Friday, 31 August 2012

Killing your husband in Tudor England

During the sixteenth century, to kill one's husband was punishable as 'petty treason' instead of 'murder' - a more serious crime, for which the penalty was death.

Agnes Cotell (ex.20 February 1523)
Agnes was married to John Cotell and during the summer of 1518 they were staying in the household of a widowed Wiltshire landowner by the name of Edward Hungerford of Heytesbury. On the 26th July 1518, John Cotell died. By 28th December 1518, Agnes and her two servants were in residence at the Hungerford estate of Farleigh Castle, and Agnes and Edward were married soon after.
On 24th January 1522 Edward Hungerford died, and left everything in his will to Agnes; "the residue of all..goodes, detts, catalls, juells, plate, harnesse, and all other moveables whatsover they be", while his son Walter from his first marriage received nothing - the will was dated 14th December 1521.
It was then revealed that her first husband John Cotell had been murdered; "by the procurement and abetting of Agnes", her servants William Mathewe and William Ignes had strangled John with a neckerchief and then burnt his body in the kitchen furnace of Farleigh Castle. It is likely that Agnes had her first husband killed in order to marry the second, also it is possible that Edward Hungerford was a participant or at least was aware of the murder, as it took place in his house, the body was disposed of in his kitchen fire and no charges came against Agnes in his lifetime.
On the 25th August 1522 the three were indicted for murder and brought to trial on the 27th November 1522. William Mathewe was found guilty of murder, and Agnes of inciting and abetting murder. They were both hanged at Tyburn on 20th February 1523, and Agnes was buried at Grey Friars Church in London. William Ignes avoided punishment by claiming benefit of the clergy, however he was later hanged for bigamy.

Farleigh Castle

Alice Brigandine (ex.14 March 1551)
Alice Brigandine, daughter of the shipwright who built the Mary Rose, married Thomas Arden of Faversham, Kent (1508-February 14,1551). Arden had a daughter, Margaret (b.1538), from a previous wife. By 1550, Alice had a lover named Thomas Mosby. She wanted to marry him,  and so she plotted to murder her husband. She tried and failed to poison him, then asked a neighbor, John Grene, to hire someone who would do it for £10. Grene hired “Black Will,” but his first attempt failed. More conspirators, George Shakebag and Arden’s servant, Michael Saunderson, were brought into the plot; Saunderson having been promised marriage to one of Mosby’s kinswomen. More attempts were made and all failed. Mosby even challenged Arden to a duel, but Arden refused to fight. Alice, Mosby, Grene, Saunderson, Shakebag, Will, and Alice’s maid, Elizabeth Stafford, met at the house of Mosby’s sister, Cecily Ponder, to devise a new plan.
On February 14th 1551, they killed Arden in his parlour while he was playing a game of backgammon. With company arriving for supper, Alice cleaned up the blood and hid the body in the cellar. During supper, she and Cecily Ponder declared surprise that Arden was not yet home, and Arden’s daughter Margaret entertained the company with music. Then, after the guests left, with the help of Margaret, Elizabeth Stafford, and Cecily Ponder, Alice dragged the corpse out of the house and put it in her neighbor’s field, hoping that the authorities would conclude that Arden had been murdered by robbers. Unfortunately, footprints in the snow led them straight back to Alice. She was tried, convicted, and burnt to death in Canterbury. Mosby and his sister were hanged. Michael Saunderson was hanged in chains. The maid was burnt for killing her master. Grene and Mosby were not captured at once, but were eventually arrested and executed.  

Home of the Arden's


Ann Saunders (ex.13 May 1573)
On March 25, 1573, George Saunders, a wealthy London merchant-tailor, was murdered near Shooter's Hill. At the time of the murder, his wife Ann was pregnant and gave birth soon after. The murderer, George Browne, was in love with her and hoped to marry her, and so had killed her husband. Browne swore that Ann knew nothing of the plot, and she maintained her innocence throughout her trial, but just before she was hanged as an accessory, she confessed her guilt. 

