Mary Howard: Too Wise for a Woman

In this article I will be discussing one of my favorite women at Tudor court – the fearless Mary Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Mary had the bravery that wasn’t often shown by a woman during this time period. She wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she thought was right.

It was her father who was quoted as saying that Mary was, “too wise for a woman” – one of the reasons I love her so much.

This post was originally a podcast that was transcribed into an article – if you’d rather listen to it you can do so here:

Family Ties – The Howards

Mary Howard was born around 1519 to Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (later to be Duke of Norfolk) and his second wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford.

You might recognize the name Elizabeth Stafford – this Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the ill-fated Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.This means Mary had both Norfolk and Buckingham blood in her veins.

Mary was the only daughter of Thomas Howard and received an education that was appropriate to her standing. It’s been said that she was both beautiful and smart. A double threat – both traits are something that we’ll see come into play a little later.

A Marriage Arranged

In December of 1529, when Mary was ten years old, Henry VIII asked her father, now the Duke of Norfolk to allow his son (Mary’s older brother) Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey to become a companion of his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy at Windsor Castle. At the same time a marriage was arranged between Mary and Fitzroy.

Mary Howard

While many have said the marriage was Norfolk’s niece Anne Boleyn’s idea, it had always been maintained by Norfolk that it was the idea of the King, however, the marriage between Fitzroy and Mary Howard had definitely been promoted by Anne to help strengthen her ties to the throne.

Like the later marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves there was no dowry expected with this marriage, which was unusual for the time. This may indicate the influence that Anne Boleyn had over the king.

Elizabeth Stafford, Mary’s mother, was totally against the marriage. Whether she blamed Anne Boleyn for the breakdown of her marriage with Norfolk or was disgusted with the amount of control she had in the negotiations, she was not happy and made it known. Because of this conflict she was banished from court.

Marriage to Fitzroy

When King Henry and Anne Boleyn went to Calais in October 1532, they brought with them Fitzroy, Mary Howard and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. Fitzroy and Surrey both stayed in France after the English monarch’s departure – Fitzroy was a member of King Francis’ Privy Chamber and Surrey was also a member of his entourage.

While Fitzroy and Surrey were away in France, Anne Boleyn and King Henry were married – Anne was now Queen and Mary Howard was one of her ladies in waiting. The young men were called back to England in August of 1533 and merely three months later Henry Fitzroy and Mary Howard were married at Hampton Court Palace. She was was fourteen and he was fifteen years old.

Because of their youth the couple was not allowed to live together. Instead they went back to their respective homes. Henry VIII believed that his late brother Arthur’s death may have occurred because he had intercourse at too young an age. This was also believed to be what caused the death of Katherine of Aragon’s brother, Juan.

Henry Fitzroy

An interesting note: A few months before the marriage of the young couple, Pope Clement was proposing the marriage of the Earl of Surrey with Lady Mary, the king’s daughter. The Pope was hoping that the Howard clan would help promote the cause of Katherine of Aragon.

Mary Becomes a Widow

Unfortunately, Mary and Fitzroy would never be able to consummate their marriage – in July 1536, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond and Somerset and only male child of Henry VIII died.

Since the marriage had never been consummated, King Henry denied his 17 year old widowed daughter in law the vast estates she should have inherited as the widow of the Duke of Richmond and Somerset. Mary, still young, could not remarry until her jointure was settled. King Henry decided to keep it all for himself instead.

Because of the King’s greed, Mary was forced to live off the hand-outs of her father, the Duke of Norfolk and to sell her jewels in order to have money to live.

Expecting her powerful father to help her with his connection to the King, Mary was disappointed by his efforts and had threatened to confront the king in person, herself.

Feeling desperate, Mary wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell asking him to intercede. Cromwell brought Archbishop Cranmer into the fold and Cranmer confirmed that the marriage had been valid even though it had not been consummated. This was exactly what Mary needed, progress was being made in her case.

This matter of Mary’s jointure was not resolved until 1540, after the dissolution of the monasteries – Mary finally received some property and income to live on.

An Accomplice to Love

Around the same time that Mary was fighting for what was rightfully hers, she was helping Margaret Douglas in her clandestine love affair with her uncle, Lord Thomas Howard. Mary was present, as possibly a look-out, when these two lovers were able to have some quiet time together. All that came to an end when the king discovered the couple had a pre-contract to marry. Both Thomas and Margaret were sent to the Tower and Mary was saved because the couple insisted that she never knew of the pre-contract.

The Seymours and Howards

In the meantime, Mary was being linked with Thomas Seymour for a possible marriage alliance. If she accepted this proposal she would not get what she had been working so hard for. Mary was not interested in marrying Seymour – it was merely her father’s way of creating ties with the new queen’s family. Her brother the Earl of Surrey was even more upset about the match – he saw the Seymours as ‘upstarts’ and didn’t want them associated with his noble line.

