The Eve of Mary Tudor’s Coronation

Mary I Tudor

On the 30th of September 1553, Mary Tudor emerged from the Tower to begin her procession through London. Her journey began at 3’o clock in the afternoon. She was greeted with cheers from the thousands of people lining to see their new monarch. With her were her sister and her stepmother, the Ladies Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves. The Queen’s messengers came out first, followed by trumpeters, esquires of the body, the new Knights of the Bath who’d been invested the day before, heralds, bannerets, members of the Royal Council, Garter knights, and the rest of the nobility. These numbered about five hundred. The nobles were dressed for the occasion, wearing gold and silver, and on their mounts too “which caused great admiration, not more by the richness of the substance than by the novelty and elegance of the device.”

The ambassadors were also dressed for the occasion, and lined up behind the nobles; each of them were accompanied by a lord of the Privy Council. (The French ambassador for example rode alongside Paget, the Imperial Ambassador was accompanied by Lord Clinton. Renard and others rode with Lord Cobham). Other foreigners included the merchants, the Italian ones for example wore “suits of black velvet lined, beautifully trimmed with many points of gold and garnished all around with embroidery of more than a palm in width.” Spanish cavaliers (four in total) followed “attired in cloaks of mulberry colored velvet lined with cloth of silver, with a very fine fringe of gold all about.” Then came the heraldic symbols being carried by her courtiers. The Earl of Sussex, the chief server, carried her hat and cloak then “two ancient knights with old-fashioned hats, powdered on their heads, disguised,” which recalled the people of their country’s old glory when they held Normandy and Guienne. The Chancellor, the Lord Mayor carried the golden scepter, and finally the Earl of Arundel who carried Mary’s sword.

And then came the person for whom they were all cheering and were eager to see, the Queen-to-be herself, Mary Tudor. Coming out in a chariot “open on all sides save for the canopy, entirely covered with gold and horses trapped with gold.”

Linda Porter in her biography of Mary, writes that “she was a small but unmistakably superb figure”. Mary wore a “Gown of purple velvet, furred with powdered ermines, having on her head a caul of cloth of tinsel, beset with pearl and stone, and above the same upon her head a round circlet of gold, beset so richly with precious stone that the value thereof was inestimable.”

Purple was the color of royalty. Mary was the first female King in English history. She knew the power of imagery, so she made sure that her coronation was something that people would always remember. And on the eve of her coronation she spared no expense. One of the things that must also be said about this rich display of imagery is how the queen wanted to present herself to the people. Women in power were still an oddity. Even though her maternal grandmother, the indomitable Isabella Trastamara, had been a Queen in her own right in Castile; England never had such experience. The closest thing to a Queen Regnant they had had been in Matilda FitzEmpress and that ended in disaster. For many years her image was carried through the mud and it wasn’t until she was relegated to the position of King’s mother, and religious matron that she finally got the respect from her English peers. Mary was threading on very dangerous grounds. She knew that if she rode on horseback, as many kings had done before her, she would open the door to more criticism. So she opted for a middle path. One where she would be relegated to the image of queen consort, wearing her hair loose to symbolize her virginity, and ride on litters or carriages, but also one where she would make it clear that she was sovereign of her reign and her authority could not be challenged. Opting for color purple reaffirmed this.

Ladies, Elizabeth Tudor and Anne of Cleves from
Ladies, Elizabeth Tudor and Anne of Cleves from “The Tudors”.

Behind the Queen were her ladies which included the Marchioness of Exeter, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Arundely, and among many others her sister and stepmother. They were granted a special place, and as members of the royal family (especially Elizabeth) they were treated with great respect. Elizabeth’s new clothes were courtesy of her sister, she had sent her a lot of gifts and gowns so she could pick and choose what she wanted. She and Anne of Cleves both wore cloth of silver that matched the silver trappings of their carriage. Mary had not seen her sister in a long time and she probably wanted to re-establish the bond the two sisters had shared when Bess was a kid, but time –as the motto that Mary would adopt- would reveal to the new Queen, that there was no going back.

As her progress passed through many streets, she was greeted with pageants, salutations (one where a girl dressed as a woman was held up by two men sitting up in a chair so she could greet the queen), and acrobatics.

