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

Mary I of England holding the Tudor rose portrait

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

It goes as follows:

“MARY THE QUENE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HENRY BEDINGFELD

THOMAS WHARTON

JOHN THROKMORTON

R. WILBRAHM

MARYE THE QUENE

[Codicil]

MARYE THE QUENE.

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

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

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

MARYE THE QUENE

EDMOND PECKHAM

THOMAS WENDYE

JOHN WILLIS

BARNARD HAMPTON”

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

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

0Tudor tombs elizabeth mary

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

Elizabeth and Mary

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

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

Sources:

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

A Nice Change of Scenery: Margaret Pole in The White Princess

Margaret Pole TWQ Tudors WH

While The White Queen has taken many liberties and has been advertised as an accurate portrayal of fifteenth century courts, it has done a good job bringing attention to Margaret’s story –something that other shows have failed to do. The Tudors and Wolf Hall tried but were unsuccessful. The first only focused on a minor part of her later story and the latter depicted her as an active conspirator, making it seem as if she deserved her later fate.

Meg Pole being separated from Edward

There is a scene where she is with her brother and he is suddenly being taken away by Henry VII’s solders. The scene is absolutely heart-wrenching and it was done in such a way that you really feel for the poor girl.

Margaret is one of the most tragic figures of the wars of the roses and the Tudor era. She survived her father’s downfall and afterwards the fall of the fall of the York dynasty. The same cannot be said for her little brother, Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick. After Richard III usurped the throne, the throne should have passed to him instead but due to their father having been executed as a traitor, he and Margaret were excluded from the line of succession.

Following Richard III’s defeat at the battle of Bosworth, Henry began the proceedings to overturn parliament’s ruling regarding his future bride and her remaining royal siblings. Richard III’s claim rested on the invalidity of Elizabeth and her sisters, which rested on the argument that Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV were never truly married because he had previously been pre-contracted to another noblewoman. Shaky as it may seem, given that the two people involved were dead and the Woodvilles were unpopular among many aristocrats, this stuck. But now that he was gone, it was time for Henry to validate his own claim and the only way he was going to do that was by saying it stemmed by right of conquest, his mother’s Lancastrian ancestry, and his union with Elizabeth.

While he didn’t marry Margaret’s cousin right away, he was quick to secure the last legitimate male Plantagenet. At only ten years old, Edward was moved to the Tower of London where he lasted until 1499. By that time he was described as simple and for lack of another better word, insane. He was easily tricked into conspiring with the pretender, Perkin Warbeck, and before long the two were charged with treason and hung.

Margaret Pole was twenty four at the time, having been born two years before him. We do not know what was going through Margaret’s head at the time, but given everything she suffered, we can only imagine that it must have been a terrible –but not so unusual- ordeal for her.

In The White Queen, there is a scene where she is with her husband, shortly after the two are married and she tells him that rejects her last name ‘Plantagenet’ because it has brought her nothing but sadness. Philippa Gregory’s last book in the cousins’ war series is titled The King’s Curse and it deals with events from the first two Tudor monarchs’ reigns from Margaret’s point of view. For those of you who haven’t read the book, I recommend it. It has some memorable scenes, some that were very touching and others that seemed repetitive. While it focuses on Melusina’s curse, an invention of Philippa Gregory to account for Prince Arthur and many other Tudor princes’ deaths, the book’s title can also be seen as an apt description for Margaret, a woman whose life must have seemed like a curse.

Margaret Pole Portrait
By an unknown artist, this sitter is believed to be Margaret Pole due to her clothing and jewelry.

A portrait by an unknown artist that has been identified as Margaret Pole shows that she never forgot about her roots and personal tragedies. She wears a bracelet with a butt malmsey hanging from it, a clear reference to her father who was executed during her uncle, Edward IV’s reign, for treason.

The eldest daughter of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, eldest daughter of Richard Neville “the Kingmaker”, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury among other titles, and Anne Beauchamp; sought to survive by seeking favor with the royal family, especially the future queen of England, the Spanish Infanta, Katherine of Aragon.

COA and Meg Pole historical and fictional portrayals
Catherine of Aragon in the Spanish series Isabel (left), Margaret Pole in The White Princess (right).

It was this friendship that earned her the title of Countess of Salisbury. This was a big deal since not many women were title holders in their own right. As suo jure, Margaret became one of the richest landowners and influential courtiers in England. She also became Princess Mary, Katherine and Henry VIII’s only surviving child, governess and the two forged a strong friendship that would last a lifetime.

