Katherine of Aragon
Anne of Cleves
As many of you may already know, King Henry VIII is my favorite monarch of the Tudor dynasty. If it wasn’t for his reign I do not believe the Tudors would be as popular as they are today.
With the creation of Showtime’s THE TUDORS, many of us were aware of the name Henry VIII but really didn’t know much about him. In the show we were able to see that there was more to the man than the execution of two of his six wives. While I understand that THE TUDORS tv program had a bunch of historical inaccuracies, it also got people (like myself) to look deeper into the history by reading and absorbing as much as we possibly could. Over a decade later I feel like I have a fairly good grasp on the infamous king and would like to share my understanding of him with you all. Henry VIII was a man, well…maybe a man-child, but he wasn’t just the tyrannical ruler that many see him as today. There was much more to him than most understand. I hope with this series on his life that you will look at Henry in through new eyes.
As stated previously, many of you may already know that Henry VIII is my favorite of the Tudor monarchs. My opinion isn’t always in the majority and I’m okay with that. Henry ruled England from 1509 until his death on the 28th of January 1547 and has helped to make the Tudors as popular as they are today.
As the second son of King Henry VII, young Henry was not expected to become King of England and so he was sent to Eltham Palace to be raised with his sisters. While at Eltham, Henry would have most likely had constant contact with his mother, Elizabeth of York.
When you consider Henry’s relationship with women in his life one must wonder if he was constantly on the search for a woman like his own mother. Elizabeth of York had a great influence on her son and may have helped educate her children during her lifetime.
Born at Greenwich Palace on the 28th of June 1491, Henry Tudor was the third child and second son of King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. His parents marriage had put an end to decades of fighting between the Yorks and Lancasters in what we know as the Wars of the Roses.
For the most part, Henry’s childhood would have been idyllic, but not without occasional bits of drama. The fact that Henry’s father claimed the throne on the battlefield against Richard III did not sit well with supporters of the Lancasters…and for that matter the Yorks were not pleased either.
In 1487, a young man named Lambert Simnel was coerced to play the part of Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick to raise arms against the new Tudor king, Henry VII. At the same time, the real Edward Plantagenet was sitting in the Tower of London. It did not take long before Simnel was discovered as a pretender.
This would not be the last time that Henry VII gave a title to his second son in an attempt to show control.
In July 1495, Warbeck took fourteen ships, funded by his supposed aunt, Margaret of York, along with 6000 men across the channel to England in hope that he could claim the throne of England. Things didn’t quite turn out the way he had planned and he and his men fled to Ireland. Before long they had moved to Scotland where Warbeck gained the assistance of King James IV of Scotland.
Warbeck was claiming to be one of the lost princes in the Tower, the younger of the two brothers, Richard, Duke of York. Many believed he was truly the young prince and that the throne of England should be his by right.
Henry VII would not have another pretender using a title that was meant for his son, and in 1494, three-year old Prince Henry was titled as Duke of York. There could not be two and Henry, at the moment, was the true title holder, not Warbeck.
At a young age Henry would have known that a monarch’s throne is never 100% secure. It also must have been a bit confusing for him and his sisters to understand that some of their mother’s family wanted to remove their father.
Everything changed in April 1502 when Henry’s older brother, Arthur, died unexpectedly at Ludlow Castle. Henry went from a mostly carefree childhood to a life that led to him being overly protected as sole heir to the throne of England. Gone were the days when he could run “freely” and have unrestricted fun – to feeling like a prisoner of his father’s.
Henry had been betrothed to Katherine Aragon in 1503, he was twelve years old. As stated previously, Henry’s life, once Prince of Wales, was thoroughly controlled by his father, the King. The betrothal to the dowager princess of Wales was something that would evolve with the ever-changing politics of the day.
While his brother Arthur had been, practically from birth, trained in the ways of kingship, Henry’s training did not begin until he was eleven years old. The young Prince of Wales was not used to the rigorous training he received to prepare him for the throne and he only had seven-year to cram for the biggest role of his life.
At Richmond Palace, on the 21st of April 1509, King Henry VII died. He was fifty-two years old. His son, who was only eighteen years old was now King of England.
When he came to the throne, Henry VIII was described as exceptionally tall, well-proportioned, had the features of a Greek god and moved gracefully. His complexion was fair, had auburn hair and a rounded face with the features so delicately formed that they ‘would become a pretty woman’. This new, young king naturally commanded attention and authority by appearance alone.
Henry had always been fascinated by Katherine. She was beautiful and he was enchanted by her. After the death of his father, Henry decided that he would marry Katherine of Aragon. And he would claim it was his father’s wish, on his deathbed. The couple was married six weeks after Henry accession at the chapel of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich. Henry would also be quoted as writing to her father, Ferdinand of Aragon that, “If I were still free, I would still choose her for wife before all other”. They would have a double coronation, or crowning, thirteen days later, on Midsummer Day, 24th of June 1509.
It was the coronation that set the tone for Henry’s reign – it was the beginning of the Renaissance period in England. It had also been a long time since a King came to throne with such approval and adoration. It was a new era – one of education, music, jousting and overall fun. The court was full of young people, which was the opposite of the reign of his father. Henry was eager to open his father’s coffers (which were overflowing) to celebrate his new role.
If you could see how everyone here rejoices in having so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you would not contain yourself for sheer joy. Extortion is put down, liberality scatters riches with a bountiful hand, yet our King does not set his heart on gold or jewels, but on virtue, glory and immortality. The other day he told me ‘I wish I were more learned’. ‘But learning is not what we expect of a King’, I answered, ‘merely that he should encourage scholars’. ‘Most certainly’, he rejoined, ‘as without them we should scarcely live at all’. Now what more splendid remark could a prince make?
William Roper, the son-in-law of Thomas More also remembered how the young King was eager to learn. He recalled how More and the King would discuss astronomy, geometry, divinity and other worldly affairs all hours of the night. Henry truly enjoyed conversing with More and enjoyed learning from him and having discussions with him as well.
Henry VIII wasn’t always the tyrannical monarch who would execute you if you looked at him wrong – at the beginning of his reign he relented to public outcry against his father’s tax collector, Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. While the public wanted to see the men put away Henry was eager to spend the fruits of their labor.
The mood at Tudor court had changed drastically since the changing of the guard – now there was laughter in the corridors at court and continuous festivals to enjoy. Under the new administration both high-born and low-born men had the same opportunities. While Henry understood the importance of having men of noble birth and experience in key positions he also appreciated men of ambition, like Thomas Wolsey – a man who would soon become pseudo king.
That’s where we’ll end Part One of this series on Henry VIII – next we will continue you on with the story of the life of Henry VIII and understanding him a bit better in Part Two.
Mary Tudor, Queen of France was the title she earned when she married Louis XII of France. The marriage was one that was arranged by her brother, King Henry VIII of England and not a love match.
On 9 October 1514, at the age of 18, Mary Tudor married 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.
The below letter was written by the King of France to his brother-in-law, Henry VIII. In the letter he describes his delight with his new wife only a few months after their wedding.
Louis’ description of her made it seem that Mary had indeed done her duty as Princess of England. There is no indication in the letter that Mary pined for another – Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
Louis XII to Henry VIII
[Ellis’ “Original Letters,” Second Series, Vol. I.]
Paris, December 28, 1514
My good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, with all my heart I commend myself unto you very affectionately. I have by this bearer, your Officer of Arms, received the letters written by you to me on the ninth of this month, and have heard by the said bearer of the joy you had in hearing from my Cousin, the Duke of Suffolk, of my news, and the content which I have in the Queen, my wife, your good sister, who has so conducted herself towards me, and continues so to do daily, that I know not how I can sufficiently praise and express my delight in her. More and more I love, honour and hold her dear; therefore you may be certain that she is, and ever will continue to be, treated in such a manner as shall content her, and you likewise.
And as touching the reception and good cheer which my Cousin of Suffolk has told you I have made him, there is no need, my good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, to give me thanks; for I beseech you to believe that besides what I know of the place he holds about you and the the love you bear him, his virtues, honesty, and good qualities merit that he should be honoured and received as much for what he is, as for your own honour; so I have made him the best cheer that was min my power.
Howbeit as touching the secret matters which my Cousin of Suffolk has spoken to me, and on which I have made such reply as he has declared to you by my ambassadors whom I have dispatched and sent to you, you have little more to hear; therefore I entreat you very affectionately after you have heard them to take resolution thereon, and to advertise me of the same as early as it be possible, that I may dispose and order myself accordingly in following what you command me in your said letters. I will keep things in suspense without taking any conclusion thereon, advising you that in good or evil fortune I will live with you, and not only preserve the good friendship and alliance which is made and sworn betwixt us, but keep the said inviolably, watching rather to augment and increase than to diminish it, and hoping that you, on your part, will do likewise. Praying God, my good Brother, Cousin, and Comrade, that He may have you in His holy keeping.
Your loyal Brother, Cousin, and good Comrade,
Mumby, Frank Arthur; The Youth of Henry VIII, A Narrative in Contemporary Letters; page 305-306
This is taken from “Annals of Queen Elizabeth” by Sir John Hayward (1564-27 June 1627), found via public domain through National Archives.
The last sickness of Queen Mary was long and hard, her body was tired, “and almost wasted, with the violence of her disease; her mind anguished with thoughts, no less strange for variety, then strong for the great importance they drew, whereof some (doubtless) were secret and singular.”
While Mary lay in pain, “under the heavy hand of death” many rumors had spread in England and abroad that she was dead. The reaction of the people at the time showed the importance of the safety of their Queen. Some were saddened by the loss of their Queen and others were happy for their own political views would now be allowed under the rule of her Protestant sister.
“The Days of Queen Mary; Or, the Annals of her Reign” -by George Stokes
Lady Anne Russell is best-known as Countess Bedford and wife of the Lord Privy Seal. She was married several times with her most notable husband being her last, Sir John Russell. Sir John was named Lord Privy Seal by Henry VIII after the execution of Thomas Cromwell who held the title prior to his death. As any woman, Anne’s station was raised alongside her husband’s increased rank. Through her marriage to Sir John she gained the title of Countess of Bedford in 1550.
In this article we’ll look into a letter that Anne sent to Sir Thomas Cromwell in 1538 when her husband was ill. But first, we’ll look into the life of Anne Sapcote as well as her third husband Sir John Russell.
Anne Sapcote was the daughter of Sir Guy Sapcote and Margaret Wolston. She was married three times. Firstly to John Broughton, by which she had four children. Secondly, she married Sir Richard Jerningham. Lastly, she married Sir John Russell. They had one son together, Francis. Sir John Russell became Lord Privy Seal after the execution of Thomas Cromwell in 1542.
An interesting fact about Sir John Russell: (*Note: I was unable to find a primary source for this quoted text)
Early in 1506 the fleet taking the Archduke Phillip of Austria and his wife Juana were caught in a storm into Weymouth Bay. Juana was proud for she was the daughter of Isabel of Castile, the patron of Columbus. Juana put on all her fine clothes, so that when her drowned body was found on the shore she might be buried as a Spanish princess should be; but she was not buried: the ship managed to creep into Weymouth, and the people sent the royal strangers to the finest house they knew, Wolfeton, the great house owned by Sir Thomas Trenchard ten miles away. Sir Thomas was at home, but he could not speak Spanish, so he sent for his kinsmen John Russell, who was living at the farmhouse Kingston Russell House at Long Bredy Dorset. John had been in Spain and could interpret, the Spaniads were so delighted with his manner that they took him to see the King. The King Henry VII made Russell a gentleman of the privy chamber. Prior to his elevation to court he was the last of a long line of successful wine importers. – Tudor Place: Sir John Russell biography
Here is another bit about the same event that is noted on his Wikipedia page:
In 1506 John Russell was of service to Archduke Philip of Austria and Juana his wife (King and Queen of Castile) when they were shipwrecked off Weymouth, and escorted the royal couple to the royal court in London. He was one of the most accomplished gentlemen of his time and so impressed them by his gracious manners that they praised him highly to King Henry VII. He became a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VII in 1507 and to his son and successor Henry VIII in 1509, who employed him in various military and diplomatic missions during the War of the League of Cambrai. He was at the taking of Thérouanne and Tournai. He was knighted on 2 July 1522 after losing an eye at the taking of Morlaix in Brittany, and he witnessed the Battle of Pavia.
Lady Russell to Lord Cromwell:
In most humble manner, I commend me unto your lordship; so it is, that it hath pleased God to visit my husband with a burning ague, ensuring your lordship he was as sick and as sore handled with it yesterday as ever I saw him in my life; and as your lordship shall perceive by the letter there in, I sent to London to a chaplain of my husband’s, to send him physicians but he could get none that my husband had any mind to. Wherefore this shall be most heartily to beseech your lordship, of your goodness, that you will help him, so that Doctor Butts, or the Spanish physician, might come hither; for if they did but see my husband, he would think himself half healed.
Furthermore, there is a powder that the king’s grace gave to my lord Admiral which my husband hath a great mind unto; and if your lordship could get a few of that of the king’s grace for him, you should do him the greatest pleasure in the world. At the writing of this letter, I had, nor could get, no physicians, as knoweth Him, who preserve your good lordship.
By your poor beadswoman,
At Cheynes, July 29 (1538)
It seems evident from the letter that Anne cared for her husband and his health. Whether or not she loved him we don’t know. As I continue to uncover these lesser known women from Tudor court I’m always surprised that we’ve never heard of them before – that they’re not mainstream. Anne Russell is no exception. She was a remarkable woman who survived the reign of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey and Mary I.
Cardinal Wolsey was arguably the most powerful man during the early years of Henry VIII’s reign. To deny him was close to denying your king. The fact that Elizabeth Scrope did just that and stood up for herself was remarkable.
Elizabeth Scrope was the daughter of Sir Richard Scrope of Boulton and Eleanor Washbourne.¹ Elizabeth was married twice. Her first husband was William Beaumont, 2nd Viscount Beaumont. Beaumont suffered from mental illness and Parliament ruled that his land and estates were to be his handled by his comrade, John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. After Beaumont’s death in 1507 and the death of Oxford’s wife the same year, he became the second husband of Elizabeth Scrope.
Elizabeth Scrope, the Countess of Oxford and her sister, Margaret Scrope, Countess of Suffolk were both Ladies-in-Waiting to Henry VIII’s first wife Katherine of Aragon.² She also served the previous queen consort Elizabeth of York.
At the time of his death, the Earl of Oxford was staying at Wivenhoe and Castle Hedingham in Essex. This would explain why Wolsey was writing his widow, the now dowager Countess of Oxford, about obtaining stone from another location in Essex. Harwich.
This correspondence is in response to a request from Cardinal Wolsey in 1528.
To my Lord Cardinal’s good grace,
Pleaseth it youR grace, I have received your honourable letters dated the 2d of July, whereby I perceive your request is that I would grant unto your grace, for the foundation of your college in Ipswich as much stone and calions out of my cliff of Harwich as will be thought necessary by the masters of your works there for the foundation of the same; to the which your grace’s request I am as glad and desirous to condescend, if it might there be had without prejudice or hurt in time coming unto my town there.
And where upon the request made in your grace’s name by your chaplain, in that behalf, I sent my receiver Daniell there to meet your said chaplains, to the intent that they then and there my perceive and know how much might resonably be borne; and it was well perceived, and I credibly informed by the tenants and inhabitants there, little might be forborne, unless the town’s great prejudice, forasmuch as the cliff is not of stone,, but only the stone there remaining lieth as a foreland to defend the same: if that were gone the cliff to be washed away within short space, to the utter destruction of the town. notwithstanding, as much as might be reasonably forborne your grace to have the same, to stay your works for the time. Certifying your grace, in that being nothing prejudicial unto the strength and defence of the town, I would as gladly to do your grace pleasure as any poor woman living. Beseeching your grace to accept herein my good mind, who is always at your commandment; as knoweth our Lord, who preserve your grace in prosperous estate long to endure.
Written the 8th day of July.
Your continual beadwoman,
The above letter explains to Wolsey that she cannot under good conscience allow his men to take stone from Harwich since what remains there cannot be removed. If the existing stone is removed, the cliff will wash away and destroy the town. Seems like a logical reason to deny his request, right? We do not have Wolsey’s reply to her but her response back shows that he was none too pleased with her denial of his request.
Pleaseth your grace, I have received your honourable letters, dated the 15th day of July; the contents whereof being not a little to my discomfort. Where your grace doth suppose my denial of your request for the stone and calions was but a pretence of hinderance to my town of Harwich, I humbly beseech your grace to accept therein my true and faithful mind, and not to conject it to be done under any such manner. And to the intent your grace shall well perceive in any wise I would avoid your displeasure, and glad to do the thing to your grace most acceptable, and ever have been, am very well contented you shall take your pleasure in my said haven, and have not denied your formal request by any manner wilfulness, but only did give your grace knowledge as I was informed by credible persons. Humbly beseeching your grace in like manner to accept, and be it hurtful or otherwise, your grace to do your pleasure; forasmuch as I always have found you my most gracious and very singlular good lord, not doubting of the same hereafter. And thus the blessed Trinity preserve your grace in prosperous estate, long to endure.
Written the 22nd day of July.
Your continual beadwoman,
The outcome of these letters is unknown. I have been unable to find out if Wolsey demanded she heed his request. Either way, the fact that Elizabeth Scrope was a woman, and a widow at that, who was brave enough to stand up to Wolsey and deny his request is amazing. She should be applauded for her bravery.
Building began in 1528 on a very ambitious project for a college in Ipswich. Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was an Ipswich native and intended the new school to be a feeder to his recently built ‘Cardinal’s College’ of Oxford University, which is now known as Christ Church. Unfortunately, Wolsey fell out of favor with Henry VIII (probably because of Anne Boleyn) and the college was demolished in 1530 – it was only half built. The only thing left standing is the cherished ‘Wolsey Gate’.