Eulalia Glanfield (ex.1591)
Eulalia expected to marry George Strangwich, who took over her father's merchant business when he retired. Instead, her parents forced her to wed the widower Thomas Page from Plymouth. Eulalia tried several times to poison Thomas but was unsuccessful. She and Strangwich persuaded two of her servants, Priddis and Stone, to kill Page for money. On February 11, 1591. Eulalia had just given birth and kept to her chamber. Page was in his own room and there the murderers entered and broke his neck. Once he was dead, Eulalia sent Priddis to fetch Page's sister, Mrs. Harris. She claimed her husband had died of the disease known as “the Pull,” but Mrs. Harris was suspicious and sent for the authorities, who arrested Priddis. Eventually, the truth was discovered and all four participants were executed.     

Anne Welles (ex.28 June 1592)
Anne was courted by rival goldsmiths of London, John Brewen and John Parker. When Brewen realized he was unlikely to win, he asked Anne to return the gifts he had given her. When she refused, he had her arrested. Meanwhile, Anne had gotten pregnant by Parker but he refused to marry her. She offered to marry Brewen if he would withdraw the charges against her and the two were married. This revived Parker's interest and he said that he would marry her if she killed her husband. Her first attempt to poison him was made after they’d been married only three days. After their wedding, she vowed not to live with Brewen until he got another house; she spent her nights in her own lodgings and even continued to go by her maiden name. Brewen ate poisoned sugar sops she gave him and he fell violently ill. When Brewen died, it was put down to natural causes and the child she had was assumed to be Brewen's. For the next two years, she maintained a relationship with Parker, but he still refused to marry her. When she again fell pregnant, they were overheard arguing and eventually the truth came out about her husband's murder. After Anne's second child was born, she was tried and convicted of Brewen's murder and sentenced to be burned at Smithfield, after watching Parker being hanged.  

Mary Perkins (ex.1609)
In 1609 in Worcester, Mary Perkins was convicted of poisoning her husband, and was sentenced to be burnt to death. As an added punishment, Mary herself was ordered to buy the required items used to make the fire, and the iron links to be used on her, and to pay the six men tending to the fire. 

John Bellamy, Strange, Inhuman Deaths; Murder in Tudor England
Kate Emerson, A who's who of Tudor women

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 joƩ; 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.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Tudor marriage; love will out

Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas
The usual practice for royal marriages was that they were arrangements made by the monarch, or a higher family member, in order to create political alliances. The majority of marriages were planned for many years before the actual ceremony, and often the couple who were betrothed did not meet until their wedding day. For many women, their position or royal blood was played upon to ensure a marriage among other royal families in Europe to create and cement an alliance without needing a war, as well as the dowry that was provided with the bride.
Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

The Tudor dynasty, perhaps more than any other, was founded in marriages made for love not politics. This dynasty were a family in which women outnumbered men in numbers, and these women were not known for their obedience to orders which therefore may give us a reason as to why many of them boldly chose their own husbands rather than be given them through tactical political arrangements.

1396 John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford
1428 Dowager Queen Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor
1464 Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville
1515 Princess Mary Rose and Charles Brandon
Princess Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland and Archibald Douglas (1514), Henry Stewart (1528)
Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville
1536 Margaret Douglas and Thomas Howard
1554 Princess Mary Tudor and King Philip of Spain
1555  Lady Frances Brandon Grey and Adrian Stokes
1560 Lady Katherine Grey and Edward Seymour
1563 Lady Mary Grey and Thomas Keyes
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (1533), Jane Seymour (1536), Katherine Howard (1540) and Katheryn Parr (1543)
1565 Mary, Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart
1610 Arbella Stuart and William Seymour
Elizabeth I made the ultimate choice of not marrying, which can be considered the bravest choice of all.

