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

Anne Boleyn by Amy Licence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wheel of Fortune: The Coronation of Henry VII – From King to Villain

Henry VII first Tudor king from manuscript

On the 30th of October 1485, the Tudor Dynasty officially began. Henry Tudor, the former Earl of Richmond, son of the first Earl of Richmond, Edmund Tudor and Lady Margaret Beaufort (now Stanley), was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey. His coronation progress began on the  28th when he took possession of the tower. On the 29th where he processed to Westminster. Dressed for the occasion, he was followed by his prime courtiers, men who had fought with him at Bosworth and others who had recently sworn their loyalty to him.

“Heralds, sergeants-at-arms, trumpeters, esquires, the mayor, aldermen, and nobles, preceded the king dressed in their rich liveries, amongst them

Henry VII road to coronation the-white-princess-jacob-collins-levy

Drawing from the royal chronicle and other observers, historian Dan Jones, describes how England’s new king displayed his power in one of the grandest events of the fifteenth century.

Accounts of the coronation were drawn up by Sir Robert Willoughby, and they spoke of a flurry of activity among the goldsmith, cloth merchants, embroiders, silkwomen, tailors, laborers, boatmen and saddlers of London. Instruction went out for yards of velvet and silk in royal purple, crimson and black, which were then run up into beautiful jackets, hose, hats, robes, wall hangings, cushions and curtains. Henry’s henchmen were ordered hats plumed with ostrich feathers, boots made from fine Spanish leather and striking costumes of black and crimson” -Wars of the Roses: The End of the Plantagenets and Rise of the Tudors

Henry was a quarter Welsh -something that like his granddaughter, Mary I’s Spanish ancestry, has been used against him. But if we look at the royal bloodlines of other kings and queens, we find that all of them had different nationalities. There was no such thing as pure-English. Even Elizabeth of York and her siblings whose parents were both English were not pure-English. Elizabeth Woodville’s mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg was French. Most of the English premier noblemen owed their fortunes to their Norman ancestors. They came to England with the Conqueror, William, Duke of Normandy, who (like Henry Tudor) challenged the English King for his crown and defeated him at battle.
And even the Anglo-Saxons were not native to England. Before them, there were the Celts and other tribes who they themselves

Yet, the concept is one that remains very popular and as centuries passed, and the geo-political situation of the British Isles continue to change, the pendulum swung in the other direction.  Henry was an usurper, a foreigner and a rogue whereas Richard, an angelic King, was a just man who had been unfairly robbed of his divine right.

Jane Austen on Henry VII collage 1

Jane Austen is a perfect example of this new geo-political landscape. Before she became a published author, Jane wrote during her teenage years that Henry was “as great a villain as ever lived” who “made a great fuss about getting the crown and having killed the king at the battle of Bosworth.” Jane went on to add that the only good thing that came out of Henry VII (and his dynasty for that matter) was his eldest daughter whose descendants united both crowns, and Henry VIII whose reign saw the creation of the Anglican Church. Jane had plenty of bad things to say about Henry VIII too but thought he wasn’t “quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth.”

Fast forward to a few decades later to the Victorian era and you see an increase in popularity for Richard III. This is not surprising. England’s national identity was more important than ever. Xenophobia was in the air and with the English queen being half-German married to her cousin who was German, it became more important than build on that national identity. As a result, countless writers began to rely on secondary sources that distorted most first-hand accounts, painting a picture about the Tudors -namely Henry VII and his mother, Margaret Beaufort- that was far removed from reality.

As the pendulum continued to swing in Richard’s direction, the real Henry faded into obscurity. What Shakespeare, Vergil, and countless others had done to Richard during the Tudor regime, now these chroniclers were doing the same to them. It looked as if karma had its due but in truth, it was nothing more than reactionary writing.

At the time that Henry VII became King of England, the country was in chaos. Everyone was holding their breath, eager to see their new king walking down the streets of London, hoping -begging the almighty- that his reign would last and usher in an era of peace and economic prosperity.

