Revision of Last Will and Testament: Henry VIII

by Rebecca Larson

After the death of an English monarch in the 14th and 15th centuries there was general chaos surrounding the throne. Different factions believed their person should indeed be King of England. This was really highlighted after Richard II handed over his crown to his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, aka Henry IV. The Wars of the Roses then helped to decimate the remaining pool of contestants to only a few.

An act of succession was always an important to a ruling monarch and Henry VIII was no exception. Today we look at his acts of succession and his revision to his will on 30 December 1546.

Third Act of Succession (1544)

In July 1543, Parliament enacted the Third Act of Succession (1544) which overrode both the first and second act of succession. What were those you say? The First Act of Succession was to ensure that the children of Henry and Anne Boleyn inherited the throne after his death and the Second Act of Succession favored the children of Henry and Jane Seymour. The Third Act of Succession which had gained royal assent when Parliament closed in February 1544 determined a new line of succession. This one led with Edward, then Edward’s children. After Edward any son Henry VIII might have with Katherine Parr, and then that son’s children. It didn’t stop there – if Henry VIII married again after Katherine Parr any future wives children by him…of course sons. It wasn’t until then that Mary, any of her children and then Elizabeth and any of her children were included. It would seem a long way before Mary and Elizabeth would get a chance to rule.


untitled-design First Act of Succession
untitled-design-1 Second Act of Succession

Revision to Henry’s Will

On the 30th of December 1546, an ill Henry VIII signed a revised last will and testament. Historian Eric Ives stated the changes were made to ensure a successful transfer of royal authority to his son and heir, Prince Edward. There has also been speculation that after this version was signed, and after Henry’s death, the will was changed.

Here are a couple of abstracts pulled from Cambridge University – The Historic Journal

The 30 December 1546 date for the finalizing of Henry VIll’s will is vindicated and the text re-established as the king’s own work, namely (1) the supposed priority of a copy dated 13 December is shown to be erroneous; (2) the hypothesis that the will was manipulated by faction is rejected because (a) a reconstruction of the operating procedure of the Dry Stamp Office indicates the strong probability of the traditional date, (b) analysis of provisions allegedly suggesting forgery reveals no valid grounds for suspicion, and (c) circumstantial evidence; (3) the real interest of the Seymour faction in January 1547 is demonstrated as lying in implementing the king’s intentions. An hypothesis is offered as to the king’s motives. The prominence given to reformers is explained as projecting forward a movement from orthodoxy to reform which was inherent in the Supremacy. The conciliar provisions for Edward’s reign are argued to be an attempt to create a closed regency council which would prevent both faction and individual bids for supremacy. The fact that Edward Seymour could become de facto regent only by a coup which jettisoned the will, is a vindication of Henry’s provisions.

Ives, E.W. (1992) ‘Henry VIII’s will – a forensic conundrum’, The Historical Journal, 35(4), pp. 779-804.

In this one the author argues Ives’ lack of mentioning William Paget’s later testimony…

Professor Ives has demonstrated the weakness of some of the grounds for thinking that Henry VIII’s will was tampered with after 30 December 1546. But he has not mentioned Paget’s later testimony suggesting that the ‘unfulfilled gifts clause’ was inserted in the will after 12 January 1547. Even if it was part of the will by 30 December, the gifts implemented by its authority resulted from later skilful and ruthless manipulation of the king. Henry’s ‘unwritten will’ greatly strengthened Edward Seymour and his allies and gave William Paget, who was largely responsible for its final shape, the means of buying off potential objectors to Seymour’s elevation to the protectorship.

Houlbrooke, R.A. (1994) ‘Henry VIII’s wills: a comment’, The Historical Journal, 37(4), pp. 891-899. doi: 10.1017/S0018246X00015144.


Henry VIII’s Last Will & Testament (30 December 1546)

Remembering the great benefits given him by Almighty God, and trusting that every Christian who dies in steadfast faith and endeavours, if he have leisure, to do such good deeds and charitable works as Scripture commands, is ordained, by Christ’s Passion, to eternal life, Henry VIII. makes such a Will as he trusts shall be acceptable to God, Christ, and the whole company of Heaven, and satisfactory to all godly brethren in Earth. Repenting his old life, and resolved never to return to the like, he humbly bequeaths his soul to God, who in the person of His son redeemed it and for our better remembrance thereof “left here with us in his Church Militant the consecration and administration of his precious Body and Blood”; and he desires the Blessed Virgin and holy company of Heaven to pray for and with him, while he lives and in the time of his passing hence, that he may after this “the sooner attain everlasting life.” For himself he would be content that his body should be buried in any place accustomed for Christian folks, but, for the reputation of the dignity to which he has been called, he directs that it shall be laid in the choir of his college of Windesour, midway between the stalls and the high altar, in a tomb now almost finished in which he will also have the bones of his wife, Queen Jane. And there an altar shall be furnished for the saying of daily masses while the world shall endure. The tombs of Henry VI. and Edward IV. are to be embellished. Upon his death, his executors shall, as soon as possible, cause the service for dead folk to be celebrated at the nearest suitable place, convey his body to Windsor to be buried with ceremonies (described), and distribute 1,000 mks. In alms to the poor “(common beggars, as much as may be, avoided)” with injunctions to pray for his soul. St. George’s College in Windsor Castle shall be endowed (if he shall not have already done it) with lands to the yearly value of 600l., and the dean and canons shall, by indenture, undertake:–(1) to find two priests to say mass at the aforesaid altar; (2) to keep yearly four solemn obits at which 10l. shall be distributed in alms; (3) to give thirteen poor men, to be called Poor Knights, each 12d. a day, and yearly a long gown of white cloth &c. (described), one of the thirteen being their governor and having, in addition, 3l. 6s. 8d. yearly; and (4) to cause a sermon to be made every Sunday at Windsor.

Succession Portion of the Will

As to the succession of the Crown, it shall go to Prince Edward and the heirs of his body. In default, to Henry’s children by his present wife, Queen Catharine, or any future wife. In default, to his daughter Mary and the heirs of her body, upon condition that she shall not marry without the written and sealed consent of a majority of the surviving members of the Privy Council appointed by him to his son Prince Edward. In default, to his daughter Elizabeth upon like condition. In default, to the heirs of the body of Lady Frances, eldest daughter of his late sister the French Queen. In default, to those of Lady Elyanore, second daughter of the said French Queen. And in default, to his right heirs. Either Mary or Elizabeth, failing to observe the conditions aforesaid, shall forfeit all right to the succession.

Appoints Executors of His Will

Appoints as executors of this will the Abp. of Canterbury, the Lord Wriothesley, Chancellor of England, the Lord St. John, Great Master of our House, the Earl of Hertford, Great Chamberlain of England, the Lord Russell, Lord Privy Seal, the Viscount Lisle, High Admiral of England, the bishop Tunstall of Duresme, Sir Anthony Broun, Master of our Horse. Sir Edward Montagu, chief judge of the “Commyn Place,” Justice Bromley. Sir Edward North, Chancellor of the Augmentations, Sir William Paget, our chief Secretary, Sir Anthony Denny and Sir William Harbard, chief gentlemen of our Privy Chamber, Sir Edward Wootton and Dr. Wootton his brother. All these shall also be Councillors of the Privy Council with Prince Edward; and none of them shall do anything appointed by this Will alone, but only with the written consent of the majority. Sir Edmond Peckham, cofferer of our House, shall be treasurer of all moneys defrayed in performance of this Will. Debts, with redress of injuries (if any such can be proved, although he knows of none) shall be their first care after his burial. All grants and recompenses which he has made or promised but not perfected are to be performed.

To Edward

To his son Edward he gives the succession of his realms of England and Ireland, the title of France and all his dominions, and also all his plate, household stuff, artillery, ordnance, ships, money and jewels, saving such portions as shall satisfy this Will; charging his said son to be ruled as regards marriage and all affairs by the aforesaid Councillors (names repeated) until he has completed his eighteenth year. And the following persons shall be of Council for the assistance of the foresaid Councillors when required, viz., the present earls of Arundel and Essex, Sir Thomas Cheney, treasurer of our Household, Sir John Gage, comptroller of our Household, Sir Anthony Wingfield, our vice-chamberlain, Sir William Petre, one of our two principal secretaries, Sir Richard Riche, Sir John Baker, Sir Ralph Sadleyr, Sir Thomas Seymour, Sir Richard Southwell, and Sir Edmond Peckham.


Mary and Elizabeth

Bequeaths to his daughters’, Mary and Elizabeth’s, marriages to any outward potentate, 10,000l. (fn. n3) each, in money, plate, etc., or more at his said executors’ discretion; and, meanwhile, from the hour of his death, each shall have 3,000l. (fn. n3) to live upon, at the ordering of ministers to be appointed by the foresaid Councillors.

Katherine Parr

The Queen his wife shall have 3,000l. (fn. n3) in plate, jewels and stuff, besides what she shall please to take of what she has already, and further receive in money l,000l. (fn. n3) besides the enjoyment of her jointure.

Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr

Executors, Councillors and Servants

For their kindness and good service his executors shall receive as follows, (fn. n4) viz.:–the Abp. of Canterbury 500 mks., Wriothesley, St. John, Russell, Hertford and Lisle, each 500l., Durham, Broun, Paget, Denny, Herberd, Montague, Bromley, North, Sir Edw. Wootton and Dr. Wootton, each 300l.

In token of special love and favour, these Councillors and servants shall receive as follows, (fn. n5) viz.:–The earl of Essex, Sir Thomas Cheney, the Lord Herberd, Sir John Gage, Sir Thomas Seymour, John Gates (fn. n6) and Sir Thomas Darcy, each 200l., Sir Thomas Speke, Sir Philip Hobby, Sir Thomas Paston and Sir Maurice Barkeley, each 200 mks., Sir Ralph Sadleyr 200l., Sir Thomas Carden 200l., Sir Peter Meutes, Edward Bellingham, Thomas Audeley and Edmond Harman, each 200 marks, John Pen 100 marks, Henry Nevel, Symbarbe, —-Cooke, John Osburn and David Vincent, each 100l., James Rufforth, keeper of our house here, —- Cecil, yeoman of our Robes, —- Sternhold, groom of our Robes, each 100 mks., John Rouland, page of our Robes, 50l., the earl of Arundell, Lord Chamberlain, Sir Anthony Wingfeld, Sir Edm. Peckham, Sir Richard Riche, Sir John Bak[er] and Sir Richard Southwell, each 200l., Dr. Owen, Dr. Wendy and Dr. Cromer, each 100l., —- Alsopp, Patrick —-,—-A[yliff],—- Ferrys, Henry—-, and —- Hollande. each 100 mks., and the four gentlemen ushers of our Chamber, being daily waiters, 200l.

His executors may appoint legacies to other of his ordinary servants not here named.

Westminster Palace, 30 Dec. 1546, 38 Hen. VIII. Signed with the Kings stamp (fn. n7) at beginningand end.

Signed by witnesses, viz.: John Gates: E. Harman: Wyllyam Sayntbarbe: Henry Nevell: Rychard Coke: David Vincent: Patrec: [Ge]orge Owen: [Tho]mas Wendye: Robert Huycke: W. Clerk.

‘Henry VIII: December 1546, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 21 Part 2, September 1546-January 1547, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1910), pp. 313-348. British History Online

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Lettice Knollys: Cousin vs Queen (Part 4 – The Conclusion)

Guest article by Karlie aka History Gal

Lettice Knollys portrait housed at Longleat House photo attained from:
Lettice Knollys portrait housed at Longleat House photo attained from:

Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex, was known throughout the court for his military prowess, good looks and charisma. These qualities made him popular with the Queen and with the English people.

The titles and adulation that was heaped on Essex undoubtedly inflated the young Earl’s massive ego and made him hungry for more power and glory.

More than anything else, Essex wanted to be the head of a great and victorious army. So much so that in 1589, he defied Elizabeth’s orders to join Francis Drake’s navy in a counter attack against the Spanish Armada. Unfortunately for Essex, the quest was a complete disaster that resulted in a massive defeat for the English.

The year of 1589 was also an eventful year for Lettice Knollys. In a low-key ceremony, Lettice married Christopher Blount (she was 46 and he was 12 years her junior.)

Although Blount was a distinguished soldier he was much lower on the aristocratic scale than Lettice, having served as Dudley’s Gentleman of the Horse.

Lettice’s marriage caused a sensation at court. Not only was Lettice on her third marriage, she married Blount only a year after her second husband’s death.

According to William Haynes (Dudley’s gentleman of the bedchamber) Dudley discovered that Blount and Lettice were in love shortly before his departure to the Netherlands. He was so infuriated that he tried but failed to have Blount killed. When Blount found out about the attempt made on his life, he conspired with Lettice to do away with Dudley.

Haynes then relays that “The Earl (Dudley) not patient of his great wrong of his wife’s, purposed to carry her off to Kenilworth and leave her there until her death, by natural or violent means, but rather by the last. Lady Leicester (Lettice) had secret intelligence of his scheme, and before setting out on the journey provided herself with a poison which she had no opportunity to administer until they came to Cornbury. Here the Earl “after his gluttonous manner, surfeiting with excess of eating and drinking fell so ill that he was forced to stay there.” Haynes added that he “saw her (Lettice) give that fatal cup to the Earl which was his last draught and an end of the plot against the Countess and of his journey and of himself.” [1]

The story is cemented—but with an added twist –  in Notes of Ben Jonson’s Conversations with William Drummond of Hawthornden (circa 1842). Jonson writes that Dudley gave Lettice “a bottle of liquor which he willed her to use in any faintness, which she, not knowing it was poison, gave him, and so he died”.

The events that Haynes (and later Jonson) recounts is certainly fascinating, but very unlikely to be true. Furthermore, Dudley’s autopsy concluded that no malicious substances were present in his system.


(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Another marriage was to follow Lettice’s: in 1590 Essex secretly married Frances Walsingham (the daughter of Elizabeth’s secretary and spy master, Francis Walsingham).

It was déjà vu for the Queen who was used to seeing her courtiers marring without her knowledge or consent. She promptly upbraided Devereux for his marriage and demanded he leave court.

Sir John Stanhope reported to Gilbert, Lord Talbot that Queen Elizabeth considered Essex’s marriage “more temperately than was thought for, and God be thanked doth not strike all she threats.” [2] In the end, Elizabeth forgave Essex and lifted his ban.

In 1591-1592 Essex was made commander of a military sent to aid the French King in his war against Spain. The mission turned out to be a disaster but it did not curtail Devereux’s influence over the Queen.

In 1593 Elizabeth appointed Essex as a member of her Privy Council. This position caused great animosity within the council. Robert Cecil particularly resented Essex’s elevation, which was hardly surprising since the two rarely agreed on anything. One thing in which they disagreed on was the amount of money needed to fund an expedition to Cadiz. However, Essex won the argument and was subsequently made one of the commanders of the naval army sent to thwart and attack Spain’s counter strike against England.

With a fleet of 150 ships and over 6,000 soldiers, Essex and his men left Plymouth in early June 1596.  “While Essex attacked the town by sea, Howard [Lord of Effingham] landed his troops and completed the capture of the city.”[3]

The capturing of Cadiz marked Essex’s biggest military achievement, and he relished in the adulation of the English people.

However, Essex’s popularity and increasingly haughty demeanor incurred the displeasure of the Queen.

The strain on their relationship grew when –in 1597, acting as master of the ordnance in an “expedition against Spain, known as the Islands or Azores Voyage.” –Essex returned having only gained “some trifling successes…” [4]

Philip II of Spain portrait housed in Madrid, photo attained from
Philip II of Spain portrait housed in Madrid, photo attained from

Essex was forced to reside at Wanstead Hall until Elizabeth’s disappointment and anger finally abated. His failure in the Islands not only put a damper on his political and military career but it also weakened his chances of reconciling his mother and the Queen.

But Essex never gave up and when his banishment came to an end, his friends eagerly informed Lettice that the Queen was willing to grant her an audience….

“On Shrove Monday [1588], Lettice sent a jewel worth £300 to Elizabeth, who had promised to visit with her that day at her brother, Sir William Knollys’s house, but despite Essex’s pleads, Elizabeth refused to keep the appointment. On March 2, the Queen finally received her at court.” [5]

For the first time in 9 years the two cousins and rivals were to meet. But when it finally happened their exchange was brief and awkward, to say the least. The Queen could not bring herself to forgive Lettice no matter how much the latter flattered and cajoled her. And after “having greeted her and permitted her to kiss her hand and her breast and embrace her….” Elizabeth “returned the kiss but denied a second visit. [And Lettice] subsequently withdrew to Drayton Basset (her country estate.)” [6]

Lettice could be in doubt that her cousin was still her bitterest of enemies and would always remain so….

Queen Elizabeth’s affection for Lettice’s son was beginning to wane. His mother advised him on how to manipulate the Queen by reiterating the practices Dudley would use to get back into royal favor.

At his insistence (and against her better judgement) the Queen agreed to Essex’s appointment as Lieutenant and Governor General of Ireland.

In 1599 Essex and abt. 17,000 soldiers set out for Ulster to suppress the Irish uprising (with aid from Spain) led by the Earl of Tyrone. Tyrone and his men wanted to see the English driven out of Ulster in order to establish their own independence and government. If successful, Tyrone would rule over Ulster; but what England feared most was that Ireland would fall into the hands of Spain.

“Essex’s instructions were explicit. He was to march directly to the North and bend all his strength against Tyrone, who was only to be admitted to mercy on making a simple submission without conditions.” [7] But when word reached Essex that Tyrone’s clans had attacked “English supply lines and the Pale [ancient English territory] itself.” Essex ordered his troops south instead of north.

It was a disastrous start to Essex’s campaign, and after “delivering the town of Marlborough from siege,” Essex “left a large garrison in Carlow and an even larger one in Athy depleting his force by more than 1,000 men….” [8]

After a series of battles and a minor victory for Essex in Tipperary, the English forces began to dwindle from disease and from the bloody attacks by Tyrone’s clans. Essex was then forced to make a “peace treaty” with Tyrone….

After abandoning his post to return to England, the Queen upbraided Essex for knighting men without her permission and failing to effectively put down Tyrone.

For his treachery and insolence, Elizabeth placed Essex under house arrest. This vexed him greatly, whereby he “petitioned Queen Elizabeth with letters explaining how he was wonderfully grieved at her Majesty’s displeasure towards him”; and drew up a detailed explanation of what happened in Ireland and the arrangements he had put in place when he left.” [9] When that didn’t work, Essex complained of illness until the Queen sent a doctor to attend to his ailments.

In 1599 Lettice traveled to London to plead for her son’s release. “The following month she sent a gown for Elizabeth that was presented by Mary Scuda

The Earl of Essex housed at the National Portrait Gallery, photo attained from,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex#/media/File%3ARobert_Devereux%2C_2nd_Earl_of_Essex_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger.jpg.
The Earl of Essex housed at the National Portrait Gallery, photo attained from Wikipedia

more, one of the Queen’s favored women who was sympathetic to Lettice’s cause and had known her from the time of the Queen’s service.” Elizabeth sent back a message that she did not recognize the gift but that “Things standing as they did, it was not fit for her [Lettice] to desire what she did, which was to come to her Majesty’s presence….” [10]

Eventually, Essex was released from confinement but was barred from court and Queen Elizabeth’s presence indefinitely. What made Essex’s dilemma more challenging was that his main source of income was from his positions at court.

The final straw came in 1600 when Elizabeth wouldn’t renew his monopoly on the import of fortified wine. Essex’s wine venture was his main and last source of income, it was enough to make the most patient of men’s blood boil…and Essex was not a patient man….

With the help of a few of his closest friends and family—which included his sister Penelope, his step-father Blount and Henry Wriothesley aka the Earl of Southampton— Essex planned a rebellion to overthrow Robert Cecil, seize the Queen and force her to agree to his terms.

In February 1601, Essex’s rebellion began but it was crushed soon after. “Essex was forced to surrender…” he was later “brought before a council of his peers, where he was summarily tried and found guilty of treason.” [11]

One can only imagine that if Lettice had not been at her country estate during the time her son and husband were in the midst of the rebellion, that the Queen wouldn’t have hesitated to have her imprisoned in the tower or condemned to death….


Essex’s only request was to be “executed privately, not in front of a mob on Tower Hill. This was granted and on the Wednesday morning he was taken out to the courtyard of the Tower, acknowledging with unaccustomed humility that ‘he was thus justly spewed out of this realm’.” [12]

On February 25th 1601, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex was beheaded. He was only 35 years old. When Elizabeth was informed of Essex’s death she became silent, then resumed playing the virginals.

Despite her initial reaction, Queen Elizabeth was devastated at having to condemn Essex to death, so much so that she often retired to her bedchamber and wept.

If the Queen felt grief about the Earl of Essex, Lettice was completely heartbroken. Since 1569 Lettice had experienced one death after the other. First it was her mother Catherine, her husband Walter, then her son Lord Denbigh, followed by Dudley, her other son Walter, her father Francis, Essex and her husband Blount. (The latter was convicted of treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on March 18th 1601.)

Like Dudley before him, Blount amassed a great deal of debt at the time of his death. As his widow, the task of paying off those debts, once again, fell on Lettice’s shoulders. Unfortunately, Lettice no longer had a significant source of income because Blount sold off many of her precious jewels and estates…

Though Lettice was deeply in debt, and her reputation was tarnished as the wife and mother of two traitors, she still had her health. “An observer noted, in 1632, that Lettice could walk a mile a day.” [13]

Good health was not something Queen Elizabeth could boast of. In the winter of 1602, the Queen –who just a short time before was taking a leisurely stroll in the gardens—suddenly caught (what appeared to be) a cold. In early 1603, Elizabeth’s aches and pains were significant enough for her to retire to her rooms at Richmond palace.

With each passing day, the Queen’s health and melancholy worsened. She was deteriorating before everyone’s eyes and there was nothing anyone, (least of all her ladies in waiting) could do about it. Indeed, how could they force the Queen of England to eat or drink when she refused? Or see a physician when she expressed that she did not wish it? And how could they order her to rest when she preferred to stand (often for hours on end)? Not even her secretary, Robert Cecil could persuade her to retire to bed. Elizabeth’s response to him was: “The word must is not to be used to Princes…Little man! Little man! if your father had lived, ye durst not have said so much; but ye know I must die and that makes ye so presumptuous.”

Elizabeth l of England
Elizabeth l of England

Eventually, Queen Elizabeth became so weak that she was forced to “lay resignedly on her cushions in her private apartments, and could not be persuaded to leave them for the comfort of her bed.” Then delirium set in and the Queen “began to be plagued by ghostly visions of people she had previously known, including the late Scottish queen…” [14]

In the early morning hours of March 24th 1603 Elizabeth, Queen of England died, aged 69. She was buried at Westminster Abbey “in the vault of her grandfather, Henry VII, until she was moved in 1606 to her present resting place, a tomb in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Abbey which she shares with her half-sister Mary I.” [15]

The official cause of her death is unknown. But favored theories include a lung infection and/or blood poisoning (from the mixture of lead and vinegar that was used in her makeup)….


The feud between Lettice and her cousin was over. But a new feud for Lettice was just beginning, this time with: Douglas Sheffield….

Lettice had been vindicated by King James (the new King of England) when he pardoned the debts she owed to the royal treasury. But Douglas’s son Robert was raking up the past by insisting that Dudley and his mother had been married and that he was the legitimate son and heir to his father and uncle’s titles and their estates. If Douglas and Robert were successful in their claim, then Lettice would stand to lose the jointure left to her as the legal wife and widow of Dudley.

Lettice refused to go down without a fight, and in 1605 she petitioned the courts to hear her case against Robert’s. The court decided in Lettice’s favor because neither Douglas nor Robert could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Robert was entitled to his father and uncle’s earldoms and any additional estates.


Tomb effigies of Dudley and Lettice at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.
Tomb effigies of Dudley and Lettice at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick.

After the Queen’s death in 1603, Lettice lived for another 33 years at her at estate at Staffordshire. Until finally, on December 25th 1634, Lettice died. She was 91 years old.

At her request, she was interred in a magnificent tomb beside her husband at the Beauchamp Chapel of the Collegiate Church of St Mary. Warwick

Lettice’s great grandson, Gervase Clinton wrote a verse about his grandmother that hangs beside her tomb that reads “….she was in her younger years matched with two great English peers, she that did supply the wars with thunder, and the court with stars. “

Lettice experienced several great triumphs and defeats during her 91 years on earth, as did her cousin and nemesis Queen Elizabeth. But between the two, who won “the war”? Lettice or Elizabeth?

Some might say Elizabeth won because she vindicated Lettice’s marriage to Dudley by crippling the former financially, humiliating her in public, forcing her to reside (often in disgrace) in estates far away from court and executing two people who were very dear to her.

In my opinion Lettice won because she married Dudley and was with him until the very end, she outlived the Queen to enjoy a long and healthy life, she also regained many of rights and dignity.


[1] “Hamlet’s Secrets Revealed: The Real Shakespeare, Volume 2” by Marilyn Gray

[2] “Illustrations of British History, 2: Biography and Manners in the Reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Elizabeth & James I Exhibited in a Series of Original Papers Selected from the Mrs. of the Noble Families of Horvard, Tallot and Cecil with Numerous Notes Observations”

[3], [13] “Encyclopedia of Tudor England, Volume 1” by John A. Wagner, Susan Walters Schmid

[4] “The Encyclopedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volume 9” by Hugh Chisholm

[5], [6] “Wicked Women of Tudor England: Queens, Aristocrats, Commoners” by R. Warnicke

[7] “A History of Ireland” by Eleanor Hull

[8] http://www.yourirish. com

[9], [10] “The Queen’s Bed: An Intimate History of Elizabeth’s Court” by Anna Whitelock





About the Author:

kL16loFoI’m Karlie (also known as History Gal on Twitter)! I’m a pre-med student from the U.S. I have many interests including reading, writing, drawing and painting but my passion is History. I have read and love to read just about every period in history but I am most interested in the Tudor period. I’m intrigued, not just by the Tudor dynasty, but also by the world in which they lived: the people, the religion, the politics, the conflicts, the events, the castles, the beautiful clothes, just overall their way of life.

It should go without saying that I love England and its rich history. My dream is to go there and see as many Tudor related places as I can!

Follow on Twitter: @HistoryGal_

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Symbolism in Elizabeth’s Portraits

Symbolism in Elizabeth’s portraits has been there all along, but some of us have chosen not to see it until now. It wasn’t until I recently watched a documentary that talked about the symbolism in Elizabeth’s “Rainbow” portrait that I started looking for them. In this article I will cover three portraits with obvious symbols. If you happen to find more portraits with symbols please feel free to share with me!

Elizabeth “Rainbow” Portrait

rainbow portrait sybolism

Elizabeth had lots of symbolism in her portraits that is easy to overlook.

For example, this “Rainbow” portrait is loaded with symbolism and I’m not sure how I never noticed it before.

  1. “Mon Sine Sole Iris” means No Rainbow Without the Sun. Only the queen’s wisdom can ensure peace and prosperity.
  2. Notice the eyes and the ears – This is something I’ve overlooked and I’m not sure how I could have missed it! Clearly this is symbolizing that she is always watching and listening, or that she has eyes and ears everywhere.
  3. The snake/serpent symbolizes fertility while the heart at the top right hanging from the snake symbolizes love.
  4. In Elizabeth’s hand it looks like she is holding a clear tube – this is indeed a rainbow, however the colors have faded from the portrait. She hold the rainbow in her hand. The rainbow in this portraits symbolizes peace. She’s holding it – does that mean without her there is no peace?

We can also note that there are lots of pearls in this portrait…The pearls symbolize virginity. Isn’t it amazing how one portrait can hold so many symbols!?

The “Phoenix” Portrait

phoenix symbols

Here’s another portrait, the “Phoenix” portrait. Again, not sure how I missed the symbolism.

  1. Note the phoenix. In the full image it’s easy to overlook. A phoenix is (in classical mythology) a unique bird that lived for five to six centuries in the Arabian desert. After this time it consumed by fire and born again, rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle. Only one phoenix can live at a time so it symbolizes it uniqueness and longevity.
  2. Elizabeth is holding a red rose. A red rose has religious connotations – it was the medieval symbol of the Virgin Mary. It also symbolized that Elizabeth was the Virgin Queen.
  3. Pearls. Again we see the pearls. They symbolize her virginity and purity.

The “Ermine” Portrait

Here are more symbols “hidden” within her portraits. From now on, every time you see a portrait of Elizabeth you’ll look a little closer.

This portrait shows her royalty, purity, wealth, prosperity and power.

ermine symbolism

1. The ermine. Ermine represents royalty and nobility along with purity.

2. The pearls. This time the pearls look black to me. Black pearls represent wealth and prosperity.

3. The Sword of State. Elizabeth would use this in her portraits, sometimes small, sometimes large to symbolize power.

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Keeping Up Appearances: Tudor Style

Guest article written by Wendy J. Dunn

There is one thing I rediscover over and over in my research of the Tudors: “The past is another country; they do things differently there”(Hartley 1997, p.5). Yes – the people of the past lived very differently to us. As a writer, I am fascinated by these differences and use them to enrich my storytelling. I am particularly fascinated by the daily life of my Tudor people. This involves an adventure of research. Learning about Tudor hygiene was one such adventure – one I thought I would share with you here.

When the time approached for Katherine of Aragon to come to England to marry Prince Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth wrote to Isabel of Castile, Katherine of Aragon’s mother, advising her to ensure Katherine was used to drinking English wine before arriving in England. Elizabeth told Isabel that water in England ‘is not drinkable, and even if it were, the climate would not allow the drinking of it'(Rubin, 2004, p. 389). English ale or wine was considered far safer to drink than water obtained by the people of this period from natural sources, too often polluted by human excrement. Around 1520, a shocked Erasmus described English floors of the chambers where people ate their meals as ‘usually of clay, strewed with rushes under which lie unmolested an ancient collection of beer, grease, fragments, bones, spittle, excrements of dogs and cats, and everything nasty'(Hibbert 1987, p. 5). It is possible to read historical snippets like this and assume living in Tudor times entailed a lack of interest in good hygiene. But despite the primitive hygiene methods of Tudor England, people of the time did what they could to keep themselves and their homes clean.

Whilst it is true that ‘immersion bathing’ was not a daily or even weekly happening in these times, the upper and middle classes had baths – usually a wooden tub – in their homes and used them. Bath water was made more fragrant with additions of fennel and bay; endive and fennel were used for footbaths (Emerson 1996) and gave a temporary relief from bad body odour, a possible reason for Henry VIII’s aversion to Anne of Cleves. Poor people tended to wash their bodies in what nature provided, rivers, ponds and the like.

Tudor era bathing

The court of Henry VIII developed into something very different to that of his father, Henry VII. Henry VIII enjoyed spending the wealth he inherited from his father on the trappings of wealth and the finer things in life; his reign saw a building program that fitted his view of himself as a modern prince. As modern times for this prince fell in the renaissance period, Henry VIII’s palaces became places designed for beauty. Another powerful influence on the King was that of his first wife, Katherine of Aragon. Katherine grew up in her mother’s kingdom of Castile. The Christian monarchs of Castile had long integrated many of the traditions held dear by their Moor rivals – one of these traditions included a love of bathing.

Katherine of Aragon was a child when her mother and father, Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, finally took Granada from its Islamic rulers and added the Alhambra to their list of royal palaces. Katherine knew this exquisite palace as one of her many homes. Its man made streams and fountains and thermal baths, modelled in the Roman style, formed an important part of her early life experience.

As new arrivals to the English court, the ladies of Katherine of Aragon, and no doubt the sixteen-year-old Katherine, were shocked by seeing men relieving their bladders in public places (Emerson 1996). The huge fireplaces of the times were a popular choice for men to urinate in. Such behaviour was no longer acceptable by the end of the Tudor dynasty. In 1573, Thomas Tusser wrote in his ‘Five hundreth Goode Pointes of Husbandrie:

Some make the chimnie chamber pot to smell like Filthie stink,
Yet who so bold,
so soone to say,
fough, how These houses stink? (Hibbert 1987, p. 201).

Katherine of Aragon’s marriage to Henry VIII marked the beginning of a real cultural change at the English court. The ‘pissing areas’ allotted for members of the court of Henry VII were phased out through building more garderobes in the chambers of the palaces. By example and new, stricter guidelines for the behaviour of those at court, Katherine and Henry steadily steered England’s nobility and England to a time for higher standards of cleanliness.

Like her father, Elizabeth I, too, was known for her high standards, and had an aversion to strong smells and uncleanliness. She was known to have regular baths, her favourite palaces possessing luxurious, beautifully designed bathrooms, with running water. She even took a portable bath with her on her progresses.

Cold conditions do not encourage anyone to wash, let alone the Tudors who faced freezing winters in draughty, hard to keep warm chambers. Some people of the time believed that full bathing was unhealthy and could lead to death – which explains the horror of her court when Elizabeth insisted on bathing during her life and death battle with small pox in 1562. Plumbing in houses – if it did exist – was primitive, though most homes of the well-to-do provided a type of inside toilet. Using the same principle found in castles, a narrow, cell-like room was situated against the outer wall of a house. Found inside this room – called, amongst other things, the ‘jakes’ or garderobe – was a seat with a hole, placed over an internal shaft. The shaft was angled in such a way that human waste went down to an outside cesspool (Emerson 1996, p.54). Toilet paper was unknown in the Tudor period. Paper was a precious commodity for the Tudors – so they used salt water and sticks with sponges or mosses placed at their tops, while royals used the softest lamb wool and cloths (Emerson 1996, p. 54).

The monarch’s Privy Chamber is thought to come by its name because of its proximity to the royal ‘privy’, a ‘little room’ that contained a ‘close stool’, a boxed seat containing a fitted chamber pot. When Elizabeth I ventured out into her kingdom on one of her progresses, she took not only her portable bath but also her ‘portable’ loo, a closed stool, covered with lush, red velvet, befitting her royal rank. Her father also liked velvet covered closed stools. His chamber pot or ‘jordan’ was enclosed in a close- stool covered with black velvet, ribbons, fringe and a few glint-headed nails – two thousand to be exact (Hibbert 1987, p. 200).

To be attendant to this very necessary royal function was considered one of the important roles of the bedchamber. The maids who took care of the cloths Elizabeth used during menstruation were in the position of being bribed by not only foreign dignitaries, but also men part of Elizabeth’s Privy Council. Cecil kept very informed about this very intimate part of Elizabeth’s life; the knowledge she functioned like a normal woman made him confident she could provide the country with an heir (Weir 1999).

What I believe people did in between baths to keep clean was ‘sponge’ their bodies. It is also possible that they used similar methods to the Victorians in regards to some of their clothes – using vinegar or lemon juice as a sponging method to help neutralize any obvious smells. Linen shifts worn under rich gowns went along way to protect outer clothes from the damage of body sweat, plus had an added bonus that they could be changed and washed frequently.

The Tudors tried their best to keep their teeth clean by using tooth-picks and a cloth to polish them – though they often put honey into teeth cleaning preparations, not realizing that this caused teeth decay. By the end of her reign, foreign ambassadors commented on the yellowness or blackness of Elizabeth’s few remaining teeth (Weir 1999). Throughout her life, Elizabeth enjoyed sugared sweets; the Tudors believed eating such things solved the problem of bad breath, as well as chewing mint leaves and aniseed.

The Tudors suspected dirt was linked to disease, believing infection was ‘transmitted through bad air or foul smells'(Weir 2004, p. 54). People even designed their houses with this in mind, thinking ‘the south wind doth corrupt and make for vapours’, while the east wind was ‘temperate, fryske and fragraunt’ (Hibbert 1987, p. 195).

The Tudor habit of using their fireplaces as chamber pots was not likely one ever found at Elizabeth’s court. Despite the fact she could swear, spit and swill beer with the best of them, men were very respectful of her as their queen, and a virgin one at that. One of her courtiers was so embarrassed he had farted in her presence he chose self-exile for seven years. On his return, Elizabeth remarked with an amused glint: ‘My lord, I had forgot the fart’ (Weir 1999, p. 257).


Alison Weir 2001, Henry VIII, King and Court, Ballantine Books, NY.
Kathy Lynn Emerson, 1996. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England (Writer’s Guides to Everyday Life). Writer’s Digest Books.
Hartley, L.P. and D. Brooks-Davies 1997, The Go-Between, Penguin Books, London.
Christopher Hibbert 1987, The English, Paladin
Alison Weir 1999, Elizabeth the Queen, Ballantine Books, NY.
Antonia Fraser 1998, The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Arrow books
Nancy Rubin 2004, Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen, USA.

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Queens: The Three Elizabeths

From 1461 to 1603 there were three Elizabeths with the title of Queen – granted two were Queen consorts and one was Queen regnant, but regardless, for the sake of this post they were all queens.

  • Queen Elizabeth Woodville (c. 1437 – 1492) – the consort of King Edward IV
  • Queen Elizabeth of York (1466 – 1503) – the consort of King Henry VII
  • Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) – Queen regnant of England
Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth I

The first Elizabeth, Elizabeth Woodville, was a commoner who married King Edward IV in secret and caused an uproar at English court. Many, including the “Kingmaker” saw the King’s choice to marry the widowed Woodville as unacceptable. The country was in the midst of the War of the Roses and even this marriage could not stop others for vying for the throne of England. Elizabeth Woodville was a strong woman in her own right. It appears her main objective was to ensure her children received what was rightfully theirs in the end. Unfortunately, she lost two sons in the Tower after her brother-in-law, Richard III deemed them illegitimate. The two princes were never seen again. Elizabeth was instrumental in negotiating the marriage between her daughter Elizabeth and Henry Tudor – an act that would end the War of the Roses.

The second Elizabeth, Elizabeth of York, was the eldest child of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV – she became Queen consort when she married King Henry VII a couple of years after the Battle of Bosworth. Their marriage inevitably ended the Wars of the Roses by joining together the houses of Lancaster and York.

The third Elizabeth, Elizabeth Tudor, was the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. She became Queen Elizabeth in her own right in 1558. Elizabeth was declared illegitimate by her father when she was just a child but was eventually named as a successor after her brother (Edward VI) and older sister (Mary I). Neither sibling had children. The hand of fate made it that the daughter of Anne Boleyn became Queen Regnant of England. Anne Boleyn would have been proud.

A quick family tree refresher for you:

Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville

? Daughter: Elizabeth of York

Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville and Elizabeth of York

Henry VII & Elizabeth of York 

? Son: Henry VIII

Henry VII, Elizabeth of York and Henry VIII

Henry VIII & Anne Boleyn

? Daughter: Queen Elizabeth I

Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth Woodville gave birth to Elizabeth of York, who was also the daughter of Edward IV.
  • Elizabeth of York gave birth to Henry VIII, who was also the son of Henry VII.
  • Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth (future Elizabeth I).
  • Queen Elizabeth I was the granddaughter of Elizabeth of York, and great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Woodville.

What would Elizabeth Woodville have thought of her great-granddaughter’s reign? Would she be proud of Elizabeth or disappointed in her for not having any children and ending the Tudor line? Both Elizabeth Woodville and her daughter Elizabeth of York were very fertile woman – having many children.

During the reign of Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville was referred to as a woman who wanted power and would do whatever it took to bring titles to her family and to ensure her children were offered every opportunity that a royal prince or princess were entitled to.

Elizabeth of York on the other-hand, is only referred to in loving tones. Something her mother never truly experienced. Elizabeth does not appear to be a vocal counterpart of her husband (the King) unlike her mother. Would she have been proud of her granddaughter?

Elizabeth I was very similar to her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Woodville – she was strong, bull-headed and confident in her title. She knew what she wanted and for the most part got it….save Dudley. That wasn’t meant to be.

What do you think?

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Dishing with the Tudors: My Adventures in Renaissance Comedy

Guest Article by: JoAnn Spears

Dishing with the Tudors:  My adventures in Renaissance comedy

I am one of those people who ‘reads out’ a subject or author of interest.

That took some doing with Jean Plaidy’s canon of eighty-odd historical fiction novels.  Having started in on the task at the age of twelve, with The Captive Queen of Scots, I was actually able to exhaust all that Plaidy had to offer before I was out of my twenties.

jean plaidy book


My favorite subjects in those wonderful novels were Henry VIII’s six wives and their Tudor relatives.  Eventually, I read the Tudors out too, both in fiction and in biography.  From Norah Lofts and Mary M. Luke down through Alison Weir, I read anything that was going about Henry VIII and his clan.    When I ran out of biographies of the heavy-hitting Tudors, I read bios of the supporting Tudor cast, such as Bess of Hardwick and Arabella Stuart.

yellow catherine the queenelizabeth book









I still remember the day that  I stood in front of a Tudor shelf at Barnes and Noble, looked at everything that was on offer, and felt that I’d seen it all before.  It’s high time, I thought, for something different.  Enough tragedy, excuses, and apologies.  Henry’s six wives need to come out on top for a change!

completely different

At around the same time, I spent an evening in a hot tub in Vermont, chatting with a friend who was working on a book.  She knew that I did a lot of report writing in my professional life, and asked me if I didn’t have an idea for a novel.  She dared me to tell it to her.  And for the first time, I gave voice to that ‘something different’ that I wanted to see in the Tudor world.

It was scary, talking out loud about an idea that had heretofore lived only in my head.  Maybe it was the hot tub ambience, or more likely the wine, but out the idea came.

I wanted to write about Henry VIII’s six wives.  My heroine, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, would meet the Big Six somewhere on the other side, after losing consciousness.  She’d join the Tudor women for a night of revelation and vindication on their part, and of self-discovery on hers.  She’d return to the real world a wiser girl for her time with the Tudors.

Once I started in on writing about Henry VIII’s six wives, things flowed easily for a while.  The Katherine Parr and Ann of Cleves alternative histories were low hanging fruit.  Jane Seymour’s and Catherine Howard’s subplots took a bit more researching, but they did come together next.  The Anne Boleyn and Katharine of Aragon subplots emerged only after a spell of cluelessness and the shedding of some blood, sweat, and tears, but eventually, emerge they did.   And best of all, because of the fantasy setting, I got to have the six wives interacting with each other, as well as with my heroine.  It was a Tudor history buff’s dream come true.

The wives’ stories as created for Six of One are obviously outré and entirely a product of my fevered Tudor imagination, but they were carefully researched and made plausible to give the reader some food for thought.  What if, even if only in imagination, each of these women had a secret that took her from victim status to victory over Henry VIII?  Might such secrets make for a satisfying, albeit brief and fictional, experience for the jaded Tudorphile?  Might my book inspire Tudor neophytes to want to learn more about these fabulous women?

six of one

Since my six wives subplots were so very offbeat, I felt that the best way to approach the entire novel was to take it as a comedy.  Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women inspired me here, with its all-girl cast, ‘girls’ night in’ feel, and comic sass and dishing.


Seven Will Out, my second novel, brings the comic corrective recapitulation and the hen party atmosphere to the stories of the latter generation Tudors and their associates.  It addresses the complicated family dynamics between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, Bess of Hardwick and Arabella Stuart, and ‘Bloody’ Mary and Jane Grey, to name a few.

seven will out

Of course, it is for the reading public, and ultimately individual readers and Tudorphiles, to determine if my experiment is a success, and if there is indeed a place for comedy in the chaotic and execution-laden realm of the Tudors.  My Amazon reviews tell me that some readers are all for it (‘Go girls!’  ‘Great new take.’ ‘Humorous her-story.’  ‘Great romp through 16th century England.’  ‘Weird at first, but it grabs you.’  ‘Oh Henry!’  ‘What a hoot.’’)  Other reviews tell me that readers prefer their Tudors straight up, serious, and traditional (‘I couldn’t’.  ‘Don’t bother’.  ‘This book was a little silly.’  ‘Great idea in theory.’  ‘Not for me.’ ‘Too lightweight for my tastes.’)

In Claire Ridgway’s review of Six of One, she says ‘…you need to not mind your favourite wife being made fun of…this Kindle book made me laugh. I love spoofs and can handle misrepresentations of historical characters when they are presented in a way which is clearly a spoof and not to be taken seriously.’   On the other hand, I have had a reviewer say ‘…It seems the author doesn’t really like Anne Boleyn with all the snide remarks made throughout the book.’ (Just for the record, I do not hate Anne Boleyn.)

So, what do you think?  Would you try your Tudors with a comic, fantasy, revisionist twist?  Or do you prefer them familiar and traditional?  I’d love to know what you think!

JoAnn SpearsAbout the Author: JoAnn Spears

Author of Six of One, a Tudor Comedy, and the upcoming sequel, working title Seven Will Out. It’s the most fun you can have with your nightdress on!