Mary Rose Tudor and Charles Brandon
A number of these royal women had been firstly married according to arrangements in order to provide England with an alliance abroad, however after those marriages ended, usually due to the death of the husband, they would look to marry again, for example this was the case for Princess Mary Rose Tudor. However, instead of continuing to be a pawn in the marriage game, these women chose their own husbands and married those they loved rather than who they were told to. This action required a lot of courage as they were acting against their sovereign and could be, and were, punished severely. In some ways this action can be interpreted as them gaining their freedom or independence, as they had been told who they were marrying without a choice in the matter and by making the active decision as to their husband they were in control of their own life to the extent that women could in those centuries.
Mary QOS and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
The Tudor family tree is filled with individuals who were passionate about the things and people that they loved, and the fact that they often married who they pleased is a testament to their willful, strong and determined nature, or was it their capacity for love that gave them this strength to defy royal will?
There seems to have been something in the Tudor blood which is synonymous for love.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Parr-Bourchier; A marriage of adultery

Sir William Parr, Marquess of Northampton, Earl of Essex, Baron Parr (1513-1571) and Anne Bourchier, Baroness Bourchier, Lady Lovayne (1517-1571) had an unhappy marriage which was a compound of adultery, mistresses, illegitimate children and lawsuits.
Anne Bourchier

The couple were married on the 9th February 1527, however due to the age of the pair, they did not live together until 1539, when Anne was first reported to be living at court.
William Parr
In 1541 Anne eloped with her lover John Lyngfield, the prior of St James' Church, Tanbridge, Surrey, when she had an illegitimate child by him. The birth of this child led to William taking legal action in order to protect his interests should the child make a claim on the Parr estates. On 22nd January 1543, the Letter and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII stated that "Lady Anne, wife of Sir Wm Parre lord Parre continued in adultery notwithstanding admonition, and finally, two years past, left his company and has since had a child begotten in adultery and that said child and all future children she may have shall be held bastards". William applied to Parliament on the 13th March 1543 for a legal separation from Anne of the grounds of her adultery and to bar the child from inheriting his estates and on the 17th April 1543, this act was granted. The Bill stated;
"That for the last two years she (Anne) had eloped from her husband, William Lord Parr, and had not in that time ever returned to nor had any carnal intercourse with him, but had been gotten with child by one of her adulterors and been delivered of such child, 'being as is notoriously known, begotten in adultery, and born during the espousals' between her and Lord Parr 'by the law of this realm is inheritable and may pretend to inherit all'...and the Act therefore declared the said child to be a bastard."(Nicholas, 1836)
At this time, the only means for a legal separation was on the grounds of the wife committing adultery, and even then neither party were permitted to remarry as long as the other lived. Anne and John went to live in exile in a manor in Little Wakering in Essex for the next few years, allegedly in a state of poverty. Anne and John had several more children together, including a daughter called Mary who married Thomas York and had children, who all lived in obscurity away from court. In 1558 Anne and her family moved to Benington Park where she lived until her death in 1571.
Elisabeth Brooke

Dorothy Bray
William Parr, as well as his wife, was known for his extra-marital affairs. In 1541 he began an affair with Dorothy Bray (1524-1605) who was a Maid of Honour to Queen Katherine Howard. Two years later in 1543 William's attentions shifted onto Dorothy's niece, Elisabeth Brooke (1526-1565). In 1548 William secretly married Elisabeth, however it was not legally binding so she was still only his mistress in the eyes of the law. Six months into the 'marriage' it became public knowledge and the Lord Protector Somerset was enraged by it - having only recently discovered the marriage of William's sister the Dowager Queen Katherine to Thomas Seymour. The Imperial ambassador Francis Van Der Delft, wrote of the matter in February 1549; William "was obliged by the command of the Council to put her away and never speak to her again on pain of death".
This situation did not last long though as Seymour was ousted by a political coup and was succeeded in his post by John Dudley, who supported William and Elisabeth's marriage. On the 31st March 1551 Parliament passed a bill which annulled William's previous marriage to Anne and declared Elisabeth to be his legal wife. The couple began a happy marriage famous for their socialising, sports and arts, and were at the forefront of court life with Elisabeth playing the social role of a queen during Edward's reign.
In 1553, the Parrs were heavily involved in the plot to put Jane Grey on the throne of England, and were punished severely by Queen Mary; their lands and titles were taken from them and the couple were ordered to separate and for William to go back to his first wife Anne, a close friend of the new queen. The annulment from Anne had been repealed on the 24th March 1554 according to the Act of Repeals and later that year in December, Anne used this to gain an annuity of £100, which was increased in December 1556 to £450. During this time Elisabeth was unable to see William, due to the threat of bigamy, and she became dependent upon family for a place to live, however the two seemed to be in contact as they were made joint godparents to Elizabeth Cavendish in 1555. This punishment was in comparison a reprieve from their original conviction by Queen Mary; on the 18th August 1553 William was sentenced to death for his involvement, however Anne went to plead with Mary for William's life and also about maintaining ownership over the Parr estates, as a result William was released from the Tower.
Helena Snakenborg
In 1558 matters changed again with the reign of Elizabeth I; Elisabeth had become close to the queen in previous years when she was lady in waiting to Queen Katherine Parr during both of her last marriages. Queen Elizabeth declared the marriage between William and Elisabeth to be valid and the majority of their lands and titles were restored to them, Elisabeth became a close friend of the queen and enjoyed great favour during her reign. Elisabeth died of breast cancer on the 2nd April 1565.

In September 1565 William met and began courting Elin Ulfsdotter 'Helena' Snakenborg (1549-1635), a Swedish noblewoman who had been the childhood friend of Charles IX of Sweden; she had come to England as a lady in waiting to Princess Cecilia of Sweden. Despite Princess Cecilia leaving England in April 1566 to avoid creditors, Helena stayed behind, not only due to her relationship with William but also as she had struck an unlikely friendship with Queen Elizabeth who requested that she stay behind in England. From 1567 Helena was a Maid of Honour and later promoted to Gentlewoman of the Royal Privy Chamber, with her own lodgings at Hampton Court Palace. When Anne Bourchier died at Benington Park on the 28th January 1571 William was legally free to marry again. William and Helena were married in May 1571 at Whitehall Palace with the queen present. Five months later, on 28th October 1571 William died.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Anne Stanley, heiress presumptive

When Elizabeth Tudor died in 1603 there were few doubts that despite her refusal to name an heir, she would be succeeded by her cousin James VI of Scotland, however according to English law James was not the legal heir, it was in fact a more distant relative by the name of Anne Stanley.

Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York  
Mary Rose Tudor and Charles Brandon  
Eleanor Brandon and Henry Clifford 
Margaret Clifford and Henry Stanley  
Ferdinando Stanley and Alice Spencer  
Anne Stanley