Interestingly enough, the Earl of Surrey had the hots for Anne Stanhope, wife of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford. Stanhope had rebuffed Surrey. When Hertford found out he was furious and it caused a lot of friction between the men.

It’s been said that in 1537, Surrey was imprisoned at Windsor Castle because he punched Edward Seymour in the face – the reason? Because Seymour suggested that Surrey favored the rebels in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Surrey wasn’t imprisoned long.

Mary and the Queens

When Anne of Cleves became queen it was thought that Mary would have a place in her household, however, Anne had brought ladies of her own and did not have room for her.

Mary’s cousin, Katherine Howard, when she became queen, made Mary a Lady of the Privy Chamber…under the supervision of get this, Margaret Douglas.

After the execution of Queen Katherine, the Howard clan was once again lacking favor with the King. Both Mary Howard and Margaret Douglas sent away from court for seventeen months.

Seymour Again

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children. On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

The Fall of the Howard Men

Once again, Mary was not interested in marrying Thomas Seymour. She discussed this problem with her brother (Surrey) who suggested she discuss it with the King and use her charm to become a mistress to the king – this would help in advancing not only her interests but that of the Howards as well.

Mary was insulted and disgusted by her brother’s plan and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with it. Mary and Henry Howard’s relationship would never be the same again and this would mark the beginning of Surrey’s downfall.

When her father and brother were arrested in December 1546, Mary did nothing to save them. She even gave testimony against her brother.

Mary told the council that her brother had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth and he said “if God called away the King they should smart for it.” She went on to tell them that he replaced the coronet with a crown on his coat of arms.

When Surrey’s home was searched they found more evidence against him – a plate with the arms of Edward the Confessor, even though the only person in the kingdom who could claim that was the king.

She also told them about the conversation her brother had with her about becoming the king’s mistress.

Both her father and brother were charged with treason and sentenced to death. Only her brother would make it to the block because eleven days later King Henry VIII was dead. Norfolk’s sentence was halted and he remained in prison until the reign of Queen Mary.

In the End

Mary raised her brother’s children after his execution and apparently was granted money by Edward VI for doing so – he said that he knew of no finer place for the children to be educated.

The date of death varies for Mary Howard – what I do know is that she most likely died in December. It’s the year that varies – some reports say 1555, others 1556 or 57.

In her three decades of life, Mary Howard witnessed a lot of drama at Tudor court. Especially during the reign of her father-in-law.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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The Relationship Between Mary and Elizabeth Tudor

Princess Mary Tudor was the apple of her father’s eye for many years prior Anne Boleyn returning to England. Freshly back from her duties in France, Anne was unlike most women and Henry VIII noticed.

We don’t know the exact date that Henry noticed Anne but once he did it changed the course of English history.

After Katherine of Aragon’s last unsuccessful pregnancy Henry began to consider that he would never have a male heir. He believed the fact that he had married his brother’s widow was the reason why. That God would not grant them living male sons because of their sin. Henry referenced Leviticus 20: 21 which said: “If a man should take his brother’s wife it is an unclean thing…he shall be without children.” Henry took this as living sons, specifically. This was completely against everything that happened at the beginning of their marriage – Henry made sure to get a papal dispensation so he could wed his brother’s widow. Now it was convenient for the king to turn things around to his advantage.

It was around 1524, when Henry began to aggressively pursue Anne Boleyn, historian Eric Ives believed that this is when Henry began to reject Katherine of Aragon and stopped sleeping with her…it had been seven years since her last pregnancy. When exactly he began to turn away from Katherine is unclear. It may have been in 1522 but most definitely by 1525 when he brought his illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, out of the shadows and created him Duke of Richmond. This gave him precedence over everyone except for a legitimate son he may have in the future.

Henry didn’t immediately turn against his daughter Mary, it took time for that to come to fruition. But once he did, poor Mary must have been so confused. As a young woman it must have been heartbreaking to lose the love of your father, and king. No wonder why she disliked Anne so much. Who could blame her – she saw Anne as the woman who took away her father and destroyed her family. While that may be what Mary believed, it’s definitely not the truth – Henry is responsible for this as Anne tried several times to have a relationship with Mary. Mary always refused because she was loyal to her mother.

On the 7th of September 1533, Queen Anne Boleyn gave birth to Princess Elizabeth. She and the King were disappointed that their first child was a daughter but were optimistic their next would be a son. Unfortunately, this is when things began to change for Mary. Soon after, Mary would lose her title of Princess and only be referred to as Lady Mary Tudor. Could you imagine? For seventeen years you are a princess and suddenly you no longer have the prestigious title that goes along with being the legitimate daughter of a king. Her mother had already fallen from grace as the King had ended their marriage, and now Mary was removed from the line of succession and declared illegitimate. One can only imagine the malice Mary held toward Anne because of this. She definitely saw this woman as the one responsible for her misery.

Not only had she lost her title but she also had to serve in the household of Princess Elizabeth. You would think Mary definitely had animosity toward the situation she was in. She was defiant when first placed in Elizabeth’s household at Hatfield – she spent days in her chamber, uncontrollably crying and refusing to acknowledge Elizabeth as Princess. She would, however, call Elizabeth “sister” just as she called Henry Fitzroy, “brother”.

I’m not aware of how Mary felt toward Henry Fitzroy but I assume it was similar to her feelings for Elizabeth. However, Fitzroy’s mother had not destroyed everything she ever knew. So it’s possible she liked him as well.

It is clear that Anne did not feel threatened by Fitzroy; She was instrumental in securing the marriage between her cousin Mary Howard and him. This is something that I do not understand. You would think the last thing she wanted was to have him declared legitimate and thus remove her daughter from the line of succession, but it did not seem to be a concern of hers.

The Concubine’s Downfall

Anne’s marriage being declared null and void after she was charged with adultery made their daughter illegitimate along with her sister, Mary – Henry Fitzroy was now presumably the only heir presumptive. Of course, Henry expected to have a son by Jane Seymour but Fitzroy was his steady backup, even though he himself was still considered illegitimate.

According to author Antonia Frasier, after Anne Boleyn’s arrest Henry VIII went to see his son, Henry Fitzroy. In tears he told Fitzroy that Anne was a ‘poisoning whore’ – who had planned to kill both him and his half-sister Mary; what a lucky escape they had had!

In David Starkey’s book titled, “Elizabeth” he says that after the execution of Anne Boleyn that Mary made her peace with Boleyn’s ghost and prayed that ‘that woman’ might be forgiven. He also mentioned that Mary and Elizabeth got along well and lived amiably under the same roof. The sisters became really close.

Two months after Anne’s execution Henry Fitzroy died. This left poor old Henry VIII without Fitzroy as his backup and Jane Seymour was not yet pregnant.

But, in October 1537, Jane Seymour gave birth to a son – Henry was over the moon and great celebrations were had everywhere. From all accounts, both Mary and Elizabeth loved their brother Edward – there is nothing recorded that would tell us they harbored any resentment toward their brother, the prince. The siblings all loved one another – they didn’t care that they had different mothers, they were all children of the king.

King Edward VI

When Edward ascended to the throne in 1547, he would continue with the Reformation process and push it even further than his father had. This was something that truly upset Mary as she was a staunch Catholic. Several times Edward attempted to press Mary to convert and was unsuccessful. He even jokingly suggested that Thomas Seymour wed his sister so he could change her ways. That, of course, never happened as Seymour only wanted Elizabeth or Katherine Parr.

Queen Mary I

Mary’s rise to the throne after the death of her brother, King Edward VI wasn’t without issue. Mary had spent most of her adult life in uncertainty and received no proper training to prepare her for her role as queen. However, by right, she was the heir per her father’s Act of Succession – nonetheless, Edward, on his death-bed attempted to change the succession by naming Lady Jane Grey, a fellow Protestant as his heir (excluding both of his sisters). This devise of succession did not have the Council’s approval. Author Sarah Gristwood states in her book, “Elizabeth & Leicester” that Edward’s justification behind removing his sisters from the line of succession was that they were both bastards of the late king and could both marry abroad. “No wonder Elizabeth saw marriage as a poor consolation prize.

This was a turning point for Mary, she realized that there were people who did not want her on the throne. She also knew that her sister Elizabeth was raised in the Protestant faith and there was concern about others wishing Elizabeth to take her place. Mere months after Mary became queen, Elizabeth felt it necessary to reach out to her sister for a meeting. She understood that her sister was aware of her religion and so pleaded ignorance of, not hostility toward, the Catholic faith. All she knew was how she was raised…as a Protestant.

Not long after Mary’s coronation she had Parliament declare the marriage of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon valid – this appears to have brought up old hostilities toward Elizabeth. She even toyed with the idea of removing Elizabeth from the line of succession but found that would not be as easy as she thought, regardless she would not need to worry about that since she’d hope to have a child of her own making it all unnecessary.

Mary’s Council continued to push her to rid herself of Lady Jane Grey, who was sitting in the Tower of London, as they saw her as a threat to her throne. Mary was soft about her dear cousin and kept her locked away instead of executing her. She understood that Jane wanted no part in becoming queen and felt sorry for her. It wasn’t until Wyatt’s Rebellion that her hand was forced and the execution of Jane was ordered.

Wyatt’s Rebellion only cemented Mary’s paranoia against her sister and Jane’s fate. It appears that Mary was concerned about what Elizabeth was doing and who was in her inner circle. Elizabeth, not wanting to be on her sister’s bad sad, made sure by all outward appearances to act the loyal subject by practicing the Catholic faith in public and not associating herself with rebels, hoping her sister would not find reason to arrest her.

With all the turmoil in the country surrounding religion, many wished Mary to be removed from her throne and Elizabeth to take over as Queen of England. Elizabeth was smart enough to know it was suicide to go along with any plans and seemed comfortable waiting for her turn. She may not have agreed with her sister’s dealings as queen but she knew it was suicide to go against Mary. The queen was paranoid nonetheless and called for her sister to come to London. Allison Weir states in her book, “The Children of Henry VIII” that Elizabeth feigned sickness to save herself. Ambassador Renard suspected that Elizabeth was pregnant with Edward Courtenay’s baby, so Mary’s physicians examined Elizabeth to ensure she was safe for travel and concluded that she was only suffering from ‘watery humours’ or nephritis and was able to travel to court. Renard continued to push for Elizabeth and Edward Courtenay’s execution, going so far to say, When these traitors have been removed “Your Majesty need have no fear for your crown.” Renard is an example of the type of people who were trying to keep the sisters apart. Unfortunately, Elizabeth was probably the one person who understood Mary best.

We will never know for certain whether or not Elizabeth’s ‘illnesses’ were real or not but we can conclude that she was smart enough to know how to manipulate situations to her advantage.

Mary’s concerns were real. As the first Queen regnant of England she was paving a path that was never laid out before. There were enemies around every corner and she had to figure out on her own who was friend and who was foe. It appears that many were convincing her that her sister was foe – so many that there were rumors that Mary would name her Catholic cousin, Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox her heir. Margaret was the daughter of Henry VIII’s sister Margaret Tudor, who had been queen consort of King James IV of Scotland. With this in mind, Margaret Douglas seized the opportunity to besmirch Elizabeth’s reputation by relaying gossip about her to Mary so she would look more favorably on her.

When the queen wed Philip of Spain her subjects and the Council were not pleased with her. She had truly believed that it was God who wished her to marry Philip to help in restore England to Catholicism and Rome. Of course, it had been many years since her father had become the Head of the Church of England so many of her subjects were raised Protestant and happy to continue as such. There were others who were just as happy to return to Catholicism. It was a difficult time to live in England.

Even though Mary locked away her sister in the Tower of London to control the situation, she always had a connection with her sister. She had helped raise Elizabeth years ago and understood her personality better than anyone else. When Elizabeth was first placed in the Tower she requested, no begged, to  write to her sister and plea her case. She was so concerned that other’s would try to change her message that she scored the blank space at the bottom of the letter to ensure nothing could be added.

In her dying days, Queen Mary understood that if God would give her ‘no fruit nor heir of my body’ that England would then go to the person ‘the laws of this realm’ decreed. Mary could not get herself to name Elizabeth as her heir but knew her statement made it so. She made Elizabeth promise that she would not immediately change the country’s religion, and to pay the queen’s debts.

In the end, I truly believe that Mary loved Elizabeth – she was her kin and both were children of a king and his queen consorts. She never executed her sister, only threatened her harm to get her way.

*If you are interested in hearing the recorded version of this article in my podcast, click HERE.


Ives, Eric; The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn
Starkey, David; Elizabeth – The Struggle for the Throne
Fraser, Antonia; The Wives of Henry VIII
Gristwood, Sarah; Game of Queens – The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe
Gristwood, Sarah; Elizabeth & Leicester – The Truth About the Virgin Queen and the Man She Loved
Gristwood, Sarah; Blood Sisters – The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses
Weir, Alison; The Children of Henry VIII

Further Reading (Fiction):

Lawrence, G.; The Bastard Princess
Lawrence, G.; The Heretic Heir

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The Howards and Seymours


From everything that has been written about him, Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk was a powerful, yet ambitious man. The possibility of bringing his family close to the crown after the execution of his niece, Anne Boleyn, and death of his son-in-law, Henry Fitzroy in 1536, seemed to be the driving force behind arranging a marriage with his now widowed daughter, Mary Howard, dowager Duchess of Richmond and Somerset to Sir Thomas Seymour.thomas-howard-3rd-duke-of-norfolk

Having his niece as queen consort from 1533-1536 surely helped Norfolk to stay in good favor with the King. Anne Boleyn was also instrumental in helping arrange the marriage between the King’s illegitimate son, Fitzroy to Norfolk’s daughter Mary in 1533. Norfolk may have foreseen a great future for his daughter and himself had the King not produced a son with Jane Seymour — Norfolk may have believed that Fitzroy would have been legitimized before Henry would have recognized either of his daughters as heirs.

The Seymour family while already a noble family had achieved greatness when Jane Seymour married the King in 1536. After Jane passed away in 1537, her brothers Edward and Thomas both continued to thrive at court – they were, after all, uncles to the future king (Prince Edward).


Always looking for a way to advance himself and his family Norfolk, in 1538, suggested that his daughter, Mary Howard, dowager Duchess of Richmond and Somerset, marry Sir Thomas Seymour. At the time Thomas had been acquiring lands from the the plundered property of the Church and making a name for himself at court. Of course the future was bright for Seymour since he was uncle to the future King of England.

We find a letter, written by Sir Ralph Sadler to Lord Cromwell, that documents the proposed marriage. Sadler formerly had the role of Secretary with Cromwell and was now employed by the King in his Privy Chamber. As we look at this letter I will attempt to translate it for you. When reading these old letters we must remember that there was no standard for spelling at the time – words were spelled phonetically.

To the Right Honourable and his singular good Lorde, my Lorde Pryvey Seale, be this yoven,

After myn humble recommendations unto Your Lordship, These shalbe to advertise you that the Kinges Highnes hathe commaunded me to signefie unto you, on His Graces behalf, that my Lordof Norfolk, taking an oportunyte to mete with His Highnes, the same day that His Grace removed from Westminster to Hampton Court, amongst other, thank most humblie His Majestee for his doughter, the Duchesse of Rychmonde, and so not only made sute and mocyon to His Majestee, touching his said doughters joynctour, as your Lordeshiop hathe sythnens had knowlege from His Grace by Mr. Wryothesley, but, also, made a further overture for the marriage of his saide doughter; sayeng that, lyke as he wolde wourke, and do nothing therein, contrary to the Kinges Highnes’ pleasure ne without His Graces advyse, so he knew but 2 persons uppon whom he thought mete, or could resolve in his herte to bestowe his saide doughter; the one he named, of whom he saied your Lordeship had made a mocyon unto him, whose name the Kinges Majestee now remebreth not; thother he sayed, to whom his herte is most inclyned, was Sir Thomas Seymour, on whom, aswell for that he is so honestly advaunced by the Kinges Majesteee, as also for his towardenes, and other his comendable merytes, he could well find in his herte, and wold be glad, stonding so with the Kinges pleasure to bestowe his doughter; sayeng ferther, that, percyvyng there ensueth comenly no grete good by conjuction of grete bloodes togyther, he sought not therefore, nor desyred to mary his doughter, in any high bloode or degreee.


This letter is to inform Cromwell that the King (Henry VIII) had commanded Sadler to inform Cromwell, on behalf of the King, that Norfolk had metwith Henry the day that the King moved from Westminster to Hampton Court. Norfolk discussedhis daughter (Mary), the King’s former daughter-in-law’s jointure (an estate settled on a wife to be taken by her in lieu of dower). Norfolk then apparently mentioned that there were two men that he felt would be a good match for his daughter, one whose name could not be remembered and the other Sir Thomas Seymour. Seymour was well seated near the King as his former brother-in-law an uncle to the King’s son, Edward. Norfolk believed that the Seymour and Howard families joined would be a good match for his daughter.

Whereunto the Kinges Highnes, answered meryly, that if he were so mynded to bestowe his doughter; sayeng ferther, that, percyvyng there ensueth comenly no grete good by conjunction of grete bloodes togyther, he sought not therefore, nor desyred to marry his doughter, in any high bloode or degree.Whereunto the Kinges Highnes, answered meryly, that if he were so mynded to bestowe his doughter uppon the saide Sir ThomasSeymour, he shoulde be sure to couple her with one of suche lust and youth, as should be able to please her well at all poyntes, shewed himself to be right willing and agreeable that the same shoulde take effecte accordingly.


King Henry VIII answered happily that if Norfolk so wished to give his daughter to Sir Thomas Seymour that she should be given a great match and she would be pleased in all matters with him. He agreed that the match would be perfect.

Whereuppon His HIghnes, after that, brake with the said Sir Thomas Seymer; who percyving not onely the Kinges Majestee to be so moche his good and gracious Lorde, but, also, that my Lorde of Norfolk himself procured and desyred the same, hathe neverthles made sute unto His Highness, that forasmoche as he taketh your Lordeship to be his good Lorde, and for that your son hathe maryed his suster, that, therefore, your Lordshiop might the rather have the mayning of the matier; and for the better perfection thereof, your Lordeship, taking an oportunyte to be eyther at dyner or soupper, with my said Lorde of Norfolk, might make the overture, and first entree into the same.

Mentioned in the above paragraph is the marriage of Cromwell’s son, Gregory to Seymour’s sister Elizabeth and what a great match that was as well. Sadler goes on to mention that when Cromwell dines with Norfolk that Norfolk might make mention this to ensure that the marriage between his daughter and Seymour might go forth.

Wherein the Kinges Highnes, not onely noting a certen zele, love, and trust to be in the saide Sir Thomas Seymer towardes your Lordship, but also estemyng him for his honestie, sadness, and other good qualitees, as one that is nothing addicte to his brothers affections to be right mete and wourthie of the saide marryage, hath commaunded me to wryte unto your Lorshiop, and, on his Majestees behalf, to requere you to take tyme convenyent for the purpose aforesaid.

Where as, Henry VIII, who was showing much happiness, love and trust to be in the said Sir Thomas Seymour towards Cromwell, but also esteeming him for his honesty, sadness, and other good qualities, as one that is nothing addict to his brother’s affections to be right meet worthy of the said marriage, hath commanded me to write unto you (Cromwell), and, on his Majesty’s behalf, to require you to take time for this matter.

And forasmuche as His Highnes is informed that the saide Duchesse goeth to-morrow, or next day into the countrey, His Grace, therefore, prayeth you to take your tyme the soner; so that whilles she is there, the matier may be entered in suche sorte, as the same may the rather take effecte according to his most gracious pleasure. Thus the Holie Trynyte preserve your Lordeship in long lyf and helth, with increase of honour.

At Chobham, the 14th day of Julie, with the rude hand of “Your Lordeshippes old servaunte and daylie Bedisman,

Rafe Sadleyr”

A marriage between Mary Howard and Thomas Seymour never took place….Mary’s “fantezy would not serve to marry him.” To learn more about Mary Howard, please read – Mary Howard: Bold Disobediance.

This prospective marriage was the first that is documented for Thomas Seymour. It makes one wonder if he considered the perks of being married into the powerful Howard family and it motivated him reach higher in the future. How different things would have been for the Howards and the Seymours had the marriage actually taken place.


Locke, A. Audrey; The Seymour Family – History and Romance

Maclean, John; The Life of Sir Thomas Seymour, Knight – Baron Seymour Sudeley, Lord High Admiral of England and Master of Ordnance

St. Maur, Richard Harold; Annals of the Seymours

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Mary Howard: Bold Disobedience

Mary Howard- Bold Disobedience

Mary Howard was born in 1519, to Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and his wife Lady Elizabeth Stafford. Elizabeth Stafford was the daughter of the Edward Stafford,3rd Duke of Buckingham.Mary’s father, the Duke of Norfolk was a very powerful man in England — at the time of her birth he was a very high-ranking noble, just behind the King.

Sometime in 1529, it was suggested that Henry Fitzroy should wedMary Howard. The marriage would strengthen the Howard name and bring them even closer to the power of the throne. During this time Henry VIII was trying to end his marriage with Katherine of Aragon and wed Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn was niece to Thomas Howard – Mary’s father.Some have suggested that Anne Boleyn put into motion the idea of a union between the two teenagers to further strengthen the Howard name near the throne — she needed allies, and family was always the first to rise after a royal marriage.

Anne Boleyn supposedly convinced Henry VIII to wed his son to Mary Howard, without a dowry. It showed how strong of an influence Anne had on the King at the time.

Henry FitzRoy
Henry Fitzroy

In 1533, Mary Howard married the King’s illegitimate (but recognized) son, Henry Fitzroy. With the marriage she became Duchess of Richmond and Somerset. Unfortunately, the marriage was short-lived and on 23 July 1536, Henry Fitzroy died and Mary was left a widow.

There was some talk in July 1538, of a marriage between Thomas Seymour and Mary Howard. The Duke of Norfolk gladly offered up his daughter to wed Seymour. Apparently Henry VIII was looking to raise Seymour’s station and Norfolk was more than happy to use his daughter to be nearer the King.

A letter dated 14 July 1538 fromRafe Sadleyr to Cromwell:

The day the King removed from Westminster to Hampton Court, the duke of Norfolk made a suit to him touching the jointure of his daughter the duchess of Richmond, and spoke about her marriage, mentioning two persons, one being Sir Thos. Seymour. The King has spoken to Sir Thos. about it, and he, considering that Cromwell’s son has married his sister, prefers him to have “the mayning of the matter.” The King desires him to speak to the Duke at some time convenient, and soon, as the Duchess goes into the country tomorrow or next day. Chobham, 14 July.

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour

Again in 1546, Norfolk discussed the marriage of his daughter to Thomas Seymour. Around this time he had also proposed a few marriages to further bind together the Howard and Seymour families. In addition to the proposed union of his daughter to Thomas Seymour he also negotiated some of his grandchildren as matches for three of Edward Seymour’s children. On 10 June 1546, Henry VIII gave his permission and approval to the proposal.

Twice, it was proposed Mary should wed Thomas Seymour, the brother of Queen Jane. The king approved the union and ordered Cromwell to make it happen. But – surprisingly – Mary refused. Her status as a widow gave her a bit more autonomy than a girl still living at home with her parents. Mary packed up and left court. Her brother, the Earl of Surrey, followed her to her home in Kenninghall, likely trying to badger her into it, but Mary wouldn’t bend.

Thomas & Henry Howard

In December 1546, the Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Surrey were arrested on charges of treason. Norfolk’sson and heir, Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, had unrightfully assumed the royal arms of Edward the Confessor as part of his personal heraldry and it was assumed that Norfolk was aware.

On 13 December, the Duke of Norfolk wrote the Henry VIII:

Begs for grace. Some great enemy has informed the King untruly; for God knows, he never thought one untrue thought against the King or his succession, and can no more guess the charge against him than the child born this night. (fn. n3) Desires that his accusers and he may appear before the King, or else the Council. Knows not that lie has offended any man, or that any are offended with him, “unless it were such as are angry with me for being quick against such as have been accused for Sacramentaries.” As for religion I have told your Majesty and many others that knowing your virtue and knowledge I shall stick to whatsoever laws you make; and for this cause divers have borne me ill will, “as doth appear by casting libels abroad against me.” Begs that he may recover the King’s favour, the King taking all his lands and goods; and that he may know what is laid to his charge and have some word of comfort from his Majesty.

On 14 December, Sir Richard Southwell arrived at daybreak at the Duke of Norfolk’s home and broke the news of the arrest of Norfolk and Surrey to Mary Howard & Norfolk’s mistress:

As the steward was absent “taking musters,” we called the almoner, and, first taking order for the gates and back doors, desired to speak with the Duchess of Richmond and Elizabeth Holland; who were only just risen, but came to us without delay in the dining chamber. On hearing how the matter stood the Duchess was “sore perplexed, trembling and like to fall down”; but, recovering, she reverently upon her knees humbled herself to the King, saying that although constrained by nature to love her father, whom she ever thought a true subject, and her brother, “whom she noteth to be a rash man,” she would conceal nothing but declare in writing all she can remember. Advised her to use truth and frankness and not despair. Examined her coffers, and closet, but find nothing worth sending, all being very bare and her jewels sold to pay her debts, as her maidens and the almoner say.

The deposition ofSir Gawen Carew’s

“First I have heard by the report of the Duchess of Richmond that the Earl of Surrey should give her advice, upon consultation had for the marriage of Sir Thomas Seymour and the said Duchess of Richmond, that, although her fantasy would not serve to marry with him, yet, notwithstanding, she should dissemble the matter, and he would find the means, that the King’s Majesty should speak with her himself; but that she should in nowise utterly make refusal of him, but that she should leave the matter so diffusely that the King’s Majesty should take occasion to speak with her again; and thus by length of time it is possible that the King should take such a fantasy to you that ye shall be able to govern like unto Madame Distamps. Which should not only be a mean to help herself, but all her friends should receive a commodity by the same. Whereupon she defied her brother, and said that all they should perish and she would cut her own throat rather than she would consent to such a villainy.” The Earl of Surrey has said to me, place and time now out of my remembrance, “Note those men which are made by the King’s Majesty of vile birth hath been the distraction (sic) of all the nobility of this realm,” and again that the Cardinal and Lord Cromwell sought the death of his father. Mr. Edward Rogers has told me of the Earl’s saying “If God should call the King’s Majesty unto His mercy (whose life and health the Lord long preserve) that he thought no man so meet to have the governance of the Prince as my lord his father.”

To summarize the above statement: Surrey attempted to convince his sister Mary to become mistress to King Henry. By doing so it would benefit her and their entire family. She was insulted and said she would rather cut her own throat than go along with his plan. Surrey had such a distaste for men who were “made” and not of royal birth that it ended up destroying him.

On 12 January 1547 Norfolk admittedthat he had known and concealed the fact that his son wasusing the arms of St. Edward the Confessor, which pertain only to king — in his admittance he offered his lands to the King Henry. Norfolk’s family, including his estranged wife, his mistress and his daughter Mary,gave evidence against him.

Mary Howard, from birth, was to be a pawn for her family — such was the case for any woman of noble birth. In the end she took down her own brother and father by telling her side of the story.

In the end the Duke of Norfolk did not lose his head like her brother Surrey did — King Henry VIII died shortly before thescheduledexecution of Norfolk and so he was spared.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir

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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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The Legacy of Henry VIII


When you think of infamous English monarchs who is the first to come to mind? Henry VIII?

King Henry VIII is popularly known for marrying six times and executing two of his wives, as well as his famous split from Rome. It might surprise you to learn that Henry VIII was considered one of the most prolific builders of the English monarchs. He also helped to increase the size of the English Navy with ships like: Henry Grace a Dieu,The Mary Rose, The Peter and many more.

In this article we’ll provide a list of castles and palaces that Henry VIII built. Included are some some that he made significant additionsto. As an example, Hampton Court Palace – it was Cardinal Wolsey’s property before him but Henry made substantial additions to it to make it suitable to house nearly 1,000 court members.

This list may be missing some — if you see something missing, please comment below and I will add them.

Below are the palaces or castles that Henry VIII built from the earth up — or that he built major additions to making them part of his Tudor legacy (in no particular order):

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle

Pendennis Castle, located in Falmouth, Cornwall, Englandwas built by King Henry VIII between 1539 and 1545 to guard and defend from the perceived French and Spanish threat. During the time that Pendennis Castle was being built Henry VIII married and divorced Anne of Cleves (1540), married and beheaded Katherine Howard (1540-1541) and married Catherine Parr (1543). He was a busy guy with building AND wives.

Image Courtesy: Google Maps

St. James Palace

St. James Palace

St. James Palace was constructed between 1531 and 1536 and was secondary in Henry’s interest to Whitehall Palace. It was a smaller residence to help escape formal court life.

Mainly built withred-brick, the palace’s architecture is primarily in theTudorstyle.The most recognizable feature is north gatehouse;It is decorated with the initials H.A. for Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.

St. James Palace was remodeled in 1544 (some time after Henry VIII married Catherine Parr) and the ceilings were painted by Hans Holbein; St. James was described as a “pleasant royal house.”[1]

Henry’s son, Henry FitzRoy, died at St. James Palace as did his daughter Queen Mary I. It is said that his other daughter Queen Elizabeth I spent the night in St. James Palace while awaiting the Spanish Armada.

St James Palace
Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Oatlands Palace

Oatlands Palace

In 1538, Henry VIII acquired Oatlands and rebuilt it for Anne of Cleves. In 1540 he married his fifth wife, Katherine Howard there.

Oatlands Palace is where Queen Mary I retreated after her phantom pregnancy. It is when she moved from Hampton Court (which housed the nursery and nursery staff) that her subjects knew there would be no child.

Little remains of Oatlands Palace, near Weybridge in Surrey, where Henry VIII loved to go hunting.

outlands palace
Site of Oatlands Palace, Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Nonsuch Palace

Nonsuch Palace

The birth of Henry VIII’s legitimate son, Prince Edward, led directly to the destruction of the manor of Cuddington. To celebrate both the securing of the succession and the arrival of the 30th year of his reign, Henry decided to build a palace which would have no equal – hence the name, Nonsuch. None such palace would compare. It was said to be quite beautiful, and honestly like nothing England had seen before.

Building for Nonsuch began in 1538. It was the greatest of Henry VIII’s building enterprises – it took nine years to build and was completed at a cost of at least 24,000, a phenomenal amount for that time.Henry died before the palace was completed.

Site of Nonsuch Palace, Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Whitehall Palace

Whitehall Palace

In the 15th century, the Archbishops of York built as their London base a palace named York Place, which stood on the site of Inigo Jones’ Banqueting House. When Cardinal Wolsey became Archbishop of York in 1514, he extended the palace, which, like Hampton Court, another of Wolsey’s splendid residences, attracted the covetous eye of Henry VIII. In the late 1520’s his reputation failing and desperately trying to retain the King’s favour, Wolsey gave York Place to Henry. Renamed Whitehall Palace it became Henry VIII’s principal royal residence.” – Quoted from The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain

Henry VIII further improved the building to his liking by adding a Privy Gallery, a bowling alley, a tilt yard, a cockpit and real tennis courts. Hans Holbeinpainted many of the ceilings as well.

As per the book, London, Volume 1 (Page 339, Edited by Charles Knight), Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII were married at Whitehall Palace on 25 January 1533.

whitehall palace
Site of Whitehall Palace in London, Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Beaulieu Palace

Beaulieu 1580
Beaulieu Palace

Beaulieu Palace was the first palace Henry VIII built as King of England. In 1516, just a month before the birth of his daughter Mary, Henry ordered construction to begin.

Beaulieu Palace was a favorite for Queen Mary I – her father, Henry VIII granted Mary the palace in his will. Beaulieu Palace is also where Mary I declared (before the sacrament) that she would marry Philip.

Beaulieu Palace
Site of Beaulieu Palace, Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace, from the beginning, was not built by Henry VIII – Henry received it from Wolsey in 1528. Once Henry owned Hampton Court Palace he began expanding to house his large court. He might as well have built it because the additions were major -Henry VIII spent 62,000 (approximately 18 million today) on Hampton Court in just ten years!

Hampton Court
Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Deal Castle

“Henry Vlll built the low-lyingartilleryfort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built aroundEngland’s south coast in the later 1530s and early 1540s. Following his break with the Church of Rome, he feared invasion by the armies of a Franco-Spanish Catholic alliance brokered by the Pope.” -The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.360)

In 18 months, Henry built three forts – one at Sandown, one at Deal and one at Walmer to cover that part of the English coast. They were built using press-ganged labor and stone from local religious houses that were suppressed by Henry’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry VIII was in his late 40’s when he build these forts. Anne of Cleves is said to have stayed at Deal Castle after her long voyage from Europe on her way to London to meet her future husband.

Image Courtesy: Google Maps

Sandsfoot Castle

Completed in 1539, Sandsfoot Castle, historically as Weymouth Castlewas built by Henry VIII ’to provide in conjunction with Portland Castle a defence for shipping in the safe anchorage of Portland Roads (Portland Harbour)’. -

This castle had two storeys plus a basement. It was built to protect against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire.


The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain, by Charles Phillips
Video: Time Team Special 40 (2009) – Henry VIII’s Lost Palaces
London, Volume 1 (Page 339, Edited by Charles Knight)

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