“The procession paused at Fenchchurh Street to see a costly pageant presented by the Genoese merchants –a triumphal arch inscribed with verses celebrating Mary’s accession, flanked by four great giants. At Gracechurch corner the Hanseatic merchants had set up an artificial mount and a little fountain spouting wine; by some mechanism a man “flew down from the top of the pageant as she rode by.” The most elaborate and flattering of the representations was that of the Florentines, who saluted Mary as “liberator of her country,” and pointedly compared her to the Hebrew heroine Judith who by beheading the tyrant Holofernes delivered her people from the threat of slavery. Holorfernes they meant Dudley, whose beheaded was still a recent memory. Mary was also compared to Pallas Athena, and an inscription told how her fame was so great it reached the stars … At the conduit in Cornhill was “a very pretty pageant made very gorgeously” in which three little girls dressed as women took the parts of Grace, Virtue and Nature. Grace wore a crown and carried a scepter, and when Mary rode by all three children “kneeled down, and everyone of them sang certain verses of gratifying the queen.”” (Erickson)

Once she reached St. Paul’s churchyard, she was greeted with more spectacle. Sir John Heywood who had praised her in the past, sat under a vine and delivered an oration in Latin and English that celebrated her upcoming coronation. There were also a choir of men and boys that sang for her, and then a pageant where children carried burning tapers “made of most sweet perfumes.”

After these ended, Mary called all her councilors and addressed them in a solemn manner:

“Sinking on her knees before them, she spoke at length of her coming to the throne, of the duties of kings and queens, her intention to acquit herself of the task God had been pleased to lay on her to His greater glory and service, to the public good and all her subjects’ benefit. She had entrusted her affairs and person, she said, to them, and wished to adjure them to do their duty as they were bound by their oaths; and she appealed especially to her Lord High Chancellor [Gardiner[, reminding him that he had the right of administration of justice on his conscience. Her councilors were so deeply moved that not a single one refrained from tears. No one knew how to answer, amazed as they were by this humble and lowly discourse, so unlike anything ever heard before in England, and by the queen’s great goodness and integrity.”

Mary Tudor resplandescent

This was a great contrast to their previous masters who had been extremely strict and straight forward. Mary was all of these things, but she also knew how to put a show, having learned from experience and observing many great women in their position behave with dignity and grace (most notoriously her mother, and no doubt the stories she must’ve heard from her about her grandmother Isabella, and her late governess, the Countess of Salisbury). She had been preparing for this role all her life. As Leanda de Lisle writes in her latest biography on the Tudors, she was “a warrior queen, established by God, by blood and by law” and she wasn’t going to disappoint. While she appeared merciful on the outside, she would prove to be just as firm as her ancestors.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Bloody Mary by Carolly Erickson
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
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Surprise at the Reading Parliament

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville and the sun in splendor

On the 29th of September 1464 at what became known as the Reading Parliament, Edward announced to his shocked courtiers that he would not marry the intended bride the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, had for him. Bona of Savoy.

The reason? Simple.

He was already married.

This was a huge slap in the face for Warwick who believed Edward would be malleable and listen to his every council but Edward was determined to be his own man. As to when did he marry Elizabeth Woodville. The sources don’t agree except on one thing that it was likely on May. Some suggest that it was on May 1 of that same year, a day that was known as “Love Day”.

“As David Baldwin notes: ‘The idea of a young, handsome king marrying for love on Mayday may have been borrowed for romantic tradition’. J.L. Laynesmith agreed that ‘1 May is a suspiciously apt day for a young king to marry for love. May had long been the month associated with love, possibly originating in pre-Christian celebrations of fertility and certainly celebrated in the poetry of the troubadors’.” (Higginbotham)

This day was deeply rooted in pagan traditions and it was known as a day of misrule when gender and social roles would be juxtaposed. As such, if Edward wasn’t as serious as he claimed to be with Elizabeth, he could use the love day as an excuse to later deny it, claiming that it was done on a day known for such actions. Then again, the recent contemporary account we have regarding this date comes from four years later. Some historians believe that it could have been a later date and that writers assigned it the “Love day” date because it sounded romantic, and also, as the years passed by, the stories of how the two met got very exaggerated.


Given the enormous pressure that Edward had to unite the former warring factions within his country, some historians theorize that it wasn’t just love that propitiated this bold move but a number of factors such as his wish for independence and cut ties with his cousin and major adviser, the earl of Warwick. Elizabeth came from a large and former Lancastrian family. With so many sisters, brothers and cousins to wed, Edward could strengthen dynastic ties with well known Lancastrian partisans.

As soon as the marriage became known, the earl of Warwick and a select of other nobles resented the king’s new in-laws, as well as Edward’s other allies which were seen as parvenus and unworthy of their new positions (such as William Herbert, a prominent Welshman who was deeply loyal to the king).

“Michaelmas 1464, when his council pushed him to commit to a foreign marriage. This was the moment at which his crown was secure enough to admit to a controversial decision, but also at which he could forestall a decision on a French marriage no longer. Thus the shock and surprise when Elizabeth Woodville was presented to the English court at Reading, processing into the public presence on the arms of the fourteen year old George, Duke of Clarence …” (Jones)

They had cause to for alarm. When Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou, she brought nothing significant to the marriage except for a hollow alliance that didn’t do England any good. Now here was Edward IV, married to a beautiful Lancastrian widow who brought no alliance and no dowry. What she did bring though was many useful allies. As previously stated, love can’t be discounted, but it wasn’t the only reason for Edward marrying Elizabeth. With a large family, he could marry them off to all the prominent families in England, and make them entirely dependent on him. Their rise and fall would entirely depend on how well they did their jobs or how poorly they  performed their tasks.

It seemed like a good plan at first but time would reveal that it was nothing more than a disastrous miscalculation on his part which would nearly cost him his throne, and later give munitions to Richard, Duke of Gloucester when he took the crown from his nephew, Edward, Prince of Wales, and the destruction of his House.

Sources:

  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • The Woodvilles by Susan Higginbotham
  • Blood Sisters by Sarah Gristwood
  • Elizabeth of York by Amy Licence

Women’s Roles in Mary (I) Tudor’s Coronation

Mary Tudor Women in coronation roles

“The coronation marked the high point of the sisters’ relationship during the reign” writes Linda Porter in her biography of Mary Tudor. And it wasn’t just for Elizabeth but for the other women as well.

Women played a prominent role in Mary’s reign, especially during her coronation where the presence of her closest female relatives, emphasized on her intentions to display a dynastic unity. The preparations began on the 27th when she made her formal entry into London, the following day she took possession of the Tower. Two days later, on the eve of her coronation, she emerged from the Tower to go to the palace of Westminster. This last procession was one of the greatest spectacles that Londoners had witnessed. Image was everything in Tudor times; a King had to outmatch any of his predecessor’s ceremony. Being the first female King, Mary had to make a greater effort to outdo her predecessors.

Stephen Gardiner

With a magnificent display of heraldic imagery, the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Oxford followed, carrying the sword, with the Lord Mayor carrying the scepter of gold. Other ancient artifacts were carried out by the Earl of Sussex, and Bishop Stephen Gardiner which were representative of England’s past glory in France.

Mary herself, rode on a golden litter, dressed in a “mantle and kirtle of cloth of gold” and with “circlet of gold set with rich stones and pearls” on her head. Around her four ladies rode on horseback: the Marchioness of Exeter, the Duchess of Norfolk, the Countess of Arundel and Sir William Paulet’s wife, Elizabeth Capel. Then came Ladies Elizabeth and Anne of Cleves were not far behind her, dressed magnificently in silver to match the trappings of their carriage.

Elizabeth was ecstatic to be part of these celebrations as were her stepmother and her cousin, Anne and Margaret. It didn’t take her long to win the hearts and minds of the English people who enjoyed seeing their queen-to-be’s younger sister smile and wave at them. It was a great contrast to her sister Mary. While she understood the importance of these displays, like her paternal grandfather she preferred to tend to matters of state then waste her time in these festivities.

Anna Whiltelock and Judith M. Richards point out something important during these celebrations and that is that Mary rode in a litter with her hair loose and a golden circlet as you would expect from a Queen Consort not a female King. She didn’t carry the sword or rode on horseback like her predecessors. This is not a sign that she intended to be a submissive queen, but rather it was a strategic move to quiet her detractors who were ardently against the idea of female rule. As Claire Ridgway wrote in the Anne Boleyn Collection, Mary was responsible for gendering the monarchy and being the first to strike a balance between her role as a woman and as a King. Leanda de Lisle in her latest book, talks how Mary was a great precursor of Elizabeth when she rode to London for the first time (following Jane Grey’s surrender), taking charge of her own destiny and later inspecting her troops before she spoke to them the year after that, when they faced Wyatt’s rebels. By presenting herself as a protector, as a mother, while at the same time being firm and strict, Mary was able to silence her detractors and squash down the fears of many men who feared that she would turn their world upside down.

Elizabeth, not surprisingly having learned from her example and her mistakes, would go on to do the exact same thing during her coronation when she was represented as a defender of the faith, and upholder of moral values and justice and a mother to her people.

Mary Tudor coronation engraving painting

The following day, on the first of October, Mary was crowned Queen of England. Women continued to play an important part in her reign, especially her sister, cousin and stepmother. The latter would be buried at Westminster (the only one of her father’s wives to be buried there) and given honors worthy of a royal. As for Elizabeth, she would be suspected by her sister and her councilors for her alleged involved in the Wyatt Rebellion and many other plots to overthrow her sister. This would create a rift between the sisters and their cousin, Margaret Douglas that would culminate when whispers began of Mary changing the succession in favor of their cousin. (Though this never came to be). During Elizabeth I’s reign, Margaret would take Elizabeth’s position, being blamed for her imprisonment during her sister’s reign, and placed under house arrest for conspiring in marrying her eldest son (Lord Darnley) to the Queen of Scots.

