Henry promises to marry Princess Elizabeth of York

0Henry VII and EOY

On Christmas day, 1483, Henry VII solemnly swore that he would marry Elizabeth of York at Vannes Cathedral, among many of his fellow exiles in Brittany. Other sources say it was Rennes. According to Polydore Vergil (who placed it at Rennes), the event went as follows:

“The day of Christ’s nativity was come upon, which, meeting all in the church, they ratified all in the church, they ratified all other things by plighting of their troths and solemn covenants and first of all Earl Henry upon his Oath promised, that so soon as he should be King he would marry Elizabeth, King Edward’s daughter; then after they swore unto him homage as though he had already been created King, protesting that they would lose not only their lands and possessions, but their lives, before they would suffer, bear, or permit, that Richard should rule over them an heirs.”

0Rennes Cathedral
Rennes Cathedral

Henry knew that time was running out. Earlier that year, his mother had sent a messenger telling him about the state of affairs in England and Buckingham had written to him, telling him he would switch sides, plan an insurrection so Henry could become King. The full details of what motivated Buckingham to switch sides is still unclear and isn’t likely to be solved anytime soon. But failure to destabilize Richard III’s reign, was a massive halt to Henry Tudor’s plans. After the Duke’s execution in October, Henry was ready to set sail with a great fleet that was funded by his ally and jailor, the Duke of Brittany, but they were quickly blown away by “a cruel gale of wind” which drove them back to Brittany. Which was the more reason why he made this pledge in front of all his fellow exiles, among them staunch Lancastrians and Edwardian Yorkists. With this vow he secured the latter’s support. And they paid homage to him as if he were already king, and declared him so less than a month later in November 3 at Bodmin.

“…in addition to the Duchess of Brittany herself. The premier minister, Pierre Landais, was also present and through him Henry obtained Duke Francois’ solemn promise to support and assist in the cause. Henry had entered into a pledge which he could not turn back from. If his invasion of England was successful, he would marry Elizabeth of York. It was in effect a marriage by proxy.” (Breverton)

0Vannes Cathedral
Vannes Cathedral

When Richard III heard of this, he acted quickly. Parliament passed a bill entitled “Titulus Regius” on January the 23rd which officially declared the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville null and void under the assumption that he had been betrothed to one Eleanor Butler months before. Not surprisingly, nobody in his regime could dispute that given that both of the three people in question were dead. Henry Tudor, acted quickly as well, obtaining a papal dispensation on March the 27th and moving out of Brittany that summer after one of his spies at Richard’s court told him that the King was hot on his trail.

Tudor Rose

Four months after his triumph at Bosworth Parliament would remind him of his pledge, and he would swear one more time that he would honor that pledge and marry the Princess Elizabeth.

The couple were married a month later in January of 1486, after the papal dispensation was signed, sealed and delivered, making their union official. And just as he promised, their union would come to represent the union of two houses, Lancaster and York, symbolized in the new device Henry had created to embody this: the Tudor Rose.

Sources:

  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Henry VII by SB Chrimes
  • The Woodvilles by Susan Higginbotham
  • Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker by Terry Breverton
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The Royal Wedding of Prince Arthur and Infanta Catalina

Arthur and Catherine of Aragon

On Sunday, 14th of November 1501, Katherine of Aragon and Arthur Tudor were married in a splendid ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. She was led to the church by her brother-in-law, Henry Tudor, the Duke of York who also wore white and gold. White was a color not normally seen in brides, and yet Katherine wore it, dazzling the English onlookers as she exited from her chambers with her ladies and Dona Elvira, and accompanied by the young Duke into the Church.

Arthur for his part rose up early, awoken by a handful of noblemen led by the Great Chamberlain of England, John de Vere [13th Earl of Oxford]. The two were one of a kind, and no expense had been spared for this occasion. London had made sure that Katherine received a great reception two days earlier when she arrived to London (once again accompanied by her brother-in-law) and the day before the wedding, he had thrown a big party, with his mother and wife present. Katherine for her part, made a great impression on the English people. Beautiful, petite, with blue eyes, fair skin and red-golden hair, she fit the medieval standards of beauty and her expression looked both serene and content. But appearances, as one historian pointed out, can be deceiving. Katherine was her parents’ daughter, and like them, she adapted quickly to her new environment. Besides her unusual choice of color, she had donned a gown that was Spanish in design, and which must have looked odd to some of the spectators. The skirt was bell-shaped, called a vertugado and highly fashionable in Spain, and it would also become fashionable in England when she became Queen eight years later. The rest of her dress consisted of gold, pearls, and gems and on her head, she wore a long silk veil.