But not all was well in paradise. In spite of her friendship with the Queen, and the Queen’s patronage of Humanists and popularity with the people, her influence with the King was waning and following her last miscarriage, Henry’s eye began to wander again and it wasn’t only before it was set on her lady-in-waiting and former mistress’ sister, Anne Boleyn. After his marriage to Katherine was annulled, his daughter was bastardized and his union with Anne as well as her pregnancy became public, Margaret’s life was turned upside down. She chose to stay loyal to her best friend and former charge and unfortunately, this along with her royal blood and her son Reginald’s outburst against the King, became her undoing.

A book that I highly recommend that gives a hauntingly beautiful description of Margaret Pole’s ordeals is Dan Jones’ Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors. Here is a small snippet from it:

“At seven o’clock in the morning on Friday, May 27, 1541, within the precincts of the Tower of London, an old woman walked out into the light of a spring day. Her name was Margaret Pole. By birth, blood and lineage she was one of the noblest women in England … Margaret’s life had long been exciting. For twenty-five years she had been the countess of Salisbury, one of only two women of her time to have held a peerage in her own right. She had until recently been one of the five wealthiest aristocrats of her generation, with lands in seventeen different counties. Now, at sixty-seven –ancient by Tudor standards- she appeared so advanced in age that intelligent observers took her to be eighty or ninety.
Like many inhabitants of the Tower of London, Margaret Pole was a prisoner. Two years previously she had been stripped of her lands and titles by an act of parliament which accused her of having “committed and perpetrated diverse and sundry other detestable and abominable treasons” against her cousin, King Henry VIII. What these treasons were was never fully evinced, because in truth Margaret’s offenses against the crown were more general than particular … As she walked out into the cool morning air, Margaret Pole could therefore have reflected that, although she was due to beheaded that morning, she would at least die wearing new shoes.” ~Dan Jones, The Wars of the  Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors

The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys who’d become very attached to the late Queen, Katherine of Aragon and her daughter, the lady Mary, wrote that Margaret was confused about her sentence. She wasn’t sure what her crime was, or how was it possible that she was easily convicted when there was hardly any evidence of an alleged treason. During these hard times, Henry VIII’s queen, teenager Kitty Howard and ironically Anne Boleyn’s cousin, sought to make her stay at the tower more comfortable by appealing on her behalf to her husband and sending her tailor so he could take her measurements and Kitty could order new clothes for the Countess. She also convinced Henry to send her new shoes. But in the end, nothing could save her from the same inescapable faith of her father and brother.

“At first when the sentence of death was made known to her; she found the thing very strange, not knowing of what crime she was accused, nor what she had been sentenced; but at last, perceiving that there was no remedy; and that die she must … walked towards the midst of space from the Tower, where there was no scaffold erected nor anything except a small block. Arrived there, after commending her soul to her Creator, she asked those present to pray for the King, the Queen, the Prince and the Princess, to all of whom she wished to be particularly commended, and more especially to the latter, whose godmother she had been. She sent her blessings to her, and begged also for hers …”

Chapuys added after her bloody execution had been carried out, that he wished that “God in his high grace pardon her soul”. Her execution was carried out by an inexperienced and rough youth who hacked her to pieces. An apocryphal account has her running away from her executioner, pleading for help only for him to chase her down and butcher her. Margaret had no reason to run away. Her speech is an indicator that she was ready to die and like so many present, she had no idea that her fate would be so gruesome. Like almost every other secondary source, especially one written centuries later, it should not be taken seriously.

If you want to read a full length-biography of her, I recommend the one by Susan Higginbotham who has also written one on the Woodvilles and plenty of historical fiction. Her book really brings to light the woman, the courtier, the mother and most of all, the survivor. I highly recommend it.

Like Anne Boleyn and so many others, sensing the end, Margaret Pole began to contemplate her own mortality and when she finally made peace with her fate, it is believed that she etched this poem on the stone walls of her cell:

“For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy Mercy, save Thou me!”

It is a sad end for a woman who had prided herself in being a survivor for most of her life. Two years before, her son and his alleged co-conspirators were executed. It must have been a terrible experience for her and at one point she must have thought she was cursed or that she would never be free of family tragedy. As previously stated, Margaret had lost her mother in childbirth, her father was found guilty of treason and executed by being drowned in a butt of malmsey and to top it all off, after Henry VII became King, her little brother was moved to the tower of London and fourteen years later executed. Margaret must have felt like she had avoided such fates by currying favor with the monarchy through the Spanish Princess, Katherine of Aragon but after Henry split from Rome,and Reginald’s words against him, Margaret’s family once again became a target and the rest as they say … is history. She begins her journey in The White Princess as a young woman who has no choice but to follow those in power and curry favor with them to stay alive and as a result, she becomes the most interesting and complex character in the show.