Henry VII achieved the former during the last years of his reign, though the chronicles would have everyone believed that he put an end to the wars of the roses the minute he defeated Richard’s forces. The latter was also achieved but it came at a high price. By the time of Henry VII’s death, the crown’s coffers were full but his subjects’ adoration for him had become almost non-existent. Henry levied excessive taxes on the rich and poor alike, and while he survived every rebellion against him, people’s animosity for him continued. Henry’s attitude is largely owed to his reasonable paranoia. Living fourteen years of exile had taught him that he would never be safe unless he rooted out all his enemies.
Few people comprehended this; those that did had died except for his mother whom he continued to rely on for emotional support.

Margaret Beaufort was an indomitable woman, someone who had more experience at court than Henry did. But he quickly learned how to navigate that world thanks to his stay at the Breton and French courts during his exile.

When Henry VII returned to his royal quarters that October 29th, he prepared himself for the big day ahead of him on the morrow where all of his hardships and endeavors would finally pay off.

Besides his uncle Jasper Tudor, his stepfather, Sir Thomas Stanley and his brother, William Stanley, other men who had fought alongside him at Bosworth were also there.

The ceremony was performed by John Shirwood, Bishop of Durham, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Courtenay, Bishop of Exeter, and John Morton, Bishop of Ely. The archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Catholic Church in England, did not play a prominent role but it still fell unto him to anoint the new king and place the crown upon his head.

The White Princess 2017

Everything else also went according to protocol. After Henry had the holy oils placed on him and he was changed into parliamentary robes, the archbishop put the crown of St. Edward the Confessor on his head then turned to his ministry asking the crowd if they accepted their new monarch. Everyone chanted in unison “Yea, yea!”

Henry, Seventh of that name, never felt more jubilant. So did his mother, although her confessor John Fisher said that her tears were more from fear than of joy. Having lived through three kings, Margaret was afraid that her son would share the same fate.

If Henry was aware of this, he did not show it. Determined to enjoy his triumph, he returned to the Tower of London for the coronation banquet. His uncle Jasper took precedence over other nobles, riding ahead of them, a little far behind his nephew.
Once at the banquet, Henry and his honored guests enjoyed a variety of courses. After the first course, the king’s champion Sir Robert Dynmock came in, issuing the customary challenge, demanding who would challenge the King’s authority. There were more performances to be found that day, among them the iconic representation of the royal arms of England and France along with those of their new king emphasized his Welsh ancestry. But more prominent among them was the Tudor rose. Henry Tudor was a religious man, and as those that came before him, he chose a rose because of its religious significance. The red rose was a symbol of Christ’s passion, while the five petals corresponded to the  five wounds Christ had suffered on the cross. Roses were ones of the most notable symbols on the Abbey, and on the courtier’s clothing.

Highlights Britain's Biggest Fibs ep 1 collage 1
“Henry VII’s marriage to Elizabeth would stir attention away from this …” Dr. Lucy Worsley explains, pointing to the the roll that describes the lineage of Lancastrian and Yorkist Kings, and their ancestors, the Plantagenets as well as the Anglo-Saxon kings and queens before them. The scroll belonged to the de la Pole family who had Yorkist blood via one of Edward IV’s sisters. For obvious reasons they didn’t like Henry and were in cohort with Margaret of York, Duchess Dowager of Burgundy and others, to depose Henry VII. Henry VII did descend from a “servant grandfather” as Dr. Worsley put it, but he did have Lancastrian blood via his mother, Margaret Beaufort. The Beauforts got their last name after one of the castles that belonged to their forefather, John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. Because the Beauforts had been conceived and born before John of Gaunt married their mother, they were considered illegitimate. But they were legitimized by Richard II. After Richard II was deposed however, their half-brother, Henry IV (the first Lancaster monarch) added another clause that excluded them from the line of succession.

The white rose had become representative of the House of York as the red became representative of their opponents, the House of Lancaster which Henry was meant to embody. Henry had sworn to marry the beautiful Elizabeth of York after he became king, but with so many Yorkist heirs still abounding, he hesitated to marry her straight away. Instead, their union was postponed until January of the following year.

Elizabeth was widely loved in the North as the eldest Princess of York. And her marriage to Henry symbolized the union of the two warring branches of the Plantagenet House from which they both descended: Lancaster & York which was embodied in the Tudor rose. Roses were very popular symbols during the middle ages. They symbolized the Virgin Mary, in the case of the red rose as Leanda de Lisle explains:
“The simple five-petal design of the heraldic rose was inspired by the wild dog rose that grows in the English hedgerows. As a symbol it had a long associated with the Virgin Mary, who is sometimes called the Mystical Rose of Heaven. But Henry IV had once used red roses to decorate his pavilion at a joust, their use as a Lancastrian royal badge was not widespread before the advent of the Tudors.”

Henry VII older looking posthumous portrait

In the five hundred and eighteen years after his death, he remains a controversial figure. People associate him with the image that came in the last years of his reign -that of the miser and the Winter King, and of course the one that’s the product of secondary sources and latest novels: the true culprit behind the princes in the tower’s disappearance or an enabler who used his mother and her husband to dispose of them. This has a lot to do with how we think of Henry, a man who spend hours sitting behind his desk, overseeing every state affair and paying more attention to what was going on his kingdom than squandering his time and money on women and other vices that destroyed the reputations of previous kings.
Henry’s life story however is just as interesting as all of these other monarchs. And the fact of the matter is that regarding the princes’ disappearance, is something we will never know. But just as Richard’s defenders say that you cannot condemn him based on little evidence, you can use the same argument for Henry and his mother. There are ‘perhaps’ ‘could haves’ but never any certainties. Just as kings were known to be pious, they were also known to be cruel and Richard was no different. The facts don’t lie, to secure his power, he executed Lord Rivers (Elizabeth Woodville’s brother), Richard Woodville (hers on), and Hastings and imprisoned others that he considered were also a threat. His brother and father had been brutally killed when he was very young, and being exposed to violence at a very young era, no doubt, had an effect on him. The same can be said for Henry Tudor who saw from an early age the destruction of his mother’s house, the Beauforts, and his uncle’s, the Lancastrian. And when he became a target of Edward IV (who feared he would be perceived as the new hope for the lase Lancastrians) he and his uncle Jasper fled the country.

This alone makes him one of the most fascinating figures in European medieval history.

Henry VII red rose intertwined with shadow of the tower
“The reality of Henry Tudor’s ascent to the throne –his narrow escapes from death, his failures and anxieties, complete with constant uncertainty of his situation, and the compromises that he had been forced to make, including the support from France and hiss former Yorkist enemies in gaining the crown- was a far less welcome tale. It remains nonetheless nonetheless just as remarkable; against all the odds, at Bosworth Henry achieved victory that he should have not on” (Skidmore)

As the royal procession reached Westminster Abbey on that fateful day, people could see the massive wax tapers weighing over twelve hundred pounds. As his coffin was lowered down to be placed next to his wife, the choir sang ‘Libera me’: “Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day … When thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.”

Despite his miserly attitude after the death of his son and wife, he kept corresponding with his eldest daughter whose affection for her was clearly evident as he consoled her in one of their first letters when she told him that she was feeling homesick. On his deathbed, Henry had made provisions so 10,000 masses would be said to aid his soul’s journey into the afterlife, and the other half to religious gifts and charities. When his son ascended to the throne he posed an important question which perhaps still resonates today when we hear debates about which Tudor King (of the first two) mattered most. In the Dynasty portrait made in the last decade of his reign, Henry VIII has Holbein put him and his father on their right with their respective and favored wives, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour on the left. Separating them is this huge monument where it reads:

Tudor Dynasty portrait

“The former often overcame his enemies and the fires of his country and finally gave peace to its citizens but the son, born indeed for greater tasks, drives the unworthy from the altars and brings in men of integrity. The presumption of popes has yielded to unerring virtue and with Henry VIII bearing, the scepter in his hand, religion has been restored.”

The message is clear, ‘my dad was great but I am greater.’

There is no doubt that Henry VIII did change the course of English history by separating from the Roman Catholic Church and commissioning a translation of the bible into English by Miles Coverdale; but his father was just as great if not more because he triumphed against all odds and unlike so many kings before him, he died in his bed with his mother ensuring a peaceful transition of power for his son, Henry VIII.

Unfortunately, unlike good wine, time has not been kind to Henry VII. While there have been some historians who want to restore the good old monarch’s reputations, it seems nearly impossible at this point when fiction has substituted the historical records.
Nevertheless, his legacy remains. The powerful symbols he’d use to rewrite history were once again evoked during his granddaughter, Elizabeth I’s reign. Henry’s triumph had taught his descendants that while brute force was necessary to subdue their enemies, their strongest tool was in how they presented themselves to the public. This way, they became immortal, and despite the bad press that Henry has received, he remains a legend and (still) a hero to some.

Sources:

The Sun begins to set on Glorianna’s Reign

Elizabeth I close up

It is no secret that the last Tudor monarch detested the idea of naming a heir. She did not want whomever was next-in-line to plot in the same fashion as she did during her half-sister reign. In this, she was like her grandfather, the first Tudor monarch who imprisoned or exiled any potential claimant to his throne.

Elizabeth I Cole 4

But people couldn’t stop asking: Who would succeed her?

Towards the end of the reign, Elizabeth I tried to dismiss their worries and appear unperturbed by diverting people’s attention on her public image. The people did not have need to worry about the next regime when they already had a goddess watching over them and that goddess was Bess.

This is when we see a drastic change in Elizabeth I’s image. Not that she was not a fashion icon before. Monarchs were the ones who dictated their country’s fashions after all, but Elizabeth I went above and beyond by changing people’s perception of her through more flamboyant fashions and elaborate paintings.

She wore ostentatiously low-cut dresses in the Italian fashion, and wearing heavy make-up. While she was subject to the ridicule of her ladies-in-waiting, chamber-maids and male courtiers who snickered behind her back, some foreign diplomat, travelers and English commons were in awe of her. Elizabeth’s status as a single woman allowed her to elevate her status from Queen and head of the Anglican Church, to a heavenly maiden. To put it simply, she sought to emulate the virtues ascribed to the Virgin Mary. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Women of her status often identified themselves with saints and other holy women. In the case of royal women, Queens and Princess, they all sought to emulate the mother of Christ and often commissioned portraits that portrayed them as such, while others wrote their names beneath one of the pages of their illuminated prayer books, the one where she receives a message from the angel Gabriel that she will give birth to the savior, or the one where she holds baby Christ.
Anne Bboleyn and Henry VIII posthumous romantic painting

Elizabeth’s mother did this with Henry VIII, when he was still courting her. Anne inscribed her name beneath a page of her illuminated prayer book, where the angel Gabriel informs Mary that she will be mother of the future savior. The meaning behind her name and her promise to Henry beneath this image was clear: Marry me and I will give you a male heir to save your country from chaos. While Anne didn’t give Henry the male heir she had promised, Elizabeth saw her birth as a fulfillment of that promise. On her coronation, she had holy images of the biblical heroines, saints and the Virgin Mary, mother of Christ to remind the people that she was their savior and like the old Testament Deborah, she would be a defender of the faith.
As she got older however, it became harder for her to hide her deteriorating health. Even the commons were beginning to sense that the sun was setting and soon a new dynasty would come to reign over them.

In her biography on the Tudor Dynasty, Leanda de Lisle says the following:

Elizabeth feared the bond with her people was breaking. In June 1602 she was overheard complaining desperately to Robert Cecil about ‘the poverty of the state, the continuance of charge, the discontentment of all sorts of people’. She admitted to the French ambassador that she was weary of life, and wept over Essex’ death. He had been all she had left of the man she had loved as a young queen, yet he had betrayed her, and now he was being idolized, even despite the threat he had posed to her life. The last pageants held in Elizabeth’s honour that year venerated her as the ‘queen of love and beauty’, timeliness and unchanging; but as Elizabeth’s depression deepened, whispers about the succession became urgent once more.”

Despite that last part, Elizabeth refused to name a successor. After her death, it was said that Elizabeth did and that since she was unable to talk, she was asked to wave her finger in one direction or another, to signal whom she favored and she moved her finger in the direction of those supporting James. It is very unlikely that she favored James, given her discontentment with him in the last years of her reign, but what she wanted no longer mattered. Her councilors favored James and without the Queen drafting an official will, there was nobody to oppose them.
Elizabeth died on the 24th of March 1603. She was buried not long after and succeeded by her rival’s only surviving child, James VI of Scotland who became the First of England upon his coronation.
Elizabeth-I-Allegorical-PoElizabeth I rare old portrait

Following the people’s discontentment and the growing radical Protestant factions in England, people began to look back at the Tudor regime, especially at Elizabeth I’s reign, feeling nostalgic about those “good old days”. And before they knew it, the Tudor period and its last monarch became larger than life figures, separate from the real people who were feared, loved, despised, and whose actions caused great misfortune as well as good fortune for a select few. Like religious figures today, real and mythological, Elizabeth I and her predecessors have become legendary beings who are either ‘too good’ or ‘too bad’.
Sources:
  • Lisle, Leanda de. Tudor: Passion. Murder. Manipulation. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public Affairs. 2013.
  • Guy, John. Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years. Viking. 2016.
  • Hilton, Lisa. Elizabeth: The Renaissance Prince. Houghton Miffin Harcourt. 2015.
  • Norton, Elizabeth. The Boleyn Women: The Tudor Femme Fatales who Changed English History. Amberley Publishing. 2013.
  • Weir, Alison. The Life of Elizabeth I. Ballantine Books. 1999.

Henry VII: The Man Behind the Legend

Henry VII portrait

Henry Tudor was still young when he became King of England. His reign heralded a new era for the British Isles, including their troublesome neighbor to the North. While he loved to gamble, drink (moderately), and joke, he was a cautious man -something his granddaughter and last monarch of his dynasty, Elizabeth I, inherited.

This is due to his difficult upbringing. He became fatherless before he as born with his mother giving birth to him at the tender age of thirteen -something that wasn’t completely unusual, but advised against when a woman was not fully developed and her husband was older than her- leaving her unable to have any more children. He was quickly christened and handed over to his uncle. His mother visited him as often she could or was allowed to by her new male guardian, her second husband, Henry Stafford.

By the time that Edward IV became King, Henry became a ward of the notable Herbert family. The Herberts were up and comers in the English court with noble Welsh roots like the Tudors, but unlike them they happened to back a winning horse. In his biography of Henry VII, S.B. Chrimes, notes that it is highly possible that the new Earl of Pembroke (a title that once belonged to Henry’s uncle, Jasper Tudor) planned to marry him to his daughter and heiress.

Novelist Barbara Kyle wrote a brilliant article on this topic and how lucrative the wardship business was. What we would denounce as a sex crime or kidnapping or stepping over a parents’ rights, it was non-existent back then. It was very common for men to marry their female wards, especially if they were orphans and rich heiresses. Such was the case for men as well. Henry became a ward of William Herbert and his wife Anne, after the start of the Yorkist regime.

Henry’s time with the Herberts was idyllic but after Lord William was executed during the fiasco of Warwick’s rebellion, Henry temporarily went to his mother. Things seemed fine for the two when the dullard king, Henry VI, was reinstated as king of England in a period known as the “Lancastrian Readeption.” Unfortunately, this did not last and I say unfortunately because while many soon realized that the king was beyond redemption and had become a shadow of his former self, for the Beauforts and Tudors, including Henry, this was a major setback.

The first time that Edward IV had become king, he had presented himself as a noble, just and merciful leader but the time for pleasantries was over. He was done giving second chances. Following Warwick’s defeat at the battle of Barnet and the Henry VI’s son and his wife’s army at the battle of Tewkesbury, the Lancastrian royal and male Beaufort lines were wiped out.

All seemed well except for one thing … There was one young boy who could still posed a threat to the Yorkis regime. If left alive, he could grow up to become a figurehead, rallying men to his cause to usurp Edward or his descendants’ throne in the same manner as Edward and their ancestor, the first Norman king, William the Conqueror, had done.

Edward IV acted immediately and sent armies to get Jasper and Henry who had fled to Wales. They managed to hold them off for two months. But eventually Jasper realized that they wouldn’t for much longer. He and his nephew headed to France but powerful winds threw them off course, with them landing on Brittany instead.

The Duke of Brittany became Henry’s mentor and ironically, his protector. Initially, Francis II did not have Henry’s best interests at heart, he saw him and his uncle as two piggy banks he could cash in, demanding Edward IV grant him special favors or pay handsomely so he could have his prized possessions back. But time has a way of changing people and perhaps it was Henry’s character, something he saw in the boy, that made the Duke change his mind.

It’s too bad that wasn’t passed unto his courtiers. Intrigued by the youth’s clever wit and will to survive, they had to think about their duchy first. If Edward IV looked to France, then that could mean two powerful kingdoms against them and the last thing that Brittany wanted was to lose what was left of their sovereignty. Francis II’s advisers convinced him to hand him over.

It all seemed too easy. A young man about to be handed over to the Yorkist king who’d lock him up, place him under house arrest or marry him to a family deeply loyal to him, successfully neutralizing the last Lancastrian threat. But since when do things go according plan?

They didn’t factor in Henry’s acting skills or his quick thinking. As Henry was being led away from the Breton court, he probably pondered on these possibilities and before they made him board their ship, he feigned sickness and as quick as their backs were turned, he ran off to the nearest church and claimed sanctuary.

Henry lived to fight another day. This experience shaped Henry into the king he’d later become -a ruler who was suspicious of even his own shadow and left nothing to chance.

Henry Tudor TWQ.jpg

In her biography of the Tudors and Stewarts (Tudors vs Stewarts), Linda Porter says the following of the young man who had returned to England to claim the English throne after fourteen years of exile:

“At twenty-eight Henry Tudor was no longer a pretty land. In looks he was still personable, but an itinerant and uncertain youth had shaped a cautious personality. He was not a man who took anything for granted. The immense challenged of ruling the larger of the two realms that formed the island of Britain lay ahead of him. He had come by his crown in blood and battle.”

It is not hard to see why he had become this way, and why he looked more rugged than any youth.

Like him or hate him, Henry VII’s reign was a major game changer for the modern world. Prior to his reign, nobles could still muster armies at will, with kings struggling to keep control over them, leading to endless strife. Henry eliminated the last embers of a broken system that was also being abandoned in other parts of Europe. This system was feudalism and Henry recognized how useless it was becoming, and amending it would be like beating a dead horse.

Humanism the illustrated man

There was also a new religious revival that was being experienced throughout Europe that put man at the center of everything. While Henry was not an enthusiast of this current like his contemporaries, Ferdinand II of Aragon, Isabella I of Castile, and his successors were (especially his son and granddaughters), he recognized that the times were changing and that if he was going to have a successful reign, England had to keep up.

He and his mother encouraged many religious thinkers, and after hearing of many sea-faring voyages that promised new discoveries, he founded some of them. This naval exploration would experience a revival during his granddaughter, Elizabeth I’s reign, who sponsored many of these voyages to compete and out-rival her Catholic enemies.

henry-vii-sovereign-spink_410

The sovereign had never been at the center of everything as when the Tudors became the new ruling House. This goes hand in hand with the new current of man being placed at the center of everything. Man is divine, man is the conduit between heaven and earth, and likewise, the king is more sacred than his subjects. Coins from his reign, show Henry, seated in the throne, holding the orb and scepter, wearing the crown of the confessor. He was the first English King to do this.

Tudor chronicler, Polydore Vergil, wrote the following of the first Tudor monarch in his mammoth work ‘Anglia Historia‘, a series of books chronicling the history of England:

“His body was slender but well built and strong; his height above the average. His appearance was remarkably attractive and his face was cheerful, especially when speaking; his eyes were small and blue, his teeth few, poor and blackish; his hair was thin and white; his complexion sallow. His spirit was distinguished, wise and prudent; his mind was brave and resolute and never, even at moments of the greatest danger, deserted him. He had a most pertinacious memory. Withal he was not devoid of scholarship. In government he was shrewd and prudent, so that no one dared to get the better of him through deceit or guile. He was gracious and kind and was as attentive to his visitors as he was easy of access. His hospitality was splendidly generous; he was fond of having foreigners at his court and he freely conferred favours of them. But those of his subjects who were indebted to him and who did not pay him due honour or who were generous only with promises, he treated with harsh severity. He well knew how to maintain his royal majesty and all which appertains to kingship at every time and in every place. He was most fortunate in war, although he was constitutionally more inclined to peace than to war. He cherished justice above all things; as a result he vigorously punished violence, manslaughter and every other kind of wickedness whatsoever. Consequently he was greatly regretted on that account by all his subjects, who had been able to conduct their lives peaceably, far removed from the assaults and evil doing of scoundrels. He was the most ardent supporter of our faith, and daily participated with great piety in religious services. To those whom he considered to be worthy priests, he often secretly gave alms so that they should pray for his salvation. He was particularly fond of those Franciscan friars whom they call Observants, for whom he founded many convents, so that with his help their rule should continually flourish in his kingdom, but all these virtues were obscured latterly only by avarice, from which…he suffered. This avarice is surely a bad enough vice in a private individual, whom it forever torments; in a monarch indeed it may be considered the worst vice, since it is harmful to everyone, and distorts those qualities of trustfulness, justice and integrity by which the state must be governed.”

It would be good to end this on a happy note but Henry’s life as his early struggles was anything but happy or peaceful. He faced many rebellions, dealt with one impostor and a pretender, and other personal struggles that worn him down, including the loss of his uncle, eldest son, wife and newborn daughter.

Almost everyone who had joined Henry in exile and marched with him to Bosworth, had died. The man who became like a father to him, his paternal uncle, died before the century was over. And then he lost his son, a young, handsome boy whom he had named after the mythical Welsh (and Anglicized) king who united all of the British Isles to fight the Saxon army, King Arthur. He represented his vision for the future, a future where the Tudor dynasty reigned supreme. When he lost Henry, his vision died with him.

Bernard Andre commented that the King was absolutely distraught. He and Elizabeth took comfort in each other’s presence, with his wife assuring him that they were still young and could still have more children. And while this is true, Elizabeth was young, the birth of her new daughter was too much for her. She died on her thirty seventh birthday with her newborn, princess Katherine, dying a day letter.

Henry was outlived by his daughters, Queen Margaret who had married James IV of Scotland in the North and whose descendants would rule England (and continue to rule England) after the death of the last Tudor monarch, his youngest, Princess Mary (whose descendants would be beset by tragedy), and his only surviving son, Henry VIII and of course, the woman who had always worked hard to ensure his survival, even from afar, his mother, Margaret Beaufort.

His reign is also a transitory period, representing the end of an era and a dawn of a new one, that space between the end of the medieval period and the beginning of the modern world.

Henry was buried at the lady Chapel next to his wife, Elizabeth of York. Their two effigies are a testament of their undying love, and his personal sacrifices.

Sources:

  • Porter, Linda. Tudors vs Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots. Martin’s Press. 2014.
  • Skidmore, Chris. The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changed English History. Martin’s Press. 2014.
  • de Lisle, Leanda. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public Affairs. 2013.
  • Chrimes, S.B. Henry VII. Yale University Press. 1999.
  • Barbara Kyle’s ‘For Sale: Rich Orphans’

Jane Grey, the early years: An Outstanding Prodigy & Evangelical leader in the making

6804,Lady Jane Dudley (née Grey),by Unknown artist

There is no question that Jane Grey was for all intent and purposes a prodigy, even for her times. Today we expect children to learn the basics. But back in the sixteenth century, things were different, especially for noblewomen, who were expected to make their families proud by finding a suitable husband who’d make a powerful ally. In the case of Jane Grey, being the eldest of her sisters, meant she had to meet most of society’s expectations. Having royal blood, and being related to the King through her mother, meant that she had to work harder than Katherine and Mary, and just as hard -if not more- than her bastardized cousins, Ladies, Mary and Elizabeth Tudor.

Jane Grey HBC black and white 1

But Jane Grey exceeded everyone’s expectations, especially her father whose continual indulgence made her appreciate him more than her mother who was stricter. When her thirst for knowledge became evident, she became a ward in the Parr household. Queen Dowager Kathryn Parr had recently remarried, for the fourth and last time to her true love, Sir Thomas Seymour, Baron Sudeley. The couple’s manor, Sudeley Castle, became a safe haven for many intellectual curious girls like Jane. Among them was Jane’s cousin, and Kathryn’s favorite royal stepdaughter, lady Elizabeth Tudor. Elizabeth Tudor was nearly Jane’s equal, but after she fell from grace, Jane took her place in Kathryn’s heart.

Jane lamented the Queen Dowager’s death, and after she was returned to her parents, she berated them and begged them to send her back. She wrote how unfair they were treating her. Several historians and novelists have taken this as ‘proof’ that Jane Grey’s mother was a wicked woman and her husband, an indolent fool, or her partner-in-crime who saw their daughter as nothing more than tool in their quest to gain more power. As easy as it is to turn this into a dualistic tale of good and evil, heroes and villains and so on; the truth is that her parents were neither of these things.
Lord Henry Grey, Marques of Dorset and (after the fall of Somerset) Duke of Suffolk, and Frances Brandon, were self-serving aristocrats. This is not unusual given that a family’s number one interest was in promoting their children to other courtiers in the hopes that they would marry into equally or more powerful families to further their riches. Family mattered more than everything else, and this is where religion comes into play as well because it was believed that the best way to raise successful wives and lords, was to instill the fear of god in them. As a result, Jane’s intelligence became highly by Reformers in England and abroad.

Jane Grey black and white 3

Soon after, she became one of the leading figures in the Evangelical movement. In 1552, shortly after Somerset’s execution, her family gained more prominence. Renown Protestant figures like the pastor Michael Angelo Florio whose congregation looked after Protestant exiles, praised her and held her as an example for other Protestant women to follow. He wasn’t the only one, older women like William Cecil’s wife, Mildred Cooke, thought the same. In a letter she wrote in Greek, she compared the adolescent girl to the fourth century bishop of Caesare, Basil the Great, and gave her a copy of one of his many works. Her former tutor Bullinger introduced her to the works of Theodore Bublinger who had translated the Koran -this has led some historians to believe that she might have also been taught Arabic. As her popularity among scholars grew, Jane’s self importance also grew and so did her arrogance. Her father, by this time Duke of Suffolk, together with the Marquis of Northampton (William Parr -Katherine Parr’s brother), and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, supported the King in his reissue of the prayer book which completely outlawed the mass and introduced more radical reforms inspired by Swiss and German reformers such as Bullinger and Ulm. There were few opponents in Edward’s council to these new reforms, but among them was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury who had been a good friend of the “Good Duke” (Edward Seymour) and believed these reforms were too radical and too soon to be implemented. Also in this year, Henry began to make plans for his eldest daughter and heir’s betrothal. Jane was not he first bride her father in law had in mind for Guildford. Margaret Clifford, another descendant of Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon was his first choice but her father said no since Guildford was only a fourth son and in spite of his pleas and the king’s, the earl’s mind remained unchanged. As the king’s health got worse the following year, he gave his blessing to Northumberland and Suffolk to wed their four teenage offspring. In a triple marriage ceremony in May 25 1553, Jane was married to Guildford, Katherine to Lord Herbert, and Catherine Dudley to Lord Hastings. With the pieces set, it was only a matter of time before Edward’s passing led to their final move.

Sources:

  • Lisle, Leanda. Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder. The Story of England’s Most Notorious Royal Family. Public. 2013.
  • –. The Sisters who would be Queen. Harper. 2009.
  • Ives, Eric. Lady Jane Grey: A Tudor Mystery. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009.
  • Whitelock, Anna. Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen. Random House. 2010.
  • Porter, Linda. The Myth of Bloody Mary. St. Martin Press. 2008.
  • Borman, Tracy. The Private Lives of the Tudors. Grove Press. 2016.

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