Working with the first queen regnant, these women felt more important since they were closer to court politics than ever before, and those who proved their loyalty to the Queen were amply rewarded. At the same time though, Mary was a Tudor through and through and like her predecessors, she wasn’t going to tolerate anyone with a different opinion from her own.

Sources:

  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • Mary Tudor as ‘Sole Queen’? Gendering Tudor Monarchy, Historical Journal by Judith M. Richards
  • Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s MostS Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle

The Death of King Philip II of Spain

Portrait_of_Philip_II_of_Spain_by_Sofonisba_Anguissola_-_002b

On the 13th of September 1598, King Philip II of Spain died at the Palace of Escorial. His last act as king was giving a written permission for one of his two favorite offspring, Isabel Clara Eugenia to marry. From his bed, he continued to sign document and meet with his advisers but it was clear to everybody that their king was dying and that his son (also named Philip) would become their new king.

His daughter, the Infanta Isabel, remained by his side, screaming at him that somebody was touching the relics that had brought him so much comfort during his agony, so he would wake up and keep him from dying. Unfortunately by the twelfth, he was too sick to do anything and when his ministers thought he died, he laughed softly to assure them that he was still alive and finding some dark humor in the fact that he was not long for this world. He asked for his parents’ crucifix and “kissed it several times and afterwards he also held a consecrated candle from our Lady of Montserrat … and kissed it too.” On the next day, his ministers watched as their king gave his last breath before “his saintly spirit left him to enjoy eternal life”.

Philip II's Black Legend is perpetuated in "Elizabeth the Golden Age" where he is played by Jordi Mola
Philip II’s Black Legend is perpetuated in “Elizabeth the Golden Age” where he is played by Jordi Molla

To this day Philip II continues to be a controversial figure. The image of the “Black Legend” remains and it is not likely to go away very soon. As a monarch, Philip was no different than others. It can be said that he bled his country dry for his expensive wars, and although there was some justification in some of these, others were just for the same reason his enemies engaged in war: for pure demonstration of might.

Historians such as Henry Kamen defend him, exculpating him from his mistakes, pointing out that although in the latter half of the century in which he reigned “much had changed”, the economic problems at the end of his reign were the result of events that were completely out of his control. And these came to light after his death, receiving great criticism from people who had once praised and served him faithfully.

“Philip was never at any time in adequate control of events, or of his kingdoms, or even of his own destiny. It follows that he cannot be held responsible for more than a small part of what eventually transpired during his reign … He imprisoned within a destiny in which he himself had little hand’. He could do little more than play the dice available to him. Condemned to spend his days sorting out the workings of his vast web of a monarchy, he was among the few who had access to a broad perspective on its problems. But he was unable to turn that perspective into a vision that might inspire his people… Eminently efficient and practical, he struggled always with the immediate and the possible.” (Kamen)

And although Henry Kamen has a point, historians Geoffrey Parker and Hugh Thomas make more valid ones. Geoffrey Parker is fair in his assessment, denoting his flaws as well as his achievements and giving us a king who was flawed, efficient, and full of many contradictions while Hugh Thomas shows us how vast his empire was.

Philip II and his second wife, Mary (I) Tudor of England. Although he showed her deep respect in public and in their letters, in private was another matter.
Philip II and his second wife, Mary (I) Tudor of England. Although he showed her deep respect in public and in their letters, in private was another matter.

As a man Philip was pious in the sense that he was highly spiritual and cared deeply for his soul and on his last days, he refused to grant the pope one request because it went against his conscience. Despite this deep passion though, he was not above bullying his own church to get what he wanted and this is eerily similar from what his father and maternal grandmother did. And like so many kings during this period, there was a cruel streak in him. His contemporaries didn’t flinch from punishing their own people with the excuse that they were punishing enemies of the state (heretics, rebels, etc) and sending their troops against them. His father’s on and off ally and rival, Henry VIII did it on several occasions, and so did his offspring (one to whom he was married). Philip II made a public exhibition of an execution in October of 1568 where he hundreds of heretics were burned at the stake.
He was called the “Prudent King” by many because he showed a deep humility that they found lacking in many monarchs, and despite his piety, he allowed Protestant chaplains in some of his battles out of the Continent and refused to let the Jews be expelled from his non-Spanish domains (but he finally agreed in 1597) and more than his predecessors, he read every document that was put on his table.

Philip II daughters
As a man though, he was deeply devoted to his children, especially his daughters, Isabel Clara Eugenia and Catalina Michaela. Both were some of the most educated and illustrious women of their day, and Philip’s letters to her survive to this day.

When Philip died, the Venetian Ambassador, Soranzo, wrote that “rich and poor universally show great grief” and acknowledged that he also grieved the King and that “for many the weeping will not end until life itself ends” adding that “he was a prince who fought with gold rather than with steel. Profoundly religious, he loved peace and quiet … He held his desires in absolute control and showed an immutable and unalterable temper.”

Philip II was buried the following day on Monday morning, in the church of San Lorenzo. Less than two months later, the criticisms began, largely by Franciscan friars and former members of his inner circle.

“Our Catholic King died after a drought that lasted almost nine months without a break, revealing that the earth had declared itself bankrupt –just like an unsuccessful merchant. At the same time, the price of everything in Castile increased as supplies ran short, coinciding with the collapse of public health throughout the kingdom and opening the door to plague in many areas … These disasters were harbingers of the greatest catastrophe Spain has even suffered since our Patriarch Tubal, grandson of Noah settled here.”-Fray Lorenzo de Ayala

Even one of the members of the Inquisition, the lawyer Martin Gonzales de Cellorigo, wrote that the decline of Spain had begun with Philip and that he:
“Grieved to see that, because we lack the funds, we undertake campaigns with such weak forces that they serve more to irritate our enemies than to punish them; and the worst is that, whatever we may say, we eternalize the wars so that they become an infinite burden, and the problems that stem from these wars are both major and endless.”

And yet, not to condone or to exculpate him and all other kings from their responsibilities, something Philip II comes to mind and that is that even for a person who had this much power, he was incapable of doing everything at once. “I don’t think that human strength is capable of everything least of all mine which is very feeble.” To his son, he once wrote that kingship is like a prison, and it is for the points already mentioned, but it is the burden they feel they have to carry, and in Philip’s case, he felt it was his duty to do the impossible to protect his kingdom.

Sources:

  • Imprudent King: A New Life of Philip II by Geoffrey Parker
  • Philip of Spain by Henry Kamen
  • World Without End by Hugh Thomas
  • Isabella: Warrior Queen by Kirstin Downey

Behind the Scenes: The Christening of Princess Elizabeth

Anne Boleyn & her daughter

Princess Elizabeth Tudor was christened on the tenth of September 1533, three days after her birth. Her mother was Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second spouse. And although some sources reported that it was with “great regret” that they welcomed their daughter into the world, the couple tried to remain positive with Henry VIII stating that he and his wife “are both young and by God’s grace, sons will follow.” It was the best they could do of a bad situation.

In her book, Antonia Fraser, states that it would have been much better for Anne and her stepdaughter, if she had given birth to a son. With a son in the Tudor cradle the pope and the rest of Catholic Europe, would have been forced to recognize the marriage. And it is highly likely, given that Spain was constantly looking to England as an ally against their ancestral enemy, France; he would have found a form of reconciling with his former uncle. As for the Lady Mary; with a brother in the cradle and the rest of Europe recognizing him as her father’s true heir, she would no longer be seen as a threat anymore and it’s very possible that she would have been married to a loyal noble or an impoverished royal or second son in due time.

Of course, this is all speculation, but given how urgent it was for Henry and Anne to have a son, these outcomes seem highly likely.

Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII

Following his daughter’s birth, Henry cancelled the joust and the letters announcing her birth had to be added an extra ‘s’ for Princess. What made up for their disappointment was the princess’ health. This was a good sign for some, and proof that Anne could sire healthy children.

Prior to her christening, the rivalry between Anne and Katherine intensified when she demanded that she hand over the christening cloth she’d used for her firstborn son [Henry, Duke of Cornwall]. Naturally, Katherine refused. That cloth had been brought by Spain, it was hers and it also held a sentimental value. She was not about to give it up declaring that the mere suggestion of it was “horrible and abominable”.

Anne must have been angered, but in the end it didn’t matter because as Queen, she could have anything she wanted, so a new cloth was made.

The ceremony started very early.

“The heralds carried their tabards. Attendants and serving men bore unlighted torches. Lords and ladies carried the equipment needed for the ceremony: a gold cellar of salt, for the exorcism of the child; great silver gilt basins in which the godparents could wash off traces of the holy oil with which the child was anointed; a chrisom-cloth, to be bound over the crown of the baby’s head after she had been anointed with chrisom; and a taper, to be lit after the baptism was completed.” (Starkey)

Elizabeth was carried into the church by one of her godparents, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Her other godparents, Thomas Cranmer [Archbishop of Canterbury] and the Marchioness of Exeter were close by. The Bishop of London officiated the ceremony, christening the little Princess Elizabeth; and when it was over, she was returned to her mother who received her “joyfully lying on her great French bed with the King by her side.”

Elizabeth-I_Rainbow-Portrait

There was a lot of talk regarding her birth, and what Henry felt. Chapuys was no stranger to gossip and was the one who wrote that the couple felt very disappointed with their daughter’s gender. It would be very naïve to think that they weren’t, but as time went on, Anne showed that she was very committed to her child as her rival had been of hers; and just as Katherine, her faith become a major part of her life –taking refuge in it.

Ironically, Henry’s quest for an ‘ideal’ marriage and a son to make his dynasty be remembered, wouldn’t be accomplished by a son or another marriage, but rather by a daughter; and her refusal to wed.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Boleyn Women by Elizabeth Norton
  • Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

A Field of Blood and Glory: Flodden Field

Battle of Flodden field by Sir John Gilbert (1878)
Battle of Flodden field by Sir John Gilbert (1878)

On the 9th of September 1513, the Battle of Flodden Field was fought. The battle was won at a terrible cost. As many as ten thousand Scots were killed in contrast with nearly four thousand Englishmen. Among the many Scot nobles and clerics, was their King, James IV.

To understand the conflict, we have to go back to the beginning. James IV had just renewed the Scottish-Franco alliance with Louis XII. He had sent armies to the Northern borders of England and agreed to meet the Earl of Surrey (later Duke of Norfolk) on the field on the ninth of September. The Earl knew the King very well, having attended the wedding ceremony between the King and his (then) young bride, Princess Margaret.
Katherine was appointed Regent in Henry’s absence. As Regent, Katherine could muster troops, appoint sheriffs, issue warrants and replace Bishops at will. When Katherine learned of James IV’s advancement, she wasted no time. Relying heavily on Henry’s best generals, she used them on the field to confront the King of Scots. The Stewarts have gained a bad reputation as being impulsive and reckless but they were some of the best generals in their times and were very experienced. James IV had many ships at his disposal and like Henry who named one of his ships after his sister (or as some suggest, his mistress Mary Boleyn, years later), he had one named after his wife Margaret who rivaled Henry’s in size and magnificence. James IV believed that with Henry out of the country, he stood a chance.

Queen Katherine of Aragon

Katherine proved him wrong. She wasn’t any royal consort. She was the daughter of the Catholic Kings and her parents had taken her to the battlefield when she was very young and she had seen her father at the head of armies, and her mother give commands, and inspect her troops and meet with the soldiers (low and high-born) and inquire about their well-being. And this knowledge prepared Katherine for the road ahead. So when James realized that this wasn’t going to be as easy as he originally planned, he decided to retire but the Earl of Surrey taunted him, accusing James of cowardice.

James immediately responded by accepting the Earl’s challenge:
“Show the Earl of Surrey that it beseemeth him not, being an Earl, so largely to attempt a great Prince. His Grace will take and hold his ground at his own pleasure and not at the assigning of the Earl of Surrey.”

James IV rode ahead with his armies, and it was chaos from the start.
Although James IV brought with him heavy artillery, their position made it almost impossible to use it.
When the battle began on that cold afternoon, the Scots met their enemy in silence, as they had been advised by James’s French advisers to take them by surprise. And it worked, but as soon as the first formation (headed by Huntly and Hume) took another route after James IV launched the second formation, the Scots were lost. And amidst all the chaos, the English took advantage to strike a deadly blow at their foes.
This was a huge turning point as the King realized that they were about to lose. The nobles pleaded with him to leave but James not going to abandon his men. He was either going to go down as a coward, or as a king who fought to the very end. Besides, he had put everything into this enterprise, leaving now would be a stain on his honor. So he continued fighting. After his standard-bearer fell, James charged one final time, intending to take Surrey down with him, but he was interrupted by the onslaught of soldiers that came charging at him.

“His armour could not save him now. Pierced below the jaw by an arrow, his throat slashed by the unforgiving English bill, he fell dying, choking on his own gore. He had got to within a spear’s length of Surrey” (Porter)

With the King dead, the country not only mourned their fallen monarch, but also half of their brothers, fathers and sons who’d been part of the fighting.

And as was customary after the battle, James IV’s body was stripped naked and the Queen Regent had the intention of sending it as a trophy to her husband, but many thought it was too crude so she settled for his bloodstained coat instead, with a letter attached that attributed her victory to Henry:
“In this Your Grace shall see how I can keep my promise, sending you for your banners a King’s coat. I thought to send himself unto you, but our Englishmen’s heart would not suffer it. It should have been better for him to have been in peace than have this reward. All that God sendeth is for the best … To my thinking, this battle hath been to Your Grace and to all your realm the greatest honor that could be, and more that ye should win all the crown of France.

The reason why Katherine was able to command so much respect during this time was because she played both on the fears and gender expectations of the day. England did not have a good view on ruling women like her mother’s kingdom but it had a long history of female Regents and Katherine took advantage of this. While she attended council meetings to hear her generals speak of war tactics, she spent her spare time making standards, banners and badges for the soldiers to wear on the day of the battle. When she learned the towns were not sending the reports she requested, she chastised them and give them a strong warning that they would have to reply within the next fifteen days or pay the consequences. Mary I took a lot of lessons from her mother when her time came.
Flodden was Katherine’s shining moment. She showed she was her mother’s daughter in more ways than one; and her daughter Mary would later follow her example in 1553 when she met with her men, low and high-born she recruited to fight for her, for the crown that had been stolen from her. A year later, she would do the same, this time inspecting her troops and giving an encouraging speech while mounted on her white horse before they confronted Wyatt and the rebels.

James IV
James IV

And while Katherine had her time in the sun, it is important that we remember James for something other than his tragic death. He is a man who gambled and who lost. But he is also a King worth remembering because under his reign, a lot of improvements were made to castles, and he was an avid reader, a patron of artists and intellectuals as his brother-in-law and a skilled musician, and on top of that, a skilled knitter. During his lifetime, he enjoyed good relations with his neighboring country following his marriage to the eldest daughter of Henry VII; but after his brother-in-law’s ascensions, tensions renewed as James decided to support France and Henry decided to side with his wife’s father against said country. Ultimately, this would be repeated with his successors, both his son and granddaughter, both of whom would suffer terrible defeats at the hands of their Tudor cousins with the latter being beheaded.

Sources:

  • Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana I of Castile by Julia Fox
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter
  • Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway

It’s a girl! Gloriana is born

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth
On the 7th of September 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter she named Elizabeth, at Greenwich, the Palace of Placentia.
Anne had gone to her confinement a month earlier, confident that she was going to give birth to a son. An astrologer had made this prediction and no one had any reasons to doubt it. However, Anne would suffer many pains before her labor began.
Months prior to Elizabeth’s birth, Anne had been jealous and complained to Henry about courting other ladies, to which Henry replied that she would have to ‘endure as other worthy persons’ had done before her. In this, he meant his first wife Katherine of Aragon, and possibly his grandmother Elizabeth Woodville who had never raised her voice against her second husband, the first Yorkist King Edward IV’s indiscretions.
There had been many speculations as to what devices Anne used to bring herself comfort, if she believed as those before her had believed, in trinkets and talismans. Given her Evangelical faith, some have said that seems very unlikely, but given this was only 1533 and the Reformation was fairly new and it would be very difficult for its earliest members to disassociate themselves from the practices they’d grown into, it is more likely that she did. Her bedroom was hung with tapestries depicting St. Ursula and her army of virgins and other religious figures that had adorned the chambers of many other queens before her. Starkey and Licence are of the mind she did use medallion to invoke the power of saints to aid her in her difficult labor. She had an army of midwives and ladies ready to attend her, the former would dip their hands in animal fat and other natural oils to smooth the passage of the baby from its mother womb to her legs. The labor turned out to be less difficult and a daughter, contrary to what was predicted -and hoped for-, was born on the seventh of September at 3 o’ clock.
The girl was named after both her grandmothers, Lady Elizabeth Boleyn nee Howard and Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and the first Tudor Queen.
Although Chapuys reported that the couple were disappointed of their child’s sex, when Henry entered her chambers he showed no such emotion, and said to his wife: “You and I are both young and by God’s grace, sons will follow.” An ‘s’ had to be added to the pamphlets advertising her birth (originally they had contained the word ‘Prince’). Te Deums were sung in churches and preparations were being made for her Christening at the Church of the Observant Friars (where her sister had also been Christened).

Elizabeth Tudor would face the same fate as her older sister. She would be bastardized, her mother beheaded and for many years, nobody would think of her as a threat, or anything more than a nuisance. However this ‘bastard’ girl would become one of the smartest and most cunning women in the realm; and she would have as a role model another great woman: Katherine Parr.

“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.“ (Porter)

Besides that, Elizabeth would face many other obstacles which would toughen her resolve to survive and to step up to the plate that she was born to, as Queen of England. To this day, Elizabeth continues to divide historians. Was she as good as they say? Or was it all lies, part of her propaganda machine? The answer isn’t clear. Elizabeth was as cunning, conniving and as ruthless as any other monarch in her time, but she was also a pragmatist who continued with some of her sister’s monetary policies, while opting for a middle ground. Instead of being wholly Protestant, she chose a grayer path. Not many were happy with her policies whoever, and like those before her, she had to face many rebellions. Yet, her reign became one of the most successful of the Tudor period, and the age she lived in even carries her name “Elizabethan” and the myth of the “Golden Age” continues to this day.

Sources:

  • Elizabeth the Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Boleyn Women by Elizabeth Norton
  • In Bed with the Tudors by Amy Licence
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots by Linda Porter

The Death of Queen Dowager and Baroness of Sudeley, Katherine Parr

Catherine Parr Tudors historical

On the 5th of September 1548, the Queen Dowager, Katherine Parr, died of puerperal fever, at Sudeley Castle. Six days prior she’d given birth to her daughter, Mary Seymour, which she named after her eldest royal stepdaughter.

Following the birth, she became feverish and in her delirium she claimed: “Those that are about me care not for me” referring to her husband, Thomas Seymour, Baron of Sudeley, who was by her side, comforting her the entire time. Jane Grey and other ladies were also with her, reading her the scriptures.

Katherine Parr as Henry's sixth wife according to Amy Licence was more than just a 'nurse' to Henry. She
Katherine Parr as Henry’s sixth wife according to Amy Licence “was a good catch.  At almost thirty-one, she was experienced and wise […]” and according to John Foxe, she possessed “rare gifts of nature, as singular beauty, favor and a comely personage; things wherein the king was delighted’. Ambassador Chapuys  described her before his leave on May 1545 as “worthy of her position”.

Historian Amy Licence theorizes she could have been infected after the birth by the midwives’ unclean hands which would have made possible the passage of bacteria to her body. (The lack of hygiene during childbirth was not uncommon. If she had lived through the same ordeal now she would have been treated right away and saved but as it was, the only medicine then was based on plants and folklore beliefs that Katherine, given her extensive knowledge of the former would have known very well. It is not known if he midwives or she used any of these methods. In any case it was too late, the fever spread rapidly and claimed her on the morning of September fifth).
Her husband was grief-stricken, unable to believe that she was gone that he later said: “I was so amazed that I had small regard to either myself or to my doings”.

Katherine was buried days later with full pomp and ceremony. Jane Grey acted as her chief mourner, walking behind her coffin with Lady Elizabeth Tilney carrying the long train. Katherine Parr was the first Royal to have a Protestant Funeral. Miles Coverdale headed the funeral which was in English and concluded it with the following eulogy:

“A beautous daughter blessed her arms,
An infant copy of her parents’ charms.
When now seven days this tender flower had bloomed
Heaven in its wrath the mother’s soul resumed
Our loyal breast with rising sighs are torn,
With saints she triumphs, we with mortals mourn.”

Thomas Seymour. Brash, impatient, he aspired everything too soon and that led to his death.
Thomas Seymour. Brash, impatient, he aspired everything too soon and that led to his death.


Her husband and daughter did not survive her for long. Sudeley was arrested at his house while entertaining a guest, and sent to Tower under charges of treason. He was found guilty and beheaded on March 20 1549. Afterwards, their daughter was given over to Catherine Brandon nee Willoughby, Duchess Dowager of Suffolk in whose care she probably died as she disappears from the records a year after.
Despite leaving everything to her husband, the Protectorate took her wealth and this made Sudeley angry, and he ended up conspiring with the Marquises of Dorset (Henry Grey) and Northampton (William Parr -Katherine’s brother), against his brother. The Duchess Dowager of Suffolk begged the Council many times to help her with her charge’s finances but they never took her pleas seriously until 1550 when Katherine Parr’s wealth was given back to her daughter, but by then she was probably sick or dying because she is never mentioned again.

Katherine Parr has gone down pop culture as Henry’s nurse and staunch Reformer but she was so much more than that. She and Mary I’s mother were the only two of Henry’s wives who served as Regents during his absence, and they were two of the most learned women in England who caused great impact on their respective faiths and both were known for being kind and generous. Eustace Chapuys before he left England on the summer 1545, commented that out of all of Henry’s Queens, with the exception of Katherine of Aragon, Katherine Parr was the only one who was worthy of her position. She was a good friend with Mary I, who was encouraged by her to translate one of the gospels of the New Testament and who followed her wherever she went.

Sources:

  • In Bed with the Tudors by Amy Licence
  • Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII by Linda Porter
  • Sisters Who Would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle

Marquis of Pembroke

Anne Boleyn red

On September 1st 1532 Henry VIII created Anne Boleyn Marquis of Pembroke to give her social standing among the other noble and royal houses in Europe and so she would be fit to marry him. Pembroke had once belonged to his grand-uncle, Jasper Tudor, albeit he was created an earl by his half brother Henry VI shortly before the start of the wars of the roses along with his brother Edmund Tudor who was created Earl of Richmond (Edmund, was Henry VIII’s grandfather).

Anne wore her hair loose, dressed in ermine, wearing pearls and jewels and was accompanied by her cousin Mary Howard, the Countess of Derby and Rutland to the presence chamber in Windsor Palace where she knelt before the King, Charles Brandon and her uncle Thomas Howard and listened to Stephen Gardiner read the letters patent that confirmed her new title. After he finished, the King put a golden coronet on her head and placed a crimson velvet on her back. Less than a year after her elevation, the two married. Some historians place their marriage on January of the following year with one of her former chaplains or another priest performing the ceremony. Five months later she was crowned Queen of England and like her elevation, it was a grand ceremony, one of opulence and excessive glamour where the crown of Kings was placed on her head so no one would question the legitimacy of her marriage or the child she was carrying.

Sources:

  • The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives
  • On This Day In Tudor history by Claire Ridgway