Book Review: Anne Boleyn, Adultery, Heresy, Desire by Amy Licence

Anne Boleyn by Amy Licence

To understand Anne Boleyn, we have to know about her world first. Her roots, going back to the very beginning, tracing her family story, her role in the shifting religious climate of the Tudor era and finally, the differing views on women. When it comes to giving these women’s a voice, nobody is more suited for this task than renowned women’s historian, Amy Licence. The past comes alive in her new biography on Henry VIII’s second consort, and the mother to one of the world’s greatest female leaders who ruled England the longest out of all her dynasty, Elizabeth I.

Anne Boleyn lived during a time when many changes were going on. Nobody could have predicted her fall, or how far Henry VIII would have gone to have her. Nevertheless, looking back further, some things about her character start to make more sense.

Like her previous biography on Catherine of Aragon, this is a very detailed book. Highlighting the difference in status and the ever-changing cultural norms regarding gender, religion, and ceremony, she pulls the reader in to the 15th and 16th century eras. Another thing that I enjoyed from this book is that she did not shy away from the brutality and prejudices that characterized these time periods.

We often forget that these were people, subject to the same emotional and physical pain, although the later was augmented two-fold given the time and place they lived in, and the large gamble many of the up-and-coming families like the Boleyns took; nevertheless, something set them apart. They viewed the world through dark-colored lens.

The courts where Anne Boleyn served women like the archduchess Margaret of Austria and Queens Mary (her future husband’s youngest sister when she married Louis XII) and Claude of France, and later Henry’s first queen, Catherine of Aragon, valued order above all else. Decorum and class were everything for these people. Everything had to be structured, otherwise, society would come crumbling down and with it, chaos would reign.

Anne Boleyn was aware of this so she chose to follow the rules unlike her spirited sister Mary. But Anne was spirited in her own way. Instead of giving herself freely to men, be it through pressure or for passion, she preferred to shine by showing off her intellectual attributes. Her etiquette, her subtle playful and comely behavior, her occasional defiance, her passion for the new learning and indulging others, including Henry Percy and later the king, in harmless games of courtly love is what made her into one of the most alluring and interesting women at the Tudor court.

But, and this is something that historians still ask (and will likely continue to ask in the many years to come), is this what she intended? Was Anne Boleyn responsible for her fall? Was she a victim, pawn, or villain, homewrecker, or all of these things neatly wrapped together? Amy Licence doesn’t pretend to know the answer and as the book progresses, she is not about to give a definite answer but merely what she believed happened given what we know so far, and leave the rest for the reader to decide.

This is what a good historian. He or she gives the reader as much information as it is available, separates fact from fiction, primary from secondary sources and explaining the why, what, where, and when of the latter- letting the reader come to his own conclusion.

Anne Boleyn was a woman of many faces. She was a woman who might not have started out as the ambitious and unique ‘it’ girl from fiction, but as things got out of hand, she saw no other way but to play the waiting game and indulge the King. Having a strong moral compass -and another one of self-preservation- she did not let him take her virtue just like that. If the two of them were going to be together, he had to propose something grander. And ultimately that was marriage.

The road to the marriage bed was paved with obstacles, and it didn’t become any easier after she was crowned Queen of England. Anne was the first and only consort ever to be crowned with the crown of St. Edward the confessor -meant only for kings and queen regnants. Henry’s choice for this was not merely because of his passion and adoration for her, it was to symbolize something greater. He was not going to let anybody question their unborn child’s legitimacy, hence, his wife was going to have a coronation unlike something that hadn’t been seen before.
This is what the monarchy meant. Displays of force and splendor -and if there was something that Henry loved most of all, was wasting no expense on the latter.

But things turned sour and the rest as they say is history. Anne Boleyn’s story plays out like a Greek tragedy. A woman who chose to take the reins of her own destiny like her ancestors before her and navigate dangerous waters. Her gamble paid off (in the beginning). But she ended up losing everything. Yet, something of her remained, something which has catapulted her to fame. Her daughter. Elizabeth I is remembered as one of England’s greatest rulers. “Good Queen Bess”, “Virgin Queen” “Glorianna”, there is no shortage of titles that history has bestowed on her. But when it comes to Anne, people are still divided.

How do we view her? How do we judge a woman whose moral ambiguity still troubles many? The answer is simple and sometimes the simplest answer is the best: We view her as a woman of her times, a woman of her status, who rose too high and who was brought down by various factors. Some of them her doing, many of them not. Once we do this, a new picture of Anne starts to emerge -the same one which Amy Licence brings back to life in this stunning biography of one of England’s infamous femme-fatale.

Those of you interested in learning more about women’s lives, the struggles they faced, and how they used their different strengths to survive and fight against the rising tide, will devour this book.

Few historians choose to focus on women’s lives, and on the harsh realities that others had to face. And even fewer historians choose not to shy away from the less than flamboyant details that these people had to face, and this includes women’s hygiene, their ordeals during pregnancy, widowhood, and general views regarding these by the old and new church.
Ultimately, this biography is a great addition to our Tudor history bookshelves and more importantly to women’s history as it reminds us why Anne Boleyn is still relevant, and how easy it is for her story to be misappropriated or distorted. It is a product of the ever changing times just as she was a product of hers.

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Book Review: The Martin Luther Collection: 15 Classic Works

Martin Luther collection book

To understand Luther, you have to go back to the source and that source is Luther himself. The best way to understand a person is hearing, or in this case reading, what he has to say.

Martin Luther was an avid student of history but like any man of his times, he was a product of it and should be seen as such. He did not see himself as a heretic but rather a reformer. When you read his best known writings, the ones that propelled him to fame (and in the Catholic Church’s eyes, infamy) you realize that he wasn’t saying anything new. Plenty of other protesters before him had voiced the same opinion and had been met with harsher opposition, but whereas most of them wanted to break away from the church and turn the world upside down, Luther simply wanted to reform it. He never intended for things to get out of control. He took the best of early reformers, people whom the church had branded as heretics, believing that he could succeed where they failed, but he soon found out that it was easier said than done and when he was pushed into a corner, he did the only thing that a person in that situation could do: push back.

The more you move forward towards the end of his writing, you realize how more paranoid and to some extent, radical he was becoming, but that unlike many of his contemporary Protestant leaders and those that came after him, he still had boundaries and didn’t agree with much of their ideology.

Once again, the Protestant Reformation is far more complex than what it is made out to be in pop culture, be it TV, film, historical fiction, or in some cases by some historians who still buy into the old myths or choose perpetuate to create a false (and more ideal) narrative of Luther, painting him as this firebrand reformer who always knew what his mission was from the very start. Luther did see his role in history as something larger than in life, but even this is subjective. Wishing to leave his mark, he also became stricter with his followers, urging them to follow Christianity in its purest form.
This book also presents much of them in the original language that they were first written, which makes it feel more original, like we have gone back in time to when they were first published.

This is a must-have for every history buff and person interested in finding more about the roots of modern Christianity. Luther was a precursor of many Protestant leaders who as it has been previously stated, he didn’t agree with, but whose movement wouldn’t have gone any further than a single pamphlet of protestation or become another footnote in history like their medieval predecessors, if it weren’t for this rebellious German ex-monk. And Luther’s influence continues to be felt among many leaders, not just religious but secular as well who view him in high regard. For better or for worse, whichever way you choose to look at it, Luther changed the world, and these writings proved that once again, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Book Review: Martin Luther, The Man who Rediscovered God & Changed the World by Eric Metaxas

Martin Luther bio by Metaxas

Martin Luther has become a firebrand icon but like so many firebrands, a lot of his story is steeped in myth. It has become another case of fiction replacing history, with novelists and (some) historians choosing that over reality. Eric Metaxas does a good job by deconstructing Luther and presenting us with the real man behind the leader of the Protestant reformation.

Novelists do not have an obligation to their readers, unless they feel they do. Some include author’s note explaining where they drew the line between fact and fiction, where they erred on the side of caution and where they took liberties for the sake of making their story more interesting. Historians on the other hand, do have a responsibility to their readers. Their jobs is to educate, but like Luther, they are trapped by their own biases. And we shouldn’t fault them for that, but we should hold them accountable when they let that take over the historical record to promote their agenda.

Martin Luther was for lack of better terms, a man of his times. Not ahead of them. He did what he did out of conviction and later desperation. His movement is also the product of centuries of heresies and attempts to reform the church that did not go unnoticed by the author.

By painting a vivid picture of the times he lived in, including explaining his background and the different customs in Western Europe, Eric Metaxas draws us the reader in right from the start. You don’t have to be a history buff and if you are but are new to this period, you don’t have to know a lot, to find this book engaging. Drawing on primary sources (and to some extent to understand where the fictional Luther comes from, secondary sources), and citing the archaeological evidence that still remains, Metaxas paints a vivid portrayal of the rebellious German ex-monk.

The man who rediscovered God and who changed the world is an accurate way to describe the figurehead of the Protestant movement -a movement he did not intent to create but like so much of what history has taught us, once things got out of his control, he had no choice but to push forward or to face certain death which would have meant being burned as a heretic like one of his idols, the infamous Dominican friar who also preached against the excesses of the church a century prior, Savonarola.

Ironically though, for better or for worse, Luther has also come to be seen as an icon and a source of inspiration for many political, religious and civic leaders. Some went so far as to change their names, and while others wasted no time placing him in a pedestal. Just as Luther did not intend to break away from the church, he did not intent to replace the cult of saints that he so much detested and railed against. But in the end, not even he would have gone against the power of the pen, nor controlled how he’d be remembered by his followers (or his rivals). And that is, as the author of this book points out, his greatest legacy -a legacy that will continue to be felt for decades to come.

Queen Mary I bids her husband farewell

Mary I Tudor and Philip of Spain collage 1

On the 29th of August, 1555, Mary bid her husband farewell. After he departed by water from Greenwich to Dover where he stayed for a few more days until the weather cleared up in September, to travel to the Low  Countries. Mary had reluctantly agreed to her father-in-law and cousin Charles’ request to send Philip away, she had previously written to Charles expressing her fears that he would be gone for a long time. In this, she was not mistaken. Philip did not arrive until October of the following year, by then King of Spain and lord of the Netherlands after his father’s abdication. According to the Venetian Ambassador Michieli, Mary had insisted on accompanying Philip in a glorious ceremony through London three days prior and on the day of his departure:

Mary I and Philip of Spain coat of arms

“The Queen really on this occasion showed proper grief for a woman and a woman clothed as she was with royal state and dignity. There was no external manifestation of agitation, although it was evident she was in great trouble, and she chose to accompany the King through all the chambers and halls, as far as the head of the staircase: all the way she had a struggle to command herself and prevent any exhibition inconsistent with her high position from being perceptible to so many persons. But she was affected by the kissing of hands by the Spanish lords and especially at seeing the ladies taking leave of the King in tears, who, according to the custom of the country, kissed them one by one. On returning however to her apartments she lent on her elbows at a window overlooking the river, and there, not supposing herself any longer seen or observed by anyone, it was perceived that she gave free vent to her grief in floods of tears. She did not stir from the spot until she had seen the King embark and depart; looking till the last sight of him; he mounted on a raised and open part of the barge, so as to be better visible as long as he was in sight of the window, kept on raising his hat and making salutes with the most affectionate gestures.”

Michieli’s reports were exaggerated but they did convey a level of truth in expressing Mary’s anguish. Previously, Mary had written a letter to her father-in-law and cousin, Charles, expressing deep concern over Philip’s absence: “I firmly hope that the King’s absence will be brief … his presence in this kingdom has done much good and is of great importance for the good governance of this country.” 

Mary I full view portrait

Mary wanted her country to benefit from the opportunities Spain offered and expand foreign policy, but she also needed Philip by her side to give her a male heir. Philip’s absence and new position complicated things. Boader, his secretary, expressed that he would not return until she agreed to share power with him -Something that our Queen, for all her sentimentalism, was not prepared to do. She was Queen of her realm and just as Philip was going to rule Spain, she was going to be her country’s sole ruler.

This was the beginning of the end for Mary. She would not die deposed or unopposed. As the rest of her family, she’d die as she lived, fighting until her last breath to hold everything together, under no illusions of what awaited her supporters and how she’d be remembered.

PORTRAIT OF MARY TUDOR artist not known but in the style of Flicke, Painted onto wood, found at Anglesey Abbey

Always the pragmatist, but also a woman who was in need of allies and wished to make England one of the greatest nations in the world, as well as secure the Tudor Dynasty, Mary was aware that her union with Philip was becoming more unstable and if she didn’t give the appearance that things were okay then it would give her enemies another excuse to attack.

Sources:

  • Porter,  Linda. The First Queen of England: The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin’s Press 2008.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Erickson, Carolly. Bloody Mary: The Life of Mary Tudor. Robson  Books. 2001.

Book Review: The Queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood

Mary Seaton historical fiction

Seldom are there books written from the point of view a minor historical character that manage to captivate my attention as this one did. It is engaging, from start to finish, and a great illustration of the period seen through the lens of one of Mary, Queen of Scots’ trusted ladies.

Sarah Gristwood is best known for her non-fiction, primarily her biographies focusing on the lives of European queens from the late medieval to the early modern period. This is no different, except that it is fiction and yet, it feels s if you are reading one of her biographies because she is very detailed when it comes to fashion, the type of garments that nobles, based on their status, bloodline, etc, would have used, and the foods they could afford, and other excess.

There is a part towards the end where it was harrowing to read, which I won’t spoil but those who already read this, probably know what I am talking about, and it is a testament to her talent about being able to put herself in her characters’ shoes, historical ones no doubt! And give them a voice that doesn’t feel out of place with the rest of the events.

Scotland in the sixteenth century was for lack of a better word, a mess. And this novel doesn’t shy away from showing the negative from every religious side, including its most prominent members who only cared about their self-interest.

We see the world through the lens of a little girl who learns from the get go that her life’s purpose is to serve the child-queen and protect her interests above all else. As she gets older, her faith in Her Grace is shaken. She goes from servant, to friend to confidant.
We watch the downfall of a woman whose future seemed bright, and who was determined to reclaim what she viewed was hers because of her blood. Unfortunately, the Scotland she left is not the same one she returned and the people are hungry for leadership, and the nobles will side with whoever keeps their family fortunes intact. Mary Stuart is cunning and ambitious, Mary Seaton sees that, and she is far more resilient than she is given credit to, but she can’t come to terms with the new political climate, one which is entirely hostile towards female kings and her faith.

My only criticism comes for the time jumps. The first one felt necessary but towards the end, many things felt unnecesarily rushed. But I would have liked more flashbacks. However, I can look past it because as I previously mentioned, the plot moved along nicely thanks to brilliant dialogue.
Through her eyes we also get to see her wins and losses, and her personal struggles as she is forced to decide between her family and her queen, her family and her faith, or between her desires and her sworn duty to stand by her queen’s side no matter what.
It is an emotional roller coaster and a book that every history buff will quickly binge on. I greatly enjoy it and if you are new to this period, this is a good novel to start that will get you interested in finding more about the lives of these extraordinary and tragic women.

Queen Elizabeth I’s Treatment of Veterans

Elizabeth I Veteran affairs

Queen Elizabeth I has gone down in history as one of the world’s greatest monarch. And she certainly is, but as with every monarch, there is a dark aspect to her reign that’s often neglected by novelists and some historians.

Elizabeth Struggle for the throne

In his critically acclaimed biography on Elizabeth I, Dr. David Starkey, praises her good administration while also critiquing it when it comes to handling Irish affairs, and looking after her Veterans, which is one of many aspects, that is representative of the last years of her reign. As he writes below, her desire to be loved nearly undermined her, but her eloquence, being cautionary to a fault in matters of religions and her determination are what saved her and enabled her to become England’s most successful monarch.
“Like Mary, Elizabeth had begun well. But would she be any better in the long run? At first sight the signs were not all that good … from the point of view of practical government, was the distinction between the Queen’s two wills: her private will and her public will. Her private will was what she actually wanted to do. Her public will was what, after taking due counsel and advise, she ought to do. Elizabeth promised to respect this distinction … But doing what we ought rather than what we want comes easily to none of us … The Elizabeth Church, as we have seen, was a Goldilocks settlement: neither too hot nor too cold. As such, it pleased neither the orthodox Roman Catholics, for whom it went far too far, nor the hotter sort of  Protestants, later known as Puritans, for whom it did not go nearly far enough. Indeed, among the elite, it probably only pleased Elizabeth … For her policy was founded on a careful combination of principle and expedience. After her own experiences under Mary, she was not, she insisted, in the business of forcing men’s consciences. That alone made her reluctant to seek the death penalty. But she was also reluctant to make martyrs per se … To do nothing ‘to the loss of any of her dominions’. That was the promise, and Elizabeth stuck by it. It was the source of the best and worst in her reign. If accounts for the terrible punishment she inflicted on the north in the wake of the rebellion of 1569 and her still more savage vengeance on the Irish rebels at the end of her reign … her determination to preserve what was hers also turned her into a great war leader against Spain. She was not a general in the field nor an admiral at sea, of course, though she did wear a pretty pretend breastplate at Tilbury in 1588. Instead, more importantly, she was a mistress of language, thinking, in her speech at Tilbury, ‘full scorn that Parma or Spain or any prince of Europe should dare invade the borders of my realm.'”

Although Elizabeth’s navy succeeded against the Spanish Armada -thanks in part to their smaller size as opposed to their enemies’ larger vessels which made them slower, and the weather which helped the English sink them faster- victory came at a high cost.

Elizabeth I Glenda Jackson 2

The wages she had promised her soldiers never came ad as you can expect from men who had risked their lives, in service of their country, they took the streets to peacefully protest. A small amount organized larger riots, believing that it was the only recourse available to them, to get their queen to listen to their demands. But Elizabeth had no intention of submitting herself to the pleas of the mob -even if those mobs were her loyal subjects.

Henry Carey, Lord Hudson, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and a handful of other courtiers sought ways to help the soldiers make ends meet and lessen the Queen and her advisors’ anger towards them.

The day that the veterans rioted alongside a rabble of young unemployed men, the mayor of London, Sir William Webb, saved the day by ordering the arrest of the ringleaders (much to the dismay of the protestors). This could have gone much worse, with the troops using full force against the entire group, causing more disgruntled veterans to join other fringe groups after feeling more betrayed by their sovereign.

“Writing to Burghley next day, he argued for leniency, claiming that the spark had been an apprentice’s wrongful arrest. Debt collectors had burst into the man’s lodgings with daggers drawn and dragged him off to the Marshalsea in front of his terrified landlady, who stood clutching a baby in her arms. The rioters had planned to storm the prison and free the inmates. Webb believed the best way to calm the situation was to rectify the injustice done to the young man as quickly as possible.” (Guy)

But Sir William Webb’s pleas went unheard. These men had rebelled against the crown -even worse, they dared to demand. Something that no subject should ever do against an anointed monarch, and more importantly their spiritual governor, God’s representative on Earth according to the Anglican Church.

While this seems deeply unreasonable to us, and a treacherous act on Elizabeth’s part, it is not. As Ian Mortimer points below:
“… there are only five thousand men in the army. The remainder is dead-pay, which goes straight into the captain’s pockets. You might think that this is even worse than bribery and nepotism. Neverhteless, in 1562 it becomes official government practice when it is proposed that for every ninety-five soldiers provided, the government will pay for one hundred.”

The privy council agreed to this, and even before this became standard practice, we must not forget that the era preceding the renaissance wasn’t exactly fair either when it came to soldiers’ wages. Elizabeth I’s grandfather, Henry VII, eliminated private liveries which meant that every noble family in England could no longer raise an army from their tenants. This effectively helped Henry keep the realm under his control and prevent pretenders like Perkin Warbeck and Cornish rebels from being successful.
In the medieval age, soldiers were expected to fight for their sovereign or their lord. If they did not, they were severely punished, or branded cowards. It was their duty.  The Renaissance had changed many things, but the sole duty of any man to serve his lord and master without question remained.
Nevertheless, after Elizabeth I had done an outstanding job marketing herself as England’s savior and the only one who stood against the might of the terrible armies of Spain and its Catholic allies -aka, foreign invaders who sought to strip England from its lawful sovereignty- the common soldier felt betrayed. After everything they had done, they were just expected to go back home and start again. Find some new trade, or job that would save them from begging in the streets (which was punished by branding or whipping in major cities like London).

Her cousin continued to try his best, attempting to convince the Virgin Queen by appealing to her emotional side, telling her of the horrors these men had to face while being confined in small spaces, not knowing whether their ships would sink, or they’d die by other means.

“The infection is grown very great and in many ships, and now very dangerous, and those that come in fresh are sooner infected. They sicken the one day and die the next.” (Hilton)

Elizabeth I Glenda Jackson 5

Elizabeth remained unmoved. When the protestors walked barefooted through the streets of London that day, expecting this exaggerated display of misery would get their message across, arrests were made. As it has been established, the mayor of London did his best to lessen their punishment by drawing focus on the leaders. Cecil and the Queen however thought that a better way to stamp out the cells of future rebellion, was by stomping on most of them, letting the rest know what happened to those who rebelled against the crown.

Social hierarchy was not something that could be easily cast aside. Since Edward III had passed the sumptuary laws, that dictated what men and women could and could not wear, there was a stronger emphasis on maintaining the social order. These laws were the result of the black plague or the black death which killed many people, including one of Edward III’s daughters when she was on route to Spain. People became disgusted and in the same fashion that their descendants would centuries later, they would let that hate fester, making it possible for the rising middle class and heretic preachers to convince them to join their cause, and break their wheel of their oppression. This resulted in the Peasant’s Revolts during Edward III’s successor’s reign, his grandson Richard II. Richard II was only a teenager but he was old enough to understand that if he didn’t do something quickly, the violence would keep escalating until there would be no monarchy left. So when the leaders of this rabble led their guard down, Richard II acted quickly. He ordered them to be put to dead and to the rest, he told them smugly that “vileins” (peasants) they were and peasants they would remain.
Oddly enough, Richard II is one of those pitiful figures in history who was too young to know what he was doing, becoming a despot in his later years. Yet for someone who Elizabeth who believed in the supremacy of Kings, he was someone she could idolize and lament -a man who had been the victim of lesser men.
Naturally, Elizabeth I, taking these lessons to heart, wasn’t going to let these rabble-rousers upset the social balance in her country, and she sure wasn’t going to go the way that Richard II went, by giving into their demands.

The end result is a sad state of affairs where Elizabeth I was more successful than Richard II, sending a message across the British Isles, that no matter how much she may sympathize with their cause, or how popular it was among their peers, she wouldn’t be moved. She would remain resolute, presenting herself as their ruler, her country’s spouse and her subject’s mother and like any good mother, she would not be afraid to exact punishment on her children if they were being too loud.

William Cecil 2

 Every vigilant, her principal adviser, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, imposed martial law.
“All soldiers, mariners and vagrant persons” who were found wandering around the countryside or spoke about their missing wages would be apprehended at once.

A soldier’s duty was to his ruler. He was there to protect the realm and his sovereign, not to seek riches or popular acclaim. Again, this may seem like a slap in the face to all those brave men, but in the context of the sixteenth century, and given Elizabeth I’s belief in royal supremacy, it makes sense.

Elizabeth I Anne Marie Duff 3

And there is also another reason, one that is not fully acknowledge: Debt. Elizabeth had curried favor with many foreign Protestants -many of whom she did not agree since they supported a Republican government instead of a royal supremacy. Nevertheless, they kept her enemies distracted and weakened. This meant that a lot of money had been spent on covert missions. Some of which ended in failure. Then there is also the mater of her favorites and the new aristocrats. To keep them happy and in her pocket, she had lowered their taxes and granted them many manors, and exemptions that she wouldn’t have done for anyone else. All of this drained the royal coffers and while she attempted to remedy this by issuing a series of laws that meant to give some form of aid to the lower classes -while also raising taxes to continue to pay for covert operations and the ongoing war with Spain- it still wasn’t enough.

Debt collectors became more hated than ever. These veterans and unemployed men began to blame many of the queen’s evil councilors -in the same fashion that many rebels did in the past when they were displeased with their king’s actions- and the increasing number of foreigners coming into the country. Elizabeth I’s enthusiasm to admit more refugees didn’t help. These migrants helped boost the economy. Many of them were professionals and skilled workers who aimed their best to please their new overlords, but their adherence to their customs and their native tongue upset many Londoners.

But, as her motto, Elizabeth I’s subjects learned to adapt to their never-changing situation, remaining always the same. The pen and the sword proved mightier than their pleas.

Sources:

  • Guy, John. Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years. Viking. 2016.
  • –. The Tudors. Sterling. 2010
  • Mortimer, Ian. Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England. Viking. 2013.
  • Hilton, Lisa. Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince. Houghton Mifflin. 2015.
  • Starkey, David. Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne. Harper. 2001.
  • Jones, Dan. The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England.
  • Picard, Liza. Elizabeth’s London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2003.

Charles V’s visit to England (1522): Part I

Henry Viii and Charles V meeting

Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire and I of Spain arrived at Dover, England on the 26th of May 1522, where he was greeted by Cardinal and Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey and an entourage of 300 select Englishmen. Henry VIII met with him two days later “with much joy and gladness” while he was still at Dover.

Charles V and Henry VIII WH and CRE and historical portraits collage
Charles V from Carlos, Rey Emperador (2015) opposite an early portrait of Charles as King of Spain. Below, a middle aged Henry VIII and next to him is Damien Lewis who played him in Wolf Hall (2014).

Henry VIII had been eager to meet with his nephew since he saw him as a powerful ally against France, and his vehicle to regain some of the territories his country had lost under Henry VI. Like many Englishmen, Henry VIII had a romantic idea of the past, where he aspired like his namesake, Henry V, whose victory and conquest of France was legendary. Calais was the last of England’s stronghold in France and Henry was anxious to make a name for himself as when he went to war with his wife’s father, Charles V’s grandfather, Ferdinand II of Aragon.

Unfortunately for Henry, once the war started, he would discover that not much had changed and just as before, he would become disillusioned with Catherine’s family.

To seal their alliance, Charles V agreed to marry Henry VIII’s only heir, his first cousin, Princess Mary. Mary was six at the time while Charles was twenty-two. The legal age for men and women to marry would be in their early teens. Given Mary’s age, both parties agreed that it would be better to way until she was twelve or older.

Henry VIII and Charles celebrated the Feast of the Ascension there and afterwards, Henry VIII gave him a private tour on board one of his greatest ships “Henry by the Grace of God” and the “Mary Rose”. Charles V marveled at these two ships, something that The Tudors, despite all its inaccuracies, accurately depicted when Charles tells Henry that it surpasses every ship he owns.

After the naval tour, Henry took his guest and his entourage to Canterbury where they were greeted by the city mayor and the aldermen before they went inside the cathedral, their swords of state carried before them.
On the 31st he was Sittingbourne. On the 1st of June, Rochester, on the 2nd, Gravesend where he traveled by barge to the Palace of Placentia, otherwise known as Greenwich. There, he met what would in alternate universe would have been his future wife, his cousin, Princess Mary.

Mary Tudor and Charles V portraits
Mary Tudor as a child wearing a brooch/insignia that says Emperor, symbolizing her betrothal to Charles (pictured on the right).

The Holy Roman Emperor was first greeted by his uncle and then at the hall door by his aunt, Queen Katharine and Princess Mary in the Spanish custom -which was Katharine giving her blessing to her nephew to marry her daughter after he had asked for it.
Since day one, Katharine encouraged her daughter’s enthusiasm. This was the union that she always hoped for, and one would that strengthen ties between England and Spain against what she saw as their common enemy -France.
For Henry, this must have felt momentous as well. Since Katharine was unable to provide him with any more heirs. His hope of securing the throne for his descendants now rested “for the birth of a male heir in the next generation”.*

As previously stated, Princess Mary was six-years-old at the time and it is hard to know what she must have felt. Perhaps she felt happy at being betrothed to someone of such importance, or perhaps being the princess that she was and her father’s heir, she put on a plastic smile to please her mother.
From early childhood, she had been taught that one day she would be Queen -until her mother gave birth to a son, that is- and as Queen Regnant she would have to produce sons. And who better than with someone of impeccable royal descent as Charles?

Charles was enchanted with his little cousin. He gave her a pony to ride and a goshawk and she in turn led him to a window so he could see his presents -horses, of the finest breed, she boasted. She then entertained him and his entourage by showing off her musical skills, playing the spinet and performing a galliard (a French dance).

“Perhaps when Charles arrived she wore some of the jewelry that had been specially made for her, an impressive brooch with the name Charles on it, or another with The Emperor picked out in lettering.” (Porter, The Myth of Bloody Mary)

Charles stayed in Greenwich for four more days. On the 6th he and Henry VIII emerged from the Palace of Placentia and rode through London on a magnificent procession that was akin to the Field of Cloth and Gold that had taken place two years earlier between Henry and Francis I of France.
Before arriving to the city they stopped at a tent of cloth and gold where they donned their clothes for something more flamboyant. To demonstrate their commitment and mutual friendship, the two dressed identically in suits of cloth of gold lined with silver decorations. They were preceded by English and Spanish courtiers riding side by side as equals, just as their sovereigns. Sir Thomas More greeted them, delivering a speech in which he praised in a style similar to when he praised Katharine and Henry on their joint coronation.

At Southwark, the two were welcomed by the representatives of the clergy. When they reached King’s Bench, the Emperor asked Henry VIII to pardon as many prisoners as they could. This was similar to what his aunt had done in the aftermath of the Evil May Day Riots, even after some of the rebels protested against foreigners, including the much beloved queen. And just as before, Henry conceded. As they resumed their progress, they were met by nine pageants. One pageant impressed the Emperor. This one features the monarchs’ emblems, next to each were two of the greatest heroes of Greek and biblical mythology: Hercules and Samson. Charles was compared to the demigod Hercules while Henry VIII was compared to the equally strong and fearsome Samson.

Charles V later in life c. 1548
Charles V c.1548, by Lambert Sustris. Although he never married Mary, choosing his other first cousin, Isabella of Portugal, Mary grew to rely on him, at times forcing his hand when he was unwilling to act on her behalf. When she became Queen, she married his son, Philip.

Charles wrote to the Abbot of Najera the following day, describing to him his experience, noting that after seeing Henry’s fleet, he had become convinced that the two could take on France easily.

On the 8th of June, Henry and Charles made their last stroll through the city before they retreated to their respective quarters. It was during his stay at Greenwich and his processions through London that Charles got to know his betrothed and make up for lost time with his aunt, with the two growing very fond of one another.

On the 9th, Charles traveled to Richmond Palace and on the 10th on Hampton Court, which was one of Henry’s favorite residences and one of the architectural jewels from the Tudor era that still survives. Charles V would continue to be greeted by grand ceremony, and move from palace to palace, in an effort to make the young Emperor and King of Spain feel at home. His journey would come to an end on the middle of July, with both parties swearing to honor their agreement by pledging ships, men and a hand in marriage to seal the deal.

Sources:

  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Williams, Patrick. Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife. Amberley. 2013.
  • Fox, Julia. Sister Queens: The Noble Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of  Castile. Ballantine Books. 2012.
  • Weir, Alison. Henry VIII: The King and his Court. Ballantine Books. 2001.

Queen Mary I of England and Ireland’s Last Will and Testament

Mary I of England holding the Tudor rose portrait

On the 30th of March 1558, believing se may still be pregnant, Queen Mary I of England and Ireland made her last will.

It goes as follows:

“MARY THE QUENE.

In the name of God, Amen. I Marye by the Grace of God Quene of Englond, Spayne, France, both Sicelles, Jerusalem and Ireland, Defender of the Faythe, Archduchesse of Austriche, Duchesse of Burgundy, Millayne and Brabant, Countesse of Hapsburg, Flanders and Tyroll, and lawful wife to the most noble and virtuous Prince Philippe, by the same Grace of God Kynge of the said Realms and Domynions of Engand, &c. Thinking myself to be with child in lawful marriage between my said dearly beloved husband and Lord, altho’ I be at this present (thankes be unto Almighty God) otherwise in good helthe, yet foreseeing the great danger which by Godd’s ordynance remaine to all whomen in ther travel of children, have thought good, both for discharge of my conscience and continewance of good order within my Realmes and domynions to declare my last will and testament; and by these presents revoking all other testaments and last Wills by me at onny time heretofore made or devised by wryting or otherwise, doe with the full consent, agreement and good contentment of my sayd most Dere Ld and Husband, ordeyn and make my sayd last will and testament in manner and forme following.

Fyrste I do commend my Soulle to the mercye of Almighty God the maker and Redeemer thereof, and to the good prayers and helpe of the most puer and blessed Virgin our Lady St. Mary, and of all the Holy Companye of Heven. My body I will to be buried at the discression of my executors: the interment of my sayd body to be made in such order and with such godly prayers, Suffrages and Ceremonies as with consideracyon of my estate and the laudable usage of Christ’s Church shall seme to my executors most decent and convenient. Also my mynde and will ys, that during the tyme of my interrment, and within oon moneth after my decesse owte of this transitory lyfe, ther be distributed in almes, the summe of oon thousand pownds, the same to be given to the relefe of pore prysoners, and other pore men and whomen by the discression of my executors. And further I will that the body of the vertuous Lady and my most dere and well-beloved mother of happy memory, Quene Kateryn, whych lyeth now buried at Peterborowh, shall within as short tyme as conveniently yt may after my burial, be removed, brought and layde nye the place of my sepulture, In wch place I will my Executors to cawse to be made honorable tombs or monuments for a decent memory of us. And whereas the Howses of Shene and Sion, the which were erected by my most noble Progenitor K. Henry the Fyfte for places of Religion and prayer, the oon of Monks of th’ order of Carthusians and th’ other of Nunns Ordines Stae Brigittae wer in the tyme of the late Scisme within this Realme clerly dissolv’d and defac’d, which sayde howses are lately by my said dere Lord and husband and by me reviv’d and newly erected accordynge to the severall ancyent foundacyons, order and Statutes, and we have restor’d and endow’d them severally with diverse Mannors, londs, tenements and hereditaments, sometyme parcell of ther severall possessions. For a further increase of their lyvyng, and to thentent the said Religious persons may be the more hable to reedifye some part of ther necessary howses that were so subverted and defac’d, and furnish themselves with ornaments and other thyngs mete for Godd’s servyce, I will and give unto ether of the said Religious howses of Shene and Sion, the summe of fyve hundred pownds of lawfull money of Englond, and I further will and give unto the Pryor and Covent of the said house of Shene, and to ther Successours, Mannours, londs, tenements, sometyme parcell of the possessions belongyng to the same howse before the dissolucyon thereof and remayning in our possession, to the clere yerly valewe of one hundred pownds. And lykewyse I will and give unto the Abbesse and Covent of the said house of Sion, and to ther Successors, Mannours, lands, tenements and hereditaments sometyme parcell of the possessions of the said house of Sion, and remayning in our hands at the tyme of our decesse or of some other late Spirituall possessions to the clere yerly valewe of one hundred pownds, the which summe of 100li to ether of the said houses and the said Mannours, londs, tenements and hereditaments to the said yerly valewe of Cli to ether of the said houses I will shall be pay’d, convey’d and assur’d to ether of the said houses within oon yere next after my decesse; requyring and chargyng the Religious persons, the which shall from tyme to tyme remayne and be in the said severall houses, to praye for my Soulle and the Soulle of my said most Dere and well-beloved husband the King’s Majty when God shall call hym to hys mercye owt of this transitory lyfe, and for the Soulle of the said good and vertuous Quene my Mother, and for the Soulles of all other our Progenitours, and namely the said Kynge Henry 5 as they were bounden by the ancyente Statuts and ordyenances of ther Severall foundacyons. Item, I will and geve to the Warden and Convent of the Observante Fryers of Greenwiche the summe of five hundred pownds. Item, I will and geve to the Pryor and Convent of the black fryers at St. Bartholomews within the suburbs of London, the sum of 400 Marks. And likewise unto the Fryers of the said Observante order beyng at Southampton, the summe of 200 pownds. Item, I will and geve unto the pore Nunns of Langley the Summe of 200li pounds. All which said severall legacies unto the said Fryers and Nunns, I will that my Executors shall cawse to be payd to ther severall uses within oon yere next after my decesse, as well for the relefe and comfort, as towards the reparacyons and amendments of ther necessary howses, and to provyde them some more ornaments for their Churches, for the better service of Almighty God. Also I will and geve unto the Abbot and Covent of the said Monastery of Westminster the summe of 200li pownds or else as many ornaments for ther Church ther, as shall amounte unto the Saide Summe of CCli to be pay’d and deliver’d unto them within oon yere next after my decesse by my said Executors. And I will, charge and requyre the said Abbot and Covent, and all others the Fryers and Nunns and ther Covents above remembred, to pray for my Soulle, and for the Soulle of my said most Dere and well beloved Lord and husband, the King’s Highnesse, by whose specyall goodnesse they have been the rather erected, and for the Soulle of my said most dere beloved mother the Quene, and for the Soulles of all our Progenitos with dayly Masses, Suffrages and prayers. Also I will and geve for and to the relefe of the pore Scolers in ether of the Universities of Oxinford and Cambridge the Summe of 500li pownds, that ys to say, to ether of the said Universities the Summe of 500li the which summe I will that my Executors shall delyver within oon yere next after my decesse unto the Chancellors and others of the most grave & wisest men of the same Universities, to be distributed and geven amongst the said pore Scolers, from tyme to tyme as they shall thynke expedient for ther relefe and comfort, and specyally to such as intend by Godds grace to be Religious persons and Priests. And whereas I have by my warrant under my Signe Manuell assigned and appoynted londs, tenements, and hereditaments of the yerly valewe of 200li and somewhat more to be assur’d unto the Master and Brotherne of the Hospitall of Savoy, fyrste erected and founded by my Grandfather of most worthy memory Kynge Henry 7, my mynde will and intent ys, and I charge my Executors that yf the said londs be not assur’s unto the said howse of Savoy in my lyfetime, that yt be done as shortly as maye be after my decesse, or else some other londs, tenements & hereditaments, sometyme parcell of the possessions of the said howse, to the said yerely valewe of 200li and as muche other londs, tenements and hereditaments, late parcell of the possessions of the said howse, or of some other the late spirituall londs, as shall make up together with the londs I have before this tyme assur’d unto the said howse, and the which the said Master and his Brotherne doth by vertue of our former grant enjoye, the summe of 500li of clere yerely valewe, which is agreeable with thendowment my said Grandfather indow’d the same howse with, at the first erection thereof. Willynge and chargynge the said Mr and his Brotherne and ther successors, not only to keep and observe the anciente rewles and statuts of the said howse accordynge to the foundacyon of the said Kynge my Grandfather, but also to praye for the Soulles of me, and of my said most dere Lord and Husband, when God shall call hym out of this transitory lyfe, and of the said Quene my Mother, and of all others our Progenitors Soulles. And forasmuch as presently there ys no howse or hospitall specyally ordeyn’d and provyded for the relefe and helpe of pore and old Soldiers, and namely of such as have been or shall be hurt or maymed in the warres and servys of this Realme, the which we thynke both honour, conscyence and charyte willeth should be provided for. And therefore my mynde and wyll ys, that my Executors shall, as shortly as they may after my decesse, provide some convenient howse within or nye the Suburbs of the Cite of London, the which howse I would have founded and erected of oon Master and two Brotherne, and these three to be Priests. And I will that the said howse or Hospitall shall be indow’d with Mannours, londs tenements and hereditaments some tyme parcell of the Spirituall londs and possessions, to the clere yerly valewe of 400 Markes whereof I will, that the said Mr shall have 30 pownds by the yere, and ether of the said two brotherne 20li by the yere, and the rest of the revenewe of the said londs, I will that my Executors shall limyt and appoynt by good ordynances and statuts, to be made and stablyshed upon the erection of the said Hospitall, how the same shall be us’d and imployed, wherein specyally I would have them respect the relefe succour and helpe of pore, impotent and aged Souldiers, and chefely those that be fallen into exstreme poverte, havyng no pencyon or other pretence of lyvyng, or are become hurt or maym’d in the warres of this Realme, or in onny servyce for the defence and suerte of ther Prince and of ther Countrey, or of the Domynions thereunto belongyng. Also I will and specyally charge the executors of this my present testament and last Will, that yf I have injuried or done wrong to onny person (as to my remembrance willingly I have not) yet yf onnly such may be proved, and lykewyse all such detts as I owe to onny person sens they tyme I have been Quene of this Realme, and specyally the lone money (the which diverse of my lovyng subjects have lately advanced and lent unto me) that the same injuries (yf onny be) and the said detts and lone money above all thyngs, as shortly as may be after my decesse be recompenced, restor’d and pay’d, and that doon, my mynde and will ys, that all such detts as were owing by my later Father, King Henry 8th or by my later Brother K. Edward the 6th, shall likewyse, as they conveniently may, be satisfyed and payd. And for as much as yt hath pleased Almighty God of hys infenyte marcye & goodnesse, to reduce this Realme unto the unyte of Christ’s Church, from the which yt declyned, and during the tyme thereof diverse londes and other hereditaments, goods and possessions geven and dispos’d, as well by sondry of my Progenitors as by other good and vertuous people to sondrye places and Monasteries of Religion, and to other Ecclesiastical howses and persons, for the mayntenance of Godds servyce, and for continuall prayer to be made for the relefe both of the lyvyng and of the dedde, were taken away and committeed to other uses; I have before this tyme thought yt good, for some part of satisfaction thereof, and to be a piece of the dewtie I owe unto God, that some porcyon of the londs and hereditaments that were sometyme the goods of the said Church shold be restor’d ageyne unto good and Godly uses, and for the accomplyshing thereof I have, with the consent of my said most Dere Lord and Husband the Kyng’s Majesty, and by the authority of Parliament, and with the advyce and counsell of the Most Rev. Father in God and my right intierly beloved Cousyne Cardynall Poole, Archbp. of Cant. and Primate of Englond, who hath specyally travelled as a good Mynister and Legate sent from the Apostolique See to reduce this Realme unto the Unyte of the said See, Renounc’d and geven over as well diverse parsonages Impropriate, tythes and other Spirituall hereditaments, as also divers other profits and hereditaments some tyme belongyng to the said Ecclesiasticall and Spirituall persons and howses of Religion, to be ordered, and imploy’d by the said most Reverend Father in God, in such manner and forme as ys prescribed and lymitted by the said Statute, and as to hys godly wysdome shall be thowght mete and convenyent. My mynde, will and pleasure ys, that such ordynances and devyses as the said most Revd Father in God hath made and devised, or shall hereafter make and devise, for and concerning the said parsonages, tithes and other Spirituall hereditaments (the which I have committed to his order and disposition) shall be inviolably observ’d. Requyryng my said Cousyne and most Revd Father in God, as he hath begun a good work in this Realme, soe he will (cheifly for God’s sake and glory, and for the good will he beareth unto me, and to this my Realme, beynge his native Countrey) doe, as much as he maye, by Godd’s grace, to fynishe the same. And Specyally to dispose and order the said Parsonages, tithes, and other Spirituall possessions and hereditaments commytted to his order, with as much speed as he convenyently may, accordynge to the trust and confidence that my most Dere Lord and Husband and I, and the whole Realme have repos’d in hym, and yn hys virtue and wysdome, for the which God shall rewarde hym, and this hys Countrey honour and love hym. And for hys better assistance in the execution thereof, I will, charge and requyre my Executors, and all others of my Counsell, and the rest of my good and faythfull Subjects, that they to the uttermost of ther power be aydynge and assistynge unto my said Cousyne, as they tender the benefit of ther Countrey and ther own Commodyte. Furthermore I will and charge my said Executors, that yf onny person or persons have pay’d unto my use onny Summe of money for the purchase of onny londs, tenements and hereditaments the assurances whereof to them in my lyfe tyme ys not perfitted, that the said Person or Persons be, within such short tyme after my decesse as may be, either repay’d ther mony, or else have good assurances of the said londs, or of others of the like valewe, made unto them accordynge to the laws of this Realme. Also I will that my Executors shall within oon quarter of a year next after my decesse, destribute amongst my pore Servants that be ordinary, and have most nede, the Summe of 2000li. willyng them in the destribution thereof to have a specyall regarde unto such as have serv’d me longest and have no certainty of lyvyng of my gifte to lyve by after my decesse. And as towchyng the dispocyon of this my Imperiall Crowne of England, and the Crowne of Ireland, with my title to France, and all the dependances, of the same, whereof by the mere provydence of Almighty God I am the lawful Inheritor and Quene: my will, mynde, and entent ys, that the sd Imperiall Crowne of Englond and Ireland, and my Title to France, and all the dependances, and all other my Honours, Castells, fortresses, mannours, londs, tenements, prerogatyves and hereditaments whatsoever, shall wholly and entirely descend remayne & be unto the heyres, issewe and frewte of my bodye, accordyng to the laws of this Realme. Neverthelesse the order, Government and Rewle of my said issewe, and of my said Imperiall Crowne, and the dependances thereof, during the Minoryte of my said heyre and Issewe, I specyally recommend unto my said most Dere and well beloved Husband, accordynge to the laws of this my said Realme for the same provided. Willing, charging, and most hertily requyryng all and singular my lovyng, obedient and naturall subjects, by that profession and-dewtye of allegiance that by God’s commandment they owe unto me, beyng ther naturall Sovereigne Lady & Quene; And also desyryng them (per viscera Misericordiae Dei) that sens yt hath pleased hys devyne Majesty, far above my merits to shew me so great favour in this world, as to appoynte me so noble, vertuous, and worthy a Prince to be my husband, as my said most Dere and intirely beloved Husband the King’s Majesty ys, whose endeavour, care and stodie hath ben, and chefely ys, to reduce this Realme unto the Unyte of Christ’s Church and trewe Religion, and to the anncyente and honourable fame and honor that yt hath ben of, and to conserve the same therein; And not dowting but accordyng to the trust that ys repos’d in hys Majty, by the laws of this Realme, made concernyng the Government of my Issewe, that hys Highnesse will discharge the same to the glory of God, to hys own honour, to the suerty of my said Issewe, and to the profit of all my Subjects; that they therefore will use themselves in such humble and obedient sort and order, that hys Majesty may be the rather incoraged and provoked to continewe hys good and gracious disposition towards them and this Realme. And for as much as I have no Legacy or jewell that I covet more to leve unto hys Majesty to reqyte the nobility of hys harte towards me and this Realme, nor he more desirous to have, than the love of my Subjects, I doe therefore once agayne reqyre them to bere and owe unto his Highnesse the same dewtie and love that they naturally doe and should owe unto me, and in hope they will not forget the same, I do specyally recommend the same dewtye and love unto hys Highnesse, as a legacye, the which I trust he shall enjoye. Also I will and geve unto my said issewe all my jewells, ships, municyons of warre, and artillery, and after my detts (and the detts of my said later Father and brother, King Henry 8, and King Edward 6.) satisfied and pay’d, and this my present testament and last will perform’d, I geve and bequethe unto my said issewe all the rest of my treasure, plate, goods and Chattells whatsoever they be. And callynge to my Remembrance the good and dewtyfull service to me doon by diverse of my lovyng Servants and faythfull Subjects, to whom, as yet, I have not given onny condigne recompence for the same, therefore I am fully resolv’d and determyn’d to geve to every of them whose names are hereafter mention’d such legacies and gifts as particularly ensueth.

[Then follow in the Will several particular Legacies to her women and other Servants about her, which in all amount to 3400li among which she gives Dr. Malet her Almoner and Confessor, to praye for her the summe of 200li and to the poor fryers of the Order of St. Dominick, erected and placed within the University of Oxford, to pray for her soul, her Husband’s, Mother’s, and all other her progenitours the summe of 200li; besides all this she gives 20li a year apiece to Father Westweek and Father Mecalfe and then it follows in her Will.]

And to thentente this my last will and testament may be the more inviolably observ’d, fulfil’d and executed, I will the Issewe of my bodye that shall succede me in the’ Imperiall Crowne of this Realme upon my blessing, that he or she be no Impedyment thereof, but that to the uttermost of his or her power, they do permytt and suffer my said Executors to performe the same, and to ayd them in the execution thereof. And yf ther shall be any imperfection in the assurances of the londes that I have devis’d and appoynted to the howses of Religion or to Savoye, or to the hospitall I mynde to have erected for the pore and maymed Souldiers, or onny negligence be in my Executors in the performance and execucyon of this my testament and last will, that then I will and charge my said Issewe on my blessing, to supply and accomplyshe all such defects and imperfections. And I charge my said Executors, as they will answer before God at the dredfull day of Judgement, and as they will avoyde such commynacyons, threatnyngs, and the severe justice of God pronounc’d and executed against such as are brekers and violaters of wills and testaments, that they to the uttermost of ther powers and wyttes, shall see this my present Testament & last will perform’d and executed, for the which I trust, God shall reward them, and the world commend them. And as yt hath stood with the good contentment and pleasure of my said most dere beloved Lord and husband the King’s Majesty, that I should thus devise my Testament and last will, so I dowte not, but that his most noble harte desyreth and wysheth that the same should accordyngly take effect after yt shall please God to call me out of this transytory lyfe to his marcye. And havyng such exsperience of his gracyus faveure, zeale and love towards me as I have, I am fully perswaded that no person either can or will more honorably and ernestly travell in the [e]xecution of this my Testamt and last will, then his Majesty will doo. Therefore I most humbly beseech his Highnesse that he will vouchsafe and be pleas’d to take upon hym the pryncipall and the chefest care of the [e]xecutyon of this my present Testament and last will, and to be a patron to the rest of my Executors of the same in the [e]xecutyon thereof.

And I do humbly beseeche my saide most dearest lorde and husbande to accepte of my bequeste, and to kepe for a memory of me one jewell, being a table dyamond which the [e]mperours Majesty, his and my most honourable Father, sent unto me by the Cont degment, at the insurance of my sayde lorde and husbande, and also one other table dyamonde whiche his Majesty sent unto me by the marques de les Nanes, and the Coler of golde set with nyne dyamonds, the whiche his Majestye gave me the Epiphanie after our Maryage, also the rubie now sett in a Golde ryng which his Highnesse sent me by the Cont of Feria, all which things I require his Majestye to dispose at his pleasure, and if his Highness thynck mete, to the Issue betwene us.

Also I reqyre the said most Reverend Father in God and my said most dere beloved Cosyn the Lord Cardynall Poole, to be oon of my Executors, to whom I geve for the paynes he shall take aboute the [e]xecucyon of this my present Testament the summe of one thousande powndes. And for the specyall truste and good service that I have alweyes had and founde in the most Revd Father in God, and my right trustye and right well beloved Councellour Nicholas Abp of Yorke, my Chancellor of Englonde, and in my right trusty and right wel beloved Cosyns William, Marques of Wynchester, Ld Treasorer of Englonde, Henry Erle of Arundel, Henry Erle of Westmorland, Francis Erle of Shrewsbury, Edward Erle of Derbye, Thomas Erle of Sussex, Wm Erle of Pembroke, and in my right trusty and well belovcd Councellors Visc, Mountague, Edward Lord Clynton, highe Admyrall of Englonde, and in the Revd Father in God and my right trusty and well beloved Councellors Thomas Bishop of Elye, Edward Lord Hastings of Lowtheborowghe, Lorde Chamberlayne of my Howsehold, Sr Wm Cordell Kt Mr of the Rowlles of my Court of Chancerye. I ordeyne and constitute them also Executors of this my present Testament and last Will, and I geve unto every of the said Ld Chancellor, Lord Tresorer, etc., for their paynes and travell therein to be taken, the Summe of fyve hundred powndes. And unto every of the said Visc Montague, Lord Admyrall, etc., for their paynes likewise to be taken fyve hundred marckes.

And for the greate experyence I have had of the trothe fidelite and good servyce of my trustye and righte well beloved Servants and Councellors, Sr Tho. Cornwallis Kt Comptroller of my howsehold, S. Henry Jernegan Kt Master of my horses, Mr Boxall, my Chefe Secretary, Sr Edward Waldegrave Kt Chancellor of my Duchy of Lancaster, Sr Francis Englefield Kt Master of my Court of Wards and lyveries, and Sr John Baker Kt Chancellor of my Exchequer I geve unto every of them for ther paynes and good servyce to be taken, as assistants to this my said testament, and to be of Council with my said Issewe, the Summe of two hundred powndes. I do appoynte, name and ordeyne them to be Assistants unto my said Executors in the [e]xecucyon of this my said Testament, and to be with them of the Council to my said issewe. And I geve unto every of my said Servants and Councellors last before remembered whom I have appoynted to be assistants to my said Executors, as ys aforesaid, for ther good servyce and paynes to be taken and doon with my said Executors for the [e]xecucyon of this my present Testament and last Will, the Summe of two hundred powndes, before geven unto ether of them.

Nevertheless my playne Will, mynde and entent ys, that yf onny of my said Councillors whom I have appoynted before by this my Testament to be my Executors of the same, shall at the tyme of my decesse be indetted unto me in onny Summes of money, or ought to be and stond charged unto me or to my heirs or Successors for onny Accts or summes of money by hym or them receyved, whereof at the tyme of my decesse he ys not lawfully discharged. That the said Executor or Executors, who shall be so indetted or ought to be charg’d with onny such Accts shall not, for that he or they be named & appoynted onny of my Executars, be exonerate and discharged of the said detts or accts, but thereof shall remayne charged, as tho’ he or they had not been named of my said Executors, and in that respect only shall be excepted to all intents as none of my said Executors, to take any benefit or discharge of the said dette or accts.

And in wytnesse that this ys my present Testament and last Will, I have sign’d diverse parts of the same with my Signe Manuell, and thereunto also have cawsed my prevye Signett to be put, the Thirtieth day of Marche, in the yere of our Lorde God a Thousande fyve hundred fyfty and eight, and in the fourth yere of the Reigne of my said most dere lorde and husband, and in the fyfte yere of the Reigne of me the said Quene. These beynge called to be wytnesses, whose names hereafter followythe

HENRY BEDINGFELD

THOMAS WHARTON

JOHN THROKMORTON

R. WILBRAHM

MARYE THE QUENE

[Codicil]

MARYE THE QUENE.

This Codicell made by me Marye by the Grace of God Quene of Engld &c., & lawful wyfe to the most noble and vertuous Prynce Philippe, by the same grace of God, Kynge of the said Realmes and Domynions of Englond, &c., the twenty-eighth day of October, in the yere of our Lord God 1558, and in the 5th yere of the reign of my said most dere Lord and husbande, and in the Sixth yere of the reigne of me the said Quene. The which Codicell I will and ordeyne shall be added and annexed unto my last Will and Testament heretofore by me made and declared. And my mynd and will ys, that the said Codicell shall be accepted, taken and receyved as a part and parcell of my said last will and testament, and as tho’ it were incorporate with the same to all entents and purposes, in manner and forme followynge.

Fyrste, whereas I the said Quene have with the good contentment and pleasure of my said most dere belov’d Lorde and husbande the Kyng’s Majesty devis’d & made my said last will and testament, beryng date the 30th day of Marche last past, and by the same, for that as I then thowght myself to be with childe did devise and dispose the Imperiall Crowne of this Realme of Englond and the Crowne of Ireland, with my title to France and all the dependances thereof, and all other honours, Castells, Fortresses, Prerogatives and hereditaments, of what nature, kynde or qualitie soever they be, belongyng to this crowne, unto the heires, Issewe and frewte of my body begotten, & the government, order, and rewle of the said heire and Issewe I recommended unto my said most dere Lord and husband duryng the mynoryte of the said heire, accordynge to the lawes of this Realme in that case provided.

Forasmuch as God hath hitherto sent me no frewte nor heire of my bodie, yt ys onlye in his most devyne providence whether I shall have onny or noo, Therefore both for the discharge of my conscyence and dewtie towards God and this Realme, and for the better satisfaction of all good people, and to thentent my said last will and Testament (the which I trust, is agreeable to God’s law and to the laws of this Realme) may be dewly performed, and my dettes (pryncipally those I owe to many of my good subjects, and the which they most lovyngly lent unto me) trewly and justly answered payed, I have thought it good, fealynge myself presently sicke and week in bodye (and yet of hole and perfytt remembrance, our Lord be thanked) to adde this unto my said testament and last will, viz. Yf yt shall please Almighty God to call me to his mercye owte of this transytory lyfe without issewe and heire of my bodye lawfully begotten, Then I most instantly desire et per viscera misericordiae Dei, requyre my next heire & Successour, by the Laws and Statutes of this Realme, not only to permytt and suffer the executors of my said Testament and last will and the Survivours of them to performe the same, and to appoynte unto them such porcyon of treasure & other thynges as shall be suffycient for the execution of my said testament and last will, and to ayd them in the performance of the same, but also yf such assurance and conveyance as the Law requyreth for the State of the londs which I have devysed and appoynted to the howses of Religion, and to the Savoye, and to the Hospitall I would have erected, be not suffycyent and good in Lawe by my said Will, then I most hertily also requyre both for God’s sake, and for the honour and love my said heyre and Successour bereth unto me, that my said heyre and Successour will supplye the Imperfection of my said will and testament therein, & accomplyshe and fynishe the same accordynge to my trew mynde and intente, for the dooyng whereof my said heire and Successour shall, I dowte not, be rewarded of God, and avoyde thereby his severe justice pronounced and executed agt all such as be violaters and brekers of wills and testaments, and be the better assisted with his specyall grace and favour in the mynistracyon of ther Regall function and office, And the more honored of the world and loved of ther subjects, whose natural zeale and love (as a most precious jewell unto every Prynce) I leve and bequeathe unto my said heire and Successour for a specyall Legacye and bequeste, the which I most humbly beseech our Lord, the same may enjoye and possesse (as I trust they shall) chefely to the advancement of God’s glorye & honor, and to the good quyetnesse and Government of this Realme, the which two thynges I most tender. And albeit my said most Dere Lord and Husband shall for defawte of heyre of my bodye have no further government, order and rewle within this Realme and the domynions thereunto belongynge, but the same doth and must remayne, descend, and goo unto my next heyre and Successour, accordyng to the Lawes and Statuts of this Realme, yet I most humbly beseech his Majesty, in recompence of the great love and humble dewtye that I have allwayes born and am bounden to bere unto his Majesty, and for the great zeale and care the which his Highness hath always sens our marriage professed and shew’d unto this Realme, and the Subjects of the same, and for the ancyente amyte sake that hath always ben betwene our most Noble Progenitours and betwene this my Realme and the Low countries, whereof his Majesty is now the enheritour, And finally, as God shall reward hym, and I praye (I hope among the elect servants of God) that yt may please his Majesty to shew hymself as a Father in his care, as a Brother or member of this Realme in his love and favour, and as a most assured and undowted frend in his powre and strengthe to my said heire and Successour, and to this my Country and the Subjects of the same, the which I trust his Highnesse shall have just cause to thynke well bestowed, for that I dowte not, but they will answer yt unto his Majesty with the like benevolence and good will, the which I most hertily requyre them to doo, bothe for my sake, and for the honour and suerty of this Realme. And in witnesse that I have cawsed this Codicell to be made, and that my will & entent ys, that the same shall be annexed and added unto my said former testament & last will, the which my full mynde and will ys shall stonde and remayne in perfytte force and effect, to all intents and purposes, and this Codicell to be accepted taken and declared only as a part and parcell of my said testament and last Will, I have sign’d this Codicell with my Signe Manuell, and have also cawsed my privy Signet to be put thereunto, the day and yere fyrste in this Codicell above written. These beying called to be my wytnesses as well to my said testament and last will as to this Codicell whose names followeth.

MARYE THE QUENE

EDMOND PECKHAM

THOMAS WENDYE

JOHN WILLIS

BARNARD HAMPTON”

Holding on to the hope that she was still with child, she made provisions for her unborn child until it became evident that it was another phantom pregnancy and that she was dying from a tumor. While there were rumors that she would do what her half-brother (Edward VI) did and make a new will that would exclude her half-sister (Elizabeth) from the line of succession, in the end, she didn’t.

To ensure that Elizabeth would continue with her sister’s policies, regarding her alliance with Spain, the Count de Feria, one of Philip II’s most trusted courtiers visited Elizabeth in Windsor, shortly before Mary’s death. Elizabeth was told of her half-sister’s actions and instead of showing gratitude, she told him and everyone else present that she didn’t owe her sister everything as it was her birthright, to be her sister’s heir, and after everything she had been through, Mary I should be the one feeling grateful that Elizabeth didn’t bare her any ill will. Elizabeth was referring to her time in the tower of London, when she was put in the same rooms as her mother when she was awaiting her execution. Mary suspected her of being complicit in Wyatt’s Rebellion and it was thanks to her husband’s intervention that Elizabeth was released and placed under house arrest instead.

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary

Mary I died in November of that year. Hours later, her ring of state was given to Elizabeth who quoted on of the psalms saying that this was “the Lord’s doing” and it “is marvelous before our eyes.” Mary was laid to rest in December and Elizabeth was crowned Queen of England in January of 1559.

Elizabeth and Mary

Mary’s wishes for her mother to be reburied from St. Peterborough Cathedral at Westminster Abbey in the Lady Chapel so the two of them could lay together for eternity were never met. Instead, half a century later, King James I of England and VI of Scotland, decided to rebury his predecessors together in a marvelous tomb whose only mention or any indication of Mary was in a plaque that read the following:
“Consorts in realm and tomb, we, sisters Elizabeth and Mary, here lie down to sleep in hope of resurrection.”

Due to Protestant propaganda and the political climate in England, she went down in history as “Bloody Mary”. Queen Mary I of England and Ireland was no saint, but neither was she the worst English monarch of the most bloodthirsty one. Twentieth century historians such as H.F.M Prescott, David Loades tried to approach her reign from an objective view, arguing that while some of the criticism towards her reign is merited, other isn’t. 21st century historians like Anna Whitelock, Leanda de Lisle and Anna Whitelock have done an even better job by taking a factual look at her reign, without sugarcoating or whitewashing any of its cruelest aspects.

Sources:

  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Tudor History article.

Book review: Falling Pomegranate Seeds: The Duty of Daughters by Wendy J. Dunn.

COA novel falling pomegranate

Falling Pomegranate Seeds: the Duty of Daughters is a fantastic novel written by Wendy J. Dunn, it is the first in her series on Katharine of Aragon. As a result, this focuses primarily on her formative years in Spain.  Without vilifying or whitewashing her, Wendy J. Dunn weaves an intricate tale of hope, passion, and self-growth as Katharine prepares for the epic journey that awaits her.

Katharine of Aragon was Henry VIII’s first wife, and before that, his brother’s wife, and the daughter of two of the most prestigious monarchs in Christendom. Born and raised to do her duty, she was also among the most learned women of her times. Wendy J. Dunn doesn’t brush past this fact; it is a key component of her book. The book opens up with Beatriz Galindo, known as “La Latina” for her scholarship, being questioned by the Queen of Castile about her youngest daughter’s education. Beatriz is delighted to be charged with such a task, and dedicates most of her time to Catalina, ensuring that she will grow up to be a learned queen.

It is refreshing to see a historical fiction devote so much time to Katharine’s formative year, and set the stage for the next books in her Katharine of Aragon series.

Her Katharine is how I picture she was in real life. She starts as an assertive and curious child who is determined to become Queen of England because she believes that is her destiny, and as the story progresses, even when we know how it is going to end, we are still rooting for her as she sets sail to her new home. The emotions run high near the end, it plays like a farewell scene but it is not. One chapter of her life has ended and another will begin and we are left eagerly waiting for that.

Wendy J. Dunn brings out the best and worst aspects of her character, something that is much needed in a figure that often gets put on a pedestal or easily disregarded as the ‘boring one.’ Katharine is mischievous, she plays, she is everything you would expect in a child, but she is also curious and intuitive with a mind of her own -which becomes more evident when she is in her teens- and like her mother, she is very proud and grounded in her beliefs that she’s unwilling to compromise when that compromise goes against her moral view of the world.

I recommend this book to all history buffs and those of you who like me, are very passionate about Tudor history.

Nicholas Udall honors Henry VIII’s new Queen, Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn crowned henry viii and his six wives bbc

Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England on the 1st of June 1533. It was a joyous occasion for her and Henry VIII, who had arranged for her to be crowned with the crown of St. Edward (a crown reserved for Kings; queens were crowned with the smaller crown of St. Edith) so there would be no question about the legitimacy of their unborn heir.

Many poems were done that celebrated this event. Among the most prominent was Nichollas Udall’s which celebrated her lineage and exalted her insignia of the white falcon crowned.

Anne Boleyn white falcon

“This White Falcon, rare and geason,
This bird shineth so bright;
Of all that are,
Of this bird can write.
No man earthly enough truly
can praise this Falcon White.
Who will express great gentleness
to be in any wight [man];
He will not miss,
But can call him this
The gentle Falcon White.
This gentle bird as white as curd
Shineth both day and night;
Nor far nor near is nay peer
Unto this Falcon White,
Of body small, of power regal
She is, and sharp of sight;
Of courage hault
No manner fault is in this Falcon White,
In chastity excelleth she,
Most like a virgin bright:
And worthy is to live in bliss
Always this Falcon White.
But now to take
And use her make
Is time, as troth is plight;
That she may bring fruit according
For such a Falcon White.
And where by wrong,
She hath fleen long,
Uncertain where to light;
Herself repose
Upon the Rose,
Now many this Falcon White.
Whereon to rest,
And build her nest;
GOD grant her, most of might!
That England may rejoice as always
In this same Falcon White.”

Nicholas Udall was an English poet who like Anne and several others at the time, was part of a group of people who were sympathetic towards the Protestant Reformation and as time went by, he became one of the strongest supporters of the Anglican church, being widely favored during Edward VI’s reign.

His poem celebrating Anne Boleyn’s coronation were one of many honoring other like-minded figures. But like the subject of his epic poem, Nicholas Udall’s life was also paved with controversy. That same year, he was accused of mistreating his students and charged with buggery. If found guilty, he would have been sentenced to die by hanging. Luckily for him, he had friends in Thomas Cromwell’s circle (whose star was on the rise) and they helped him by lessening his sentence to less than a year.

Sources:

  • Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn. Blackwell. 2005.
  • Norton, Elizabeth. The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femme Fatales Who Changed English History. Amberly. 2013.
  • Lisle, Leanda. Tudor. Murder. Manipulation. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public Affairs. 2013.