According to the Third Succession Act made by King Henry VIII, if all three of his children died without heirs then the throne was to pass to their heirs of his younger sister Mary Rose Tudor; at the time of Elizabeth's death in 1603 the eldest, legitimate and closest in blood surviving descendant of Mary and her husband Charles Brandon was Anne Stanley.
The figure on the far left represents Anne Stanley
Anne Stanley was born in 1580 as the eldest daughter to Ferdinando Stanley and his wife Alice Spencer, she would later on have two younger sisters; Frances (1583-1636) and Elizabeth (1588-1633). Ferdinando was the sovereign ruler of the Isle of Man and held property all over England, this made his three daughters widely sought after heiresses. Anne inherited her claim to the throne from her grandmother Margaret Clifford, who died in 1596, as her father Ferdinando predeceased his mother.
In February 1607 Anne married Grey Brydges, 5th Baron Chandos of Sudeley (1580-1621), the couple had five children together; Robert, Anne, Elizabeth, George and William.
After the death of her first husband, Anne married again in July 1624 to Sir Mervyn Tuchet, Earl of Castlehaven (1593-1631) with whom she had a daughter; Anne Tuchet.
Mervyn Tuchet, Earl of Castlehaven
This second marriage was to be a disastrous one resulting in sexual corruption, debauchery and abuse which ended only when Mervyn Tuchet was arrested, imprisoned and executed for his crimes of sodomy and rape. The Earl was accused of having a sexual relationship with his manservant Giles Broadway, as well as the both of them being jointly accused by Anne of rape with her husband restraining her after which she attempted to kill herself, this resulted in Anne bearing a child who was fathered by Broadway. It was Tuchet's son and heir James that officially brought charges against his father in 1630, due to his growing fear of disinheritance in favour of his father's lowborn favourites as well as his own distaste for his father. The Earl disliked his son James and was incredibly hostile towards him; James was married to Anne Stanley's daughter Elizabeth (1614-79) from her first marriage, however the Earl attempted to have Elizabeth impregnated by a friend of the Earl called Henry Skipwith so that the heir would be fathered by someone other than his son.
The Earl was arrested and spent six months in prison without counsel until the case was investigated and brought to court in April 1631. The Earl saw these accusations as plotting between his wife and heir to commit murder using the law courts and pleaded innocent of all charges throughout the legal proceedings. This case has been of interest to historians as not only one of the earliest legal trials concerning homosexuality, and it also set a precedent within spousal rights in that the wife was permitted to testify against her husband. The outcome of the case, announced on April 25th, was that Mervyn Tuchet was guilty of sodomy with his page Laurence FitzPatrick who had confessed to the crime, and the rape of his wife along with Giles Broadway; the jury voted that Tuchet was guilty of rape 26-1, and of sodomy 15-11. All three men were executed, with Tuchet's first on May 14th and the other two being hanged at Tyburn on the 6th of July.
During the trials it was also argued that Anne had had an affair with Henry Skipwith among others; FitzPatrick had stated during the trial that Anne "was the wickedest woman in the world, and had more to answer for than any woman who lived." The trials and execution speeches of Tuchet and Broadway began accusations against Anne despite her protests of innocence and the pardons of innocence given to her and her daughter in 1631. All popular accounts of the case and executions, manuscripts and pamphlets, had Anne portrayed not as a victim of her husband but as a whore. The Earl's sister Eleanor called Anne a 'Jezebel' in private petitions to the king and also in two published pamphlets.
The Dowager Countess sold her rights to her house at Harefield to repay her debts, and spent the rest of her years at Heydons; a mansion intended for her son William. Anne Stanley died in October 1647. 

A house in gross disorder: sex. law and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven
Cynthia B Herrup
Oxford University Press, 1999

The trial of Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven 1631, The Great Queens of History, 2009
Rictor Norton

Monday, 20 August 2012

Margaret Douglas and her Howard men

Margaret Douglas 1515-1578

Margaret Douglas was the only child of Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland's second marriage to Archibald Douglas. As well as her half-brother James V being the king of Scotland, she also had close ties to the English crown, the current king Henry VIII was her uncle. Margaret was born in Northumberland in England, and went to live with her godfather Cardinal Wolsey when she was fourteen. In 1530 Margaret went to live with her cousin Princess Mary, and the two began a lifelong friendship. After King Henry married Anne Boleyn, Margaret was appointed as one of her ladies-in-waiting in 1533. It was during this time that Margaret became well acquainted with the Howard family, including Thomas Howard.

Lord Thomas Howard (1511-1537) was the youngest son of the Duke of Norfolk and uncle to Anne Boleyn, who had arrived at court in 1533 along with the influx of Howard relations reveling in the success of having one of their relatives become queen. During 1535 Margaret and Thomas had met, fallen in love and become secretly engaged. Their affair had been conducted with the help of Thomas' sister Mary Howard, and the queen Anne Boleyn. In April 1536 the couple secretly married per verba de presenti with only two witnesses; Lady Williams and a Howard servant named Hastings. This marriage was kept secret until July of that year when King Henry was made aware of it.

As soon as King Henry heard about the secret marriage, he reacted badly to it; the pair were arrested on June 8th although there were no laws as of yet which declared it illegal to marry without the kings consent, this was about to change as it was this scandal for which Henry created such a law. On July 9th interrogations of the Boleyn household, with whom Thomas had familial connections, were made to ascertain their involvement in the scandal - the Boleyn fortunes had drastically changed by this time as Anne Boleyn had been executed in May and Jane Seymour was now queen. On July 18th a Bill of Attainder against Thomas Howard was passed, and Henry was free to keep the pair prisoners in the Tower for as long as he pleased. Henry appeared to have softened towards his niece, helped along with letters from Margaret's mother, his sister, and Margaret was moved from the Tower in November to Syon House.

The timing of Margaret and Thomas' romance could not have been worse; Margaret was already holding a high position in the English line of succession and was therefore a useful tool to Henry in terms of possible marriage politics. However in 1536 between the death of Anne Boleyn and subsequent bastardisation of the Princess Elizabeth, and the birth of Prince Edward in 1537, Margaret was the legal heir to the throne of England if Henry died, due to the fact that all of Henry's children - Mary, Elizabeth and Henry FitzRoy - were illegitimate by law and her own brother James V could not succeed as he was ineligible due to already being monarch of a country. The heiress presumptive to the English throne was at the center of a marriage scandal with a courtier.

On the 31st October 1537 Thomas Howard died in the Tower. In the winter of 1537, Henry pardoned Margaret with the order that she dismiss two servants of her former lover from her household, however she grieved her husbands loss terribly. The king then passed a second succession law which stated that it was treason against the crown to marry a member of the royal family without the kings explicit permission. 
By 1539 Margaret and her uncle the king were once again reconciled as she was asked to be one of the royal party who met Anne of Cleves, Henry's new bride, upon her arrival in England.

In 1540 Margaret Douglas once again fell for a Howard man, this time it was Sir Charles Howard, who was a brother of the new queen Katherine Howard and also the nephew of her previous lover and husband  Thomas. Again, a plan of a secret marriage was devised with the help of the queen, Charles' sister Katherine, however in autumn of 1541 word of the plan reached the king. When the affair was discovered, Margaret was yet again imprisoned at Syon House until November 1541 when she was moved to a residence of the Duke of Norfolk. Charles Howard was banished from court and later fled the country to Holland and then France, where in Calais he died in 1542.

This affair, although it was considered scandal at the time, there was less of a backlash from the king when it was discovered due to the change in the political atmosphere from the previous incident in that the succession was now secure, and the less serious nature of the relationship - an affair not a secret marriage. Henry forgave his niece for her indiscretion and she was a witness at his final marriage to Katheryn Parr in 1543 and would become one of her chief ladies; Margaret and Katheryn had been acquainted with each other for many years since they both came to court in the 1520's.

Margaret Douglas was married in 1544 to a Scottish exile, Matthew Stewart the Earl of Lennox (1516-1571), their marriage produced two sons; Henry Stuart Lord Darnley and Charles Stuart Earl of Lennox. Her son Henry married Mary, Queen of Scots and their son became James VI King of Scotland, and later King of England upon Elizabeth I's death. Her younger son Charles married Elizabeth Cavendish - due to plotting between their mothers Margaret Douglas and Bess of Hardwick - whose marriage produced Arbella Stuart, yet another of the Tudor bloodline imprisoned for marrying in secret for love.

Thomas Howard's nephew Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey was a famed poet, and wrote this as part of his Eache beeste can chuse his feere. These lines alluding to the fate of his uncle Thomas, dying in the Tower for his own love.
 "And, for my vaunte, I dare well say my blood is not untrew;
Ffor you your self dothe know, it is not long agoe,
Sins that, for love, one of the race did end his life in woe
In towre both strong and highe, for his assured truthe." 

Gender and Politics in the Henrician Court: The Douglas-Howard Lyrics in the Devonshire Manuscript (BL Add 17492)
Bradley J. Irish
Renaissance Quarterly , Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 79-114
Article DOI: 10.1086/660369
Article Stable URL:

In Laudem Caroli: Renaissance and Reformation Studies
Charles Garfield Nauert, James V Mehl
Truman State University Press, 1998

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Canterbury Cathedral and its medieval graffiti

My sister came to stay with me this week and I decided to show her the icon that makes Canterbury so famous; its cathedral. As a local student the entry was free for me, as usually it costs £9.50 for an adult.

The cathedral was founded in 597 by an abbot called Augustine who was sent as a missionary by Pope Gregory the Great. Due to its long history it has been the site of many important events, such as the murder of Thomas Becket in December 1170.

Edward The Black Prince 
                                                                                              Henry IV and his wife Joan of Navarre

Despite the more famous and prominent aspects of the cathedral, it was the smaller, forgotten and bypassed details of its long history that got my attention. While walking around the alcoves of the cathedral, I became interested in the walls themselves; just like children still like to graffiti on any surface available, there were initials with dates and symbols carved into the stone to leave their identity and make their for future posterity. There is something beautiful about seeing a name that someone had taken the time to carve into the stone that dates back hundreds of years in the hope that it lasts and that their name is remembered. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Henry VIII didn't invent divorce

Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived
For many people this rhyme is the summation of their knowledge about Henry VIII; his marital activity was one of the defining features of his reign and the effects that they had touched every aspect of his polity.
One of the most famous events in the Tudor age was Henry VIII's Great Matter; his divorce from Catherine of Aragon and the break from Rome which followed.

The act of divorce or separation of married couples had been taking place since ancient times, this was not a new social convention; it had been an acceptable situation in the ancient societies of the Greeks, Egyptians and was particularly frequent during the time of the Romans. For centuries marriage has served as a key political tool. During Roman times it was often practiced that couples were 'divorced' so that one of them could be remarried to someone else; for example the Emperor Augustus forced his stepson Tiberius to divorce his wife so that he could be married to the Emperor's daughter Julia.

This process was termed 'annulment' not 'divorce'; it not only separated the couple legally but instead of ending a marriage it meant that the marriage itself had never been lawful and had not really taken place. This was often granted on the grounds of consanguinity - meaning that the couple involved were too closely related, that a participant was already married or that the marriage had not been consummated and therefore was not a real marriage. Often the reason behind annulments was that there were no children to the marriage and the need for an heir took precedent. During medieval times these annulments were granted by the church, and by extension the Pope. The regulations, guidelines and grounds for an annulment are laid out in the book of Deuteronomy; a book which was written about 4000 years ago, indicating that divorce existed that far back in history.

In the case of Henry VIII, why is it that his divorce from Catherine of Aragon is so famous when his later divorce from Anne of Cleves is left in the shadows? The act of annulment in itself was not the thing that caused such attention, as for years it had been suggested due to Henry's lack of a male heir, the reason that this particular annulment was so famous was the strength with which it was fought against. Queen Catherine outright refused to give Henry his annulment and fought every accusation he made, of course the annulment could still be granted even if the queen did not consent. However, the Pope during this time was under the control of the Holy Roman Emperor, who happened to be Catherine's nephew, therefore he would not allow the Pope to grant such a petition which would shame his aunt so much. It was a result of this refusal that Henry chose to break with Rome entirely and create his own church of England and could thereby grant himself a divorce from his wife, how legitimately this divorce was viewed at the time is another matter.

Henry VIII may have brought royal divorce to the forefront of politics and dragged it into the center of attention for history books, however it was already a common practice among European royalty, and even within the English royal family itself; the same year that Henry VIII first petitioned for an annulment of his first marriage in 1527, his sister Margaret was also granted a divorce from her second husband.

European royal divorces/annulments before 1533;
1152 Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine
1190 Philip II Augustus of France and Ingeborg of Denmark
bef 1199 John I of England and Isabella of Gloucester
1199 Constance of Brittany and Ranulf de Blundeville
1216 Henry I of Castile and Mafalda of Portugal
1229 James I of Aragon and Eleanor of Castile
1245 Margaret of Angouleme and Raymond of Toulouse
1293 Margaret de Clare and Edmund, Earl of Cornwall
1318 Thomas, Earl of Lincoln and Alice de Lacy
1383 Elizabeth of Lancaster and John Hastings
1472 Anne of York and Henry Holland
1498 Louis XII of France and Joan of France
1527 Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas