Illegitimate Daughter of Charles V: Margaret of Parma (Guest Post)

Part One by Heather R. Darsie

Margaret of Parma was born 5 July 1522 to the twenty-two-year-old holy Roman Emperor Charles V and his paramour, Johanna van der Gheenst. She was born in Oudenaarde, Netherlands.  Margaret was the eldest of all of Charles’ children. Charles met Johanna during a six week-long visit to Charles de Lalaing, Count of Lalaing’s home in late 1521. There, Charles met Johanna, and their daughter Margaret was born the following summer.

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Thomas the Diplomat and the Siege of Pest

During my continual research of Thomas Seymour I have come across a many letters that he wrote during his diplomatic missions. I will be honest, when I first found these letters I glanced at them and my eyes instantly glazed over. Most of these letters contained what I considered a bunch of military jargon that made little sense to me.

It wasn’t until very recently that I decided to look at the letters again to help me truly understand who Thomas Seymour was. He wasn’t just the fourth son of John and Margery Wentworth, or the brother of Queen Jane and Edward Seymour – he was a soldier, a man of the sea, an ambassador to the Low Countries and to the King of Hungary. He was also, by the standards of the mid-16th century, worldly. Thomas had traveled to France, Germany, Austria and Hungary…to name the ones that I know of for sure. He was, for the most part well-liked by all. Thomas had the charisma that his brother Edward did not; and the looks his sister Jane apparently lacked.

As I navigated through the passages of these letters, I discovered that Thomas had a flare for the dramatic as well. There is one part where he states “we have lost our boats” – making it appear worse by not expounding. When reading that line you get the impression that ships sank. Quite the contrary, they just veered off course. Thomas had a way of drawing attention to himself, even in letters.

It is with all this in mind that I chose to write about what I believe was Thomas’ first mission abroad – As ambassador to the King of Hungary.

In order to grasp the entire subject of this post, I need to start with the Siege of Buda – this will help a bit to explain the events leading up to Thomas Seymour being appointed ambassador in 1542.

Siege of Buda (1541)

The Siege of Buda lasted from 4 May to 21 August 1541 and resulted in the capture of Buda (in Hungary) by the Ottoman Empire, headed by Suleimanthe Magnificent.

Siege of Buda, 1541 by Erhardt Scho?n

A little back story: Ferdinand of Hungary was the ruler of the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs. and two years before the Siege of Buda, his accomplished commander, Wilhelm von Roggendorf resigned from combat. — Well, when it was decided that Ferdinand and his allies would lay siege on Buda, von Roggendorf could not resist a good fight for his master. He threw on his armor and joined the allies probably in Vienna.

The Hapsburg Empire and the Ottoman Empire had a lasting feud with one another. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and Suleiman the Magnificent, ruler of the Ottoman Empire, appear to have enjoyed fighting one another for the land in Hungary.

Ferdinand, in 1541, was the King of Hungary, Bohemia, Germany, Croatia, King of the Romans and Archduke of Austria. Between Ferdinand and his brother the Emperor, those two ruled most of Europe. By the 16th century, the Ottomans had become a serious threat to the European powers.

This siege was nothing new. From 1526 – 1568, the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in a series of campaigns called the Little War of Hungary…that’s 42 years of fighting! Am I the only one that thinks 42 years is far from little?

The conflict with Buda had really begun much, much earlier.

This was an ongoing battle with the winner often changing. So the Habsburgs claimed it and then it was taken by the Ottoman Empire. The Habsburgs reclaimed Buda and eventually the Ottoman Empire snatched it up again. That is exactly what happened leading up to the Siege of Buda. The Ottoman Empire after claiming Buda again decided that they wanted Vienna as well and would try to use the momentum gained from the victory at Buda. It did not work and they were horribly defeated in Vienna.

So we are left with both Buda and Pest in the hands of the Ottoman Empire after the Siege of Buda. Of course, the Habsburgs could not let this be. They wanted both Buda and Pest back in their control.

This is when England and Thomas Seymour comes into the story.

Siege of Pest (1542)

In June 1542, Thomas Seymour was named ambassador to the court of King Ferdinand of Hungary. A trip to Nuremberg quickly followed and Thomas was accompanied by Charles Howard. Charles was the brother of the late Katheryn Howard and Thomas the brother of the late Jane Seymour. The trip to Nuremberg would be the beginning of their trip to take part in the expedition against Hungary, or what it would later be called, “Siege of Pest”.

Thomas Seymour’s estimated (by modern maps) path from England to Hungary.


It appears from letters that this ambassador traveled with the allied troops and discussed any interactions he may had as ambassador to Hungary.

The allies traveled through Europe until they arrived at Vienna, where (it appears) they regrouped before heading to their final stop before Buda, at Esztergom.

On the 6th of July 1542, it was reported that the whole army would moved on Buda (it would take about 10 days from Esztergom). Thomas Seymour, in a letter, tells King Henry that there are about 80,000 troops in all, of which 6,000 were upon the Danube, in boats. Along the way the army was able to determine that Buda was strongly fortified with 15,000 men.

Vienna to Ezstergom to Buda and Pest.

Then on the 10th of July, Thomas wrote to King Henry that the army ‘is camped on the other side of the Danube’. Half of the army came across the Danube by the town castle, where the king and queen, as well as lords and ladies stood for ‘8 or 9 hours‘ to see them pass. I have been trying to figure out which castle he is referring to in his letter. I’m assuming that he is referring to the mammoth sized Buda Castle that lies on the banks of the Danubebut I cannot be certain on their plan of attack.

The following day the rest of the men followed. In the same letter to his King, Thomas explains how the King (of Hungary) did not intend to besiege Buda the following day and that he planned to depart for Nuremberg to meet the Council of the Empire.

So, here is Thomas, ambassador to Hungary, and he just revealed that the man who the English army was there to assist (brother to the Emperor), would abandon the field to go to Nuremberg for a meeting.

The plan moving forward was that the army would besiege Pest. If they won the battle they would fortify it and end the campaign for the year. Once fortified they would await the instructions from the Council of the Empire.

Siege of Pest, after Enea Vico, 1542.

There was a snag in the plans when the Turks chose not to send their 8,000 footmen, but in their place they would send 20,000 light horse. Seymour then goes on to explain in his letter that they will ‘tarry here five days for pioneers to mend the way’.

The scene changed a bit by the time August arrived – still in Hungary, here is a transcribed letter by Thomas Seymour:

News is here so uncertain that he cannot vouch for it. The Turk is coming in person to Buda with 300,000 men, divided in six battles, intending to attack on six sundry days. This army intends, therefore, to tract time until the midst of October; for in the end of October the Danube is frozen, so that the Turk cannot then bring his victuals by water. If it was certain that the Turk would not come in person, even if he sent 200,000 men, as Baron Hedeke says, they would straight to Pest, which could be taken in three days, and then besiege Buda, which might be battered sufficiently for the assault in eight days. Missing it, they would garrison Pest, Stregone, Rabbe, and other strongholds and retire home for the winter. This enterprise can wait six weeks yet. The Turk has lately sent 14,000 men to Buda and Pest, making 32,000 in all; but they are sore punished with plague, men falling dead as they walk in the streets.

A few days after his letter to Henry VIII, the King replied to Thomas Seymour telling him that he had essentially done his job as ambassador and that his ‘service here is required‘ and that ‘shall upon receipt of this take leave and return home‘.

So…evidently, Thomas left Buda and headed back toward Vienna, because that is the next time we hear from him, on the 5th of September where he updates the progress of the upcoming siege.

Sir Thomas Seymour, ambassador to Hungary.

So the Bishop of Warden sent a man to the King of Hungary and told him that if he will come to Buda in person that the Bishop will accompany him with 8,000 horses. If he does NOT come then neither he nor the 15,000 troops at Stregonne (Esztergom)will advance.

Inevitably, the Siege of Pest was a failure. The ally armies were led by a seasoned Austrian military leader, Wilhelm von Roggendorf. Roggendorf was wounded in battle near the end of the siege and died two days later.

Had it been the King of Hungary leading his men this story may have had a different ending. King Ferdinand, whatever his reasons, left HIS battle! Does that seem odd to you?

On the 5th of October, Thomas Seymour reported that ‘after battering a breach, they assaulted Pest, but failed; and afterwards, for lack of wages, the soldiers refused to keep watch and ward or to make assault’.

After all the excitement in Hungary, Thomas Seymour was sent back (under order of the King) to Nuremberg. There he had more discussions and negotiations with other German ambassadors who said they would not fight for the Emperor, but that they could find men who would.

As stated previously, the Siege of Pest was an utter failure and the Ottoman Empire ruled there for another 150 years!

Before doing all this research I did not really know anything about Ferdinand of Hungary. Once I discovered he was the brother to the Holy Roman Emperor it all made more sense.

Here is Charles V and his wife Isabella of Portugal. Charles was the son of Juana of Castile, and Isabella the daughter of Maria of Aragon. Juana and Maria were both sisters of Katherine of Aragon. Charles and Isabella were not only husband and wife but also first cousins.

Now, check this out: Ferdinand of Hungary, younger than Charles V by about three years. He doesn’t appear to have the strong Hapsburg chin but definitely the long jaw.

Portrait of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, 1559 – Workshop of Jan Cornelisz. Vermeyen

Let’s be honest, if you look at their portraits side by side you’ll notice the similarity in features. They were, by the way, both sons of Philip I and Juana of Castile. Juana, the sister of Katherine of Aragon.

Charles on the left and Ferdinand on the right.

So, that’s the story of Thomas Seymour as diplomat and the Siege of Pest. I truly hope you enjoyed taking this adventure with me to learn the truth about Thomas’ life and another interesting piece of Tudor history. I will continue on this path for future posts!

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Queen Mary’s False Pregnancies

false pregnancies

On the 19th of July 1553, Mary Tudor was declared Queen of England. From that moment (and obviously prior to it) she understood the importance of having an heir. For if she did not produce an heir her sister Elizabeth would keep England Protestant. It was very important for Mary to return England to Rome and resume the Catholic faith to her country.

Philip and Mary

It wasn’t until the 25th of July 1554, that Mary and Philip were married. Her biological clock was already ticking – Mary was born in 1516, making her thirty-eight years old by the time she was married. Not impossible for a woman of that age to conceive a child but surely she understood it would be an uphill battle. I feel Mary was optimistic that God would grace her with a son, especially if she returned England to the Catholic faith…and Rome.

By September 1554, Mary believed herself pregnant for the first time. At this point in history, medical advances were minimal and doctors were unable to tell the difference between a false pregnancy and a real one. They also believed that Mary was with child. The only way to know if the pregnancy was real is if it produced a child, and if it was false, well time would tell. Mary had even claimed that by the end of the month that she felt the baby move in her womb. How was anyone to know that this was a false pregnancy?

Even Mary’s father-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V was reporting the Queen’s pregnancy in a letter he wroteto Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of his) he is quoted as saying: “she is now considered certainly to be with child and that people in general are pleased with the King and all…”

A couple of days later, Charles V writes to his son Philip saying, ” I only wish to say how overjoyed I am to hear of the condition of the Queen, my good daughter, and that there is hope that God will give us successors by her. She had no need to excuse herself for not writing in her own hand, for my desire is that she should be careful of her health and take things easily, especially in her present condition.”

Hopes were high that an heir was near. This news was as important to England as it was to Spain. Philip was the heir to his father, Charles V and to have a son was indeed a top priority for Spain as well.

The pressures of producing an heir for Mary were so great that it may have assisted in the creation of the false pregnancy, or, as some have speculated, Mary may have been suffering from an ailment. Possibly ovarian cancer. Which at the time doctors/physicians would not be necessarily aware of.

In November (6th) 1554, the Spanish ambassador reported to the Emperor that, “There is no doubt that the Queen is with child, for her stomach clearly shows it and her dresses no longer fit her.”

Written November 14, 1554 – Luis Vanegas to Charles V: “The Queen is in excellent health and three months with child. She is fatter and has a better colour than when she was married, a sign that she is happier, and indeed she is said to be very happy.”.

By February 1555, Philip wished to travel to Spain to speak with his father (Charles V) – the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard reported in a letter to the Emperor that the Queen was very melancholy “these last three days, because she had heard that the King wished to visit your Majesty before her confinement.”

As per custom of the time, Mary would be required to go into confinement six weeks before the birth – she had believed the child would arrive in May, so preparations began in April. At the time it was considered improper for any men, other than the husband, to attend the Queen this late into her pregnancy. By the middle of April preparations were complete.8Mary’s doctors became nervous regarding their responsibility involved in the birth of the child. Privately they were pessimistic for a positive outcome. Mary was older and her mental state was unstable. It appears that her appetite had decreased so much so that the doctors worried the child was not receiving the nutrition it needed to survive.

On 30 April 1555, there was a similar rejoicing over the birth of a royal infant: bells rang, bonfires were lit and there were celebrations in the street, following news that Mary I had given birth to a healthy son.6

800px-Mary1_by_Eworth_3Another letter written by the Spanish ambassador, Simon Renard to Charles V on the 5th of May 1555 states, “A few days ago there was a rumour that the Queen had given birth to a child, whereupon the people of London and several other places held great rejoicings, with bonfires, true evidence of joy. It is said that the same thing happened when the late King Edward was born.”

On 8 May 1555, Ruy Gmez de Silva (Portuguese noble) sent a message to Francisco de Eraso (a prominent secretary of Charles V)that stated, “Your letter of 6 May written from Antwerp reached me this morning and told me about the false news that had arrived there of the Queen’s deliverance. I am writing to Spain with a messenger who is going over-land, excusing you for sending the tidings and explaining how it happened. As I have already said, the same false news were circulating here in London.”

By June there was still no news of a royal baby and before they knew it it was July and still no child had arrived. Mary had convinced everyone that her timing was off and that a child was near.6 The Queen issued a statement that God would not allow her child to be born until all the Protestant dissenters were punished, beginning another round of executions.6

Mary had clung to hope much longer than her doctors, and many around her amused her by holding out hope for a child, but behind her back pitied her for her delusions. It seems everyone understood there would be no child except for Mary. But was she really that delusional? I find it hard to believe that she, at this point, hadn’t figured it out. Yes, the symptoms she showed would indicate a pregnancy but it had not progressed to the point of labor.9

By the time July came around hopes were certainly dashed of a child ever being born. Simon Renard wroteCharles V -“the Queen’s deliverance is delayed and it is doubted whether she is really with child, although outward signs are good and she asserts that she is indeed pregnant.”4

During many false pregnancy rumors there included some that she was never pregnant at all and that the fetus had been a pet monkey or a lap dog. There were also rumors of a plot to pass along another’s baby as the queen’s own – they said that Lord North was the agent to try to procure a suitable child.6

On August 13, 1555 – Philip Nigri to Jehan Carette, President of the Emperor’s Court of Accounts - ”We still have hopes that a child will be born to England by the end of this month. We shall see what God sends us. . . .”5

In August, the 11th month of her false pregnancy, Mary emerged from her confinement chamber at last. She was impossibly thin, utterly silent and completely humiliated. No word of her pregnancy was mentioned at court again, at least officially.6

In the end, it is believed that Mary suffered from pseudocyesis, which is sometimes called a “phantom pregnancy.” It is still something today that is not completely understood and appears that between one and six out of every 22,000 pregnancies turn out to be phantom, or false.10 It just so happens that Queen Mary I became one of those stats.

It has been said that from youth Mary suffered from a retention of her menstrual fluids along with a “strangulation of her womb”. This time, her body had swelled to give the appearance of pregnancy and her breast had enlarged and even sent out milk.11 All pointed towards pregnancy.

Mary’s midwife and an old maid who attended her since childhood were both pessimistic of the pregnancy being real – they had been there in the past when she suffered so greatly from menstrual pains and now, several times a day, the Queen spent long hours sitting on the floor, with her knees drawn up to her chin.11 If this account is true then they indeed had predicted correctly. They were women as well, they understood that a pregnant women (in most instances) would be unable to draw her knees up to her chin. It would be nearly impossible.

If we look at the symptoms that Mary had and compare them to those of ovarian cancer you’ll see the similarities.

Mary’s symptoms: Lack of menstrual bleeding, swollen and tender breasts which sent out milk, her body swelled.

Some of the symptoms of ovarian cancer that also coincide with Mary’s pregnancy include: Bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, fatigue, back pain, changes in menstrual cycle, abdominal swelling.12

Again, towards the end of her life Mary thought she was with child. This time it seemed highly unlikely from the get-go because Philip had been away at the estimated time of conception. This was again a phantom pregnancy and Mary would die without an heir to her Catholic throne.

Sources: ’Spain: October 1554, 16-31′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 71-76. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2016]. ’Spain: May 1555, 1-10′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 168-170. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016]. ’Spain: November 1554, 1-15′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 76-95. British History Online [accessed 17 May 2016].

4 ’Spain: July 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 226-239. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016].

5 ’Spain: August 1555′, in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13, 1554-1558, ed. Royall Tyler (London, 1954), pp. 239-249. British History Online [accessed 13 May 2016].



8Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII (Children of England)

9The History of Mary I, Queen of England as found in Public Records, page 350;


11Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne


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