Illegitimate Children of Henry VIII


Many ruling English monarchs fathered illegitimate children – Henry VIII was no exception. The one illegitimate child we know the most about is Henry Fitzroy, son of Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount.

Henry Fitzroy – Born 15 June 1519

Henry Fitzroy was born 15 June 1519 to Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount and Henry VIII. The King thought he would never have a son – the birth, and survival of Henry Fitzroy proved to him that the problem stemmed from his wife and queen, Katherine of Aragon. The boy was given the name “Fitzroy” to show that the king acknowledged his bastard son, for the name “Fitzroy” means, “son of the king.”

Henry Fitzroy (illegitimate) 15 June 1519 - 23 July 1536 (Bessie Blount)
Henry Fitzroy (illegitimate) 15 June 1519 – 23 July 1536 (Bessie Blount)

As far as Henry Fitzroy’s story goes he was the luckiest of the illegitimate children of Henry VIII. Since the king seemed unable to have a son with Katherine of Aragon, it put more significance on the fact that he was able to produce a healthy boy with his mistress, Lady Blount. At the age of six, on 24 Apr 1525, Fitzroy was created Knight of the Garter. Then on 16 Jun of 1525 he was also titled, Earl of Nottingham and Duke of Richmond. Only a month later he was titled Admiral of England, Ireland and Normandy.


Others suspected of being Henry VIII’s illegitimate children include:

Thomas Stukley (Stukeley, Stuckley, Stucley) –  Born 1520

It has been speculated that Jane Pollard was mistress to Henry VIII and Thomas was Henry’s illegitimate son. Thomas Stukely was born c. 1520 to Jane Pollard, the wife of Sir Hugh Stukley. Thomas was an English mercenary who died at the Battle of Alcazar in 1578.

Stukeley and Henry VIII (1533)

Elizabeth Tailboys – Born c. April 1520

Elizabeth Tailboys was born c. April 1520 to Elizabeth “Bessie” Blount, wife of Gilbert Tailboys, and half-sister to Henry Fitzroy. Some believe that Elizabeth is also the daughter of Henry VIII since she was supposedly conceived shortly after Bessie gave birth to Henry Fitzroy. Also, Gilbert and Bessie married within weeks of Henry’s birth – Bessie was most likely pregnant when they married. The quick marriage could have been a way for the king to cover up the fact that he fathered another illegitimate child with Bessie.

If Elizabeth had been a boy, would Henry VIII tried to claim the child and name him Fitzroy as well?

“There is also evidence that Henry VIII took an interest in Elizabeth Tailboys, above and beyond that which would be expected of the child of a former mistress. During his northern progress in 1541, for example, Henry spent the night of 13 October at Nocton in Lincolnshire, the home of Elizabeth Tailboys and her first husband, Thomas Wymbish. It was also Henry who provided this wealthy husband for Elizabeth.”

Catherine Carey – c. 1524

Catherine Carey was the daughter of Henry VIII’s mistress, Mary Boleyn. Mary was the sister of Henry’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. In 1520 Mary wedded William Carey. Catherine was born c. 1524, and it is suspected that Henry had continued his affair with Mary after she had married William Carey – we all know, what the king wanted, he got. In the portrait below of Catherine there is an uncanny resemblance to Henry VIII.

  • The husband of Mary (Boleyn) Carey, William Carey received Royal Grants in 1524 and 1526. Those grants are thought to coincide with the birth of Catherine and her brother, Henry Carey. It is believed that Henry VIII was compensating William Carey for the fact that these were not his (William’s) biological children, and that his wife was having an affair with the King of England.
  • When Henry VIII wanted a papal dispensation to marry Anne Boleyn, he is suspected of doing so because he fathered children with her sister, Mary.


Richard Edwardes – Born 25 March 1525

Richard Edwardes/Edwards was born 25 March 1525 to Agnes Blewitt Edwards. Richard was an English poet, playwright and composer – all of which Henry VIII was also known for. Richard Edwardeswas made a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and became master of the singing boys. He was also rumoured to be an illegitimate son of Henry VIII.

There is not much information regarding his mother or Richard himself, which leads us to believe that he was not an illegitimate child of Henry VIII, or that we need more information.

To see an example of one of his poems – Click <HERE>


Henry Carey – 4 March 1526

Henry Carey was the second child of Henry VIII’s mistress, Mary (Boleyn) Carey and her husband, William Carey. He was born 4 March 1526. Some historians have also speculated that he might have been an illegitimate child of Henry VIII.

When William Carey died on 23 June 1528, Anne Boleyn was granted the wardship of her nephew. Why wouldn’t Mary be allowed to raise her own son after the death of her husband? Seems a little strange.

In April 1535, the nine year old Henry Carey was apparently living at Syon, Isleworth, Middlesex when he was referred to as the king’s son.

Henry Carey died 23 July 1596 and was buried in St. John the Baptist’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, at Queen Elizabeth I’s expense. Although Henry Carey was known to be poor, his tomb was the was the tallest in Westminster Abbey, at thirty-six feet high. It was made of alabaster and marble.




Etherlreda “Audrey” Malte – 1527

Ethelreda Malte  was born c. 1527 to Joan Dingley, alias Dobson and her husband, John Malte.

Ehtelreda “Audrey”was an English courtier who was reputed to be an illegitimate daughter of King Henry VIII. She was the wife of poet and writer John Harington.

Reports claim “Audrey” was fathered by Henry VIII, but not much is known about her mother – Joan Dingley/Dobson; under the circumstances, Joan would have been a member of the lesser nobility, not well-connected at court. One theory is she was a laundress, although Henry never openly acknowledged “Audrey”, he did give John Malte land and properties after Malte recognized her as his own daughter.

John Perrot – November 1528

John Perrot was born in November 1528 to Mary Berkeley, the wife of Sir Thomas Perrot.

John Perrot resembled Henry VIII in temperament and physical appearance, and it was believed he was the bastard son of Henry VIII.

His mother had been, briefly, mistress of Henry VIII, and his paternity has been ascribed to the King whom he resembled in physique and coloring.

The main source for this belief was Sir Robert Naunton (husband of Perrot’s granddaughter, Penelope), who had never known Perrot and used second-hand accounts to make his case. The case is weakened by the fact that Perrot was Mary Berkeley’s third child, not her first, and that she and the King are not recorded to have been in the same place at the crucial time. 

Naunton claimed that Sir Owen Hopton, Lieutenant of the Tower of London, overheard Perrot say, “Will the Queen suffer her brother to be offered up as a sacrifice to the envy of his frisking adversaries?”, suggesting that Perrot himself asserted his royal paternity. However, Hopton had been removed from office by the Queen eighteen months prior to Perrot’s imprisonment, so he could not have overheard Perrot make the claim there.”


The Anne Boleyn Files,%20Kings%201066-1603.htm#HenryVIIIdied1547B

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Henry’s Children – Which Parent Do They Look Most Like?

I know I am not the only one who stares at portraits and compares them to find similar facial features. Someone suggested a side by side of their portraits to see which parent each child looks most like. I did my best to find images that looked similar. Please weigh in – in the comment section below! Hope you enjoy!

Mary - Henry or Katherine?
Mary – Henry or Katherine?
Henry Fitzroy – Henry & poss. Bessie?
Elizabeth - Henry or Anne?
Elizabeth – Henry or Anne?
edward vl
Edward – Henry or Jane?

Bessie Blount and Her Son: Henry Fitzroy

Unconfirmed image of Bessie Blount
Unconfirmed image of Bessie Blount

Elizabeth Blount came to court as a maid-of-honor to Katherine of Aragon. A maid-of-honor was considered a junior attendant under lady-in-waiting to the queen. She was more commonly known as Bessie. Bessie was the daughter ofSir John Blount and Catherine Pershall. Her father, Sir John, was known to be extremely loyal to the royal family.

Not much is known about Bessie Blount in her early years – other than she was a great beauty. It was at court that the teenagercaught the eye of Henry VIIIand became his mistress sometime between 1514 and 1516.

On 15 June 1519 Bessie Blount gave birth to a son – the illegitimate son of the king. They called him Henry Fitzroy. Using the name Fitzroy made it apparent that he was an acknowledged son by the king.

Henry Fitzroy (1519-36) was the illegitimate son of Henry and his mistress Elizabeth Blount, and he was, according to Hall’s Chronicle, ‘well brought up, like a prince’s child’. In 1525, worried about the succession, the king seriously considered making the boy his heir. He was given noble titles and sent to York, with a great household, as titular head of the Council of the North. In 1532 he went to France for a year, and after his return he married the Duke of Norfolk’s only daughter, a union that was unconsummated because of their youth.” – The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603 – Susan Doran

Bessie and Henry’s affair supposedly lasted until the birth of Henry Fitzroy. Not long after the birth of her son Henry there was a marriage arranged for Bessie withGilbert Tailboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme. They married in 1520. This would have signified the end of her affair with the king.

Elizabeth, or Bessie Blount as she is more famously known, is one of the few mistresses of Henry VIII whose name is remembered today. She was a love of Henry VIIIs youth before he met Anne Boleyn and decided to end his first marriage to take her as his wife. Bessie would have had no conception that there was any possibility that the king might choose to make her his queen and she was happy to accept the role of royal mistress. It was the birth of her son, Henry Fitzroy, the only acknowledged illegitimate child of the king, that brought her to prominence. As her son aged and the kings first and second marriages failed to provide him with the male heir he craved, Bessie came to increasing prominence as the mother of the kings son. At one point her sons accession as Henry IX looked a virtual certainty and there were even rumours that Henry VIII might take her as his bride in order to increase the standing of their child.” – Bessie Blount, Mistress to Henry VIII- Elizabeth Norton

Some have speculated that first child Bessie had with her husband Gilbert, Elizabeth Tailboys also belonged to Henry VIII. Elizabeth Tailboys was born c. 1520. To help explain – this bit from Elizabeth Norton’s guest post on The Anne Boleyn Files:

In an Inquisition Post Mortem for Bessies youngest son, Robert Tailboys, which was dated 26 June 1542, Elizabeth Tailboys, was described as being then twenty-two years old.2 She must therefore have been born between July 1519 and June 1520. Obviously she cannot have been born within nine months of her mothers eldest child, meaning that April 1520 must be the earliest possible birth date. Even a birth date of June 1520, the latest possible birth date, would mean a conception in early September 1519, within a few months of Henry Fitzroys birth.”

We’ll never know for certain if Elizabeth Tailboys was indeed daughter to Henry VIII, but what are the odds that Henry VIIIstopped pursuing Bessie after her marriage to Gilbert?

As far as Henry Fitzroy’s story goes he was one of the lucky illegitimate children of a king. Since the king seemed unable to have a son with the queen it put more significance in the fact that he had a son with his mistress. At the age of six, on 24 Apr 1525, Fitzroy was created Knight of the Garter. Then on 16 Jun of 1525 he was also titled, Earl of Nottingham andDuke of Richmond. Only a month later he was titledAdmiral of England, Ireland and Normandy.

Jorge H. Castelli of Tudor Place says, “When Richmondwas made Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, there was a plan to crown him King of that country, though the King’s counsellors feared that making a separate Kingdom of Ireland whose ruler was not that of England would create another King of Scotland.

by R. Clamp, published by E. & S. Harding, after Sylvester Harding, stipple engraving, published 1794
by R. Clamp/ National Portrait Gallery, London

On 28 November 1533 Fitzroy married Lady Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk. It is said that their marriage was never consummated due to their age.

The wife of Henry Fitzroy - Lady Mary Howard.
The wife of Henry Fitzroy – Lady Mary Howard.

In July 1536, Henry Fitzroy died at the age of 17 from Tuberculosis.

His death was a huge blow for Henry VIII, not only because he loved his son deeply but because he was left without an heir. Henry had made both his daughters illegitimate and now he couldnt even legitimize his bastard son. Suzannah Lipscomb lists Henry Fitzroys death as one of the events of 1536 that sent Henry over the edge and changed the King for ever.”

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