Katherine-of-Aragon-1st-Queen-of-Henry-VIII-catherine-of-aragon-11212609-453-652

Furthermore, the cathedral was hung with marvelous tapestries displaying both of their families’ heraldic symbols as well as Arthur’s fabled ancestry to his mythical namesake. When the trumpets sounded, the young Duke led Katherine into the church, her train being carried by his aunt, the Queen’s sister, Lady Cecily Welles. The King, Queen and the Countess of Richmond were nowhere to be seen. They had opted to watch the ceremony behind a screen instead, fearing that their presence would overshadow the young couple. “The Archbishop of Canterbury” points the Receyt of Ladie Kateryne “was waiting there for her with eighteen more bishops and honorable abbots” who were anxious for the ceremony to start.
Several people shouted “King Henry! King Henry!” and “Prince Arthur!” as she and Arthur momentarily turned to acknowledge the congregation. After the Mass was over, Arthur stepped aside to sign the last papers of their union. The young Duke once again took Katherine’s arm and led her to her next destination at the Bishop’s Palace where a great banquet awaited them.

“The food and its service were designed to display the royal wealth to the full. Arthur had Catherine would have been honored by the creation of subtleties, sculptured in marzipan, of allegorical, historian and religious figures. Warham’s table had been graced by one design featuring a king seated on a throne, surrounded by kneeling knights and flanked by two gentlemen on horseback. A second design centered on St Eustace kneeling in a park under a great tree of roses, with a white hart bearing a crucifix between its horns.” (Licence)

Other figures would have included heraldic symbols of both their dynasties. Just as in the church, the Bishop’s palace would have been full of Tudor and Trastamara imagery, with their ancestors thrown into the mix.

Henry VII Shadow in the tower

This was the wedding of the century, and Henry VII must have felt like this was his greatest accomplishment. After years of fighting off pretenders and putting down rebellions, here was a marriage that would validate his dynasty, show off his kingdom’s wealth, and give him a strong alliance with the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon whose monarchs had become a legend.

“It feel to the Earl of Oxford in his capacity as Lord Chamberlain of England to test ‘the bed of state’ by lying down first on one side and then on the other to check that nothing protruded from the mattress that could do harm to the prince and his bride.” (Williams)

Following the ceremony the bedding took place. Katherine was the first one to lay in bed. Her husband then appeared, escorted by his father and some of his friends who wished him well. What happened next would be something that many of us would still ask today and as for the answer, at the expense of having books thrown at me by hardcore fans, it is something I am anxious to give my two cents given what we know so far about the period in terms of sex, marriage and religion, but I will reserve it for another time and simply say that whatever the truth is, only two people know what happened on that day and they took that secret to their graves.

Sources:

  • Katharine of Aragon: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII’s First Unfortunate Wife by Patrick Williams
  • Sister Queens: The Unfortunate and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones

Henry VIII marries Katherine Parr

Henry VIII (Meyers) and Katherine Parr (Richardson) in "The Tudors" s4.
Henry VIII (Meyers) and Katherine Parr (Richardson) in “The Tudors” s4.

Henry VIII married Katherine Parr at the Queen’s Privy Closet on Hampton Court Palace on July 12th 1543. Katherine Parr was Henry VIII’s sixth wife. She was a rich widow who’d been married twice, first to Sir Edward Burgh and then to John Neville, Lord Latimer. In Katherine Parr, Henry VIII got a Consort who many agreed was worthy of her position. The Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys who was very critical of the English court, had nothing but good things to say of her, saying that besides Queen Katherine of Aragon, Katherine Parr was the only other wife worthy of being Queen. There were some rumors that Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, now the King’s sister, was very angry when she found out that Henry chose the Lady Latimer as his next consort. She reputedly said that she could not understand why he did this when she (Anne) was more attractive. We have to be careful to take these sources as the ultimate truth. It could be that Anne felt jealous because Henry chose someone she didn’t consider beautiful, or she simply didn’t approve of Katherine. Regardless of this, Henry’s new Queen had many notable qualities. Born in 1512, she was a close friend of the Lady Mary who was four years her junior. She was a descendant of Edward III through her father Thomas Parr, and related to the King’s great-grandmother Elizabeth Woodville, through her mother Maud Parr (who had served under the first Queen Katherine and stayed loyal through her throughout Henry’s marriage to Anne). It is very possible that she was named after Henry’s first wife who made education for girls fashionable, and like her namesake, she followed in her footsteps.

Katherine Parr's badge in the center displays a fair maiden crowned and springing from a Tudor rose.
Katherine Parr’s badge in the center displays a fair maiden crowned and springing from a Tudor rose.

The marriage contract had been drawn up two days before by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The ceremony had been conducted by Bishop Gardiner “in the presence of noble and gentle persons” being “private” and “without ceremony”. There is no record of what Katherine Parr wore to the ceremony but records display the names of the people present. Among them was her family, including her brother William Herbert and the Earl of Hertford and his wife Anne Stanhope. The Earl of Hertford, Edward Seymour was brother to Sir Thomas Seymour, the man that Katherine wished to marry. He was obviously not present because the King had sent him abroad so he could marry Katherine. Other guests included Catherine Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk (married to the King’s best friend and brother-in-law, Charles Brandon), John Dudley’s wife Jane, the King’s niece Margaret Douglas, and his daughters the ladies Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.

Henry VIII
Henry VIII

The vows that had been written for the King and Queen-to-be are still went as followed:

“I. Henry, take thee, Katherine to my wedded wife to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, and thereto I plight thee my troth”
“I, Katherine, take thee Henry to my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be Bonaire and buxom in bed and at board, till death do us part, and thereto I plight unto thee my troth.”

These words are still being used for Anglican weddings. After the King and Queen said their vows, the King put on her wedding ring, then the Bishop pronounced them man and wife.

Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr

People noted how Henry spoke his vows “with a joyful countenance”. A member of Katherine’s household once said that her “rare goodness” made “every day a Sunday.” Everyone soon found out this was true. The new Queen was intelligent and lively. She loved to dance and dress in the latest fashions, and engage in good debate, as well as enjoy a good poetry book. And what was more, she got along with all of her royal stepchildren, especially the Lady Mary Tudor whom she spent more time (since the two were closer in age). She had been very influential making sure that Prince Edward’s tutors continued with his Protestant instruction, and she developed a relationship with the youngest Tudor that influenced her in more ways than one.
Her chaplain Francis Goldsmith remarked that “God has so formed her mind for pious studies, that she considers everything of small value compared to Christ. Her rare goodness has made every day like Sunday, a thing hitherto unheard of, especially in a royal palace. Her piety cherishes the religion long since introduced, not without great labor, to the palace”. She surrounded herself with other religious intellections such as George Day, the Bishop of Chichester who worked as her almoner, and the humanist Sir Anthony Cope who acted as her vice-chamberlain. It is also worth to point out that during her time as Queen, Henry VIII restored his daughters to the line of succession.

Lady Elizabeth Tudor
Lady Elizabeth Tudor

Linda Porter in her latest book Tudors vs Stewarts notes that “in observing Katherine Parr as regent and Queen consort, Elizabeth learned a good deal about how women could think for themselves and govern. She greatly admired her stepmother’s literary output and clearly discussed religious ideas with her when they met, which was not nearly often enough for Elizabeth’s liking”.

Katherine Parr is the only other Consort besides Katherine of Aragon who was appointed Regent when Henry left to engage in another expensive war against France in 1544. Katherine Parr remarried almost immediately after Henry’s death to Sir Thomas Seymour who was elevated to Baron Sudeley after her stepson became King. Sadly, her life took a turn for the worst when she found her household embroiled in scandal. It is unclear what the nature of Thomas Seymour’s relationship with Elizabeth was, if he had forced himself on the fourteen year old, or if it was something else. But it upset Katherine greatly and although Thomas Seymour tried to make it up to her, in her delirium (after giving birth to her only daughter whom she named after her eldest royal stepdaughter) she blamed Thomas for all her ills. She died days after and her husband soon followed after he was involved in a plot to depose his brother the Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset. Their daughter, Mary Seymour probably died a year after in 1549.

Sources:

  • Great Harry: The Extravagant Life of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Henry VIII and his Court by Alison Weir

The Marriage of Henry VIII and Infanta Catalina: The Rose & the Pomegranate

KOA and Henry VIII 2

On June Eleventh 1509, Henry VIII married the Spanish Princess, Katherine of Aragon at the Friary Church at Greenwich. It was a modest ceremony. Katherine’s confessor wrote to her father that “His Highness loves her and she loves him”. Katherine of Aragon had been his brother’s widow. There was that issue of the papal dispensation which her mother had taken care of before her death, five years prior. But Isabella’s death split the country in two and Katherine was no longer a valuable asset. Henry VII made his son publicly repudiate his intended bride, yet Henry continued to be infatuated with her. Katherine always made sure she got to see him as much as she could so Henry’s interest in her would remain. People tend to forget how long the two waited to be married and furthermore, how long they were married.

Katherine of Aragon Magdalene

Nobody expected Katherine to become Queen. Henry had been kept from other people, except a select few. Henry VII wanted to make sure that his son would become the perfect Prince, one who would listen to his father and his advisers. Henry VIII however was determined to be his own man. David Loades said it himself, that Henry’s decision to marry Katherine echoes his maternal grandfather’s decision to marry an impoverished Lancastrian widow. As with the latter, Katherine did not have anything more to recommend her other than her name. Her credentials were impeccable (and she was also the first female Western European ambassador) but other than that, her country had been torn up by civil war, and she was no longer a bride who was considered desirable on that prospect. But more than that, Henry was determined to her. Like Edward IV, nobody was going to tell him what to do. The council wanted Henry to marry Katherine’s niece or someone else who would bring a larger dowry with her and who was younger, but Henry said no claiming that on his deathbed, his father made him swear that he would look after his late brother’s wife by marrying her.

HenryVIII_1509

In completely fairness, Henry was acting in the chivalric traditions where a knight rescues his fair maiden and protects her from all harm. His declaration does have some truth in that sense; but the part about his father making him promise to marry Katherine is unbelievable. It is true that Henry VII had grown into a very avaricious man towards the end of his reign; but much as he coveted Katherine’s dowry, he was more interested in his son marrying a bride who would bring more to the table.
The council didn’t believe his story either, but he was their King and they could do nothing to dissuade him.

Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon in the Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

When Katherine was told of the news, no doubt she felt a sense of fulfillment, because at last her seven long years of waiting to wear the crown of Edith, was becoming a reality. And there was also another aspect to their union: Henry was attracted to her, not just because she was beautiful, but because she was intelligent and because despite Spain being in a tough situation, his alliance with Ferdinand fed into his ambitious to conquer France. Ferdinand like Henry was no friend of the Valois and he encouraged his son in law (through Katherine) to join him against France.
During the first years of their marriage, Katherine was extremely influential. The two were crowned together, and Katherine would oversee many things and as Queen she had her own household and she proved to be an excellent administrator, and also a great leader. When her husband left to aid her father in the war against France, she was left in charge of his realm. Under her Regency, the Scots were defeated and their king, James IV, was slain. And she became very loved by the people by striking a harmonious balance between her fashions, piety, and devotion to her husband.
At the same time, there is also one detail that many people forget and that is Katherine’s reaction to her husband’s infidelities. By the time Anne Boleyn came into the fold, Katherine had learned her ‘lesson’ and turned a blind eye to them. As long as her position was safe, she would not have to worry about the rest. But in the beginning Katherine was very upset of his affairs, and more than one occasion she voiced her displeasure. And on another, she made it very clear how she saw her husband’s illegitimate son as a threat to her daughter, the Princess Mary.
But whereas Anne was said to have been outspoken in front of many of her ladies and his closest friends; Katherine unleashed her anger when they were in private, and in other ways through cold looks and sarcastic remarks.

Sources:

  • Katherine of Aragon by Patrick Williams
  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence

Jane Seymour & Henry VIII’s Marriage: Reassessing the Phoenix

Jane Seymour (Wallis) and Henry VIII (Meyers) in
Jane Seymour (Wallis) and Henry VIII (Meyers) in “The Tudors” s3.

On the thirtieth of May 1536, Henry and Jane were married at Whitehall palace at the Queen’s Closet. The ceremony was officiated by none other than the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer who was Jane’s predecessor former chaplain. The wedding took place, according to Fraser “quickly and quietly”

Jane quickly established herself in her new role. Although she wasn’t vociferous like her predecessors, Jane did voice her opinion on several occasions. Her latest biographers Loades and Norton show that when she voiced them, she was very subtle. Had she lived, Norton believes Jane would have taken on “the political role that would have been open to her as the mother of the heir to the throne”. Jane Seymour appears as ‘boring’ or ‘conniving’ in popular culture, slammed for daring to take Anne’s position (which many view was rightfully hers). But history medieval and renaissance history is not about who was right or wrong. Laws could be changed or interpreted in many different ways. Ultimately who deserved the right to be called queen, or be revered, is to the reader.
Given Henry’s tastes it is hard to say whether he would have tired of Jane or not. She displayed herself as many other consorts before her had done, including Henry’s mother whom Henry revered and whom he seemed to judge his other wives on. Women were expected to take on certain roles, Consorts bore more responsibilities. They had to present themselves as the epitomes of virtue, and be prepared to rule in their husband’s absence or when their sons were too young to do so after they were crowned.
Would anyone be surprised if we were to find out that the “she wolves” Isabella of France and Marguerite of Anjou behaved like Jane Seymour before shit hit the fan? Thought so.
Isabella of France submitted herself to humiliation on the part of her husband and his favorites. During her coronation she saw her husband’s favorite’s arms displayed on the banquet instead of hers. She saw honors heaped on this man and then his replacement after he was executed by the Earl of Lancaster. Isabella said nothing, not a word while she lived. She obviously felt angry, but she never voiced her opinions. She did what Consorts did. She bore Edward II’s children, begged mercy for traitors, and appeared on state functions with her husband –including when they went to visit her father Philip IV “the Fair” of France. Isabella’s chance for revenge came when he sent her to France, to negotiate on his behalf with the new King of France, her brother Charles. There she met the exile Roger Mortimer and the two began a torrid love affair which ended with their alliance, their invasion to England in her son’s name, the deposition of her husband, and their regency for Edward III.

Marguerite of Anjou was less radical. She did not rebel against her husband, she stuck with him for better or for worse. Instead of replacing him with her son as Isabella had done, Marguerite decided to take the fight to Richard, Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, the Earls of March, Rutland, and Warwick. These were their number one enemies and when they forced her husband to sign a treaty where he acknowledged Richard’s right to be King, and made him his heir, passing over his son. Marguerite decided to take up arms against them again. Marguerite ended losing her war. Her son and husband died, ending the Lancastrian dynasty once and for all. There was only one last Lancastrian (although he descended from the Beauforts which were still considered by many illegitimate) and he ended up becoming King in 1485 after he defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field. He was Henry VII and his son Henry VIII was now Jane’s husband. Four days later, Sir John Russell wrote to Lord Lisle that in making Jane his wife, he had made a wise choice for “she is as gentle a lady as ever I knew, and as fair a queen as any in Christendom. The King hath come out of hell into heaven for the gentleness in this and the cursedness and the unhappiness in the other. You would do well to write to the king again that you rejoice he is so well match with so gracious a woman as is reported.”

Jane acted with tact, speaking when she felt was wise, and crossing the line only once when she voiced empathy for the pilgrimage of grace. Jane served two Queens, possibly three if the theory of her serving Princess Mary when she married Louis XII of France is correct; and under them she had seen many things, learned many things. The number one lesson she learned was not to get on Henry’s bad side, not just for her own safety but for her family.

“Could any female subject really give Henry a decisive refusal?” ~Amy Licence, Six Wives and the many Mistresses of Henry VIII

Marriage was like a business contract and it was the goal for many highborn at the time. As with Anne, Jane would have viewed the opportunity of becoming Queen a golden one. As with her predecessor, she was walking a fine thread with no friends in high places like Henry VIII’s first Queen, Katherine of Aragon. Had she said ‘no’ to Henry and genuinely refused all his attentions, Henry would have found someone else to replace Anne and that woman would no doubt be the one slammed instead of Jane.

Sources:

  • Jane Seymour: Henry VIII’s true love by Elizabeth Norton
  • Jane Seymour by David Loades
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence.

A Triple Wedding and a Coup in the making

Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.
Jane Grey played by Helena Bonham Carter and Guildford Dudley played by Cary Elwes. The movie featured a very idolized Victorian version of Jane, one where her greatest strengths are neglected.

On May the 25th 1553 a triple wedding was celebrated. The couples were Lady Jane Grey and Guildford Dudley, his sister Lady Catherine and Lord Hastings, and Jane’s sister, Lady Katherine and Lord Herbert -the son of the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey
Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey

The wedding was a master plan in the making. Initially the ailing King, Edward VI had been considered as a potential suitor for the eldest of the Grey sisters since negotiations to continue his betrothal with Henry II’s eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth of France, were not going very well. Among the many reformers abroad who encouraged this union was Ulmer and Bulm who told their former apprentice she would flourish there. Jane’s popularity was rising and all that fame soon got to the teenager’s head. She began to make bolder statements against her cousin Mary and others who refused to follow the ‘true faith’. In Jane perspective, this was holy war, and she had become one of her faith’s greatest pioneers. But as the year 1552 came and went, it became clear to anyone that Edward’s days were numbered. He had survived a brush with death when he overcame the measles in 1551, but he wasn’t going to be so lucky this time. Edward began to draft a legal document that was more of a legal exercise that posed an important question on who would be king or queen after he died. The succession did not favor women as many people think. In fact “My Device for the succession” as it was titled, still favored male succession. It stated that if Frances failed to give birth to any male issue before he died, the throne would pass on to Jane and her sons. If Jane failed to have any sons then the throne would pass on to Katherine and her sons. And if she failed to have any sons as well, then to Mary and her sons.