Sources:

  • Ridgway, Claire. “The Execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.” The Anne Boleyn Files, 17 May, 2010, https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-execution-of-margaret-pole-countess-of-salisbury/5592/
  • Gregory, Philippa. The White Princess. Touchstone. 2013.
  • —. The King’s Curse. Touchstone. 2015.
  • Jones, Dan. The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors. Penguin. 2014.
  • Higginbotham, Susan. Margaret Pole: The Countess in the Tower. Amberly. 2016.
  • Mackay, Lauren. Inside the Tudor Court: Henry VIII and his Six Wives through the writings of the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Amberly. 2014.

The Death of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I collage

On the 24th of March 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died at Richmond Palace at the age of sixty nine. She had ruled England for forty four years and was the longest reigning Tudor monarch, and third longest ruling Queen monarch in English history.
Elizabeth I was the daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII. Born on September 7th 1533, she was bastardized three years later following her parents’ annulment and her mother’s execution.

Anne Boleyn with child

It isn’t known whether Elizabeth had any recollection of her mother.

Probably she didn’t given that she was very young at the time. But she spent a lot of time with people who did, most of whom belonged to her maternal family. During her coronation she included the personal emblems of her ancestors, including her mother’s during her coronation (the royal falcon); this small gesture along with the ring bearing Anne’s picture shows Elizabeth’s desire to know about the woman who gave birth to her.

Out of all the English monarchs, Elizabeth was unique in the sense that she never married. She refused to be tied to any nation or any house. This can be due to the emotional trauma she experienced at a such young age when she was demoted from Princess to mere “Lady”, and subsequently saw wife after wife being replaced by her father on mere whim. But there is also the pragmatic aspect that some historians deny and that is that Elizabeth had seen the troubles that a foreign marriage had brought to her half-sister, Mary I. England was not used to having female Kings, and the concept of one would mean she would have to marry someone equal to her, and for that to happen she would have to look elsewhere, beyond her English borders. This would also mean she would have to negotiate some sort of agreement where her husband would have to agree to keep himself and his councilors separate from English affairs; and the possibility of death during childbirth. England had a bad history with boy-kings. The last time, it resulted in the wars of the roses and that was something that was still fresh on the minds of many people.

Elizabeth I armada

“Her determination to preserve what was hers also turned her into a great war leader against Spain. She was not a general in the field nor an admiral … Instead, and more importantly, she was a mistress of language, thinking, in her speech at Tilbury, ‘full of scorn that Parma or Spain or any prince of Europe should dare invade the borders of my realm.’” -David Starkey

Therefore, by refusing any marriage offer –while coyly entertaining every ambassador, making all sorts of promises that she would consider- she abstained herself from such troubles and was able to be her own mistress.

Elizabeth-I-Allegorical-Po

“This morning Her Majesty departed from this life, mildly like a lamb, easily like a ripe apple from a tree … Dr. Parry told me he was present, and sent his prayers before her soul; and I doubt not but she is amongst the royal saints in heaven in eternal joys.” –John Manningham

News of the Queen’s death spread like wildfire, also reaching her councilors’ preferred successor, James VI of Scotland. Weeks before on March 9th, Robert Cecil, son of her late and most trusted adviser William Cecil (Lord Burghley), wrote to George Nicholson, the English ambassador in Edinburgh, informing him that the Queen was ailing and that “her mouth and tongue” were “dry and her chest hot” and that she couldn’t sleep anymore. This is somewhat false. Elizabeth was deathly ill but she was far from helpless as Cecil’s report suggests. She was about her business, walking back and forth in her chambers, pondering on the future that awaited her country once she was gone.
Less than a week later, her condition worsened and she was no longer able to move as freely. Then on the 19th of March she gave a last audience to Sir Robert Carey (Mary Boleyn’s youngest grandson). She held Carey’s hand and confessed to him that she was not well. Sir Robert tried to cheer her up but to no avail. Elizabeth, as the rest, knew that her days were numbered and she wouldn’t live for another week.

On Tuesday, the twenty second she was brought to her bed where she stayed until her death. Her councilors visited her, insisting that she dictate her will so she could leave a successor but she refused. Like before, Elizabeth was always hesitant when it came to the issue of an heir. So many had competed for that position and so many were now gone.
Katherine Grey had married without permission and died nearly half mad in 1568, and ten years later her younger sister Mary Grey -who wasn’t allowed to see her husband because Elizabeth feared she could also produce children and rival claimants- and lastly, Mary, Queen of Scots who lost her head in 1587.
The favorite on everyone’s mind was James VI and one simple word from their queen’s mouth would give his claim even more validity but the Queen, probably not caring or in agony, remained adamant in her position. A story later circulated that Elizabeth I had indeed named James by way of her fingers when the council asked her to move her finger a certain way to mean that James was her successor and she did, but this cannot be corroborated and it is likely false.

Elizabeth I allegory
“Elizabeth was not, primarily, an exceptional woman; she was an exceptional ruler.” -Biographer Lisa Hilton

The death of Elizabeth I marked the end of an era. A bloody, tumultuous era packed with religious and social change. She was not a staunch Protestant but she did push for Protestant reformer on the Church, primarily on the Book of Common prayer, and neither was she a Catholic –though one Pope expressed admiration for her, claiming that if she wasn’t a Protestant, he would support her instead of Philip II of Spain. Elizabeth was a moderate and she took a moderate approach. That is the type of monarch she was. Her laws were just as fierce, if not fiercer in some aspects, than her father’s, grandfather’s and siblings.

Eworth_Elizabeth_I_and_the_Three_Goddesses_1569

The way in which she used her image says a lot about her. In one painting she is standing next to the goddess but if one looks closely it is the goddesses who are standing next to her, leading her to her destiny. Elizabeth was in popular eyes not just an anointed sovereign, but the head of all spiritual and earthly matters.

Elizabeth I Queen tomb

 

Elizabeth I was highly honored by her successor who built a beautiful monument, at the cost of overlooking her predecessor who was placed beneath her. The two sisters lie together with Elizabeth’s effigy being the only one visible and a plaque that reads: “Consorts in realm and tomb, here we sleep, Elizabeth and Mary, sisters, in hope of resurrection.”

Sources:

  • Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey
  • Elizabeth: Renaissance Prince by Lisa Hilton
  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir

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.

Sources:

22 JANUARY 1552: The Execution of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour contrast with Tudors
The Historical Edward Seymour (left) was in reality a shy man as opposed to the intimidating figure played by Max Brown (right) in “The Tudors”.

 

On the 22nd of January, Edward Seymour, the former Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset was executed.

John Dudley and William Herbert had grown dissatisfied with the way he was running the country. When Edward Seymour was elected Lord Protector, he got to that position by making deals with many of Henry VIII’s executors and members of his imagined Regency Council. Edward was also part of this council, and upon his death he was going to be elevated to Duke and his eldest son by Anne, to Earl. But this wasn’t good enough for him. Less than a year later, he had alienated most of his supporters, including his brother. After Thomas’ execution, there was a popular uprising and instead of dealing with them in the same manner he had dealt with the Scots in the battle of Pinkie Cleugh, he pardoned many of them.

One of his close friends and allies, (Paget) had warned him of what might happen if he continued down this path. In a letter, dated July 7th 1549, he wrote: “I see at the hand the King’s destruction and your ruin. If you love me or value my service since the King’s father’s death, allow me to write what I think. Remember what your promised me in the gallery at Westminster before the late King died … planning with me for the place you now occupy to follow my advice before any other. Had you done so, things would not have gone as they have. Society is maintained by religion and laws: you have neither. The old religion is forbidden and the new not generally imprinted. The law is almost nowhere used: The commons have become King.”

The Protector obviously chose to ignore it until August when John Dudley and his men dealt with the rebels accordingly.

“The Earl of Warwick commanded an army of twelve thousand professional soldiers and German mercenaries against Norfolk farm boys with few guns or blades, but hopes of “an equal share of things.” Three thousand men died outside Norwich at Dussindale on 27 August.” (Lisle)

As he and his men gained more supporters, Somerset took his nephew to Windsor where he promised him he would be safe from his enemies. The King highly distrusted his uncle but there was little he could do.

Edward VI

Anticipating his arrest, the Protector took his nephew to Windsor. He told him that he was taking him to a “safe haven” and that this would be temporary until he dealt with his enemies.

Anne joined her husband at Windsor days later. With no one else they could trust, they sent their ten year old son, Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford to bring reinforcements. But these never came. Instead, the boy was intercepted in the West by Sir William Herbert.

Sir William Herbert’s allegiance was to the league of conspirators, among them his brother-in-law, the Marquis of Northampton, William Parr who was the late Queen’s brother and who was one of many who held a grudge on the Lord Protector for kicking him off the Privy Council. He probably held a grudge against his wife as well, given her treatment of his sister.

With their son captured, and one of their commanders asking the Protector to step down “rather than any blood be shed,” the two realized that they had no option but to surrender.

Eventually he was released and continued to attend council meetings, but on the 16th of October 1551, he was arrested once again and brought to the Tower. His wife was arrested the following day and also brought to the Tower and *“if we are to judge from the list of articles she sent for, she must have realized that her visit was a long one.”

The charges laid against the Duke of Somerset were outrageous. Following his first arrest, he had lost his Protectorate but still retained some influence. His wife went on to make deals with the leading families in government by proposing betrothals to the Dowager Duchess of Suffolk, Warwick and others, to her son and daughters. Warwick married his son to her daughter Anne, but as tensions began rising, the couple decided to use the last card they had up their sleeves which was their illustrious daughter Jane.

John Dudley

Jane was smart, articulated, and was highly praised by her mother’s chaplain and other Reformers. If she could get her royal cousin’s attention, she could bring her father back into favor. Somerset’s plan were discovered and fearing what he would do if he succeeded, Dudley and the others prosecuted him, and charged him with attempted murder, saying he planned to invite all the nobles to dinner so he could murder them. Since there wasn’t any evidence regarding this, new charges were laid against him, this time they involved sedition treason and conspiracy to “overthrow the government, imprison Northumberland and Northampton, and convene Parliament.”

Somerset attended the hearings in December where Lord Strange was brought in to testify of his plans to marry his daughter to Edward VI so he could regain power, and others were brought in to add more weight to the other charges. After his trial, his sentenced was pronounced, along with his brother-in-law, Michael Stanhope who had also been arrested and charged with treason.

There are many versions of his last words, one comes from his chaplain (John Foxe) who wasn’t present for his execution but he maintained that his account was taken from a “certain noble personage” who was.

Edward began by saying: “Dearly beloved masters and friends, I am brought hither to suffer, albeit that I never offended against the king neither by word nor deed, and have been always as faithful and true unto this realm as any man hath been. But foresomuch as I am by law condemned to die, I do acknowledge myself, as well as others, to be subject thereunto …” and added that he had come here to die, according to the law, and gave thanks “unto the divine goodness, as if I had received a most ample and great reward” then asked them to continue to embrace the new religion and obey their young King.

His speech was then interrupted by the arrival of two horsemen which the people took as a sign of a pardon and shouted “A pardon! A pardon! God save the King!” But it wasn’t. Northumberland and the council had issued a law that prevented the lords’ tenants and the common citizenry yet they still managed to come. So they were sorely disappointed when they found out that no such pardon was given and turned to their hero, the “Good Duke”, who said lastly:

Edward Seymour

“Dearly beloved friends, there is no such matter here in hand as you vainly hope or believe. I have always showed myself a most faithful and true subject and client unto him. I have always been most diligent about His Majesty in doing of his business, both at home and abroad, and no less diligent about the common commodity of the whole realm.”

Kneeling down, he let his face be covered with his handkerchief and right before the axe cut through his neck, he prayed “Lord Jesus, save me.”

In many ways, Edward Seymour can’t be blamed for the economic disaster since he inherited that from Henry VIII, but in other ways his mismanagement caused an even worse economic crisis and despite his popularity with some of the commons, he attempted to solve the problem of vagabonds by turning them into slave and his wars with Scotland brought an even greater strain on the treasury.

But for the people gathered that day, he was their hero and like many popular saints with the old religion, they saw him as something larger than life, and some even went as far as dipping their handkerchiefs and other pieces of clothing in his blood and treasured them as relics.

Edward VI for his part showed very little emotion. He wrote in his diary after he had been informed of his uncle’s death: “The Duke of Somerset had his head cut off upon Tower Hill between eight and nine o’clock in the morning.”

Sources:

  • Ordeal by Ambition by William Seymour *
  • Sisters who would be Queen by Leanda de Lisle
  • On this day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Tudor: A Family Story by Leanda de Lisle
  • Edward VI by Chris Skidmore

The Marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves

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On the 6th of January 1540, Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves at the Queen’s Closet in Greenwich in a ceremony officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The date also fell on the feast of the Epiphany which marked the end of the twelve days of Christmas celebrations. In spite of Henry’s earlier protests that he would not marry the Princess of Cleves because “I like her not”; Cromwell convinced him of otherwise, reminding him of his agreement with her brother, the Duke of Cleves and given the current alliance between the Emperor and the King of France, his union with Anne would prove beneficial.

Henry VIII 1

Henry VIII is a man who has been judged harshly by history, most fiction writers who portray him as a petulant child trapped in a man’s body. Henry VIII did become somewhat of a tyrant later in life, but this image is a huge contrast to the one presented to us by Lord Mountjoy, the Venetian Ambassador and finally his mentor and (once) friend, the late Sir Thomas More in his early years. On his ascension in June of 1509, these three commented that this new King was marvelous to behold because he didn’t care for jewels or any other material gain, but instead wanted to achieve immortality through his feats. Thomas Moore also commented on his scholarship, adding that his wife’s beauty and intellect also highlighted his appeal. As Henry got older he became paranoid and harder to please.

This was the Henry that Anne married, coincidentally on the same room he had married her predecessor who died days after giving birth to his only legitimate heir, Prince Edward, Jane Seymour.

Tudor Rose AOC

Anne chose for her motto “God send me well to keep” and was richly dressed as the day of her official reception at the palace three days prior.

“On her head she wore a coronet of gold set with jewels and decorated with sprigs of rosemary, a common medieval wedding custom that signified love and loyalty. With the most “demure countenance” she passed through the king’s chamber into the gallery, and closet, where she greeted her future spouse with three curtseys. His heart might not have been in it, but Henry had at least dressed the part.” (Licence)

Indeed he was. Wearing a gown of cloth of gold with silver flowers, black fur and a coat of crimson, Henry reluctantly agreed to take Anne as his wife, placing the ring on her finger which had her motto engraved on it.

Sources:

  • Six Wives and the Many Mistresses of Henry VIII by Amy Licence
  • The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
  • Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Loades

Mary I’s Rallying Cry

Mary I blue background

With 3,000 men flocking to his standard, Wyatt had taken Kent and more uprisings arose in Devon, the Midlands, and Wales but these failed to materialized. Mary nonetheless sprung into action and sent the Duke of Norfolk to confront the rebels in Rochester on January 29. The Duke wrote that it would be unlikely they would be defeated “they have fortified the bridge at Rochester, so it will be hard passing them.” He was already preparing to disperse his men when Mary decided that if she wanted to turn the tide in her favor, she had to take matters into her own hands.

A great precursor to her sister’s more famous and best known speech at Tilbury in 1588 on the onset of the Armada; Mary summoned her councilors to ride with her to Guildhall at London on February the 1st of 1554 where she gave the speech of her life: “I was wedded to the realm. The spousal ring whereof I wear on my finger, and it ever has, and never shall be left off.” The city then told her their worries and Mary responded in regards of her intended marriage that she would not wed Philip if her people and Parliament thought it was not best for her:

Mary I played by Sarah Bolger in "The Tudors". She was imposing, and unwavering in her courage and the way she inspected her troops, rode her horse and commanded men, was a great precursor of her sister's one glorious (and best known) speech of 1588.
Mary I played by Sarah Bolger in “The Tudors”. She was imposing, and unwavering in her courage and the way she inspected her troops, rode her horse and commanded men, was a great precursor of her sister’s one glorious (and best known) speech of 1588.


“If the subjects may be loved as a mother doth her child, then assure yourselves that I, your sovereign lady and your queen, do earnestly love and favor you.” and “On the word of a Queen I promise you that if it shall not probably appear to all the nobility and commons in the high court of parliament that this marriage shall be for the benefit and commodity of the whole realm, then I will abstain from marriage while I live.”

This shifted public opinion in her favor. When Wyatt’s forces arrived in London they met with little opposition but this soon changed and he rebellion soon faded away with those captured executed right away. As a consequence of this rebellion were the executions of Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley, among others. Jane Grey wrote to her sister saying she was committed to martyrdom and that Katherine should not accept the Catholic faith or else “God will deny you and shorten your days.”
Mary had been known for her mercy. She had even used experienced Protestant soldiers to stand guard at St. James Palace but the Wyatt Rebellion had changed everything.

Sources:

  • Tudor: Passion Manipulation Murder by Leanda de Lisle
  • On This Day in Tudor History by Claire Ridgway
  • Mary Tudor by David Loades
  • The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter