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

Mary I of England holding the Tudor rose portrait

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

It goes as follows:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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






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

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

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary

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

Elizabeth and Mary

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

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


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

500 Years ago the ‘Right noble and Excellent Princess Mary’ was born

600 Queen Mary

On the 18th of February 1516, Princess Mary Tudor was born. Her parents were King Henry VIII and his first Consort, Queen Katherine of Aragon. The long awaited Prince turned out to be a girl. While this was a minor disappointment on her parents, they were nevertheless joyful and considered this as a sign of good will. After all, Henry had replied to the Venetian Ambassador “If it was a daughter this time, by the grace of God, sons will follow.”

COA Six Wives of Henry VIII

Immediately after her birth, the child was cleaned and presented to her parents. Two days later she was christened at the Church of the Observant Friars. Following tradition, her parents were not present. Her godparents were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (who was fast becoming a favorite of her father), the Duchess of Norfolk and her grand-aunt, Catherine of York, Countess of Devon. Present at the ceremony were an army of courtiers; gentlemen, ladies, earls and bishops who were in awe of their new Princess.

After she was blessed, she was given the name Mary, her paternal aunt who had risked royal wrath a few years back, but had worked things out with her brother. Henry had always felt closer to his younger sister than his older one, and now was honoring her even further by naming his only surviving child after her.
Afterwards, she was plunged three times into the basin of holy water, then anointed with holy oil, dried, swaddled and finally taken to the high alter where it was proclaimed:

“God send and give good life and long unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess Mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King’s Highness.”

Mary Tudor 4

Mary’s life would not be without struggle. She was constantly under suspicion and despite her father’s actions -influenced by her last stepmother, Katherine Parr- to restore her and her half-sister to the line of succession, she still had many enemies and her troubles continued well into her brother’s reign. Following her half-brother’s death, she rallied  the people to her cause after she found out the King had taken his sisters out of the line  of succession in favor of their cousins, the Grey sisters.
Mary’s popular revolt was astounding because she reclaimed her birthright without the need for bloodshed. After Mary’s forces became too much for the new regime, the Council turned their backs on her cousin and her family, and sent her a letter, pledging their allegiance to her.

600 Mary I coronation

Mary was declared Queen and she entered the city of London triumphantly. Months later she was crowned Queen of England, becoming the country’s first female monarch.

Mary’s reign however wasn’t easy. Once more she faced a lot of disagreement and tragedy, as well as an inability to bring what her dynasty needed the most: a male heir. Mary’s phantom pregnancies became an embarrassment to her, and her contributions became forgotten and attributed to her sister (who also appropriated her motto on her coronation progress). To make matters worse, her wishes to be buried next to her mother (as well as having her mother’s body moved to Westminster) were never carried out. She was given a modest plaque. Her eulogy changed to fit the new rhetoric of Elizabeth’s reign being a godsend as opposed to Mary’s. And after her sister died, her successor James Stuart, created an elaborate monument and put the two sisters together. But only Elizabeth’s effigy was included, Mary was once again absent except in the plaque that read:

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary

“Partners both in throne and grave. Here rest we, two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary, in the hopes of the resurrection.”

David Loades lists Mary I’s achievements in a BBC History Magazine article he did in honor of England’s first Queen. These include:

  1. Preservation of the Tudor succession
  2. Strengthening of the position of Parliament by using it for her religious settlement.
  3. Establishment of the “gender free” authority of the crown
  4. Restoration and strengthening of the administrative structure of the church.
  5. Maintenance of the navy and reforming the militia.

In her book “Mary Tudor. Princess, Bastard, Queen”, Anna Whitelock adds more, saying that she refounded various universities. Linda Porter in her biography “Myth of Bloody Mary” also adds that she established a curriculum that brought an emphasis to Humanism, and forced every priest to serve their parish” and had very little tolerance for those that didn’t bend their knee to royal authority.


Lady Mary Tudor’s desperate cries to her Father on paper

Mary Tudor played by Sarah Bolger
Mary Tudor played by Sarah Bolger

On June the Tenth 1536 Mary wrote to her father and Cromwell, of the former she sent Cromwell a copy begging him to restore her to favor: “Most humbly I prostrate before your noble feet, your most obedient subject and humble child, that hath not only repented her offences hitherto, but also decreed simply from henceforth and wholly next to Almighty God, to put my state, continuance and living in your gracious mercy.”

In her letter to Cromwell she said she would submit to her father’s demands as long as they didn’t offend her conscience:
“I trust you shall perceive that I have followed your advice and counsel, and will do in all things concerning my duty to the King’s Grace (God and my conscience not offended) for I take you for one of my chief friends, next unto his Grace and the Queen.
Wherefore, I desire you, for the passion which Christ suffered for you and me, and as my very trust is in you, that you will find such means through your great wisdom, that I be not moved to agree to any further entry in this matter than I have done. But if I be put to any more (I am plain with you as with my great friends) my said conscience will in no way suffer me to consent thereunto.”

Cromwell’s response was to submit to all of her father’s demands but Mary wrote back saying that she wouldn’t.
“Good Master Secretary,
I do thank you with all my heart, for the great pain and suit you have had for me for which I think myself very much bound to you. And whereas I do perceive by your letters, that you do mislike mine exception in my letter to the King’s Grace, I asure you, I did not mean as you do take it. For I do not mistrust that the King’s goddness will move me to do anything, which should offend God and my conscience. But that which I did write was only by the reason of continual custom. For I have always used, both in writing and speaking, to except God in all things.
Nevertheless, because you have exhorted me to write to His Grace again, and I cannot devise what I should write more but your own last copy, without adding or diminishing; therefore I do send you by this bearer, my servant, the same, word for word; and it is unsealed, because I cannot endure to write another copy. For the pain in my head and teeth hath troubled me so sore these two or three days and doth yet so continue, that I have very small rest, day or night.
Your assured bounded loving friend during my life,

With the same determination, she wrote to her father:
“I have written twice unto Your Highness, trusting to have, by some gracious letters, token or message, perceived sensibly the mercy, clemency and pity of Your Grace, and upon the operation of the same, at the last also to have attained the fruition of your most noble presence, which above all worldly things I desire: yet I have not obtained my said fervent and hearty desire, nor any piece of the same to my great and intolerable discomfort I am enforced, by the compulsion of nature, effstones to cry unto your merciful ears, and most humbly prostrate before your feet for some little spark of my humble suit and desire praying to God to preserve Your Highness, with the Queen, and shortly to send you issue which shall be gladder tidings to me that I can express in writing,
Your Most Humble and Obedient Daughter and Handmaid,

Mary’s boldness infuriated Henry further who was getting frustrated with her stubbornness and he sent a delegation of councilors to confront Mary. At the head of this council was the Duke of Norfolk who told Mary that if she was his daughter he would punish her behavior by bashing her head against the wall until it was soft like a boiled apple. Later Chapuys visited her and told her that her cousin the Emperor was also urging her to submit, if she did not then her father would surely killed her. Mary never believed her father would go to such lengths but recent developments had made her see otherwise. Henry was not the same man Mary knew as a child. Any man or woman who defied Henry’s position as Head of the Church would be put to death, Mary was no different.

On June 22, Mary finally signed. The document entitled “The Confession of Me the Lady Mary” stipulated that she was a bastard born of incest and her parents’ marriage had been invalid.

“I do freely, frankly recognize and acknowledge that the marriage heretofore had between His Majesty and my mother (the late Princess Dowager) was by God’s law and Man’s law, incestuous and unlawful.
(Signed) MARY”

Mary was quickly back in favor and reestablished in her father’s court. Her submission had saved her life but cost her dearly. The imperial ambassador wrote that “this affair of the Princess has tormented her more than you think” and indeed it had, but it had also made her stronger. Chapuys would later write that Mary had become more pragmatic and conciliatory than her mother and her good understanding of people and politics had left her with many friends and allies at court.


  • Inside the Tudor Court by Lauren Mackay
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter

Thomas Cromwell’s Fall from Grace

Thomas Cromwell by Holbein.
Thomas Cromwell by Holbein.

On June the Tenth 1540, Thomas Cromwell was arrested on flimsy charges of treason and heresy. “Thomas Cromwell’s arrest” writes Hutchinson, “was as ruthless as it was sudden.”

Thomas Cromwell had traveled to Westminster Palace to take his place on the Privy Council. After the council, when everyone went to dinner, his mortal enemy, the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Howard, stood up and raised his voice and shouted “Cromwell! Do not sit there! That is no place for you! Traitors do not sit amongst gentlemen.”

Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk
Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk

When Thomas demanded to know what the hell was going on, the captain of the Guards, Anthony Wingfield and six more men came forward. Thomas Cromwell, as they predicted, did not go easily. He asked them what was the reason for his arrest, but the Captain of the Guards calmly told him that wasn’t his concern. He either went with them willingly and they wouldn’t hurt him, or else he resisted and they would use full force against him. Cromwell probably knew this day was coming. According to his latest biographer, Tracy Boarman; Thomas Cromwell was plotting against the Duke of Norfolk just as he was plotting against Cromwell. It was only a matter of who got there first.

Henry VIII of England.
Henry VIII of England.

Henry VIII could have easily stopped this from happening but Henry was the main force here. Norfolk loaded the gun, and Henry pulled the trigger. He was very dissatisfied with his fourth bride, Anne of Cleves. And although he had known of her pre-contract with the Duke of Lorraine, he agreed to marry her anyway because he needed the Cleves alliance so badly. Once he saw her, he tried to get out of this arrangement saying that she was ugly and that she wasn’t a virgin. But the truth is that Henry didn’t like her because of their first meeting. That first meeting on January of that year really determined their short marriage. Whereas Henry’s previous wives (including his first foreign wife, Katherine of Aragon) were very conscious of their roles as Queens and familiar with the pageantry and the culture of courtly love; Anne was educated in a very strict household. She had no idea what she was getting herself into. Or rather, her brother had no idea what she was going to getting his sister into. Anne was a fish out of water in the English court. Her garb was strange, she could barely speak English and she had no idea how to dance or engage in the types of conversation that other women of her adoptive country engaged on.
She was completely unprepared for this. And then came Henry VIII. He was no longer the handsome youth who had bedazzled so many women. He had grown morbidly obese and his ulcerous leg smelled bad. But being who he was, he still had a penchant for court drama so he thought of surprising his wife by arranging a playful visit to her. He and a few other courtiers dressed as bandits and arrived to Anne’s bedroom and started flirting with her ladies, including those she brought from Cleves.

You can imagine Anne’s horror as this happened. The leader of the bandits approached Anne and tried to speak with her and when he went too far –from Anne’s point of view- Anne pushed him away and told him to go away. For a man like Henry VIII with an ego the size of his realm, being told that he was disgusting and refused by in front of everyone, including his best friends, it was a huge humiliation. When he revealed who he was, Anne immediately apologized but it was too late. Her reaction made Henry make up his mind about her.

Cromwell tried many times to convince Anne to seduce Henry, to get on his good side but it wasn’t Anne who was at fault here, it was Henry. And it was Anne’s education. She hadn’t been told what she would be getting into, she hadn’t been prepared for this role the way her predecessors had been. Even her common predecessors. Anne Boleyn had served under three Queens, Jane under two. They knew state protocol, they knew all about courtly love. And Katherine of Aragon like Anne of Cleves, had been a foreigner but one who had grown in a court that treasured courtly love and were dressing good was everything. She was skilled in dance, music, art, everything. Anne had practical skills which were seen as very useful, but ultimately they paled in comparison to her other predecessors.

Henry VIII directed his anger at Cromwell. Cromwell tried to tell him that he couldn’t get out of this arrangement so easily. He had agreed to marry Anne of Cleves, and there was nothing else he could say that would justify his repudiation of her. So Henry married her. But he was very angry at Cromwell. And Cromwell was taking too many liberties with his privileges position. Though Boarman believes that Anne was as ugly as Henry saw her, she does admit that it may have all been a matter of perception. And that one of the people who added more fuel to the fire of disappointment is Cromwell. Cromwell probably knew Anne was no great beauty, but by no means was she ugly. She could enchant the King. But Cromwell as always wanted to make sure that Henry would fall in love with her before he got to lay eyes on her so he started bragging about her beauty, saying that her hair shined like the sun, that her eyes were like stars, that her skin was so fair, etc. Then there was also the religious factor. Thomas Cromwell was a very methodical and pragmatic man; he did what the King asked him to. But he was also a Reformist sympathizer and his sympathies were becoming more obvious to the King and his enemies.