To strengthen Jane’s claim and the Protestant alliance, the teenagers were married on the same day.  Not surprisingly, supporting the Evangelicals was France (whose own ambassador, Boisdauphin was present at the wedding) who were as opposed as they were to see the Lady Mary Tudor succeed her brother (since she would favor Spanish interests over French).

Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager  and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.
Lady Katherine Grey and her firstborn son, Edward Seymour. She married for a second and last time which landed her in the tower of London and then under multiple house arrests. At the time of the triple marriage, she was married to Lord Herbert, son of the Earl of Pembroke and the late Anne Parr -sister to the late Queen Dowager and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr.

The wedding took place in Northumberland’s London residence, at Durham House. The young couples wore “silver and gold fabrics forfeited to the King from the Duke of Somerset in 1551 and figuratively at least, marked with his blood.” (Lisle). Perhaps it was appropriate they were wearing such clothes since this wedding -albeit sanctioned by the head of their  church- was a declaration of war against their future rival, Lady Mary Tudor. The triple ceremony was attended by almost all of the nobility. They enjoyed a great number of entertainments such as masques, jousts, and a great feast. When the celebrations ended, the two Grey sisters went to their new homes with their respective fathers-in-law. Jane at Sion in Richmond, and Katherine at Bayanard’s Castle near the Thames (coincidentally the same palace one of their ancestress –Cecily Neville, Duchess of York  aka “Queen by Rights” and “Proud Cis”- had once possessed and where some historians suggest, Richard engineered his usurpation).

Edward VI. The last Tudor King.
Edward VI. The last Tudor King.

It is unclear whether the marriage was consummated or not. Some believed that it wasn’t because of her young age. But it is important to remember that in the Tudor age, the age of consent for girls was twelve and for boys fourteen. Both Jane and Guildford were well past that age range. Then again, the argument against it holds up very well too. Since she was her mother and Edward’s heir, her health was of the utmost importance. Consummating the marriage could result in a pregnancy which could result in her death or inability to have more children (as it had happened to her great-great-grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond).

Three days later, Edward VI’s doctors confirmed that he was dying. Edward had sent expensive gifts to the Grey sisters and to Catherine Dudley to congratulate them on their union. This proved his own validation for the Evangelical elite’s schemes against his sisters, and more than that, his own involvement with them. For Edward, it was imperative that England remained faithful and he believed that the only way that could be achieved was if another Evangelical succeeded him to the throne and that someone was Jane who was just as passionately Evangelical as he was.

Sources:

  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Ives
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll

15th May 1567: A Most Unhappy (and Forced) Union

MQS c.1565

On this day, MQS (Mary, Queen Of Scots) & James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell were married at Holyrood House. The ceremony was conducted by the Bishop of Orkney. This action has often been criticized and taken as proof that Mary was an incompetent Queen. In the show Reign, I will give you the win, she is. In real life, the issue gets more complicated because she was far from the Mary-Sue-ish character she is often portrayed in Hollywood films. She was an intelligent, articulate, brave young woman who knew her position, and what was expected of her. However as Linda Porter, John Guy and other historians have pointed out in their respective biographies of her, she was raised as a Consort while in France instead of a Queen Regnant. This, no doubt, was problematic to many, including her defenders, who viewed that whoever she married was going to be the true ruler of their realm. (And it didn’t help that she signed, although coaxed, documents before her wedding to Francis that she would hand over the kingdom to the French crown if she died without issue). But her experience in French shaped her no doubt, being a close observer of court politics and seeing the family dynamics of the King, the King’s mistress and the King’s wife; her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici. It was suggested after she became a widow that she married the next in line, her brother-in-law Charles, but Catherine and some French courtiers refused. The Guise family was rising too high and since her mother’s engagement to her father, the King of Scotland, they had been viewed as upstarts. She returned to Scotland and contrary to what is often shown in TV shows and movies; she didn’t seek to dethrone her cousin, Queen Elizabeth. Although Mary had a claim to the English throne as a descendant of the first Tudor monarch (Henry VII) eldest daughter, Margaret Tudor; she preferred to ‘charm’ her older cousin so she would name her, her heiress. She went so far to win Elizabeth’s favor that she started allowing Protestant mass and the book of common prayer. However, Elizabeth did not want to name any heirs for fear they would start plotting against her. Elizabeth I was justified in her fears, but this made MQS frustrated and very soon she started voicing those frustrations to her cousin via her ambassadors. In response Elizabeth told them that while she preferred MQS over the Grey sisters, she could not name her, her heiress yet. Furthermore, she added, if MQS wanted to remain on Elizabeth I’s good side, she had to refuse any offer of marriage unless she had her royal permission. Mary agreed but as Elizabeth I kept delaying the matter of the line of succession, she got angry and went ahead and defied her cousin, marrying her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (another descendant of Margaret Tudor via her second marriage to the Earl of Angus). Elizabeth naturally panicked and had his family under house arrest, but this didn’t solve anything. MQS became pregnant right away and gave birth to a baby boy (the future James VI of Scotland and I of England). But things were not good for Mary, either. Defiance had a price and that price was in the form of a bad marriage. Disputes and disagreements, the two couldn’t reconcile no matter how hard his parents, especially his mother (the formidable Countess of Lennox, Margaret Douglas) tried. When Darnley was murdered, MQS was blamed and although evidence has been used to prove she was guilty, some recent historians have doubted the validity of the famous ‘Casket Letters’. Whatever the truth, MQS wasn’t his only enemy, he had many more in Scotland who were eager to see him dead. It is probable one of them killed him.

As soon as MQS knew, she tried to be diplomatic about it and arm herself to the teeth but failed. One notable courtier who often defended the young Queen (but wasn’t without self-ambition) got the idea of kidnapping her and marry her. Bothwell was “never a man to underrate himself or miss an opportunity”, Porter writes. He played a last part in MQS last parliament, and the day after he invited a number of the most influential lords to supper where he produced a draft of a bond he wanted his fellow lords to sign.

James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. His bond was endorsed by eight bishops, and the earls of Morton, Huntly, Caithness, Argyll, Cassilis, Sutherland, Crawford, Errol and Rothes, and the Lords Boyd, Herries, Ogilvy and Sempill.
James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. His bond was endorsed by eight bishops, and the earls of Morton, Huntly, Caithness, Argyll, Cassilis, Sutherland, Crawford, Errol and Rothes, and the Lords Boyd, Herries, Ogilvy and Sempill.

This was to confirm his innocence of Darnley’s murder and to defend himself of any lies said about him (using any means necessary), and furthermore to become Mary’s husband. The draft said Mary would be given a choice, but we all know what really happened when he encountered MQS’s party (who were headed to Edinburgh). Bothwell approached the Queen and said it was her choice to say yes or no, but there was not much of a choice.

“If she was truly kidnapped against her will, why did she not cry out or demand assistance as they passed through the various small towns and villages on route? There are several answers to this, the most obvious of which is that surrounded by a press of eight hundred horsemen it is unlikely that she could ever have been heard. But more persuasive even is the culture of the time: it would have been improper for a gentlewoman to try and fight her way out of the situation physically and, besides, Mary had no means of so doing even if she had been minded to try and escape. She does appear to have sent her messenger, James Borthwick, to Edinburgh to seek help from the citizens there, but all they could manage was tow salvoes of cannon as the riders went past them at speed. Mary was not completely at Bothwell’s mercy. When they arrived at Dunbar he dismissed all her ladies-in-waiting and replaced them with his sister Jane Hepburn the widow of Lord John Stewart, Mary’s favorite half-brother.” -Porter

There is plenty of evidence that points that Bothwell did rape Mary and since a Queen, although God’s anointed monarch, was supposed to protect her country and her reputation above all else; she could say very little. If she did scream or cry or denounce Bothwell she would have been seen as incompetent by the men of her times, including her cousin, who would use this opportunity to say that this was a Queen who was acting irrationally, who couldn’t control her own subjects and as a consequence, it was her fault for being so dumb. That was the thinking back then (and sometimes today too). With so few options, Mary could do nothing but recognize the marriage and accept it had happened. Furthermore, she was fearful for her son’s future. There were so many people who could abuse him, shape him into becoming something she dreaded, if she was deposed. So Mary did what so many women back then did, deny the charges of violence and tell her lords on the 12th of May that she forgave Bothwell for everything he had done, two days later she signed their marriage contract and on the fifteenth, she married him.

Sources:

  • Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary, Queen of Scots by John Guy
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn

The marriage of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV

Edward IV and Elizabeth in portraits and in the White Queen (2013) played by Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson.
Edward IV and Elizabeth in portraits and in the White Queen (2013) played by Max Irons and Rebecca Ferguson.

1 MAY 1464: The traditional date given to Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV’s union.
The day better known as “Love Day” was famous for juxtaposing gender and status roles. It was a day of mayhem and fun that has its roots in pagan religions and pre-Christian traditions. In all honesty though, there is no concrete evidence that the marriage took place that day. What is known is it must have taken place before August of that year when Lord Hastings was given the wardship of Elizabeth’s eldest son by her first marriage, Thomas Grey.

Several chroniclers that place the marriage on this day are Antonio Cornazzano, an Italian writing four years after the event took place. He writes that Elizabeth threatened Edward with a dagger after he offered her to become his mistress. Angry, Dominic Mancini writing nearly twenty years later adds that Edward attempted to make her submit but “she remained unperturbed and determined to die rather than live unchastely with the king. Whereupon Edward coveted her much the more, and he judged the lady worthy to be a royal spouse”. Thomas More writing nearly a century later omits the dagger but the end result is all the same: “She showed him plain that as she wist herself too simple to be his wife, so thought she herself too good to be his concubine. The king much marvelling of her constance … he set her virtue in the stead of possession and riches”.

Other historians believe there was more to this match than simply love or lust. Dan Jones in his recent book on the wars of the roses and the rise of the Tudors, points out that by this time, people were pointing out how much power his cousin [Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick] had. There were some that stated that he was the real ruler. Edward IV did not want to become a puppet like his predecessor, Henry VI. Henry VI had started his rule when he was just a baby and barely two years old. He had been ruled by indecision and fear. Edward was his complete opposite. Handsome, impulsive, he was not willing to let others decide for him. While the match that Warwick proposed with the King of France’s relative would have benefit him more; his match with Elizabeth sent a powerful statement that he was his own man. No one was going to rule for him, and  the fact that she was a Lancastrian fitted perfectly with his plans of reconciliation. Edward wanted an end to the bloodshed. He pardoned many Lancastrians after he took the crown in 1461, including Elizabeth’s family. It is very probable he knew her or had some vague recollection of her from her days serving Queen Marguerite of Anjou, or through her mother who had been very close to the Queen. Her mother had been married to a Lancastrian -the former King’s late uncle, John Duke of Bedford and Elizabeth’s husband had fought for Henry VI. In marrying her, it is possible that Edward intended to show a union of both houses, something that wasn’t as symbolic as his future daughter’s marriage to Henry Tudor two decades later, since Elizabeth had no blood ties to that House. But her affiliation with it, made her somewhat Lancastrian. And there was another reason. Elizabeth had a large family. He could marry off her cousins, sisters, brothers and other family members to the most important noble houses in England, including former Lancastrians, tying them and enforcing their loyalty to him.

Regardless of his reasons, they backfired on him in the end.

The marriage was kept a secret until Edward was forced to admit to it at the Reading Council in September. The fact that the bride was not royal, noble (her mother was a member of the House of St. Pol of Luxemborg, but that wasn’t enough when her father was only a Baron), and brought no foreign alliance to the marriage, shocked and outraged many members of court and his family. As for the common man, they could care less who this woman was and where she came from. Six years later when she was pregnant with their first son she fled into sanctuary in Westminster taking along with her, her daughters. She asked the mayor of London and others to submit to Warwick and the Lancaster Readeption to save themselves. Something they saw as a great contrast to her predecessor who had taken up arms against her enemies. After the Lancastrian forces were defeated the following year, the people were more welcoming to their Queen. She had not brought a foreign alliance, riches, or anything else, but she had lived up to the medieval expectations of women of the day.

She had continued her predecessor’s work and endowed universities, shown patronage to learned men and artists and shown herself subservient to her husband and to the church. This last one is less remarked in fiction but it should be, because the real Elizabeth was far from being the scheming witch she is shown in portrayals such as in the White Queen or romantic fiction. Queen Elizabeth was a very pious woman who belonged to some of the most famous religious fraternities at the time, her brothers were able soldiers and administrators. Her brother Anthony is perhaps the most famous, but her others brothers also served the Yorkist regime under her husband then under her son-in-law (Henry VII) in every capacity.
She was also ambitious. During Richard III’s reign, she conspired with Margaret Beaufort to bring about the marriage between her eldest daughter and Henry Tudor (then) Earl of Richmond after the disappearance of her sons. She spent the last days of her life leading an ascetic life. Her last wishes to be buried with little pomp and a few valuables were carried out.

Sources:

  • The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family by Susan Higginbotham
  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings by Amy Licence
  • The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones