Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Bessie Blount and her Fitzroy

Henry FitzRoy

Elizabeth 'Bessie' Blount, was born around 1504 as the second of eight children to Sir John Blount of KinletShropshire (1484-1531), and Katherine Peshall (1483-1540), a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon during her first marriage to Prince Arthur. Bessie came to court as a lady in waiting to Catherine of Aragon by 1513 for which she was paid 100 shillings a year and was educated among the other young ladies of noble blood, and had probably first arrived at court in March of 1512 when her father was appointed to the 'King's Spears'. Bessie was a blonde with blue eyes and fair skin, fitting the Tudor ideal of beauty, and was said to be witty and lively.
When she became Henry VIII’s mistress is uncertain, however most historians agree that the affair began around 1514-15 as Bessie was said to have won the heart of the king during Christmas 1514 when she took part in the masque along with her friend Elizabeth Carew(nee Bryan) who was another favourite (and mistress) of the king and Charles Brandon, nicknamed 'the young wife'.
On sunday 3rd October 1518, during the celebrations for the treaty with France and betrothal of the Princess Mary to the Dauphin of France, Bessie stood up to sing a song that she had written herself and asked William Cornish to set to music for her to sing to.
The song Bessie sang to the king;
Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. My soverayne lord, for my poure sake,
Six courses at the ryng dyd make,
Of which four tymes he did it tak;
Wher for my hart I hym beqwest,
And, of all other, for to love best
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. My soverayne lorde of pursantce pure
As the chefteyne of a waryowere,
With spere and sword at the barryoure -
As hardy with the hardyest
He provith hym selfe, that I say, best
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. My Soverayne Lorde, in everythyng
Above all other - as a kyng -
In that he doth no comparying:
But, of a tryewth, he worthyest is
To have the prayse of all the best,
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. My soverayne lorde when that I mete
His cherfull continaunce doth replete
My hart with joé; that I behete,
Next God, but he: and ever prest
With hart and body to love best
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. So many virtuse, gevyn of grace,
Ther is none one lyve that hace -
Beholde his favor and his face,
His personage most godlyest!
A vengeance on them that loveth nott best
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best. The soverayne Lorde that is of all
My Soverayne lorde save, principall!
He hath my hart and ever shall,
Of God I ask - for hym request -
Of all gode fortunes to send him best
My soverayne lorde. Whilles lyve or breth is in my brest
My soverayne lord I shall love best.
The words of the song, while seemingly innocent, had a double meaning for those who knew of the royal affair, and announced that Bessie was pregnant with the king's child. 
Bessie Blount, 1518 during the masque for the betrothal of Princess Mary to the Dauphin of France
Bessie was removed from the service of Queen Catherine and left court, she was lodged at Jericho Priory in Blackmore in Essex to await the birth of her child. Henry was born on June 15th 1519, given the surname 'Fitzroy' and had Cardinal Wolsey as his godfather. Henry Fitzroy was the only illegitimate child of the king's that he acknowledged publicly, as well as his birth being proof that the king could indeed father a son during a time when the king and queen had only a three year old daughter as heir.
In 1520 Bessie gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth (1520-63), who was likely to also be the child of King Henry as Bessie was still not married and the king had made regular visits to the priory throughout the year 1519 while the royal couple were living at Havering atte Bower, near to where Bessie and Henry Fitzroy were living. King Henry continued to visit Jericho Priory until 1522, these visits becoming a standing joke at court, when Bessie was betrothed to be married.
Jericho Priory
In 1522 it was arranged by Cardinal Wolsey that Bessie would be married to Gilbert Tailboys (1495-1530), 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme, which took place in 1523. Together two sons George (1523-1539) and Robert (1524-1541). Gilbert was granted a knighthood in 1524. Gibert's father George, known locally as 'Mad Lord Kyme', had been declared insane in 1517 and placed in the care of others while his wife ran the estates; as a result in 1523 an Act of Parliament granted Bessie a life interest on George’s lands. In 1527 Gilbert was made a Gentleman of the Chamber, which mean that Gilbert and Bessie returned to the royal court. In December 1529 Gilbert was called to take his place in Parliament in the House of Lords as Baron Tailboys of Kyme. Gilbert Tailboys died on the 15th April 1530.
Bessie Blount brass from Gilbert Tailboys' tomb
During this time, Bessie was living with her husband and three youngest children in Lincolnshire where Gilbert was now Sheriff, however by 1525 her son Henry Fitzroy was separated from her to live at Durham Place to be brought up and educated as the son of a king under the supervision of Cardinal Wolsey. Among his tutors was John Palsgrave who taught French and Latin, he had written the first English-French textbook, Palsgrave had been the French tutor of Henry's mother Bessie when she was young and the two maintained contact for many years. 
Henry Fitzroy
In June 1525 Henry was invested with the titles of Duke of Richmond and Somerset, Earl of Nottingham amongst others and an income which made him the richest man in the country second only to the king. His status was above all others save King Henry's legitimate issue; it appeared to observers that King Henry was intending to make his six year old illegitimate son his heir. When Princess Mary was moved to Ludlow to become head of the Council of Wales, Henry Fitzroy did the same, he was moved to Yorkshire to head the Council of the North. Princess Mary seems to have had a reasonably pleasant relationship with Fitzroy as she gladly called him 'brother'.
In 1529 Henry Fitzroy was brought to the royal court, sat in Parliament as a temporal Lord and later made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was at this time that he was reunited at court with his mother and her family. Bessie's sons George and Robert were now to be brought up with their half-brother Henry Fitzroy, and would then remain in his household until his death. For the New Years of 1531, King Henry and Bessie gave their son a joint gift of a ship shaped frankincense container in silver gilt engraved with the initials 'H+E'. Henry Fitzroy remained at court to finished his education, he attended Parliament in the House of Lords, and by the age of fourteen was deputizing for the king on state occasions. At this time, Bessie was seen as a rival to Anne Boleyn as she was now a young widow and was mother to the king's son, about whom she met with the king often to discuss his education and welfare. It was a possibility that once Henry obtained a divorce, he could marry Bessie and legitimize their son.
In 1532 Fitzroy accompanied the king on a state visit to France, where he was accepted as an English Prince, equal of those of France, and son of the king by the French king. While the rest of the English party sailed back to England, Fitzroy stayed behind at the French royal court, becoming close friends with the king's two eldest sons. In July 1533 while still in France, there was an attempt on Fitzroy's life; Fitzroy was poisoned, and suspicion fell on George Boleyn (who had come over from England to get an audience with the Pope) as when the poison was discovered George left immediately without even his servants or luggage.
In September 1533 Fitzroy returned to England after the birth of Princess Elizabeth, feeling his life was less threatened than if Elizabeth had been a boy.

Mary Howard
At Hampton Court Palace, in November 1533 Henry Fitzroy was married to Mary Howard, daughter of the Duke of Norfolk who had taught Fitzroy how to lead his own army. In the Act of Succession in January 1534, Princess Mary was also declared illegitimate, which meant that Fitzroy took precedent over her in the succession - Fitzroy became second in line for the throne after Princess Elizabeth. By May that year, Fitzroy would take the place of the king at the head of processions during ceremonies or feasts. In 1535 Fitzroy and his wife Mary were given their own apartments in the new palace near York Place; it was the rebuilt upon the site of the women's leper hospital of St James the Less, renamed St James' Palace. In a Parliament Writ in April 1536, it was declared that Fitzroy was named Regent if a legitimate heir was in his minority, and that Fitzroy himself takes precedence over all other children of King Henry; Mary and Elizabeth. During the downfall of Anne Boleyn in 1536, the king was not present at the trials or executions and instead sent Fitzroy in his place to oversee the proceedings.
Jane Seymour became the new queen, along with a reshuffle of the queen's ladies; Bessie was now back at court as one of the 'Great Ladies' attending Queen Jane along with Margaret Douglas, the king's niece, and Mary Howard, Fitzroy's wife.
On the 18th of July 1536 Fitzroy fell sick, and on the 23rd July he died and was buried by his father-in-law the Duke of Norfolk at Thetford Priory.

Edward Fiennes de Clinton

In the summer of 1531 Bessie moved back to her estates in Lincolnshire, where she was met with her three younger sisters Isabella, Rosa and Albora, whom she was to help find husbands. During this 'husband search' Bessie herself was sought out by Lord Leonard Grey, a military man who was related to Elizabeth of York. Lord Grey was heavily in debt and a wealthy widow like Bessie would answer his problems. He attended one of Bessie's hunting parties and became mysteriously stranded for the night and stayed to sweet talk her. That night he wrote to Cromwell asking him to press the idea of the marriage, however Cromwell wrote to Bessie herself telling her that she should not believe the good intentions of Lord Grey.
Lord Leonard Grey proposed marriage to Bessie in 1532 but she declined. She chose to marry secondly Edward Fiennes de Clinton (1512-1585), Lord High Admiral, 1st Earl of Lincoln and 9th Baron Clinton, whose lands ajoined hers in Lincolnshire, marrying him in February 1534. Clinton's family home of Scrivelsby had a condition upon it which meant that at a royal coronation the owners must be the Challenger on horseback, and arrive in armour - which Edward Clinton did at Anne Boleyn's coronation in 1533. As a wedding present, the king gave them 3 tuns of Gascon wine a year from the imports that came into Boston, Lincs. They had three daughters together, Bridget(b.1536), Catherine (1538-1621), and Margaret(b.1539). Bessie Blount's children;
Bridget was married in 1556 to Robert Dymoke (d.1580) of Scrivelsby and had ten children. In 1580 Dymoke was imprisoned as a Catholic and became a matryr.
Elizabeth married firstly Thomas Wymbish (d.1553), and in 1553 married a second time to Ambrose Dudley (1529-89), no children.
George married Margaret Skipworth in 1539, she was said to be the mistress of Henry VIII in 1538, no children.
Robert did not marry.
Catherine married William Burgh, 2nd Baron Burgh (1522-84) and had six children.
Margaret married Lord Charles Willoughby (d.1603) and had five children.

Possibly Bessie Blount or her daughter Catherine
The date of Bessie's death is unknown, but occurred between February 5, 1539, when she received a grant in relation to Tattershall Castle, and 1540, when Clinton's second wife Ursula gave birth to their first child. A Lady Clinton, possibly Bessie, was appointed to wait upon Anne of Cleves in late 1539 and early 1540. Her biographer, Elizabeth Norton, suggests that Bessie died giving birth to her daughter Margaret.

No comments:

Post a Comment