Thomas Cromwell Tudors
Thomas Cromwell (James Frain) in the “Tudors”.

After Cromwell was apprehended by the royal guards, he lost it. He said very angrily “This then is the reward for all my services?” Then he turned to the members of the Privy Council “On your consciences, I ask you, am I a traitor?”

If Cromwell believed he was going to cause a big impression and leave everyone dumbfounded, he was sorely disappointed because soon after he asked this, everyone began yelling “Yes” and “Traitor”.

Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall).
Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall).

After Cromwell finally came to grasps with the situation, he eyed all the people who were just so happy to see him lose for once, and said lastly: “I have never thought to offend, but if this is to be my treatment, I renounce all claims to pardon and only ask that the King should not make me languish long.”

Thomas was immediately dragged away after that. He was completely shocked. He had been plotting against Norfolk because he knew Norfolk was plotting against him, and he believed that he would get out of this, but there was no getting out of this this time. This was the end and as he was dragged from the room and heard the council members’ cries of joy, he realized he his days were numbered.


  • Thomas Cromwell by Tracy Boarman
  • Thomas Cromwell by Robert Hutchinson
  • The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell by John Schofield
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • On This Day in Tudor England by Claire Ridgway.

A Princess is Born!

A Very Happy Birthday to Queen Mary I of England who was born on this day in 1516!
Mary I Birthday

Mary Tudor was the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VIII and the only offspring of Katherine of Aragon. She was born at the palace of Greenwich, Placentia at four o’ clock on February 18. Although Henry expected a male heir, he told the Venetian Ambassador, Sebastian Guistiniani, after he congratulated him for his newborn daughter that he and the Queen were both young and “If it was a daughter this time, by the grace of God, sons will follow.” Given Katherine’s age that was highly unlikely but he remained positive, his daughter was the first healthy child they had in six years since the birth of their short-lived son in 1511.

Mary was baptized two days later at the Church of the Observant Friars.

Her godparents were Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, her father’s chief minister, her great-aunt Katherine of York Countess of Devon (Elizabeth of York’s younger sister), the Duchess of Norfolk and Margaret Pole who had the honor of carrying the baby at the end of the ceremony. She was named after paternal aunt Mary Brandon nee Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk and Queen Dowager of France. Afterwards, she was plunged three times into the basin containing the holy water, anointed with holy oil, dried, and swaddled in her baptismal robe. As was customary, Te Deums were sung and she was taken to the high altar where once the rites were concluded, a proclamation was made:

“God send and give good life and long unto the right high, right noble and excellent Princess Mary, Princess of England and daughter of our most dread sovereign lord the King’s Highness.”

Mary would become Queen after  the death of her brother in 1553, and following her victory over the usurpation of her throne from the Grey/Dudley camp, she would be crowned three months later. Her reign would be short and to this day, controversial.
  • Mary Tudor: England’s First Queen by Anna Whitelock 
  • Mary Tudor by David Loades
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter.

The truth behind the so called love story of Henry and Anne Boleyn:

My rendition of Anne Boleyn based on a later recreation of her Hever Portrait. In her latest blog, Lissa Bryan said:  "It is my opinion that Henry VIII was not capable of real love. He fits almost all of the clinical markers for dissocial personality disorder; or, to put it in colloquial terms, he was a sociopath. Anyone capable of real love would have been unable to do the horrific things that Henry did to the people in his life." You can read more here: http://under-these-restless-skies.blogspot.com/2015/02/henry-and-anne-boleyn-love-story.html
My rendition of Anne Boleyn based on a later recreation of her Hever Portrait. In her latest blog, Lissa Bryan said:
“It is my opinion that Henry VIII was not capable of real love. He fits almost all of the clinical markers for dissocial personality disorder; or, to put it in colloquial terms, he was a sociopath. Anyone capable of real love would have been unable to do the horrific things that Henry did to the people in his life.”
You can read more here: http://under-these-restless-skies.blogspot.com/2015/02/henry-and-anne-boleyn-love-story.html

I could not agree more with this piece. Lissa Bryan makes a brilliant point using primary and well-documented secondary sources. It’s very often that we hear the phrase “but he bought her flowers” or “he must have loved her, because look at what he did to get her. He would have gone to the ends of the Earth if he wasn’t so pressured by others to kill her” or the most disturbing yet “he only killed her because the thought of letting her live and seeing her with another man was so unfathomable to him”. I challenged everyone who says these things to go to a women’s shelter or watch a good episode of Law and Order SVU (Special Victims Unit) and then tell me what you think. There was nothing in Henry’s actions towards Anne that say it was romantic. On the contrary, his actions are no different from that of a stalker. There have been many biographies such as Ives, Licence, Fraser, and Bordo’s that touch on the subject of Henry’s courtship to Anne. Anne was not a willing participant as we think her to be. In movies and television she is, and she smirks every time someone else falls or does something wrong. Everything she does is a step forward to the King’s marital bed, but not as his mistress. No! She would never be his mistress, but as his wife. As a consequence, she’s earned the nickname of home-wrecker, bitch and countless others.

Henry wrote her many letters, goes the argument. Okay, so what? Many victims of domestic abuse have said how their husbands or partners write constantly to them, begging them to come back. Their letters are passionate and full of love, but once they come back, they realize their mistake. In Anne’s case though, she could not say no to the King. Not bluntly at least. She wrote to him as well, telling him she was busy or could not return his affections hoping this would make him go away but this made Henry more infatuated with her. Henry was a man who couldn’t stand refusal. When he wanted something, he had to have it. And he was a King, the divine right of Kings was very important back then. Henry considered himself holy divine and this only became worse as he got older. You might think, well why the hell couldn’t Anne just marry somebody to get away from him?

Technically she could have, but then what? Would it really have been that easy? Marrying without royal permission. Henry was her realm’s lord and master. She tried marrying Percy years back without royal permission and that did not go so well. Now that Henry had set his eyes on her, he was not going to let her marry some poor or rich bloke so she could get away from him. She was his and his alone. Henry was not the type of man to share. And no man would dare intrude in the King’s affairs. So Anne was left with little choice. Because of the social conventions of the period, she gave in at last but she set up her own conditions. She was not going to be a mistress, used and discarded like her sister and countless others had been. If he was serious about her, he was going to make her his wife.

Henry promised her as my friend from Tudor Brasil said, the world. He promised her he would make her his undoubted Queen, and to make him happy and make herself safe, she promised him a son. But once she was in that position, she found out the hard truth about Henry. Everything he said was a lie. She was expected to turn a blind eye to his affairs, as others had done before her, and keep her mouth shut. Anne had to deal with Henry’s infidelities. Whether or not she felt something for him, she did feel something for her loved ones. Just as she had taken Katherine of Aragon’s place, another one could easily take hers. It was important that she kept his attentions at all times. So much was at stake. And this was also a highly religious era where people believed that the King was God, and now more than ever that Henry was the head of the new Church of England. Anne was a committed Reformist, she did not agree with all that Luther said and inclined to other Reformers’ line in thinking -the same with her father and brother- but she believed that Reform was needed and if Henry had chosen her as his Queen, she was going to make the most in her position and use her influence to Reform the new church. Out with the old and in with new. And keep with other acceptable social conventions, Anne extended her patronage to poets and other courtiers who believed what she believed. She also gave money to charity and wanted to use the money taken from the dissolution of the monasteries to these charity projects. Cromwell, who was a survivor (but of a different kind) thought differently and this created a rift between them.

And yet, in spite of Anne’s traditional behavior, Henry became disappointed in her. After her last miscarriage, people still bowed to her, Henry still referred to her as his Queen, but things were not the same anymore. And finally when arrests were being made and it was obvious that another who couldn’t refuse this man’s attentions and was forced to say yes like her rival Anne Boleyn, was going to take her place; she realized it was all over.

Anne died on the scaffold, beheaded by a sword. Some consider this romantic because they say that Henry wanted her to die quickly but it is not. Leanda de Lisle has written many articles on this, and you can read more about this in her mammoth biography on the Tudor Dynasty “Tudor: A Family Story” that Henry’s actions were in fact keeping with the tradition of chivalry that he so admired. Henry saw himself as the cavalier and the sword was a symbol of justice. He wasn’t doing Anne any favors, and Anne knew it.

That is the tragic story of Anne Boleyn. Do you still think it’s romantic?


In Defense of Katherine Howard Part 2: Victim, guilty, scapegoat or a little bit of everything?

Katherine Howard played by Lynne Frederick in Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972)
Katherine Howard played by Lynne Frederick in Henry VIII and his Six Wives (1972)

After everything that has been said about Katherine Howard, there are many doubts that remain regarding her innocence. Say what you will but when you look at the dubious evidence, you realize that not only was she innocent of the crimes she was accused of, but also that unlike her first cousin Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers, she was never given a trial. Granted, the trial of Anne Boleyn wasn’t fair and neither was the one for her alleged lovers (among them her brother with whom she was accused of incest) but at least she got one. Katherine Howard never met her accusers, she never got the chance to defend herself and I have posted enough of Conor Byrne’s articles (whose recent biography of Katherine Howard is the best I have ever read) among many others of other authors that lay out the facts and explain the many factors that contributed to her downfall.

Most of her accusers, among them one of the Duchess Dowager’s servants, did not come forward until very late in Katherine Howard’s marriage with the king and her evidence says nothing about her liaison with Culpeper but rather about her first two relationships with Manox and Dereham which seemed to have been nothing more than abuse on their part.

The first ‘affair’ would have started when Katherine was very, very young and by that I mean, if we are to believe she was born around 1523-1524, twelve or thirteen. Around that time her cousin had fallen out of favor, the Howard family was on thin ice. It wasn’t just Anne and her brother who were beheaded, but one of her relatives would be locked up in the Tower for his relationship with none other than the king’s niece, aka Meg Douglas. Manox an opportunist at best, must have believed he could take advantage of a girl from a family that was no longer the second highest family in the land, and not only that, she wasn’t a wealthy heiress or the one likeliest to make a grand marriage. She had been sent to her step-grandmother’s, Agned Howard, house to be polished and turned into a respectable lady who could one day make a profitable marriage because marriage back then was everything. A woman rose or fell based on the man she married or the family she belonged to.

The events of 1536 however changed all that. At the Dowager Duchess’ household she learned about the virtues expected of noblewomen and to emulate other values, and learned skills that would be seen attractive in a wife. Katherine Howard’s later reputation corrupted the Dowager Duchess’ reputation but before that she was a prominent figure at court, she had played a central role in the coronation of Katherine’s first cousin Anne Boleyn and before that, she had been godmother to Princess Mary.
Being that Vives was an important thinker during the Tudor era and whose greatest patron was none other than Henry’s first wife, Katherine of Aragon; his advice on young women, warning them against the advances of lechers or men who wanted to date them only for their money, would have been one of the many manuals she would have been given or told to memorize.

“During Anne Boleyn’s meteoric rise to the queenship that brought unprecedented favor to the Howard family undermined only by the queen’s spectacular downfall, her young cousin Katherine Howard embarked upon her first steps into the adult world through receiving music lessons in 1536, when she was aged around twelve years old, which would prepare her for a future as a skilled gentlewoman.” (Byrne).

As has been stated, her downfall did change everything and Katherine Howard found herself the target of the opportunistic Henry Manox who had been assigned to her by her step-grandmother as her music tutor.

“The relationship between Katherine and these two young men should be interpreted in context of sixteenth-century beliefs about female sexuality, honor codes, and the nature of the institution of marriage … It has been suggested, in light of this, that Katherine’s superior lineage and kinship to the Duke and Dowager Duchess meant that other individuals within the household who were aware of the nature of her relationship with Manox decided not to inform the Duchess against Katherine.” (Byrne)

But Byrne also adds that in the light of sixteenth century mentality, another reason why they didn’t report Manox’s intentions was because the nature of their relationship was nothing consensual, and a scandal of this sort would have ruined Katherine’s reputation. “For as Katherine’s inferior in status Manox had gravely overreached himself, which probably meant that Katherine’s acquaintance remained silent about the affair not only because they feared the consequences for Katherine due to her kinship relations and Howard lineage, but because the undertones of abuse, classed as deviant in early modern society, cast the honor of the Dowager Duchess into doubt for maintaining a household that allowed such acts to occur.”

When the indictments began, Manox, Dereham and many others were questioned. Manox reported that he had asked Katherine to let him show his love of her and Katherine who probably wanted to get away from him as soon as possible but who was afraid that if she said something, or if it was discovered what he did, her reputation would be ruined and also her step-grandmother’s, said that she could not give him any token of appreciation or let him show her his love because of their status, he was her inferior and she was his superior. It was a good way to remind him that he was aiming too high but her response did not seem to deter Manox and he continued to press Katherine until the Dowager Duchess discovered them or found out about his intentions and she dismissed him without making any fuzz, thus ensuring that no scandal would break out.
Mary Lascelles who was the star witness who brought the evidence regarding Katherine’s early sexual encounters to Cranmer, said she heard a rumor that the two were engaged but this is likely to be a lie. Katherine and the Dowager Duchess’ actions tell a different story. Mary nonetheless said that after she found out what Manox had done, she reprimanded him and told him “Man what mean though to play the fool of this fashion?”

After that incident, the Dowager Duchess moved her household to Lambeth where she and Katherine could have a new start but the odds were not meant to be in Katherine’s favor. In Lambeth she met Francis Dereham (who was a distant relative of the Howards) and who had previously been involved with Joan Bulmer, one of her companions. Before long, his attentions shifted to Katherine. Whether he heard from the maids’ lips whom he was often with, what happened between her and Manox or some exaggerated version of it, he decided to try his luck with Katherine. It was reported that the two were very much in love and that Katherine did consent to the affair, but given Katherine’s previous experience and her insecurities, she was likely to have done so out of fear or after he forced himself on her as was later reported.

Whatever the truth of the matter is, one thing is clear and that is that Katherine was the victim of sexual abuse, and we must remember that often times victims of sexual abuse will not come forward, not because they lack the courage, but because they are afraid of what might happen. This goes on today in many culture where the concept of ‘honor’ still prevails, also when it is family member or someone with a great reputation who has served your family faithfully, you are less likely to make an accusation and it is my belief based on my readings and her actions, that this is what happened here.
When Katherine married Henry VIII, she could have spilled her guts about her past. Why didn’t she? She probably felt the past was the past, and she would have been a fool to reject Henry VIII’s suit. No woman did and their marriage can’t be purely seen as an egotistical move by a vain teenager to surround herself with jewels and fabulous new gowns like it is often portrayed on pseudo-historical dramas like the Tudors. It was done for her family. Family meant everything back then. You married for your family’s benefit, you raised your children to be good wives or good husbands and politicians to benefit your family, that was how things worked back then and we can argue in some cultures it still works that way.

“There is little doubt that the marriage was a dazzling and unexpected career move for Katherine, but this is not to suggest she was anymore calculated or cynical than any other woman of her generation. She may not have been in love with Henry but she would have certainly have been in awe of him; of his status, his physical person and the whole theatre of royalty, of which he was the heart. The kind of love a subject might feel for a king, of respect, admiration and devotion, was prized more highly in the marital stakes than romantic attachment; in serving and pleasing Henry, a doting older husband, Katherine had fallen on her feet.” (Licence).

As Queen, Katherine fulfilled almost all of the roles expected of her as Henry’s consort. She pleaded for other’s lives, she went with Henry on progresses, behaved with grace and dignity expected in a royal consort, and despite her initial animosity towards the lady Mary, after the two had gone on the wrong foot, this soon evaporated after they were convinced by Henry and Chapuys respectively to make peace with each other. Katherine saw more of Mary as time passed and the two were on good terms by the end of 1540, having given each other gifts and other tokens of friendships. Also, Katherine was one of the very few royals who voiced opposition to the way Margaret Pole was being treated. Margaret Pole had been Mary Tudor’s governess and she had fallen from grace after her son Reginald made hostile remarks against Henry VIII following his marriage to Anne Boleyn (though the real catalyst in all of this had been the ‘Exeter plot’ that allegedly involved her family in a conspiracy to kill Henry and place her sons as the new rulers of England. Margaret was convicted along with most of her family based on scarcely any evidence; but the fact that she had strong Yorkist blood running through her veins and that she had been a supporter of the old religion and the late queen, Katherine of Aragon, was reason enough to execute them). Katherine Howard spared no expense for the poor Countess of Salisbury, she sent her own tailor and ordered new clothes for her, and in addition she also sent new shoes as Dan Jones points out in the prologue of his most recent book on the wars of the roses. But for all of Katherine Howard’s charity and advocacy for the old Countess, nothing could soften Henry’s heart and she died in May 1541 hacked to pieces by an inexperienced executioner.
Among those she pleaded for, who were more fortunate, was Sir Thomas Wyatt, the poet who had written beautiful poems in memory of his lost love, her first cousin and her alleged lovers. In the early 1540s he had been imprisoned for conspiring with one of the Poles. Henry granted her request “releasing the poet on the condition that he should return to his estranged wife of fifteen years.” Also, Licence adds that when Katherine went on her first progress with Henry, she received a splendid reception, Chapuys’ letters chronicle this, how the people were happy to see their new queen and the Tower guns saluted her. That same year in May 1541, Chapuys added how Katherine convinced Henry to visit his only son who was only two and a half at the time and resided at Waltham Holy Cross. The queen did her best to reconcile the royal family, but before long her past came back to haunt her.

Her past affairs were one thing but her current one was treason, and it has been romanticized endlessly but it was not the love affair that novelists write about or that we saw in the Tudors. Katherine was no lust-driven, mindless teenager (even if she did sleep with Culpeper, for a girl her age being married to a man who was more than twice her age, it must have been frustrated and she was under heavy pressure to provide a heir, but the evidence for their affair is not concise), she was very aware of her bloodline and the role she was to play, and most of all that she was there to aggrandize her family’s fortunes and give the king a son.

In the latter she failed, Marillac (the French Ambassador) reported at the beginning of her reign that she was pregnant but this turned out to be false, likely a phantom pregnancy or wishful thinking on both of them.

Thomas Culpeper was the attractive man that the Tudors showed, in that they got it right, and what they also got right was that he was not the romantic hero of fiction, but a shady character with a shady past. There were allegations of rape; her recent biographer believes that this could have been misinterpreted and it actually meant his older brother (who was also named Thomas –don’t you just love how everyone had the same name?) who did the deed. Regardless if it was him or his older brother, Thomas did pursue Katherine. Whether he heard of the rumors from one of her former maids or because of the blood-relation they had; Thomas thought he could get away with it, and why not when he had a successful career at court and it was currently on the rise.
Culpeper no doubt approached Lady Rochford (the widow of George Boleyn) first, “and probably blackmailed her into allowing him to meet with the queen and impose his demands on her” (Byrne). According to Culpeper, when they first met on April 1541, she gave him “by her own hands a fair cap of velvet garnished with a brooch and three dozen pairs of aglets and a chain”; but she warned him to hide these items and prevent anyone from seeing them. Culpeper who was annoyed that his attentions had gotten him nowhere pressed her, and told her he needed more than just that but Katherine continued to deny him any more affection, instead of buying him with gifts to stay away.

What Culpeper likely saw as the two previous men had, was an insecure but yet proud woman who did not want any trouble and who thought she would get in trouble for just talking to him.

As for Katherine’s letter which has been seen as clear evidence of her guilt Licence weighs in on this: “It begins conventionally enough –Master Culpeper, I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do- but develops into something more personal, as the queen has taken considerable ‘pain … in writing to you’ and had ‘heard that you were sick and never longed so much for anything as to see you and speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now’ …” It can also be seen in many ways too. Noblewomen often used very elegant, if not eloquent and chivalric language to express their gratitude towards someone. This fancy way of writing was very proper of nobles, especially noblewomen and royal women. “The game of courtly love flourished at the Tudor court and was viewed as a popular social convention in which young, well-born ladies participated with handsome knights in witty exchanged …The knight was expected to serve his lady, obey her commands and gratify her whims. Obedience and loyalty to the high-ranking lady were viewed as critical, while that lady was firmly unavailable by virtue of her status and was consequently inclined to be remote, haughty and imperious …”

There is no contemporary image that has accurately been identified as Katherine Howard. All that's known about her appearance was that she was no beauty but she had "superlative grace" meaning she was pleasant to be around with and had light red hair and was thin. That's about it. This has been attributed to being Katherine because of the jewels and it could be but it could also be Meg Douglas, Henry VIII's niece.
There is no contemporary image that has accurately been identified as Katherine Howard. All that’s known about her appearance was that she was no beauty but she had “superlative grace” meaning she was pleasant to be around with and had light red hair and was thin. That’s about it. This has been attributed to being Katherine because of the jewels and it could be but it could also be Meg Douglas, Henry VIII’s niece.

Katherine would not have been the only queen, nor the last, to engage in these courtly exchanges. Her niece and youngest stepdaughter would do so as well when she became queen, her letters to Leicester, Robert Dudley, are living proof of that. Anne Boleyn engaging in courtly love as well, and before her other queens such as her predecessor, were seen as acceptable. Nonetheless, at this point Henry’s court was not what it once was. The summer Prince was gone; and there was suspicion everywhere.

“Ladies within Katherine’s household, including Lady Margaret Douglas and her own cousin Mary Howard, had engaged in similar pastimes encouraged at the Tudor court … The giving of gifts to Culpeper might indicate Katherine’s desire to become better acquainted with him, for although he was kin to her, because he served within the household of her husband she probably knew very little of him. It is likelier, however, that this experienced courtier promised silence in return for the queen bestowing lavish gifts upon him … As other wealthy noblewomen participated in social and literary exchanges concerned with courtly love with other gentlemen, Katherine might have believed that, following Queen Anne’s example, her political position as queen and her social position as mistress of her household permitted her to engage in similar exchanges.” (Byrne)

But this didn’t work and Katherine’s mistake was not seeing through Thomas’ character enough. There was no hint of their so called amorous affair before her downfall; and most of the evidence was based on her previous liaisons with Manox and Dereham. Several factors went into her downfall and it was not her stupidity or her inexperience but rather the factions at court, or groups that detested the Howard and had their own religious agenda. Katherine never said anything on religion, her opinion was blank and it was likely to stay that way because she wanted to play the role of the passive wife. But Cranmer and others had other ideas, her downfall really centers on her association with the Howards, her family and that they were in direct opposition with many fronts at court.

According to one of her ladies she agreed that the queen was committing treason with Culpeper, it is possible given the intense psychological pressure that many of her ladies went through (as those of her first cousin Anne had gone through) they just wanted to agree with whatever her interrogators said; if they knew what was good to them, they would not want to be involved with their mistress any longer –it didn’t matter to them if she was innocent or not.
Jane Parker, Lady Rochford has been very maligned and seen as this vindictive, humorless and cold-hearted woman, but her confession was likely done under duress. She had known what had happened to her husband and sister in law, she had lived through that, she was a survivor and she knew how far these people would use the law or whatever other method they had in store, to get what they wanted. Unfortunately Jane as Katherine wasn’t saved.
The two of them were damned and sentenced to die in 13 February 1542. First Katherine, then Jane. They were executed in the same spot where Katherine’s cousin had been six years earlier and also buried in the Tower’s chapel in St. Peter ad Vincula.

Katherine's burial spot at St. Peter ad Vncula.
Katherine’s burial spot at St. Peter ad Vncula.


  • Katherine Howard: A New History by Conor Byrne
  • Wicked Women by Retha Warnicke
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Starkey

In Defense of Katherine Howard Part 1: Mean Girl or Victim of Fate

Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor (left) and Tamzin Merchant as Kitty Howard (right).
Sarah Bolger as Mary Tudor (left) and Tamzin Merchant as Kitty Howard (right).
The anniversary of her execution has come and gone and there have been just about every kind of nasty comment about her. Henry’s little sex kitten. She was stupid enough to lose her head! What was Henry VIII thinking marrying that teenager? Didn’t he learn anything from Anne Boleyn? She was so mean to Mary! Poor Mary.
Kitty Howard didn’t die because of her own stupidity, there were many other factors, mainly that the Howards had powerful enemies at this point and Cranmer and his faction did everything that they could, prosecuting her mercilessly and bringing her past up in such a way that it has followed her after her death. But let’s meet Kitty, the real Kitty not the Tudors and countless other messed up versions of her.”No will but his” This was Kitty’s motto. Clearly not the motto from a stupid girl. Note how similar it was to Jane Seymour’s, Henry’s third consort. Kitty was no super model but she possessed “superlative grace”. She tried to bring the Tudor family together but she had many enemies and her relation to Anne Boleyn doomed her would-have-been-good relationship with Mary Tudor, the King’s eldest and yet-to-be married daughter. Something that sparked jealousy on Mary’s part because she was not much older than her and her father still considered her a threat -and always would!- and until he had another son in the cradle, she knew she would not marry. In the show Kitty haughtily replies as a mean girl from ‘Mean Girls’ with a ha-ha voice while her brainless ladies laugh behind her that she will always be an old maid and like that *snaps fingers* she gives her a killer smile and walks out! And everyone loves her for it. Yeah that’s so true …


The real Kitty Howard was not an attention seeker drama queen crying like a little baby every time things didn’t go her way. In real life we know as much about her as we do of Jane Seymour.
Kitty was no fool. She wasn’t serious like Jane or exotic like Anne, or cosmopolitan and educated like half of Henry’s wives but she didn’t need to be. She was a Howard and while she grew under the careless guardianship of Agnes Tilney -her step-grandmother and Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, she knew what she was getting into. Her husband married her on the day he executed Cromwell. She knew what to expect and yet why did she act so stupidly? She didn’t, not in her mind at least. If we think being a teenager is difficult, try being one in Tudor times. She was probably raped by one of her earliest dalliances and she foolishly promised to marry another one, yet promises were made and unmade all the time. As Queen she knew she had to have a spotless record and she tried very hard to do so. As I previously stated, she did her best to get along with ALL of Henry’s family and she did a lot for her stepdaughter, Lady Elizabeth. At every court function she behaved with every ounce dignity expected in a Queen of England. There is a grain of truth to the stories of her dismissing two of Mary’s maids. But as upset as she was at Mary or Mary at her, none would have behaved that way to each other. It would’ve been beneath them. And yet dramatists love to make these women hostile to each other. (A trend I notice in every history drama. If there are two women who disagree over something then let’s have them unleash their claws at each other and spark the drama by having them go at each other like you’d see in a high school soap opera).
Chapuys later learned what happened and advised Mary to make peace with the Queen and she did. By the end of that year there were no more reports, the women sorted it out. But Kitty wasn’t off the royal hook. Her past caught up with her and a teenager under pressure to bring her husband a Duke of York or else face her cousin’s terrible fate; she caved in. There’s no basis after she was questioned and sentenced to die that said she would’ve preferred to be Ms. Culpeper than Ms. Henry VIII. Claire Ridgway in her book The Anne Boleyn Collection v.1 explains where this myth came from. What is true is that Thomas Culpeper didn’t do much for Kitty Howard. He was a detestable character and it was said that he had raped a woman before he became Kitty’s lover. In the Boleyn Inheritance there’s less justice done to Kitty as she is described from Jane Parker’s POV that she faints when she’s about to face execution. Katherine Howard never fainted, neither did she cry or wet herself or wear that crazy braid. She had ordered the block where she would lay her head on to be brought to her so she could practice, and when she faced her execution she behaved as her cousin did six years before.

  • Katherine Howard: A New History by Conor Byrne
  • Wicked Women by Retha Warnicke
  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Starkey

Katherine Howard and Jane Parker’s EXECUTION

Katherine and Jane Parker

On the 13th of February of 1542, Katherine Howard and her lady in waiting, Jane Parker were put to death. The two were executed on the same spot Anne Boleyn had been executed and also buried at the Tower’s chapel in St. Peter ad Vincula.

Katherine Howard's motto echoes the one by her predecessor, Jane Seymour, who gave the King a son; "No Will but His". By this she gave a powerful message that she would be the consort Henry wanted her to be, and she was doing things that Consorts usually did like charity and begging for mercy for traitors, and giving gifts to her stepchildren (including the Lady Mary Tudor whom she reconciled after the two set their differences aside). It is a myth that the two were enemies. In fact, Katherine spent more time with her than with her other stepchildren and they gave each other many gifts.
Katherine Howard’s motto echoes the one by her predecessor, Jane Seymour, who gave the King a son; “No Will but His”. By this she gave a powerful message that she would be the consort Henry wanted her to be, and she was doing things that Consorts usually did like charity and begging for mercy for traitors, and giving gifts to her stepchildren (including the Lady Mary Tudor whom she reconciled after the two set their differences aside). It is a myth that the two were enemies. In fact, Katherine spent more time with her than with her other stepchildren and they gave each other many gifts.
Before her execution she said to her confessor, the Bishop of Lincoln, that “as to the act, my reverend lord, for which I stand condemned, God and his holy angels I take to witness, upon my soul’s salvation, that I died guiltless, never having so abused my sovereign’s bed. What other sins and follies of youth I have committed I will not excuse; but I am assured that for them God hath brought this punishment upon me, and will, in his mercy, remit them, for which, I pray you, pray with me unto his Son and my Savior, Christ.” Conor Byrne and Retha Warnicke in their respective biographies of Katherine Howard, and other royal and courtier’s wives; make the case that while the evidence against her was scant, she is continuously presented as guilty.
But out of all the portrayals we’ve seen on TV, the worst is that of Tamzin Merchant in “The Tudors”. She is mean girl from head to toe, and she knows it and revels in teasing Mary and anyone she can get her hands on. She is like a modern day giggly cheerleader her father has married and tells Mary that while she is old and ugly (and will never marry) she is hot and young and that is why she hates her.
“You are jealous.” She says with that annoying smirk, hands on her hips. Her ladies then proceed to laugh, looking as brainless than ever. They are just there to please their Queen Bee.
The event has some basis in reality. Katherine Howard did get upset that Mary wasn’t giving her the proper respect she deserved and dismissed two of her maids, but the two later reconciled.
As Queen, Katherine advocated for many prisoners, including Mary’s old governess, the Countess of Salisbury and sent her own tailor to make sure she would have new clothes. She saved Thomas Wyatt from being executed. Everything that she was nothing out of the ordinary for queen consorts at this time.
Jane Parker Collage
Her lady in waiting has been no luckier. Jane Boleyn [nee Parker] aka Lady Rochford has also been the negative propaganda. Now we know differently, that she didn’t hate her husband or her sister-in-law, but for some reason, fiction still continues to portray her as a serpentine, diabolical, resentful, and vindictive woman. The real Lady Rochford was all the contrary and very close to the Boleyns and as the recent biography of her by Fox and her husband biography by Ridgway and Cherry show, she was very close to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn and Anne asked for her help when her husband was having an affair with one of her ladies, possibly the “Imperial Lady” that Chapuys refers to in his letters who was sympathetic to Mary and her mother’s plight. She did NOT give any evidence against George Boleyn. If she had, Chapuys would have said so from the beginning. Would a man who had every reason to hate Anne at this moment, have missed this? Hell no. For some reason he didn’t and that is because she did not say anything. If she did, assuming she was interrogated, she would have done her best to save her husband. This was a highly political game, and everyone was looking to save their own skins. But Jane never provided any evidence against her husband and the rest of her in-laws. The person who condemned George and Anne was a certain “Lady”. Chapuys and others refer to her as the woman or the Lady, this person was none other than the Lady Exeter.

Jane acted as chaperone to Katherine Howard. It is possible that Katherine, despite excelling greatly at her position, was still an inexperienced player and believed all of Culpeper’s threats that he would denounce her previous liaisons with the King, asked her to. In this world it didn’t matter that her previous liaisons were not liaisons at all and she had been raped. Female virtue was at the top of everything. Many times women who were raped, were blamed. Some noblewomen or royal women could not afford such a scandal because then nobody would want to marry them, or worse, their families’ honor would be put into question and they would be blamed. Jane’s involvement in Katherine’s comings and goings, and helping her meet Culpeper to bribe him into keeping his silence though, ended badly for her too. According to one eye-witness who was present at Jane’s execution, he said to his brother that she had “made the most godly and Christian end that ever was heard” and had made her peace with God and like her late sister-in-law, asked “all the Christian people to take regard unto their worthy and just punishment for their offences against God” and that if she and Kitty were condemned to die it was because they sinned and deserved to die. Katherine was the first one to go, then Jane.
  • Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Jualia Fox
  • Katherine Howard: A New History by Conor Byrne
  • Wicked Women by Retha Warnicke
  • The Anne Boleyn Collection by Claire Ridgway
  • George Boleyn: Tudor Poet, Courtier and Diplomat by Clare Cherry and Claire Ridgway
  • The Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence.

Lady Jane Dudley nee Grey’s Execution.

"This famous nineteenth-century painting of Jane Grey's execution encapsulates the myth of Jane as an innocent virgin, sacrificed on the altar of adult political ambition. In reality, Jane was a religious leader and no mere victim" -Leanda de Lisle
“This famous nineteenth-century painting of Jane Grey’s execution encapsulates the myth of Jane as an innocent virgin, sacrificed on the altar of adult political ambition. In reality, Jane was a religious leader and no mere victim” -Leanda de Lisle

On Monday 12th of February 1554, both Lady Jane Dudley [nee Grey] and her husband [Guildford] were executed. The latter was the first one to be executed following by his wife who continued to sign her letters as Jane Dudley, rather than Jane Grey, giving no credence to the later myths that she resented Dudley or had been forced to marry him.

Jane was dressed in the same black gown she had worn to her trial, which was a statement of her religious piety and her intense devotion to God, as well as her belief that her faith would shelter her as it had sheltered others through their last hours. Jane had called on the people to rise against the Mass, days before, she had called the people “Return, return to Christ’s war”. This was a religious war and only one religion could come on top. Jane, closer to her father than her mother, wrote to him and told him to be cheerful for she had made her peace with God. She could have -in theory- written to her mother and her youngest sister Mary, but no letters survive so we must assume that she didn’t. Her letter to Katherine was more hostile and she told her if she accepted this material world and accepted the Catholic Faith, even if it was for survival, that she would burn in hell. She asked Katherine if she were to die or live, to die instead for there was nothing better than that.

Jane learned a lot from one of her favorite women and tutors, the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Catherine Parr.  Catherine was seen a role model to many young Protestant women and Jane sought to emulate her.
Jane learned a lot from one of her favorite women and tutors, the late Queen Dowager and Baroness Sudeley, Catherine Parr. Catherine was seen a role model to many young Protestant women and Jane sought to emulate her.
Jane’s other tutors and Protestant admirers like Ulm, Bullinger abroad praised her for her good dress as well as for her intellectuality. But as she had grown up, this fame had gotten to her head, and she saw herself as the leader of the Protestant Faith in England and believing that God was on her side, she wanted to look her best on her execution. So she dressed humbly to state her religious devotion and humility.

Jane’s last words were:

“Good people I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact, indeed, against the Queen’s Highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but touching the procurement and desire thereof by me or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocence, before God, and the face of you, good Christian people this day.
I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness that I die a true Christian woman, and that I look to be saved by none other means, but only by the mercy of God in the merits of his only son, Jesus Christ and I confess when I did know the Word of God I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague or punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God for his goodness that he has thus given me time and respect to repent. While I am alive I pay you to assist me with your prayers.”

Before she walked to the block, she gave one message to the Lieutenant of the Tower where she told him as she had told Mary I’s chaplain that he should look to his conscience and see that death was much better than life: “There is a time to be born, and a time to die; and the day of death is better than the day of our birth. Yours, as the Lord knows, as a friend, Jane Dudley.”

Then she was blindfolded and nervously knelt down to the block but she could not find it and got frightened and said “What shall I do? Where is it?” Eventually someone stepped forward and guided her to it. As she laid her head there she said one last prayer “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” And then the axe was swung, and as one eye-witness recorded “she ended”.


  • Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery by Eric Ives
  • Tudor by Leanda de Lisle
  • Sisters who would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On his day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Inglorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Caroll