Thursday, 25 September 2014

Anne of Cleves' royal baby

King Henry VIII's fourth marriage to Anne of Cleves was a short lived disaster, yet after the marriage was annulled the king and his now 'sister', as Anne was to be known, the two shared a warm friendship. Anne was often at the royal court and maintained strong relationships with the king's daughters Mary and Elizabeth.

Anne of Cleves

In late 1541 rumours reached the royal court that Anne of Cleves had given birth to a baby boy, said to be the son of the king. It was reported that Anne had not informed the king or his council of her pregnancy and this was why the king himself had not announced it. The frequent visits between the king and Anne gave plausibility to the story, as well as the fact that Anne had recently been ill and kept to her bed, and therefore to discover the truth of the matter the king immediately sent envoys to Anne's estate at Hever.

The inquirers managed to trace the rumour back through only six people until they reached the source.
"We examined also, partly before dinner, and partly after, a new matter, being a report that the lady Anne of Cleves should be delivered of a fair boy; and whose should it be but the king's majesty's! which is a most abominable slander, and for this time necessary to be met withal. This matter was told to [Richard] Taverner, of the signet, more than a fortnight ago, by both his mother-in-law (Lambert's wife, the goldsmith) and by Taverner's own wife, who saith she heard it of Lilgrave's wife; and Lambert's wife heard it also of the old lady Carew. Taverner kept it, [concealed it], but they [the women] with others have made it common matter of talk. Taverner never revealed it till Sunday night, at which time he told it to Dr Cox, to be further declared if he thought good, who immediately disclosed it to me the lord privy-seal. We have committed Taverner to the custody of me the bishop of Winchester; likewise Lambert's wife (who seemeth to have been a dunce in it) to Mr the chancellor of the Augmentations." - Minutes of the Privy Council.

The members of Anne's household were subjected to strict interview by the council, and it was not until the end of December 1541 that the council were able to put an end to the matter.
The source of the rumour was found to be Frances Lilgrave, a widow, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for her slanderous words. Richard Taverner was also imprisoned for the fact that he concealed her treason.
Frances Lilgrave was from an embroiderer family who were employed by the royal family; her husband having been an embroiderer to Anne Boleyn during her tenure as queen.
Richard Taverner (1505-75) was a translator of the Bible from Greek, having published 'Taverner's Bible' in 1539, and was under the patronage of Thomas Cromwell. He was not imprisoned in the Tower for long, and was soon returned to royal favour. His wife that was mentioned in the council minutes was his first wife Margaret Lambert (d.1563), whom he married in 1537 and had seven children by.

The circumstances surrounding Anne of Cleves at the time of this rumour only served to add plausibility to it. King Henry had two living wives, and his most recent bride Katherine Howard was under investigation for having been unfaithful to the king during their marriage. Historian Antonia Fraser mentions that her appearance also would have changed since her arrival in England, and especially as she enjoyed the English food and wine, and her weight gain may have only served to fuel the rumour mill.

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