Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses


Early Tudor Palaces and Country Houses


Compton Wynyates

Public Domain: 19th century print or a watercolour from Nash Mansions of England published in 1870
Public Domain

“The delightful red-brick manor house of Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, was begun by Edmund Compton in 1481, just prior to the accession of the House of Tudor. Edmund’s sturdy but good-looking country home was given some elegant editions, including porch and some towers by his son, the prominent Tudor courtier, Sir William Compton, between 1493 and 1528.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.348)

King Henry VIII’s room at Compton Wynyates had stained glass windows featuring the royal arms and throne of Aragon – the royal arms of his future wife, Katharine of Aragon. In 1572, Elizabeth I also stayed in the same room as her father.

In later years Compton Wynyates became uninhabited. This caused the house to decay and nearly fell into complete ruin. In 1768 it was ordered by Lord Northampton to be demolished, but the order was not carried out. In the late 19th century it was restored and in 1884 was once again inhabited by the 5th Marquess of Northampton.

Hampton Court Palace

Photo Credit: Christopher Wren / CC BY-SA 3.0

“One of England’s finest royal building associated with the magnificent court of Henry VIII, although major changes were made in the 17th century during the reign of William and Mary. The palace came into royal hands as a gift from the statesman, Cardinal Wolsey to his royal master, Henry VIII.” -The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.350)

In an episode of “The Tudors” on Showtime, it shows Henry VIII becoming a little distraught by the grandeur of the palace that Wolsey had built - it was greater than any palace Henry had at the time. Once Wolsey noticed Henry’s reaction to the grand palace he offered it as a gift to His Majesty. At this time Wolsey was starting to fall out of favor of the  king and out of self-preservation offered his splendid palace…I’m sure Hampton Court Palace was hard to part with, but then again, so is your head.

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

Hever Castle

Public Domain
Photo Credit: The Giant Puffin / Public Domain

“The moated and fortified manor house of Hever Castle, near Edenbridge in Kent, was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth l. Henry VIII was a frequent visitor in the 1520’s when he paid court to Anne.”- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.352)

After the death of Anne’s father Hever Castle was taken over by the Crown. Henry VIII gave it to Anne of Cleves after their divorce in 1540. When Anne of Cleves died in 1557 the Castle again reverted to the Crown until Queen Mary l gifted it to Sir Edward Waldegrave.  For more on what happened: Hever Castle & Gardens – Owners

© National Portrait Gallery, London
Anne of Cleves
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger

Leeds Castle

CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo credit: Sophie Templer / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII took a great liking to Leeds Castle in Kent, and carried out lavish improvements, transforming it from castle to fortified palace. The King was often in Kent, where he was entertained at Penhurst Place and visited Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle. Leeds Castle had well-established royal links, and had been favoured by kings and queens since Edward l honeymooned there in 1299.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.353)

In 1519, Henry VIII transformed Leeds Castle for his wife Katherine of Aragon.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Sulgrave Manor

Photo Credit: Cathy Cox / CC BY-SA 2.0

“The sturdy, unpretentious manor house at Sulgrave, in Northamptonshire, was built in the early Tudor years by a direct ancestor of George Washington, the first President of the United States of America. Lawrence Washington, younger son of a prominent Lancashire family, was born c. 1500. He became a wool merchant and bought the Priory of St. Andrew, Northhamptonshire, from the Crown in 1539, following Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.356)

Edinburgh Castle & Holyroodhouse

Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Edinburgh Castle was a well-established stronghold and royal dwelling by the latter years of the 14th century when the future Robert ll build David’s Tower, containing royal apartments. In the mid-1430’s, James l built a new Great Chamber, probably alongside the royal accommodations in the Tower. His successor, James ll, brought the great siege gun of Mons Meg to the castle, which assumed an increasingly important role as a royal artillery.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.358)

The increased use of Edinburgh Castle as Scotland’s principal foundry in 1511 left little room for the royal family to stay. In the meantime, the royals began to stay more regularly at the Abbey of Holyrood. King James IV built Holyroodhouse as his principal residence in the late 15th century.

Holyroodhouse – Photo Credit: Kim Traynor / CC BY-SA 3.0
James IV of Scotland

Following her return from France in 1561 Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at Holyroodhouse. In 1565 she married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley there, and in 1566 the brutal murder of David Rizzio catapulted Mary into scandal after Lord Darnley was suspected of orchestrating the murder.

Mary, Queen of Scots
David Rizzio
David Rizzio











Falkland Palace & Stirling Castle

Falkland Palace – Photo Credit: Sam Styles / CC BY-SA 2.0

“Falkland Palace began as a castle built by the Macduffs, earls of Fife, probably in the 13th century. James ll extended the castle and frequently visited it to hunt deer and wild board. After 1458, when he granted a charter, it was known as Falkland Palace.” “James V’s daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, was a frequent visitor to Falkland Palace after her return to Scotland from French exile in 1561.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.359)

King James ll of Scotland
King James II of Scotland

Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically important sites and was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle.

Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to Stirling Castle to revel in its grandeur with its superb sculptures and beautiful gardens. It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations from christenings to coronations.” – VisitScotland.com

Stirling Castle http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Stirling Castle – Photo Credit: Finlay McWalter / CC BY-SA 3.0

Deal Castle

Photo Credit: Lieven Smits / CC BY-SA 3.0

“Henry VIII built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’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)

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

Henry Vlll in 1542
Anne of Cleves - 1540s
Anne of Cleves – 1540s

Syon House

Public Domain
Public Domain

The splendid Syon House, now surrounded by London’s westward sprawl at Brenford in Middlesex, was built during the reign of Edward VI by his uncle Edward, Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector. Somerset built a three-storey building with battlements and angle turrets around a central courtyard. His house stood on the foundations of the abbey church that had belonged to the convent on the side.” –The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.362)

The land which Syon House was built had originally belonged to a convent. The nuns’ confessor, Richard Reynolds refused to accept Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the Church of England – he was was executed and his body placed on the gateway of the abbey to be used as an example of what happens to those who refuse to accept the Act of Supremacy.

Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard was detained here prior to her execution in 1542.

Henry’s coffin rested at Syon House on it’s journey to Westminster and had burst open overnight- dogs were said to be seen gnawing on the royal corpse. Many suspected divine retribution since this happened at Syon House and the events that took place years earlier.

Katherine Howard
Katherine Howard

Sudeley Castle

Photo Credit: Wdejager / CC BY-SA 4.0

“The 15th century Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire was rebuilt in the late 1540s by Lord Thomas Seymour. Thomas was the brother of the Duke of Somerset, Lord Protector to Edward VI; their sister, Jane, had been Henry VIII’s third wife, who had died giving birth to Edward in 1537, making the brothers the young king’s uncles.”The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain by Charles Phillips (p.363)

After the king’s death, Thomas Seymour married Henry’s widow Katherine Parr. Thomas and Katherine moved into Sudeley Castle where she gave birth to their daughter, Mary on 30 August 1548. Katherine died there from puerperal fever a week later and was buried in St. Mary’s Church near the castle.

Thomas Seymour
Thomas Seymour
Katherine Parr
Katherine Parr

Margaret Beaufort: From Fragile to Martriarch

Guest Article by: Samia Chebbah


Margaret Beaufort
Margaret Beaufort

Summary of the historical context in which Margaret Beaufort evolved : The War of the Two Roses

The war went from 1455 to 1485 and opposed the Lancastrians to the Yorkists.[1] Both houses were descendants of King Edward III of England. And both were after the throne of England. Two heirs and in turns kings were fighting: King Henry VI (king Henry V’s son) from the House of Lancaster and King Edward IV (Richard, Duke of York’s son) from house of York.[2]

Courtesy: http://www.warsoftheroses.com/

As the legitimate heir of his father, Henry VI was crowned king from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471 after battling during the War of the Roses. When he became mentally ill, Richard, Duke of York and the future Edward IV’s father, became Lord Protector of England in 1454.[3] He might have seen a way to claim the throne for his own son in case the king died. Was he not, after all, a descendant from Edward III himself? That was made possible when Henry VI’s son Edward was killed during one of the numerous battles of that war: Tewkesbury in May 1471[4].Later that same month, King Henry VI was murdered in the Tower of London where he was kept prisoner by Edward of York.[5]

After that event, it was easy for Edward IV (who reigned from 1461 to 1470 and from 1471 to 1483[6]) to definitely seize the throne from the hands of the Lancasters. As a matter of fact, his successor was his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, famously known as Richard III. Little did the brothers know that the House of Lancaster was not dead, waiting to arise and take the throne back. Beware of Margaret Beaufort and her son, Henry Tudor!!

Margaret Beaufort: between politics and strategies

When we mention the Tudors, we especially think of Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I. We hardly mention that Henry VIII’s father, Henry VII acceded the throne of England because of the determination of his mother, Margaret Beaufort.

Born in 1443, she was herself a descendant of King Edward III of England. She was married 3 times and betrothed once when she was 6.[7]

Image courtesy: https://musingsofaqueen.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/war-of-the-roses.jpg
Image courtesy: https://musingsofaqueen.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/war-of-the-roses.jpg

At 12, she married Edmund Tudor and became a widow and pregnant at 13. It was said that the delivery on January 28th, 1457[8] was very difficult and that mother and son, Henry Tudor (the future Henry VII) almost died. What is interesting to know is that not only Margaret Beaufort descended from royal blood but Edmund Tudor also had a royal grandfather in the name of King Charles VI of France. Actually, Edmund and the future King Henry VI of England were half brothers through their mother, Katherine of Valois,[9] Princess of France and Henry V’s former Queen. However, although we understand that Henry Tudor descended from kings, it is essential to note that on each side, it was out of wedlock and thus illegitimate. As a matter of fact, long after Henry V died in 1422, Katherine of Valois was in a relationship with a man from her household, Owen Tudor.[10] The same went with Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt whose mistress, Katherine Swynford gave him numerous children known as the Beaufort.[11] Those children were recognized by Parliament in 1397 but not allowed to ascend the throne of England.[12] No matter what, Margaret Beaufort considered her son a true Lancastrian.

Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby

In the XVth century, in a society dominated by men, how did Margaret Beaufort become the centre piece of the creation of the Tudor dynasty? And how did she manage to put her son on the throne of England when the legitimacy of Henry Tudor was not that obvious to everyone else?

We may find the answer in her second marriage to Henry Stafford on January 3rd, 1458, when she started to have an independent mind. As a matter of fact, she was used to accompany her husband to Parliament[1]. It seems obvious that it was the source of her becoming powerful in terms of politics and strategy. Actually, at the beginning of their marriage, both were Lancastrian. When in 1461, Edward IV ascended the throne, they both decided to recognize the new king to ”protect Margaret Beaufort’s properties”.[2] Learning how to please one side or the other, Margaret Beaufort was still welcome at Court and thus able to use strategies, the king allowed her to keep her financial ressources (money meant power). That meant that she was able to move according to her plans: have her own son, Henry Tudor, crowned King of England.

We find evidence of those plans in May 1471, when the Lancastrians, Henry VI and his son, Edward died (both killed by the Yorkists), Henry Tudor became the last Lancastrian heir according to Margaret Beaufort. She immediately sent him to Brittany, France in order to protect him from being killed by the Yorkists.[3] By doing so, Margaret Beaufort confirmed that not only she was determined to have her son crowned king of England, she also asserted that her heart had always been with the Lancastrians.

Actually, it seems like 1471 was not a good year for Margaret Beaufort. Henry VI and his son died. Her husband Sir Henry Stafford died in October[4] and her own son, Henry left for Britanny.  How did she manage to work her plans properly when she was left all alone? She did not seem to lose hope. She married a fourth time with Thomas Stanley in June 1472 when she was 29. He was a steward of the royal household.[5] The year is 1472, under the reign of Edward IV. The Yorkists were back again. Obviously, Margaret was more than ready to accept to side with the opposing house in order to satisfy her ambitions. She was the perfect example of the mother who would do anything for her child. And when in 1483, Richard of York became king of England, Margaret proved to be rebellious and in punishement, lost her properties.[6] She would have to wait two years in order to win it back and on top of it all, exterminate the House of York.7

Battle of Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485

Henry VII
Henry VII

The Battle of Bosworth was the last battle of the War of the 2 Roses. It was also the event that marked the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty. Henry Tudor came back from exile to England at the beginning of August 1485. It seemed like Henry Tudors as well as the Lancastrians had multiple supporters in England and in France.[7] Would it be enough to fight against King Richard III’s army?

We know that Thomas Stanley and his brother, William’s army decided at the last minute to fight with Henry Tudor against Richard III, the then king of England (from 1483 to 1485) and who died during that battle.[8] In fact, the side that would chose the Stanley brothers were decisive since Richard  III’s army was larger than Henry Tudor’s one.[9] What is more, to ensure that both Stanleys would show their loyalty, King Richard kept William’s son, Strange, prisoner, even threatening to execute him at once if they did not prove to be loyal to the king.[10] Fortunately, that did not happen. Should we entitle Stanley with the merit of being a ”kingmaker” by allowing Henry Tudor to win the crown of England ? Were the Stanleys the heroes of that battle more than Margaret Beaufort was?

To that extent, the victory of the battle of Bosworth reminded of the difficulty and the incertainty of the birth of Henry Tudor. Mother and son overcame the ordeal twice.

Even though Margaret Beaufort was determined to assert her son’s right to the crown of England, one can say that she benefited from the help of men.





About the Author: Samia Chebbah

SnHLuCicI live in France and french is my mother tongue. I am in love with the History of England ! Whenever I go there, visiting castles is my top priority ! My favourite period is the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. So it came as no surprise that when I had to decide the dissertation topic for my Master’s Degree, the English monarchy was my first choice. And so I talked about the ennoblement of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII’s race for supremacy. I am very curious and always have to make some researches when I learn about a new historical event! I have found it to be very enriching to do so because it always leads to another fact. This is the magic of history I guess!

The Troubled Life of Mary I of England

Birth: 18 February 1516, Greenwich Palace
Father: Henry VIII
Mother: Katherine of Aragon
Accession: 19 July 1553
Coronation: 1 October 1553
Husband: Philip II of Spain (m. 25 July 1554)

Preceded by: Edward VI
Succeeded by: Elizabeth I

The Pearl of the Realm

In history, Mary Tudor is best known as “Bloody Mary.” She was so much more than what history painted her to be as a ruler. If we go back to the beginning of her life we’ll be able to get a better understanding of who she was and what shaped her to be the ruler she became later in life.

Born 18 February 1516, at Greenwich Palace, Mary was the only surviving child of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon. By 1516, her  mother had already lost four children, and the arrival of a healthy child was news for celebration. With that being said, let’s be completely honest and talk about the fact that Henry VIII was still greatly disappointed that Mary was not a boy. He was already frustrated that he and his queen had not produced a male heir for the throne of England.  Katherine of Aragon was already thirty years old – not too old to conceive more children but the fact that she had only produced one healthy child over the past seven years was worrisome for Henry.


Mary was raised as Princess of Wales at  Ludlow Castle. She was very much her mother’s daughter. By all accounts Mary was an attractive, fresh-faced girl who excelled at her studies. She was fluent in Latin, Greek, French, Italian and her mother’s language, Spanish. Mary also loved music; She loved to sing and dance and could play the lute and virginals. She would make a great wife and queen consort some day. Queen consort? At the time there were no expectations of a female ruler of England and Mary should’ve been married off at a young age to a new or existing ally to help strengthen her father’s position. But as we know that did not happen.

When Henry VIII grew tired of waiting for Katherine to produce an heir his attentions turned to one of her Ladies in Waiting, Anne Boleyn.  Henry’s favor towards his only surviving child fell along with his marriage to her mother, Katherine the Queen when Anne Boleyn came into the picture. Anne made Henry believe that he could produce a male heir with her, and not Katherine.

Henry fought for an annulment from Katherine of Aragon on the grounds that she had consummated her first marriage with his brother, Arthur Tudor (Prince of Wales) on their wedding night. However, a papal dispensation had been obtained so Henry could marry his brother’s wife (and continue to have Spain as an ally) – so why would he argue the consummation at this point? Henry wanted to be free of Katherine so he could conceive a male heir.  He blamed Katherine for this not happening during their marriage. He claimed that since she consummated her marriage with Arthur (which she always denied) that God did not agree with their marriage or he would have provided them with a son and heir.


The ”King’s Great Matter,” as they called it (his fight for annulment) lasted roughly six years. This says a lot about his personality and his desire and determination for a male heir. Henry was willing to toss away a wife (whom he loved dearly at one time), and a daughter that he adored, for his cause.

When Henry eventually broke from Rome, so did his relationship with his daughter. He married his mistress Anne Boleyn and Mary fell from favor quickly. At the age of 17 she went from being Henry’s “pearl of the realm” to being cast aside like her mother and declared a bastard/illegitimate. She was to be called Lady Mary. I can only imagine what this would have been like for Mary.  How could a father completely abandoned his daughter for something she had no control over? She must have felt abandoned and alone with only her mother to comfort her.

Mary and Katherine’s relationship grew stronger after the estrangement from Henry.  They were both fighters and wanted everyone to know that they were indeed the rightful Queen and Princess of England in God’s eyes- regardless of what Henry declared. This was a thorn in Henry’s side and went against everything he was fighting for.  After he married Anne Boleyn many of his subjects still believed that Katherine was the rightful Queen of England and was treated unjustly by Henry, and the same went for Mary.

During the reign of Anne Boleyn both Katherine and Mary feared for their lives. As long as they were alive they were a threat to Anne’s reign.  They were never sure how it would happen but they believed that Anne would try to have them poisoned. What a fretful time for them both – with the constant fear of attack. Mary fell frequently ill over the years and her doctors stated they believed it was due to the ill-treatment by her father and Anne.

When Princess Elizabeth was born in September of 1533 Lady Mary was sent to her household in Hatfield to be a Lady-in-Waiting to her half-sister. This demotion would have been considered a slap in the face to someone who still considered herself Princess of Wales. She was accustomed to having her own household of ladies and tutors and never had she imagined being part of another’s household, let alone her half-sister, daughter of the woman she despised. Imagine the resentment she had for her Elizabeth at this time.

When Mary refused to accept Henry as the Head of the Church of England he banned her from seeing her mother. When either Katherine or Mary would fall ill they had requested the King allow them to see one another – he would refuse. What an awful thing for someone to do, just because he feared what would happen if they were together. Eventually Katherine died without ever seeing her precious daughter again.  How jaded would one become towards their father if they had been denied by him to see their dying mother?

As any princess would, Mary imagined marrying a prince (or a king), having babies and being happy someday. After seeing what her mother went through I believe she was all the more desperate to start her own family and find happiness again.


After Anne Boleyn’s fall from grace Henry extended an olive branch to Mary. If she would accept him as the Head of the Church of England (and annulment of her parent’s marriage) he would return her to favor once again. Mary refused. It wasn’t until Mary’s cousin, Charles V persuaded her to do so that Mary finally signed the Act of Supremacy. This was something that Mary regretted the rest of her life because it went against everything she truly believed in.

When Henry married Jane Seymour he welcomed his daughter back to court. She was given a household befitting her position as his daughter and was included in court festivities. At the time there were even rumors of a possible marriage in her future. It seemed at this point that Mary’s fortunes had begun to change.

Jane Seymour had been a lady in the household of Katherine of Aragon and had great respect for Lady Mary and her mother.  When Jane gave birth to Prince Edward Lady Mary was by her side. Jane felt so close with Mary that she named her Prince Edward’s godmother.

Mary continued to be by Jane’s side after she passed away in 1537 by being her chief mourner. After Jane’s death Henry could not escape the fragility of life and the uncertainty of the succession. He named his son Edward his successor, then Edward’s sons – if Edward had no sons then it would pass to his sister Mary and then to Elizabeth.  Finally Mary was given the respect she always deserved!

When Henry VIII died in 1547 her Protestant brother Edward became King of England. Mary despised the fact that her brother was a Protestant and left court to live elsewhere to practice her Catholic faith. This was a smart move by Mary. She had learned from her past. Edward and Mary had a good relationship beside the fact that they had opposite religious beliefs.

Before Edward died, after reigning only seven years, he attempted to change the Act of Succession to keep England a Protestant country. He did this by removing his sisters and naming Lady Jane Grey as his heir along with any of her future sons. As we know from history this did not go over well.  The English people regarded Mary very highly and knew she was meant to be Queen of England by Henry VIII’s Act of Succession.  After only nine days, Jane Grey was deposed as queen (though never crowned) and Mary had finally taken her rightful place on the throne of England.  She became England’s first true Queen Regnant.


After Mary’s coronation she understood the importance of marrying and having children. Mary was adamant in returning England to what it was before her father changed everything and broke from Rome. What she considered the true religion. At 37 years old, Mary was nearing the end of her child-bearing years and believed she had to return her country to the true faith – the Catholic religion. If she had children they would indeed continue to carry-on the true religion on her behalf.

When it came to choosing a potential suitor Mary had a short list. Among them was Edward Courteney (one of her favorites) and Reginald Pole – the son of Margaret Pole (Mary’s former governess and niece to Edward IV & Richard III). When Mary sought advice from Charles V, whom she had once agreed could choose a husband for her, he suggested his only son, Philip II of Spain. He would, upon the death of his father, become King of Spain. Spain would prove a strong ally for England.

Mary was attracted to the portrait of Philip and liked the idea of a Catholic husband. Her subjects were not as keen to the match since he was a foreign ruler whom they feared would try to rule England himself, especially if Mary died before him as she was ten years his senior. The only way that the council would approve the marriage is if Philip was only King of England for the duration of their marriage and that he would be unable to make any proclamation or sign any treaty on his own. England would also be under no obligation to support Spain in any acts of war. The benefit for Philip in this deal? Any English subject who did not obey Philip would be guilty of treason.

Mary and Philip were married on 25 July 1554, at Winchester Cathedral, only two days after they first met in person. Philip could not speak any English so Mary would speak Spanish with him.

In September 1554, only a few months after their wedding Mary believed she was pregnant. She had stopped menstruating, had gained weight and suffered from nausea in the mornings – all signs of pregnancy. In July 1555, Mary’s stomach receded and it soon became evident that she was not pregnant.  This was most likely a false pregnancy, perhaps induced by Mary’s overwhelming desire to have a child, or from illness. In August, soon after the disgrace of the false pregnancy, which Mary considered to be “God’s punishment” for her having “tolerated heretics” in her realm, Philip returned to Spain to command his armies against France in Flanders. Mary was heartbroken and depressed by the departure of her new husband who she loved deeply.  It would seem that Mary was not meant to be happy and to have a family.

Philip returned for a visit to England in the spring or summer of 1557 and soon after Mary believed she was pregnant again. This would also result in a  false pregnancy. In May 1558, Mary fell ill and nine months later, on 17 November 1558, she died.  On the very same day Reginald Pole, a man she had considered a potential husband, died from an influenza outbreak.

Mary had been in pain, possibly from ovarian cysts or uterine cancer.  Philip, who was in Brussels at the time wrote to his sister: “I felt a reasonable regret for her death.”


Mary’s attempt to form a happy family of her own would sadly never happen. She loved Philip deeply but it doesn’t seem that he reciprocated those feelings.  I take some solace from the fact that she had some amazing women in her life who showed her love and kindness – if only some of the men in her life had done the same. As the first female ruler of England she did an adequate job – you might say she proved that a woman could rule a country.  With that she was a success.

Further Reading:

John, Judith; A Dark Side to History: Tudors
Doran, Susan; The Tudor Chronicles 1485-1603
Soud, David; Kings and Queens of Great Britain

EnglishHistory.Net (Mary l)
Wikipedia (Queen Mary l)

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Anne Boleyn: The Rise

Guest Article By P. Deegan

Part 1: The Rise – Mainly Katherine vs Anne

anneboleyn3 (1)This article was going to be about the downfall of Anne Boleyn. However I believe her downfall must be seen within the context of their whole relationship so this article now covers her rise as well as her fall. There is a certain amount of personal speculation within this but it is written as an internet article so I feel I can have a little leeway in the composition. Part One covers the first 7-8 years of the relationship between Henry and Anne: from his initial interest to the brink of her triumph. Part Two will cover the three married years and include the basics of her fall. A potential Part three will discuss the fall in depth (if I can produce something worthwhile – if not write your own…).

Historians do not seem to agree on the starting date of Henry’s interest in Anne, with David Starkey suggesting Henry’s infatuation with Anne was detectable at the start of 1525 whilst Eric Ives suggests his attraction began in the first part of 1526. Ives tentatively charts the likely development of that romantic interest, over a year, from a courtly love relationship into an agreement to marry her by the summer of 1527 – even though he was already married at that time to Katherine of Aragon.

by Unknown artist, oil on panel, circa 1520
by Unknown artist, oil on panel, circa 1520
by Unknown artist, oil on oak panel, circa 1520s
by Unknown artist, oil on oak panel, circa 1520s

Henry had married his brother’s widow in 1509 and had needed a dispensation from the pope to do so. As his brother’s widow, she was deemed to be a “sister” to Henry in church eyes and therefore technically forbidden to marry him. However papal dispensations were given quite easily at this time for politically advantageous marriages, even for genuinely closely related blood relatives, so it was no problem obtaining that dispensation. However Henry, who had a genuine interest in theology and who was a devout man in his own way, had come to believe that the deaths of all his sons with Katherine (one after 6 or 7 weeks of life, one after a few hours of life after birth and one was stillborn) were because God was displeased. He took to heart the instruction written in Leviticus 20:21: “If a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing… he shall be without children”. The fact he had a live child in his daughter Mary did not discount this verse to Henry as she was female so didn’t really count in his world view. The fact there is also another verse in the bible instructing a man to marry his brother’s widow (Deuteronomy 25:5) was also ignored.

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales
Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales
Portrait of Katharine of Aragon by Michael Sittow, c1502
Portrait of Katharine of Aragon by Michael Sittow, c1502

In May 1527 Wolsey (presumably on the King’s instructions) called on Henry to answer the charge that he was living in sin with his brother’s widow though Katherine was not notified of this and lawyers “shrank from deciding without advice from senior bishops”[1]. However also in this month, May 1527, an international event happened that would decrease the prospect of an annulment being granted: the troops of Katherine’s nephew, the Emperor Charles V, sacked the city of Rome leaving the Pope their effective prisoner. In Western Europe at this time the Pope was still the deemed the head of all of Christendom and his approval, and dispensation, would be expected in order to validate any annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katherine. Henry even wrote directly to the Pope in August 1527 for his dispensation, possibly hoping the he would be looking for support and friends at this difficult time in Rome and that he might be more open to a quick dispensation. However the Pope was never going to risk angering the most powerful sovereign in Europe by dishonouring his aunt. If he had granted Henry’s request, this would have meant that Katherine, a pious woman, had been living in sin with Henry for nearly 20 years.

These attempts in 1527 by Henry were the start of a protracted series of attempts to obtain an annulment of his first marriage. This continued for years and Katherine defended her and her daughter’s, rights during all these attempts. It was known at the time as “the King’s Great Matter”. At the beginning of these manoeuvres, Anne was briefly sent back to Hever castle, her family home, because Henry needed it to appear that he wanted an annulment of his marriage only because it was wrong. Henry probably hoped for a reasonably quick decision as, in his mind, it was clear that the dispensation that had allowed him to marry Katherine in the first place was wrong.

Public Domain
Hever Castle – Public Domain

But Anne was back at court by July 1528 though Henry continued living with Katherine in public, formally treating her as queen at court and communicating with her every three days. However Henry was openly entranced by Anne: “kissing her and treating her in public as though she were his wife” according to the papal legate, Cardinal Campeggio. In 1529 the Emperor’s ambassador, Chapuys, wrote “The king’s affection for La Bolaing increases daily. It is so great just now that it can hardly be greater; such is the intimacy in which they live at present.” Yet aside from powerful relations, Katherine had the support of powerful people at court too and the love of the common people in England. But Henry’s obsession with Anne continued and in 1530 he gave her splendid riding equipment, saddles and harnesses in black and gold, for her travels with him. In 1530 there was also a development that did not immediately change this situation but which held the seeds of his final breakthrough in his efforts to get his annulment. More importantly it would affect the way the Christian church in England would develop. It was a set of papers called the Collectiana satis copiosa. This was the results of a team of researchers working on the King’s problem and contained various arguments, including scriptural and historical ones, and it stated that “there was no warrant for the centuries-old assumption that the pope was supreme in spiritual matters”[2].

Anne Boleyn
Henry VIII

In 1531 Henry and Anne’s relationship continued and it was rumoured that, after a quarrel with Anne, Henry had begged her relatives to mediate “with tears in his eyes”. Henry and Anne had a notably volatile relationship partly because it was so passionate. Henry started to do extensions to York Place. This was the palace that he had obtained from Cardinal Wolsey and which would become known as Whitehall. There was no place for Katherine there and it was a favourite project of Henry and Anne. It was also during 1531 that things slowly started to change for this uncomfortable ménage a trois after a Papal demand was made.

At the end of May Henry was threatened with having to appear before the Pope in Rome, according to Ives, so, on May 31st a delegation of 30 courtiers and clerics were sent to Katherine to beg her to consent to the appeal being held in England to save Henry from this undignified step. She was unmoved and sent them away without agreeing to any concessions. Henry then spent some time going on hunting trips with just Anne and a few attendants. Then early in July the whole court moved to Windsor for the start of the summer progress and on 14th July Henry left for Chertsey Abbey with Anne whilst sending a message to Katherine to stay where she was. This triggered a series of messages between Henry and Katherine where the bitterness between them finally led to a break. Katherine sent a message, which hasn’t survived that I’m aware of, but which obviously conveyed her hurt at his message which had been sent not too long after their wedding anniversary. Henry exploded at Katherine’s message and sent back an angry message that she had brought this on herself with her as she had brought the indignity of the demand to go to Rome on him and then ignored the advice of his wisest councillors. He firmly stated that he wanted no more messages from her but there was one final exchange and Henry ended by formally instructing her to tend to her own business.

Both Henry and Katherine continued to attend state events, as king and queen, until November although they did not meet at these events. By Christmas however, Katherine and her ladies were separated from the court and absent from the festivities held during the 1531 Christmas season. Henry and Anne exchanged rich gifts with each other this year but sent none to Katherine or her ladies. Henry also instructed his court not to send the queen or her ladies gifts either. Apparently this gift giving could be used to acknowledge relationships between people. However he hadn’t specifically forbidden Katherine to send a gift to him so she took the opportunity to send a beautiful gold cup to Henry. This greatly angered him, and he initially immediately sent it straight back but then realised that if it was presented later during a public event he couldn’t refuse it, due to the conventions of the time, and that this action would mean acknowledging a relationship with Katherine – so he quickly recalled it and told his privy chamber to hang onto the cup and only return it to Katherine in the evening when a formal presentation couldn’t take place.

In 1532 there were manoeuvres in parliament which led to “the submission of the clergy” to Henry. This was a process by which the Church of England gave up their power to formulate church laws without the King’s licence and assent. Anne’s standing continued to rise throughout this year. Bishop Gardiner surrendered a fine manor house in Hanworth to Anne, in an effort to atone for his initially standing against the measures put to Parliament, and Henry furnished it for her and also paid a lot of money out for fine clothing for her. Henry also secretly arranged for a grand meeting with a fellow monarch, to gain recognition for Anne, in France. Henry requested Katherine’s jewels from her in a polite courtly way. An angry Katherine reminded Henry she was now forbidden to give him anything and declared that it would be a sin to let the jewels adorn “the scandal of Christendom”. So Henry sent a direct order to her to surrender them which she did.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon
Anne Boleyn

Also in 1532 Archbishop Warham died.  He had been a conservative cleric who supported Katherine and he would be replaced, in due course, by Thomas Cranmer who was a religious reformer and far more sympathetic to an annulment of Henry’s marriage to Katherine. In September Anne was ennobled in her own right, as marquis of Pembroke, in a grand ceremony at Windsor and was granted valuable lands at the same time. The following month, with around 2000 nobles, knights and attendants, Henry and Anne went across the English channel to Calais  (then technically English land) and met with Francis I and members of his court. Due to the reluctance of notable French women to meet with Anne, the bulk of the meetings were between the men of the court. But Francis sent Anne a wonderful diamond and she made a dramatic entrance into the celebrations after a magnificent banquet on the second last day of the visit. She, and some of her ladies, paraded in dressed in fabulous clothing and masks to lead the dancing after the feast. The French King and his court returned home but, due to some terrible weather, the King’s return to England was delayed.  Many historians believe it is likely Henry and Anne finally slept together for the first time during this period. In December 1532 Henry transferred over three hundredweight of gilt and partly gilt plate to Anne.


Read Part 2: Anne Boleyn: Triumph to Failure



  1. Ives, Eric., 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, pg 95, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing
  2. Ives, Eric., 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, pg 136, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing



Ives, Eric., 2005, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, pg 95, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

http://www.historyonthenet.com/tudors/catherine_aragon_timeline.htm (Accessed 2015)

http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2011/01/07/the-death-of-catherine-of-aragon/ (Accessed 2015)

Wikipedia (yeah – sorry)


Mary Boleyn – Guest Article by Susan Abernethy

Mary Boleyn
Mary Boleyn

Most people know the story of Anne Boleyn, the second of King Henry VIII’s six wives. Few people know that Anne had an older sister Mary who was the mistress of two kings. There’s a reason she’s not well known.

The best evidence that can be found suggests Mary Boleyn was born c. 1500, probably at Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Her father was Thomas Boleyn, an influential courtier of King Henry VII and King Henry VIII. Her mother was Lady Elizabeth Howard, Countess of Wiltshire and the eldest daughter of Thomas Howard, the second Duke of Norfolk. The Boleyn children received an adequate education, being taught to read, write, arithmetic, genealogy, to speak French, music, riding, hunting and hawking.

In 1513, Mary’s younger sister Anne was sent to the court of Margaret of Austria as a ladies maid, effectively passing over Mary as the elder sister. But Mary’s turn came in 1514, when Henry VIII’s sister Mary went to France to marry the French King Louis XII. Mary was to be a chamberer to the new Queen. Chamberers served their mistress in the privacy of the chamber, performing tasks beneath the dignity of the ladies-in-waiting.Mary Tudor was married in October but was Queen of France for only eighty two days. Louis XII died on January 1, 1515, leaving Mary Tudor stranded in France. Mary Boleyn’s time working for Mary Tudor ended in March of 1515, when Mary Tudor married the Duke of Suffolk and returned to England.

During this six month period of the wedding and Mary Tudor’s departure for England, Mary Boleyn probably had a short affair with King Francois I of France. Francois was tall and handsome, much like King Henry VIII and he was a notorious womanizer. Some would say debauched. The evidence was scanty so the affair was probably short lived and discreet. But Mary’s parents and her sister Anne probably knew about it. What is certain is Anne stayed on in France to serve the new Queen Claude and Mary disappears from the record until 1520.

King Francois l of France

There is some scant evidence that Mary was sent to a friend of her father’s in Brie, France, possibly in punishment for her behavior at court. She may have waited out her time there until a marriage was arranged which finally did happen in 1520. Mary’s father and possibly King Henry VIII himself arranged for Mary to marry William Carey. Carey was a cousin of the King and a privileged and intimate member of his household, holding the position of Esquire of the Body. It appears that both Mary’s family and William’s family would benefit from the match. They were married on February 4, 1520 at Greenwich Palace with the King in attendance.

Mary Boleyn’s first husband William Carey

While we don’t know the exact date of the commencement of King Henry’s affair with Mary, it is likely to have begun about 1522. Mary participated in a pageant during a celebration for the Spanish ambassador in March of that year and may have caught the eye of King Henry with her dancing. It is possible that Mary did not go the King’s bed willingly, wanting to honor her marriage vows. Whatever happened, Mary and Henry began an affair which may have lasted until 1525.

The affair between King Henry VIII and Mary Boleyn was conducted so secretively the few people probably knew about it and the evidence for the affair is scarce. There is no doubt there was an affair, even if we don’t know the exact dates or details. During Mary’s marriage to William Carey she was to have two children: Katherine, born in March or April of 1524, and Henry, born c. March 1525. There is evidence indicating a strong probability that Katherine was Henry VIII’s child although he didn’t acknowledge her as his daughter. Because Mary was married at the time of the births of her children, they were legally considered William Carey’s children.

Mary’s daughter, Katherine Carey who bears some resemblance to King Henry VIII

Henry VIII exhibited a pattern of moving on from mistresses when they became pregnant. More than likely, when Mary was expecting Katherine, Henry moved on to someone else. Certainly by February of 1526, he was openly courting Mary’s sister, Anne. There doesn’t appear to have been any great gifts to Mary or her husband William that weren’t actually earned. The last grant given to William Carey was his appointment as Keeper of the manor, garden, tower, etc. of Pleasance, East Greenwich and of East Greenwich Park on May 12, 1526. By 1527, Carey was a moderately rich man in terms of assets but didn’t have much in the way of income. To Carey’s great misfortune, he fell ill with the “sweating sickness” in the great outbreak of the disease on June 22, 1528. Mary was a widow with no visible means of support and in debt. Her husband’s estate went to her three year old son.

King Henry was compelled to force Mary’s father to take her in at the family castle of Hever. King Henry gave the ward ship of Mary’s son Henry to Anne Boleyn. Eventually the King granted Mary an annuity of 100 pounds (32,000 pounds by today’s standard) so she was able to have a comfortable existence in her father’s home with her daughter.

In October of 1532, King Henry arranged to meet King Francois I of France at Calais, taking Anne Boleyn and about 2,000 attendants. Mary Boleyn was included in the ladies who accompanied Anne. Mary took part in a masque during the visit, dancing before Henry and Francois. During this visit, Mary may have met William Stafford who was part of the King’s retinue. In January of 1533, Anne Boleyn was pregnant and Henry married her secretly. Anne appeared in public for the first time at Easter as Queen and Mary was appointed one of her ladies-in-waiting. While attending Anne’s coronation as Queen in June, Mary may have come into contact again or for the first time, with William Stafford. By September of 1534, Mary appeared at court, visibly pregnant and had to confess she had married William for love. She hinted that William fell in love with her first. As he was twelve years younger than Mary, it could just be that Mary felt appreciated and loved for the first time and was willing to risk the shame and embarrassment of an ill-advised marriage.

Mary was banished from court and soon became impoverished. She wrote a pitiful letter to Thomas Cromwell, King Henry’s principal secretary, begging for help. Cromwell gave no help. Mary and William lived the next six years in obscurity and poverty. Where they lived is not known but there is evidence that William was a soldier at the garrison of Calais and they may have lived there until Mary’s father died in 1539 and she came into her inheritance. It was probably a good time for a Boleyn to be out of the country because her sister Anne and the Boleyn family had a spectacular and tragic fall in fortune during this time.

After a long wait, Mary finally received her inheritance in April of 1540. William Stafford had a good and long career in the King’s service. Mary was to die on July 19, 1543 of unknown causes. It is also unknown where she was buried. As the reader can see, there are many unknown details of the life of Mary Boleyn.

Further reading: “Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings” by Alison Weir, “Henry VIII: King and Court” by Alison Weir


About the Author:

purple-susanSusan Abernethy here. It seems I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love history. At the age of fourteen, I watched “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on TV and was enthralled. Truth seemed much more strange than fiction. I started reading about Henry VIII and then branched out into many types of history. This even led me to study history in college. Even though I never did anything with the history degree, it’s always been a hobby of mine. I started this blog to write about my thoughts on all kinds of history from Ancient times to mid-20th Century. Please feel free to have a look around.


Anne of Cleves: Betrothal to Henry VIII


In early 1539, King Henry VIII was ready for a fourth queen after being urged for months, if not years, by his advisers to marry again. The loss of Jane Seymour was significant to Henry but even he knew to carry on the dynasty he’d need another male heir – the “spare”. When he began looking for a suitable queen there was much hesitation from European royals. The outcome of his previous queens had frightened many of them away. The beautiful Christina of Milan was known to have said that if she had two heads she would risk it, but she alas had only one.

Thomas Cromwell was desperate to please the king and find him a new bride. He did so in finding the Anne and Amelia Cleves in present day Germany. In March 1539, the king sent Nicholas Wotton and Robert Barnes to Cleves to arrange a marriage with either Anne or her sister Amelia.

When Anne and Amelia were presented to Wotton and Barnes they were completely covered and the men were unable to report back on their attractiveness and figures. Hans Holbein was dispatched to Cleves to paint the sisters.  In the meantime, Wotton and Barnes reported to Cromwell that Anne was the more favored of the two sisters. They didn’t know this for certain, it’s only what they had been told. What were they thinking!?

Cromwell reported to the king, “Every man praiseth the beauty of the said Lady Anne, as well for her face as for her person, above all other ladies excellent. She as far excelleth the Duchess of Saxony as the golden sun excelleth the silver moon. Every man praiseth the good virtues and honesty with shamefacedness which plainly appeareth in the gravity of her countenance.”  Undoubtedly, Cromwell was exaggerating what he had heard. Few had seen much of Anne, because she was always well covered in cumbersome clothing when she very rarely appeared in public.

With this being said it was decided that Anne was the sister that Henry wanted for his a new queen.

The Duke of Cleves (Anne’s brother) had the final say on an agreement of marriage. It seems the Duke was reluctant to let his sister go…raising many objections. He said he was too poor to afford a dowry; that any woman marrying Henry would not know happiness.

Henry decided he would take Anne without a dowry if her portrait pleased him. A very generous offer – a dowry was always offered in this situation. The Duke of Cleves could not refuse the offer and finally gave permission to Holbein to paint his sister, Anne.

Holbein completed his portrait of Anne. It was one of the most exquisite portraits ever painted. The above image is a  miniature that is featured at Victoria and Albert Museum – the actual miniature that Holbein painted of Anne. Henry must have liked what he saw and heard about Anne’s appearance (or fear of another wanting to marry her) because on 4 September 1539, without a dowry, she was betrothed to the King of England.

Believed to be a Holbein sketch of Amelia of Cleves.
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger
Anne of Cleves by Hans Holbein the Younger









Deal Castle


“Henry Vlll built the low-lying artillery fort of Deal Castle, in Kent, as one of a string of coastal fortifications built around England’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)

Notice how from above Deal Castle looks like the Tudor Rose. Henry Vlll was in his late 40s 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.

Henry Vlll in 1540
Anne of Cleves - 1540s
Portrait of Anne in the 1540s by Bartholomäus Bruyn the elder

Reference: The Six Wives of Henry Vlll by Alison Weir