Elizabeth probably ordered his withdrawal from the court in the hope that the scandal of  Amy’s tragic death would die down, except of course it didn’t and Dudley lost his chance to marry a queen …assuming that Elizabeth really would have married him.

Amy-Robsart-Unknown_lady_by_Levina_Teerlinc_c1550_Yale_University.jpg

There is no certain contemporary portrait of Amy Robsart although there is a miniature of an anonymous lady- shown above- which might be Amy in happier times.  The picture at the start of this post is by the Victorian artist Thomas Francis Dicksee.  Yeames depicted her in 1877 at the bottom of the staircase at Cumnor – he has left room as to whether the shadowy figures on the stairs are hurrying to her aid or are quietly departing having assassinated Mrs Dudley, which is of course what part three of this little series is going to be about.

amy robsart.jpg

 

Adams, Simon.ed. (1996) Household Accounts and Disbursement Books of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester:

Gristwood. Sarah (2007) Elizabeth and Leicester. London:Bantom Books

Skidmore. Christopher. (2010) Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson

 

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Henry VIII pops his clogs

henryholbeinOkay – so I’m a couple of days out.  On the plus side at the end of January 1547 the news of Henry VIII’s death was kept secret for two days following his demise on the 28th Janury at Whitehall so that arrangements could be made to move young King Edward VI to the Tower from Hoddesdon and so that Sir Edward Seymour and Sir William Paget could persuade the sixteen council members identified in Henry’s will that it would be far better if Edward Seymour, earl of Hertford shortly to be duke of Somerset would be an infinitely preferable choice as Lord Protector rather than a regency council of sixteen  as envisaged in Henry’s will.

This post coincides with the date  (30th Jan) that Chancellor Wriothesley cried buckets of crocodile tears in Parliament when he stood to announce that Henry was dead. He had been on the throne since 1509. The King is dead! Long live the King!

Cranmer had arrived in the nick of time from his home in Croydon to administer the last rites to his master after Sir Anthony Denny eventually plucked up the courage to tell Henry that he was dying. To predict the death of the king was treason – even when stating the obvious.  At that time Henry could speak but by the time Cranmer arrived having been delayed on icy roads Henry was beyond words and could only squeeze his archbishop’s hand to show that he trusted in his salvation through Christ.  And let’s face it if anyone had need of forgiveness then it was Henry who’d shuffled two wives off this mortal coil somewhat before their time as well as rather a lot of his nobility, his monastics and his thinkers as well as ordinary citizens who hadn’t gone along with his religious views, been in the wrong place at the wrong time or had the temerity to have a family tree that was rather more distinguished than his own.  And that’s before we get to the dissolution of the monasteries and the harassment of his first wife and the Princess Mary.

Weir suggests that Henry died of a pulmonary embolism (Weir, 502). Earlier writers suggested that his wives failure to produce sons, his ulcerated leg and his increasing paranoia were symptoms of syphilis although an article in the Journal of Medical Biography states that these factors are not evidence of syphilis and more specifically Henry was never treated for ‘the pox’.   It has even been suggested that the king famous for getting steadily bulkier with each passing year was suffering from malnutrition bought about by fasting- and certainly not eating his greens. Certainly his own physicians record him suffering from constipation. A more recent writer, whose name escapes me at the moment (sorry) suggests that the ulcerated leg could have been caused by an over tight garter. It has also been suggested that Henry’s jousting accident on 24 January 1536 which knocked him out cold (Anne Boleyn claimed her miscarriage of the male infant that would certainly have saved her life had it lived was the result of hearing the news) caused many of his health problems in later years.

Henry certainly had a series of strokes as he neared the end of his life.  In the last year of his life he was carried everywhere, he could be smelled a room before he arrived, was short-tempered and he showed symptoms of depression. It has also been suggested that he had Cushing’s Syndrome and that’s only the start of it.  Robert Hutchinson opts for renal and liver failure not to mention the effects of being so obese as the causes of Henry’s death at the age of fifty-five.  He’d been on the throne since his eighteenth year.

By the nineteenth century Henry’s death had been somewhat embroidered including the idea that Henry’s last conscious words were “Monks! Monks! Monks!” whilst staring manically into darkened corners where the spectres of  his monastic victims lurked. He’s also supposed to have cried out for Jane Seymour.  Whilst the former is a work of fiction the latter does have an element of truth in it if we look at his will.  He wished to be buried in Windsor next to his “true wife” – or in other words the one who’d provided a male heir.

I couldn’t really finish this post off without the gory story of Syon Abbey.  Henry’s body was popped into its casket which in turn was covered with blue velvet. On the journey to Windsor the king’s body rested overnight in Syon Abbey – rather unfortunately the contents leaked of the coffin dripped onto the stone floor beneath the trestle upon which it was resting. When the entourage turned up in the morning to continue their journey they saw a stray dog enjoying an unexpected early morning snack, er, let’s just say soup under the coffin.  Friar Peto, a loyal supporter of Katherine of Aragon, had preached a sermon in 1532 comparing Anne Boleyn to Jezabel and Henry to King Ahab.  When Ahab died wild dogs licked his blood.  Peto hadn’t won friends and influenced people- most specifically the king- when he suggested that the same fate would befall Henry if he set aside his lawful wife and broke with the Pope. Sadly it seems according to Alison Weir that this is yet another Victorian flight of fancy.

Want to know more? Click on the link to the Journal of Medical Biography.

Cohen J. Did blood cause Henry VIII’s madness and reproductive woes? March 4, 2011. History Web site. http://www.history.com/news/did-blood-cause-henry-viiis-madness-and-reproductive-woes.

Hutchinson, Robert (2005)  The Last Days of Henry VIII: Conspiracies, Treason and Heresy at the Court of the Dying Tyrant.

Keynes M. The personality and health of King Henry VIII (1491-1547). Journal of Medical Biography 2005;13:174.http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/096777200501300313

Weir, A. Henry VIII: King and Court, 2001.

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Henry Howard- Henry VIII’s last victim.

henry_howard_earl_of_surrey_1546-289x300Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey is perhaps not one of Henry VIII’s most likeable victims although perhaps one of the most gifted as a poet. His father was Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk and his mother was Elizabeth Stafford, daughter of the Duke of Buckingham.  This meant he was doubly descended from Edward III.  Now whilst some folk wear their aristocracy lightly Henry looked down his nose at virtually everyone as being inferior to him.  He couldn’t abide Cromwell and wasn’t terribly keen on the Seymour brothers regarding their bloodline as inferior to his own. Understandably this outlook didn’t win him many friends and ultimately it would cost him his life, in between times it landed him in rather a lot of debt as he certainly believed in living in style.

Howard born in 1517 was bought up at Windsor with Henry Fitzroy, Henry VIII’s illegitimate son with Bessie Blount.  His sister Mary Howard would marry Fitzroy. His cousin, Anne Boleyn, would marry the aforementioned monarch.  In short in Henry Howard’s youth his fortune looked assured.

In 1536 it all changed for the Howards. Anne Boleyn was executed for treason, Henry Fitzroy died and Henry Howard, who took part in the suppression of the Pilgrimage of Grace, was accused of having sympathy for it by Thomas Darcy at his trial. This accusation was to haunt Surrey.  The Seymours who, although related to the Howards, formed a rival faction used Surrey’s supposed sympathy with the pilgrims as a slur against the Howard family.  The earl of Surrey was a tad on the touchy side so thought nothing of striking a courtier who repeated the gossip.  It probably didn’t help that Thomas Cromwell was also using the information as a means of keeping the Howards in line.  The combined effects of breaking court rules and getting on the wrong side of Cromwell resulted in him spending time in prison – although it was Windsor- whilst there he developed a deep-seated dislike for Cromwell and low born advisers in general.  He came to regard new men who’d gained their places by virtue of their intellect and ability rather than their family trees as the lowest of the low.

He was released in time to mourn Jane Seymour’s demise but the “most foolish proud boy” was back in trouble in 1542 for fighting a duel. At about the same time he was accused of eating meat during Lent which was more dangerous than fighting the duel because it smacked of Protestantism.  Henry’s reformation was a very mild one – in that he was head of the Church and everything else stayed more or less the same. Surrey was also accused of vandalism and shooting arrows at Southwark’s prostitutes by way of light entertainment (what a delightful chap).

By 1546 it was becoming ever clearer that Henry, who was in his thirty-seventh year as king, was reaching the end of his life. Young Prince Edward would require a regency council. The factions circled one another warily vying for power.  In one corner were the reformers headed up by Jane Seymour’s brothers – the royal uncles.  In the other corner were the conservative Catholic faction headed up by Stephen Gardener, Bishop of Winchester and Thomas Howard, duke of Norfolk.

Norfolk came up with a marriage plan that would have united the two opposing families.  He suggested that Henry Fitzroy’s widow Mary could marry Thomas Seymour.  He also wanted two of Surrey’s sons to marry two of Edward Seymour’s daughters.  Surrey was against the idea because he thought that Seymour was beneath him.  Henry VIII thought it was an excellent idea but Seymour wasn’t particularly keen – he didn’t want to share power with the wily duke of Norfolk.

Surrey taking a leaf from his father’s book considered the options that were available and told his sister Mary that she ought to make herself available to the king – mistress would be good but wife number seven would be better.  Mary was not amused.  The siblings had a very public argument.

And that might have been that apart from the fact that when Surrey had been busy breaking windows and terrifying ladies of the night a maid called Alice Flaner who worked at an inn near St Lawrence Lane had been questioned and she’d revealed that Surrey regarded himself as something of a prince and that he’d said that if anything should happen to the king then the Howards would have a jolly good claim.  For an intelligent man who wrote some of the greatest poetry of the period it was a pretty stupid thing to have thought, let alone said in the hearing of others.

In December 1546 Surrey’s chickens came home to roost. He was arrested on the 2nd. The duke of Norfolk was also rounded up.  Father and son were sent to the Tower. Their home at Kenninghall was searched and their belongings confiscated. Everyone who had a grudge against the Howards emerged from the woodwork to offer their two penneth – mostly recounting Surrey’s dislike of the low born and his own inflated view of himself.

Mary Howard was also called as a witness.  She told the tale of Norfolk’s plans to forge an alliance with the Seymours and of Surrey’s objections. She along with Bessie Holland (Norfolk’s mistress) also mentioned Surrey’s new heraldic device – they noted that they didn’t like it and neither did the Duke of Norfolk. Very very foolishly in a realm where being Plantagenet could result in an appointment with the axeman Surrey had started using his grandfather Buckingham’s coat of arms along with other Plantagenet emblems.  In resurrecting the defunct coat of arms it was claimed that Surrey was repudiating the attainder that Richard III had served against Buckingham and was also stating his claim to the throne.  It was a very complicated coat of arms because Surrey had also managed to dredge up his link to Edward the Confessor and include that on the arms as well.  Lord Chancellor Wriothesley knew that not only did he have Surrey “bang to rights” but that Henry VIII would regard it as a direct threat to the Tudor succession.

Now whilst Henry didn’t necessarily wish for the balance of power to shift too far in the direction of the Seymours he couldn’t risk Surrey’s claim to the crown – at least not once Wriothesley had carefully explained it to him. Whether he’d meant to or not Surrey had managed to fall foul of the Succession Act of 1536. He was tried at the Guildhall where he called his accusers low born and wretched.  He was outraged that one of the witnesses was a woman…never mind the fact that it was his sister who’d revealed Surrey’s plan to make her Henry’s mistress.

Henry Howard, earl of Surrey was executed on 19th January 1547.  Henry VIII would die just nine days later – a fact which saved the duke of Norfolk from suffering the same fate as his son.

Hutchinson, Robert. (2009) House of Treason: Rise and Fall of a Tudor Dynasty. London: Pheonix

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Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

chapuys1533 was a momentus one for Henry. He married Anne Boleyn, Cranmer annulled his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and in September there was the birth of another princess– Elizabeth. Anne had promised Henry a boy which was a tad silly of her. History knows that she fell pregnant on three more occasions and miscarried at least one male sealing her own fate in 1536.

 

However that was all in the future on December 6th 1533 when Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador wrote a long letter to Charles V (Katherine’s nephew and at various times affianced to Princess Mary -Henry VIII’s sister- and also to Princess Mary- Henry VIII’s daughter). Chapuys’ letter from today remains in the archives of Vienna. Here is an extract that relates to the legitimacy of Princess Mary:

 

On St. Andrew’s eve, the King, who, for a month past, ought to have made or sent me an answer for what reason he claimed to deprive the Princess of her title, legitimacy, and primogeniture, sent to me by Norfolk and Cromwell to say that he would like to be informed by them of what I wished to say both on that matter and in what concerned the Queen ; and this he did, not to refuse or delay the audience, which he was very willing to give me, whenever I liked, but in order to take advice upon the subject.

And having made several remonstrances to them that the King could not allege illegitimacy, or deprive the Princess of her title, they replied that my arguments might be true and well founded in civil law, which had no force here, but that the laws of this kingdom were quite otherwise. But on showing them that I rested my argument only upon the decision of the canon law, which in a spiritual matter no prince’s decree could prejudice, they knew not what to reply, except that they would report it to the King, and afterwards declare to me his intention. This they have not yet done, although he has held almost daily consultations, to which several learned canonists have been called. As regards the Queen, viz., the agreement proposed by the Pope, they said that formerly it had been under consideration, but that since sentence had been lawfully given by the archbishop of Canterbury, they thought the King would not expressly or tacitly do anything prejudicial to the said sentence, as it concerned his own honor and the interest of his new born daughter, especially as she was already declared Princess, and that if all the ambassadors in the world were to come, or even the Pope himself, they could not persuade the King otherwise.

 

And there it is neatly summed up by Eustace – it didn’t matter to Henry what anyone else might think, he had too much invested in his new marriage and family for any form of backtracking.

 

So, our face of today is Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador whose words inform us about many of the events in Henry VIII’s world where he arrived in 1529 having had a career in the imperial diplomatic service following his education in law at Turin University and acceptance into holy orders.

 

He was sent to England by Charles V to replace the previous ambassador Mendoza with the specific aim of supporting Katherine of Aragon during her marital difficulties. The diplomatic relationship turned into one of genuine affection. It was Chapuys who made a last visit to her bedside as Katherine lay dying. Chapuys describes Katherine’s nemesis as “the Concubine” and “the whore.”  If he was required to be polite he referred to her as “the Lady.” It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the way he talked about the infant Princess Elizabeth.  Chapuys refused to meet Anne until Henry orchestrated a meeting  just before her fall in 1536.

Chapuys had reason to dislike Anne. He counted Sir Thomas More amongst his friends and he remained loyal to Princess Mary throughout his life.

 

Chapuys remained in England until 1545 where he didn’t always win friends and influence people. Lord Paget described him as a liar who would be able to hold his own in a court of vipers (he must have fitted right in).

When he retired from diplomatic life/spying he returned to Louvain where he originally came from and founded two centers of education.

 

He died in 1556 having done much to influence the way history would perceive Henry and his wives because of his lengthy correspondence with Charles V. It is from Chapuys that we get all the gossip, some of it without any foundation whatsoever beyond Chapuys dislike for Anne and an equal dislike for all things French. Reading his letters does give a fascinating insight but they need to be taken, on occasion, with a hefty pinch of salt.

 

images-9In other news for the 6th December.  It was on this day in 1421 that Henry VI was born at Windsor to Katherine of Valois.  A mere nine months later his father Henry V would be dead from dysentery and a babe in arms would wear the crown.  And, of course, from there it is a gentle downhill spiral towards the Wars of the Roses and ultimately the arrival of the Tudors with their dodgy claims to the throne.

 

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

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Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March – from the House of Mortimer to the House of York.

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Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March (born in 1391), was descended from the second surviving son of King Edward III – Lionel of Antwerp. Lionel had only one legitimate child (well at least that’s straight forward). Her name was Philippa. Her mother was Elizabeth de Burgh, Daughter of the Earl of Ulster.  Edmund is not a York claimant to the throne.  He is a Mortimer claimant – but he is the link that takes us from the Mortimers to the House of York.

Philippa, Lionel’s daughter,  married Edmund Mortimer, third Earl of March – his grandfather had run off with her great-grandmother (Isabella of France) and plotted to overthrow and possibly murder her great-grandfather (Edward II). Philippa had four children. The one we are interested in for the purposes of this post is her eldest son Roger although the others will get a mention before the end. He became the 4th Earl of March as well as Earl of Ulster. So far so good – the Mortimer claim to the succession is good – though female in origin.

There are no Salic Laws in England to prevent a female claim to the throne.  Henry IV tried to argue that his claim was better than Philippa’s and her descendents because he was a male.  However, this was the same man who fought in France basing the English claim to the French throne on the fact the Edward III was Isabella of France’s son.  When Charles IV of France died, Isabella and her descendants were the next closest claimants to the French throne – a fact which the French refused to accept based on their Salic Law.  Henry IV was essentially trying to have his cake and eat it.

 

But back to the Mortimers – Roger, Philippa’s son, married Eleanor Holland- who adds to the blue blood running through the veins of the Mortimers with the blood of the Earls of Arundel and Henry III.

 

Roger, managed to get himself killed by the Irish when young Edmund, who this blog is about, was just six. This was unfortunate because Roger Mortimer’s claim to the throne was better than that of Henry Bolingbroke who went on to become King Henry IV. Roger was descended from the second son of Edward III while Henry was descended from the third son- John of Gaunt.

Richard II had recognized Roger as heir to the throne in 1385 according to one source. Other accounts suggest that Roger was walking a difficult tightrope in his cousin Richard II’s affections from which he could have easily fallen. Certainly after Roger’s death Mortimer’s lands were swiftly set upon by an avaricious king (Richard II as averse to Henry IV who was just as bad so far as Mortimer land was concerned).

Things went from bad to worse after Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne. Edmund (now the 5th Earl of March) and his younger brother Roger became royal wards – they were in line for the succession after all and family as well…  In reality, they were largely brought up in Windsor as prisoners.  Edmund was not permitted anywhere near his estates.

Henry IV did have reason to feel nervous of the Mortimers. The boys had an uncle- helpfully also called Edmund- who felt that young Edmund had a better claim to the throne than Henry. Uncle Edmund felt so strongly about it that he joined up with Owain Glyndwr to rebel against Henry IV. Elizabeth Mortimer- the 5th earl’s aunt, wasn’t to be trusted either. She had been married to Henry “Hotspur” Percy who had died at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403). In short Henry IV must have looked at his Mortimer cousins and regarded them as treacherous nuisances.

Just to complicate things that little bit further another cousin, Constance Plantagenet who was the daughter of Edmund of Langley, the 4th surviving son on Edward III, attempted to free Edmund and Roger Mortimer from Windsor in 1405. She thought if she could get them to Wales and Glyndwr that Edmund could be declared king. She wasn’t terribly keen on Henry IV although she’d kept her feelings hidden long enough to be trusted to care for Edmund and Roger. She was the widow of Thomas le Despenser, Earl of Gloucester who was executed for treason in 1400. Cousin Constance managed to get the two boys as far as Cheltenham before Henry IV caught up with them. What a happy family reunion it must have been for all concerned!

Things changed somewhat when Henry V ascended the throne in 1413. Edmund was knighted and finally allowed to inherit his estates. He married Anne Stafford, the daughter of the Duke of Buckingham and appears to have done so without asking Henry V’s permission because he was fined a huge amount of money for doing so. Interestingly there is no evidence that it was paid. In any event the 5th Earl of March, perhaps because of his somewhat dysfunctional childhood and adolescence, was a loyal and quiet subject to the Lancastrian Henry V before he died of plague in Ireland – and I’m sure by this stage you’re just as pleased as the regency council of baby Henry VI must have been- without any heirs.

Edmund’s younger brother Roger also died without an heir.  So that was that, so far as a direct Mortimer claim to the throne was concerned.

However, a claim remained within the family – (I’ve nearly arrived at the York claim to the throne – hurrah!)  Roger, the 4th Earl of March, and Eleanor Holland had four or five children – Edmund, the 5th Earl who died without an heir in 1425; Roger who died sometime around 1410 without an heir; Eleanor who did get married but when widowed became a nun – died without an heir; Alice, who according to Alison Weir might not even have existed and finally the eldest child of the family – Anne Mortimer.

 

Perhaps Henry IV would have been better locking her up because she married another cousin – Richard, Duke of Cambridge the son of Edmund of Langley.  Edmund of Langley (the fourth surviving son of Edward III) was also the Duke of York. Richard’s sister was the rather daring Constance who managed to extract two small boys from their imprisonment in Windsor and get to Cheltenham with them before she was caught.

 

If Plantagenet family gatherings look as though they might have been somewhat difficult by the time of Henry VI’s birth in 1421 it is also worth remembering that Richard, Duke of Cambridge was part of the Southampton Plot of 1415. The plan was that the plotters would get rid of Henry V and replace him with Richard’s brother-in-law – i.e. Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March.

 

Edmund may have been involved in the plot up to his neck or there again he might not. The information is lost somewhere down the back of the sofa of history. Clearly Edmund got to thinking about the chances of the plot succeeding. He didn’t have to worry about hurting his sister’s feelings. She’d died four years previously. Edmund went to see Henry V to tell him all about the plot. Richard of Cambridge was executed.

However – Anne Mortimer left a son called Richard.  He became Duke of York and never forgot that his claim to the throne was much better than that of King Henry VI.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses