Bess of Hardwick: A Brief History


Four times the nuptial bed she warmed

And every time so well performed

That when death spoiled each husband’s billing

He left the widow every shilling. 

-Horace Walpole

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Tudor Women (Guest Post)

Today I welcome Kathy Lynn Emerson to my blog. This one is long overdue as I have used Kathy’s website as source material for many years. She has been kind enough to let me use her research as long as I linked to her site and give her credit – which I am more than happy to do. She put in a lot of time and energy to build such a wonderful resource for all of us. Because of this, I wanted to draw attention to her and today.

2351 Tudor Women and Still Adding More
by Kathy Lynn Emerson

It all started simply enough, way back in 1976. I wanted to write big historical novels using real sixteenth-century Englishwomen as characters. I’d been taught how to do meticulous research in grad school, but writing fiction was something I had to learn by doing. By 1980, I had collected a great many rejection letters for the novels I’d completed and had a file cabinet full of notes on interesting women who lived during the Tudor era. I’d also noticed two things. First, many of these women were mentioned only in a sentence here or a footnote there in the histories of the period or in biographies of Tudor men. Second, because some of these women married more than once and had husbands who advanced in the peerage, they were referred to by a number of different surnames and titles. In some cases, even renowned scholars didn’t seem to realize they were writing about the same person.

At that time, well before the Internet, there was no single book available to sort out who was who among the women of Tudor England, so I wrote one. Wives and Daughters: The Women of Sixteenth-Century England contained 570 mini-biographies and was published in 1984 by a small, scholarly press. It stayed in print for decades, long after it should have been revised and updated, and when the rights finally reverted to me, I set about creating an online version. In many cases, information in the original entries had been disproved by more recent scholarship. Research had changed the identification of sitters in a number of well-known portraits of sixteenth-century women. And with easier access to both primary and secondary sources thanks to material now available online, many many more tidbits about individual women had come to light.

In the period between 1984 and the present, I continued to write both fiction and nonfiction, selling over sixty books in a number of genres to a variety of publishers. A great many of the novels are set in the sixteenth-century, and every time I began research for a new one, I discovered more interesting women to add to what is now the online version of A Who’s Who of Tudor Women at

That worked the other way, too. When I wrote the first Mistress Jaffrey mystery novel, Murder in the Queen’s Wardrobe, I went back to my own entry on Mary Hastings, nicknamed “the Empress of Muscovy” because her cousin the queen at one point wanted her to marry Ivan the Terrible. She not only became a character in the novel, but her situation was the basis for the plot. In doing more research, I discovered another equally fascinating Englishwoman, Jane Richards, wife of the notorious Dr. Bomelius, physician to the tsar. After her husband’s execution, she was stranded in Moscow. Her story, with fictional embellishments, ended up as part of the mystery subplot, but the real details of her life went into a new entry for the Who’s Who.

I had similar experiences when researching each of the novels I wrote as Kate Emerson in the “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series (The Pleasure Palace, Between Two Queens, and four others). They aren’t historical romance or historical mystery, but rather fictionalized biographies of women who were allegedly intimate with Henry VIII. In writing those novels, I extrapolated from what is known about each woman to create my plots.

For entries in A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, I collect everything I can find on each individual, try my best to sort fact from speculation, and offer readers a starting place to do more research on those Tudor women who interest them. I’m constantly updating and making corrections as new information comes to light, and I’m still adding entries, sometimes from my own reading of newly published histories and biographies and sometimes from information (with citations) sent to me by people who have discovered the Who’s Who and have research of their own to share.

There are currently 2351 entries at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, along with my lists of titles used in Tudor times and women at court in the households of various Tudor queens. The home page contains instructions for finding an individual, since all those surnames and titles I mentioned earlier led me to use maiden names for the entries.

By this time, some forty years into the effort to sort out who was who among sixteenth-century women, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. This is either a hobby or an obsession. Either way, I’m still adding interesting Tudor women to the collection.

With the June 2019 publication of Clause & Effect (written as Kaitlyn Dunnett), Kathy Lynn Emerson has had sixty books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are and and she maintains a website about women who lived in England between 1485 and 1603 at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.

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Life in Tudor England (Part One)

There are things that we take for granted because we’ve always had them. For instance: Plumbing, running water, cars, the internet, smartphones and the list goes on and on. Some of us even grew up without some of today’s luxuries and we survived just fine, but in Tudor England life was much more dangerous than it is now – imagine not having vaccines and dying from Smallpox; Imagine not having a flushing toilet or a shower; Imagine not having a microwave!! I’m sure that people in England at this time had a good life – they didn’t really have anything like we have today to compare it to.


The reality of the lives of Tudor women varied due to their social ranks, their marital status, where they lived and even their religious affiliations. Regardless of all the aforementioned things all women were discriminated against due to their gender – this is something that to some extent still rings true today. Here are some things that the modern-day woman takes for granted:

  • In Tudor England, women could not hold public office.
  • Women could not vote
  • Women were barred from attending grammar schools and universities.
  • Women could not be stage actors – their male counterparts would play the roles of women in their plays.

However, women of noble birth could receive a formal education when their families paid for tutors – those who were not of noble birth were often educated by either their mother or a parish priest.

Tudor women often found themselves defined by their husbands and were generally categorized as maids, wives and widows – if they deviated from the social norm they would often be called a ‘shrew’, ‘scold’, ‘whore’or even a ‘witch’.

A woman’s virtue was her most prized possession. In the Elizabethan era, women began to really venture into print – sharing their thoughts and criticisms. This was not seen as compatible with the standard of women having modesty and being considered virtuous.

Punishment for Women Who Behaved Poorly

I found information about punishment of women in an article by Kelli Marshal in a magazine called, ‘The Week‘- here are some examples:


‘Neighbors often dealt with shrews themselves to evade the law, and yes, being a scold was illegal. The community would stage a charivari (shivuh-ree), also known as “rough music,” a skimmington, and carting. Clanging pots and pans, townspeople would gather in the streets, their “music” drawing attention to the offending scold, who often rode backwards on a horse or mule. She faced the wrong way to symbolize the transgressive reversal of gender roles.’

Cucking Stool

‘Elizabethan women who spoke their minds or sounded off too loudly were also punished via a form of waterboarding. A cucking or ducking stool featured a long wooden beam with a chair attached to one end. The beam was mounted to a seesaw, allowing the shackled scold to be dunked repeatedly in the water. The action would supposedly cool her off.’

The Scold’s Bridle

‘A third device used to control women and their speech during Shakespeare’s day was the scold’s bridle, or brank. Resembling a horse’s bridle, this contraption was basically just a metal cage placed over the scold’s head. A plate inserted into the woman’s mouth forced down her tongue to prevent her from speaking.

Like women who suffered through charivari and cucking stools, women squeezed into the branks were usually paraded through town. In fact, some scold’s bridles, like the one above, included ropes or chains so the husband could lead her through the village or she him. Some branks featured decorative elements like paint, feathers, or a bell to alert others of her impending presence. Furthermore, some of the mouthpieces contained spikes, to ensure the woman’s tongue was really tamed.’


Once married it was imperative for a Tudor bride to produce a male heir for her husband (especially if they were of a noble family). But let’s be honest, sometimes the woman would be pregnant prior to the wedding.

Nowadays, we can take an at home pregnancy test to find out if we are pregnant – In Tudor times women didn’t have that luxury. If a woman missed her period she could assume she was with child, but could not truly confirm it until she felt the child move inside her. This was referred to as the quickening.

The quickening generally happened around the fourth month of pregnancy. By then the woman should have already experienced: tender breasts, cravings and quite possible a swollen stomach.

*Interesting side note: Up until the 19th century, or the 1800s, the quickening was believed to be the point at which the child received its soul.

Historian, Dr. Susan Walters Schmid points out that in the 16th century pregnancy was not as dangerous as modern writers have portrayed. She states that in England, there was about a 1% chance of a woman dying during each of her pregnancies and a 5-7% chance that she would die from pregnancy in her lifetime. This is quite different from what we have been led to believe. With that being said, pregnancy in Tudor England was not taken lightly.

Even with the small percentage of deaths from childbirth, it is believed that most Tudor women would have known someone who had died this way.

Miscarriage was a common occurrence of the time. About half of all pregnancies resulted in miscarriage – this would have undoubtedly been a stressful time once the woman discovered she was with child.

In today’s world, a mother is instructed to take prenatal vitamins, to eat healthy, to avoid raw meats and a list of other harmful food items. Tudor women were instructed to restrain from physical activities, to abstain from sex, eat well and to use herbal remedies when needed.

The sex of the child could not have been determined by an ultrasound, however, some consulted with an astrologer to discover the sex of their child. As we know from the birth of Elizabeth Tudor to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, astrologers were often wrong.

It was also believed in the Tudor era that birthmarks and birth defects were caused by the woman witnessing (or being involved in) a traumatic event. Nowadays, some truly believe that a birthmark is something left over from a past life, or even a mark to signify how you had died. Both are interesting theories.

While women of noble birth would receive a more formal education they would not experience childbirth that was much different from their counterparts. As a woman’s due date approached the woman would choose women she wanted near her for childbirth – men very rarely (if at all) were allowed in the room. If the woman lived in a town or village she may have been able to have a trained midwife present for the birth – while the country woman would have had a woman who was experienced in childbirth.

*Interesting side note: Male midwives were not allowed into the birthing chamber until the following century.

When the time had arrived the woman’s bed would have been stripped and made with clean linens – she would also have clean shift to wear. Often fresh air was seen as harmful to the mother and child so the windows would be closed and the curtains drawn. This was meant to create a warm and comfortable environment for the child that was similar to that of the mother’s womb.

When was in full labor and it was time to push, her position would vary. Sometimes a birthing stool would be used – if you haven’t seen a birthing stool it essentially a chair with a large opening in the middle to allow the midwife (or woman delivery the child) to catch the child. Other than the birthing stool the position were very similar to what we experience today – propped up in a bed and other positions to help the process. I’ll spare you all the details.

Immediately after the birth the child would be washed and wrapped while the mother was taken care of by other women present. If a midwife was present and the child appeared to be of poor health and deemed to not live long, the midwife would baptize the child right there.

Historian Dr. Susan Walters Schmid admits that most of what is known about 16th century childbirth is ‘inferred from a small number of sources and information we have for slightly later times’. This is mainly because the women who were involved in the process would rarely read or write. On rare occasion you can find something written in a diary or letter.


Marriage was an important milestone because it signified adulthood for the bride and groom.

The average age of the average Tudor man entering marriage is a bit higher than you may imagine – 27, while his female counterpart would have been about 24 years old.

The upper class was a bit younger (by a few years) when they entered into wedlock. In addition, anyone marrying under the age of 21 required permission from their parent or guardian to marry. Most parents among the peerage and gentry arranged their children’s marriages.

The brides parents were also expected to provide a dowry. If you’re unfamiliar with dowries, they were money and sometimes land/property that was given to the husband upon marriage to their daughter.

Prior to a wedding the marriage banns were announced at the parish church on three consecutive Sundays. This occurred to allow time prior to the ceremony to uncover any impediments to the marriage. Sometimes it would be discovered that the couple were too closely related and so the wedding would not occur.

The actual ceremony is much like today’s with an exchange of rings, and instead of a marriage license the marriage was marked in the parish registry.

Fairs & Markets

Fairs and markets in Tudor England allowed both citizens and producers to come together to buy and sell goods.

Fairs were either annual or bi-annual events and they brought in both buyers and sellers from larger areas than say a market did. The products offered at Fairs would have been things such as: Sheep, horses, cattle, leather and cloth. It wasn’t just purchasing and selling items that occurred at fairs but there was also entertainment, unlike fairs of today with carnival rides and deliciously fattening foods, there would have been jugglers, fire-eaters, tumblers and other types of entertainment.

Markets on the other hand were more frequent than fairs, happening weekly and all over England. At the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign there were over 750 towns in England that held markets. It was at these markets that citizens could purchase necessary supplies like produce, fish, grain and other products.


The thing I hear the most from my social media followers is that they – or you – want to hear more about everyday Tudor life. This is not a specialty of mine as I tend to look closer at personal relationships and how they intertwine in the story of Tudor history.

Now the ‘average’person in England essentially worked from sunrise to sunset. They were occupied in trade, in agriculture/farming or produced some type of product. Then there were landowners – because not everyone owned their own land, remember. If you were a landowner in Tudor England you served in some aspect in government, you were responsible for running your estates and a multitude of other responsibilities – some responsibilities were, of course, delegated.

As with today we all have to find time to do something other than work. This was much the same in the 16th century.

Hunting was a very popular pastime for those of the peerage and gentry…and of course of the royals as well. The wealthy were the ones who were lucky enough to hunt deer. If you were say the keeper of a forest for the king you had to get a license from him before you could hunt the deer within the forest. On the flip side yeoman farmer were allowed to hunt foxes, while the poor could only hunt rabbits and hares. Quite a difference in diet, eh?

There was also a wide selection of outdoor activities – such as football, or soccer depending on what part of the world you live in. Football in Tudor England was different from today. The teams were made of as many people who wanted to play and the goals were A MILE APART. Another big difference is that the participants could not only kick the ball but also pick it up and throw it! I read somewhere once that when Native Americans played Lacrosse that sometimes their goals were six miles apart – participants would really need to have built up some endurance. Imagine the amount of calories you would burn!?

There were other outdoor activities as well – some of the upper class also played archery and fencing. There was also games called: blindman’s bluff and hoodman’s blind. Ever heard of them? Yeah, me neither. These games are described as having one person blind-folded and that person must either identify, or catch, the people who are touching or hitting them. Sounds like a miserable version of tag if you ask me.

The was also a game called bowls – this was a game that was very similar to what we now know as bowling, with ten-pins and a ball.

A sport that we know Henry VIII excelled at was tennis. If you ever watched The Tudors TV series you’ll remember the scenes where Henry would play tennis with his friends while others watched on. Tennis is believed to be one of the oldest sports that uses a racquet. Again, if you watched The Tudors you’ll recall how the game was played indoors, but much like today had a net that the players would hit the ball over. In Tudor England the participants were also allowed to bounce the ball of the walls (sounds like racquetball to me) and would score points when they got the leather ball in a goal that was high on the wall. Now this sounds like an interesting version of tennis – I want to go play now!

The lower classes could enjoy things like wrestling, swimming (if they knew how to) and horseback riding.

In the Elizabethan era billiards was introduced and became a popular pastime of the upper-class. This was also the time when theater became a source of entertainment – have you heard of a guy called Shakespeare? Thought so.

It wasn’t all outdoor activities – there was plenty to do inside as well, such as a friendly game of chess, checkers, dice and of course card games. Most of these indoor games also included gambling, something we know that Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Queen Mary I greatly enjoyed.

While this wasn’t necessarily a list of activities or entertainment for the lower classes it gives you a sense of how Tudor England let loose.

I forgot to mention some of the more scandalous entertainment from Tudor England – something that today we would very much frown upon:

Bear-Baiting: This just sounds horrible to watch but was considered appropriate entertainment for the time – a bear would be chained to a post and it was within a ring. Then a bunch of dogs were allowed inside the ring to try to kill the bear. Gah! No thanks – I’ll pass. But Henry VIII and Elizabeth both enjoyed the sport. There was apparently a ring at Whitehall so they could watch from the palace. It truly was a different time.

Cock-Fighting is considered an ancient spectator sport with origins in India, China and Persia as well as other Eastern civilizations. It was introduced to Ancient Greece sometime around 524 BC. It consisted of putting two cocks, or rooster together in a ring. By instinct the two will fight to the death for dominance.

*And on an interesting side note – It was important to the Tudor government that English people spent most of their time working. A law was passed in 1512 that banned ordinary people from a whole range of games including tennis, dice, cards, bowls and skittles.

Average Life

Life in Tudor England was not easy. A large number of the residents lived in the country with a large percentage of people living in small villages. They made their living by farming and selling goods at markets or to others. And the average life expectancy would around 35 years old.

When we think about all the modern conveniences that we have today like: plumbing, running water, CLEAN water, motor vehicles, electricity (the list goes on) – the comforts we take for granted would have been well appreciated in Tudor England.

People often drank ale (different from beer because of how it was made) because water was collected from pumps, wells and streams and was usually contaminated. Hell, they used to dump sewage in the Thames and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to drink that water.

Milk was not really used for simply drinking as it was only available around the times the cows calved and was too useful in making cheese and butter for any to be left over for drinking.

The first flushing toilet wasn’t introduced in England until Sir John Harrington invented it in the Elizabethan Era – this is why today some still refer to it as the ‘john’. The toilet, or toilet room was often called a privy or the privy chamber. The setup was generally a piece of wood over a hole. Similar to an outhouse maybe. In castles the excrement would just run down the side of the building into a pile and then some poor soul was responsible to cart it off to someplace else. Weird thought, but I wonder if they used it as fertilizer – much like farmers of today use animal excrement on their fields as fertilizer.

Have you ever wondered what they wiped their bum with? If you were the King of England you would have your Groom of the Stool wipe you with a cloth and dispose of everything for you. A prized position at Tudor court because it brought you so close to the King that you could ask for favors. IF you by chance were not the King of England then you would wipe with lamb’s wool – but if that wasn’t available to you then you could use leaves and moss in its place.


In Tudor England the people ate a lot of fresh food. They didn’t have refrigerators or freezers to store food like we do today. They were able to preserve some of it with salt, but I’m not sure how long it would have lasted before going bad.

Meals were eaten with fingers as forks were not common place at the time – they existed but weren’t being used, however they did have knives and spoons.

Animals were kept year-round for the sole purpose of having meat available when you needed it and the meat would be fresh! A large majority (possibly around 75%) of the wealthy had a diet made of meet – oxen, deer, calves, pigs, badgers and wild boar would have made a large portion of their diets. If you were Henry VIII you might have even all of the previously listed items in one Supper.

They also ate birds like: Peacocks, chickens, pheasant, crane, chicken and even pigeons.

Bread was an important staple in Tudor England with it being eaten at most meals. If you were wealthy you would eat white bread made of wholemeal flour, but if you were poor your bread would be made from rye or even ground acorns.

As we know fruits and vegetables are important to diets to prevent scurvy and other diseases. In England they made sure to get in some beans, peas, carrots, parsnips, peascod (peas in a pod), cabbages, cauliflower, leeks and onions (potatoes didn’t come to England until the late 16th century) or fruits that were in season like: apples, pears, cherries and plums. They could preserve some of the fruit in syrup to make that last through the winter months.

Fish was commonplace near rivers and coastal towns for a source of protein. They would eat freshwater fish like: salmon, eels, pike, perch, trout and sturgeon. Every Friday it was required that people ate Fish on Friday (not just Lent like nowadays), so it was an important staple to their diet.

Poor people ate a lot of pottage – it was an herb-flavored soup sometimes made of peas, milk, egg yolk parsley and breadcrumbs and was flavored with saffron and ginger. While others have said it was a mix of grains, water and vegetables with meat scraps. It was often served with bread made from rye or ground acorns.

Chicken was also a staple for the lower classes as they were more affordable to raise and then eat. If they could afford it they would buy meat from one of the weekly markets. They could also hunt hares and rabbits.

So that is just a few examples of what Tudor life in England was like. I have many more categories to discuss on this topic so this will be at least a two-part series, if not three.

Continue to Part Two HERE.

Further Reading:

Wagner, John A, Walters Schmid, Susan; Encyclopedia of Tudor England [3 volumes],ABC-CLIO; Pck edition (December 9, 2011),ISBN-10: 1598842986, ISBN-13: 978-1598842982

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Most Fearless Women in Tudor England

I finished reading a couple of books about Mary Tudor, sister of King Henry VIII and Queen of France; it got me thinking about how fearless some of these women in the Tudor period really were. By todays standards they would not be considered as brave (depending on what part of the world you live in of course), but in 16th century England the things these women did may have been considered reckless and disobedient by their male counterparts.

When I began to think about which Tudor women I considered fearless I realized that these women would also fall under the brave category. So with that in mind, lets look at the definition of both words:

The definition of fearless is: Lack of fear

The definition of the word brave is: Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.

Here are some synonyms of the word brave: courageous, valiant, heroic, fearless and daring. Did you catch that? Fearless. Okay, so with that in mind, who are some of the Tudor women you thought deserved to be on this list?

When I look back at my own life there is one instance when I saw myself as brave, or fearless – the first time was when I was 18 years old. Ill give you a little backstory to put in perspective: I may or may not have been a bit rebellious when I was 18. Anyway..I was hanging out with all the wrong people and ended up getting beat up. I ended up in the Emergency Room with a concussion, a fat lip, strained neck and a huge bump on my head. There is so much more to this but I dont think you want to hear all the details about how I got beat up. When I was in the ER I had to give a statement to the police. At the time I was terrified because these girls that attacked me were local gang members (it was the 90s) and I feared them coming after me again, but the officer explained to me that they had done this to others before me and nobody was willing press charges. At that moment I decided that I was in control and I stop this from happening to anyone else. I pressed charges and had to be a witness against them in court. That was the scariest thing I had done at that point in my life. But because of my actions those girls turned their lives around. With that being said, my modern day example of when I thought I was brave does not stand up to these ladies situations.

Okay, so with that in mind, who are some of the Tudor women you thought deserved to be on this list?

I took a poll on social media and came up with a list of who you all thought deserved to be on it and who I thought deserve to be named. Here is the list in no particular order:

  • Katherine of Aragon
  • Margaret Pole
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Kateryn Parr
  • Anne Askew
  • Margaret Douglas
  • Katherine Willoughby
  • Anne Stanhope
  • Mary Boleyn
  • Mary Tudor
  • Mary I
  • Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth Barton
  • Margaret Beaufort
  • Elizabeth of York
  • Jane Grey
  • Bess of Hardwick
  • Margaret Tudor
  • Mary, Queen of Scots
  • Catherine Grey
  • Mary Grey
  • Mary Howard

Now, before I give you my list of the Most Fearless Women in Tudor England I want you to understand that this is my list and Ive chosen these women by my own opinions, so my views may not line up with yours exactly. Please dont be mad, I tried to look at this objectively and honestly before deciding.

So many of the women you all listed were brave, but I had to choose who was the most and give reasons as to why.

So, I picked the top two/three who I believed deserved to be honored. Here are the honorable mentions of Most Fearless Women in Tudor England (in no particular order):

  • Elizabeth Tudor, future queen of England
  • Mary Tudor, Queen of France – for secretly marrying Brandon without the permission of her brother, the King. For standing against Henrys marriage to Anne Boleyn.
  • Margaret Tudor, Queen of Scotland – I excluded Margaret because (for the most part she was in Scotland and not England)
  • Mary Boleyn, for marrying William Stafford while her sister was queen and not obtaining permission.
  • Anne Boleyn
  • Margaret Douglas – for wanting to marry without the kings permission. Twice.
  • Mary Howard – not remarrying after the death of her husband and giving testimony in the downfall of her brother and father.

So, who is missing from that list? Who did I chose as the Most Fearless Women in Tudor England?

Does it come as any surprise that Katherine of Aragon should be near the top? I didnt think so. I also included with her her daughter Mary and here are the reasons why:

Katherine of Aragon (and Mary)

When Henry VIII believed that Katherine of Aragon would no longer be able to give him a male heir he began to look for ways out of the marriage. Whether he truly believed his own statements, or if he was just looking for a way out, only he and his closest advisers would know. Henrys biggest concern was that Katherines marriage to his older brother Arthur must have been consummated and that is why he had not been able to conceive a surviving son and male heir with her.

While reading Sarah Gristwoods book, Game of Queens she discusses two different debates regarding Henrys concern with his first marriage.

In the book of Leviticus, the Bible says, If a man shall take his brothers wife, it is an unclean thing: he has uncovered his brothers nakedness. Thy shall be childless.

Katherine of Aragon points at Cardinal Wolsey

In Henrys mind this meant not without child, but without male heir. Clearly he interpreted things the way that would benefit himself. However, in the book of Deuteronomy it contradicts Leviticus saying that a man has a duty to marry his deceased brothers widow and to raise up seed for his brother. Sowhich was it? Was Henry supposed to marry his brothers widow or was he not?

The ultimate question was whether or not Katherine of Aragon and Arthur, Prince of Wales had consummated their marriage. When the papal legates (Campeggio and Wolsey) visited Katherine and tried to convince her to join a nunnery she refused. They told the Pope, Although she is very religious and extremely patient, she will not accede in the least. Katherine swore on her conscience that she and Prince Arthur had never consummated their marriage, and declared that she intended to live and die in the estate of matrimony to which God had called her.

Cardinal Campeggio attempted to sway the queen but she would not listen. Wolsey warned her to yield to the Kings displeasure she snapped at him saying:

Of this trouble, I thank only you, my lord of York! Of malice you have kindled this fire, especially for the great grudge you bear to my nephew the Emperor, because he would not gratify your ambition by making you Pope by force!

Wolsey then went on to excuse himself. He stated that it had been sore against his will that ever the marriage should be in question and he promised, as legate for the Pope to be impartial. Katherine did not believe him as she knew Wolsey to be the closest adviser to the King.

On the 26th of October 1528, by her request, Campeggio heard Katherines confession. She declared, upon the salvation of her soul, that she had never been carnally known by Prince Arthur. Campeggio believed she was speaking the truth but continued to push for her to go to a nunnery.

In 1531, Katherine was still declaring herself Henrys true wife. Henry was attempting to force Katherine to sign his Act of Supremacy. She refused, stating that the Pope was the only true sovereign and vicar of God She went on to say:

I love and have loved my lord the King as much as any woman can love a man, but I would not have borne him company as his wife for one moment against the voice of my conscience. I am his true wife.

Around 1532, when Henry VIII requested Katherine of Aragon return her jewels to the crown she fell ill soon after. To be quite honest, Katherine was already ill. She had made a request to see her good friend the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys. Chapuys, wanting to following court rules, requested permission from the King to see Katherine of Aragon at Kimbolton. The chronicler reported Henry VIII saying, Yes, Ambassador, you have my permission; I will send you word when you can go. Henry did not send word. Chapuys requested leave many times and yet received no word from the King. Eventually Chapuys sent word to the King that he was leaving he was tired of waiting. If, while on the road, he received word from the King of England he would surely obey it.

Lady Mary

After the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn and a year after the birth of Princess Elizabeth, King Henry had demanded that Mary take the oath to the Act of Succession, which meant that her parents were never married and she was illegitimate. Mary had refused his request and was understandably fearful of someone trying to harm her because of it. Henrys retribution was to not allow the person most important to her, her mother. In addition, he dismissed her household, and placed her in the care of Lady Anne Shelton, who was the aunt of her enemy, Anne Boleyn.

The mother and daughter team did not make things easy for Anne and Henry. They fought tooth and nail to keep what was rightfully theirs.

Not only did Mary stand up to her father but also her brother when he was King of England.

Mary was a staunch Catholic and voiced her distaste for the governments religious policies. Because of her fearlessness she became a figurehead for the conservatives.

Mary and her household continued to hear mass, secretly and unapologetically. To Mary, the mass and all the traditional Catholic rites represented the true faith. She also believed that her brother, King Edward was being led astray by his council.

Because of her strong beliefs, in January 1549 she argued again the the Act of Uniformity stating that religion be left untouched until Edward reach his majority.

Here is a quote from the book Edward VI by Chris Skidmore:

On Whit Sunday, in defiance of the introduction of the Prayer Book, Mary celebrated mass in her chapel at Kenninghall with particul pomp. On the 16th of June the council delivered a restrained letter ordering her to desist and to use the new Prayer Book instead. Mary wrote back on the 22nd of June. I have offended no law, unless it be a late law of your own making, for the altering of matters in religion, which, in my conscience, is not worthy to have the name of a law.

Even Somerset saw that he could not get her to change her mind, however his greatest wish was that, if he couldnt, that she would continue as such quietly and without scandal.

Marys fight continued on and she would not back down.

Anne Askew

In my mind, and I can assume many of yours as well, Anne Askew was by far the MOST Fearless Women in Tudor England.

On the 16th of July 1546, the Protestant martyr, Anne Askew was burned at the stake for her beliefs. Anne had been unfairly racked till her bones and joints were almost plucked asunder, in such sort as she was carried away in a chair. She had been imprisoned in the Tower by Thomas Wriothesley and Richard Rich in an attempt to force her to implicate Queen Katherine Parr and other prominent court members including: Anne Stanhope and her husband Edward Seymour. She never gave up names.

Anne Askew was strong in her beliefs she truly believed that everyone should be able to read the bible for themselves and not only rely on the clergy to interpret it for them. Something we take for granted in the 21st century.

John Foxe, English historian and martyrologist, recorded the event in his book Actes and Monuments which was an book that emphasized the sufferings of English Protestants. Here is what he had to say:

She being born of such stock and kindred that she might have lived in great wealth and prosperity, if she would rather have followed the world than Christ, but now she was so tormented, that she could neither live long in so great distress, neither yet by the adversaries be suffered to die in secret. Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feet, by means of her great torment. When she was brought unto the stake she was tied by the middle with a chain that held up her body. When all things were thus prepared to the fire, Dr. Shaxton, who was then appointed to preach, began his sermon. Anne Askew, hearing and answering again unto him, where he said well, confirmed the same; where he said amiss, There, said she, he misseth, and speaketh without the book.

The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of people was exceeding; the place where they stood being railed about to keep out the press. Upon the bench under St. Bartholomews Church sat Wriothesley, chancellor of England; the old Duke of Norfolk, the old earl of Bedford, the lord mayor, with divers others. Before the fire should be set unto them, one of the bench, hearing that they had gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder, would come flying about their ears, began to be afraid; but the earl of Bedford, declaring unto him how the gunpowder was not laid under the faggots, but only about their bodies, to rid them out of their pain; which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.

Then Wriothesley, lord chancellor, sent to Anne Askew letters offering to her the Kings pardon if she would recant; who refusing once to look upon them, made this answer again, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. Then were the letters like-wise offered unto the others, who, in like manner, following the constancy of the the woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon them. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put unto them, cried with a loud voice, Fiat justicia. (Let justice be done)

And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyrs, being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord A.D. 1546, leaving behind her a sifac

ngular example of christian constancy for all men to follow.

It is difficult to imagine what it was truly like for women to live during this time period. We hear awful stories about how womens voices did not matter and how their lives were seen as inferior to men.

By still talking about them 500 years later we honor them and the difficult lives they lived.

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The Mistresses of Henry VIII

Photo of ladies courtesy of

When we think of Henry VIII as a man the image that generally comes to mind is the overweight and smelly man who was filled with rage. Well, at least in his later years.

In this article we will be looking back at the younger version of that man who was actually considered attractive. Back then, Henry was a romantic – if we look at Anne Boleyn, who was technically his mistress because he was still married to Katherine of Aragon while he was pursuing Anne and trying to get her to sleep with him…we can use his love letters as an example of how passionate he was when he found a woman he wished to possess.

Here is love letter number four, which should give you a great idea of who he was during his push to get Anne into bed:

My Mistress and Friend, my heart and I surrender ourselves into your hands, beseeching you to hold us commended to your favour, and that by absence your affection to us may not be lessened: for it were a great pity to increase our pain, of which absence produces enough and more than I could ever have thought could be felt, reminding us of a point in astronomy which is this: the longer the days are, the more distant is the sun, and nevertheless the hotter; so is it with our love, for by absence we are kept a distance from one another, and yet it retains its fervour, at least on my side; I hope the like on yours, assuring you that on my part the pain of absence is already too great for me; and when I think of the increase of that which I am forced to suffer, it would be almost intolerable, but for the firm hope I have of your unchangeable affection for me: and to remind you of this sometimes, and seeing that I cannot be personally present with you, I now send you the nearest thing I can to that, namely, my picture set in a bracelet, with the whole of the device, which you already know, wishing myself in their place, if it should please you. This is from the hand of your loyal servant and friend,


Henry wanted what he wanted and most of the time women did not say no to their king. Annes own sister did not say no. Im certain she wasnt aware that she could or maybe she was not as cunning as her smart sister.

Anne Hastings

In 1509, not long after becoming king, Henry is said to have had an affair with a noble lady who was married – her name was Anne Hastings. Hastings was a Stafford by birth and her brother was Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.

Here is a little insight on Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham and the scandal of his sister which caused havoc with the relationship of Edward Stafford and King Henry VIII.

A letter was exchanged between two subjects of King Ferdinand II of Aragon that explained what was happening at Tudor court – as you probably recall, this story would be important since Henrys wife, Katherine was the daughter of King Ferdinand.

What lately has happened is that two sisters of the Duke of Buckingham, both married, lived in the palace. The one of them is the favourite of the Queen, and the other, it is said, is much liked by the King, who went after her.Another version is that the love intrigues were not of the King, but of a young man, his favourite, of the name of Compton, who had been the late Kings butler.This Compton carried on the love intrigue, as it is said, for the King, and that is the more credible version, as the King has shown great displeasure at what I am going to tell.The favourite of the Queen (Elizabeth Stafford) has been very anxious in this matter of her sister, and has joined herself with the Duke, her brother, with her husband and her sisters husband, in order to consult on what should be done in this case.The consequence of the counsel of all the four of them was that, whilst the Duke was in the private apartment of his sister, who was suspected [of intriguing] with the King, Compton came there to talk with her, saw the Duke, who intercepted him, quarrelled with him, and the end of it was that he was severely reproached in many and very hard words.The King was so offended at this that he reprimanded the Duke angrily. The same night the Duke left the palace, and did not enter or return there for some days.At the same time the husband of that lady went away, carried her off, and placed her in a convent sixty miles from here, that no one may see her.The King having understood that all this proceeded from the sister, who is the favourite of the Queen, the day after the one was gone, turned the other out of the palace, and her husband with her.Afterwards, almost all the court knew that the Queen had been vexed with the King, and the King with her, and thus this storm went on between them.I spoke to the friar about it, and complained that he had not told me this, regretting that the Queen had been annoyed, and saying to him how I thought that the Queen should have acted in this case, and how he, in my opinion, ought to have behaved himself.For in this I think I understand my part, being a married man, and having often treated with married people in similar matters.He contradicted vehemently, which was the same thing as denying what had been officially proclaimed.He told me that those ladies have not gone for anything of the kind, and talked nonsense, and evidently did not believe what he told me. I did not speak more on that subject.

So, the whole matter with Anne Hastings was to be kept quiet it appears – but obviously many new what had happened between the king and Lady Hastings.

tiennette de la Baum

The next time we hear anything about a mistress is after Henrys war with France in 1513. When Henry left for France he made Katherine of Aragon regent in his place – she in turn went on to defeat the Scots, who believed England to be undefended with the king in France and in turn their king, James IV was killed in battle. Katherine was victorious and Henry had also won his battles in France but was most likely out shined by his queen which would have bruised his ego.

There was great celebrations after winning his battles in France that Henry VIII went to the court of Margaret of Austria (daughter of the Emperor) to celebrate their joined victory – it was there that his apparent love affair with tiennettede la Baume happened.

tiennette de la Baume was a Flemish woman who was a maid of honor at the court of Margaret of Austria, Archduchess of Savoy and Regent of the Netherlands, she enjoyed the attentions of King Henry VIII during his visit to Lille in 1513.

The reason it is believed that tiennette was mistress to the king is because in August 1514, when she was about to marry, she wrote to the Henry VIII, sending him “a bird and some roots of great value” and reminding him that he had promised to give her ten thousand crowns as a wedding present.

It is unclear whether or not Henry sent her the gift or whether is confirmed as his former mistress – some believe her letter is a sign that she was indeed a lover of the king.

Bessie Blount

Also in 1514 is when it appears that the marriage between the king and queen was weakening due to Katherines lack of a living child. In this year it is believed that Henry may have begun his affair with Bessie Blount, according to authors Kelly Hart and Philippa Jones.

His relationship with Bessie, a maid-of-honor to the queen, was his first big affair – it is believed that he truly loved her. Bessie was considered his ideal woman – young, beautiful, intelligent, musical, a great dancer and an enthusiastic rider…all the things that Henry appreciated the most in a woman. The affair lasted five years and only ended because Bessie became pregnant. Henry then married her off but everyone knew that she was carrying his son. This indeed taught him a lesson – to only sleep with women who were already married as not to cause scandal when they became pregnant. When

Bessie gave birth to a son on the 15th of June 1519, the king was ecstatic and acknowledged the boy, who would be called Henry Fitzroy. The son of a king. He would leave Fitzroy on the back-burner, but well raised, in case his wife would not give him a son.

Jane Popincourt

The earliest reference of Jane Popincourt shows up in the Privy Purse expenses of Elizabeth of York in 1498. Kathy Lynn Emerson, creator of “Who’s Who of Tudor Women” states that Jane was a French-speaking lady assigned to teach the language to Henry VIIs daughters, Margaret and Mary, through daily conversation. Nothing is known of her background. Some records identify her as French, others as Flemish. Author Philppa Jones of “The Other Tudors” says that Jane was attached to the household of Princess Mary from nearly the time of her birth and her job was to teach Mary, and there is no mention of Margaret.

In 1512 was a member of Katherine of Aragon’s household.

She became notorious during the stay of Louis dOrlans, 2nd duc de Longueville at the English court as a prisoner of war. Longueville was captured at the Battle of the Spurs and sent to England as a prisoner of war to wait for his ransom (100,000 crowns) to be paid. While in England he took Jane as a mistress.

When Queen Anne of France died, Longueville took an active role in negotiating the marriage of Louis XII of France and Henry VIIIs sister, Mary, and served as proxy bridegroom at the wedding at Greenwich Palace. The following day, his ransom having been paid, he left for France.

Jane had expected to journey to France as an attendant to Princess Mary. It is believed that she hoped to be reunited with her lover there, but her name was struck off the list at the last moment by King Louis XII – he had supposedly discovered that Jane had been the mistress of Longueville, whose wife was at the French court.

Jane stayed in England for a time after and is said to have had a brief affair with Henry VIII until King Louis XII died in January 1515. When the French king died Henry gave her a gift of 100 and Jane returned to France to be with Longueville who then unfortunately died in 1516.

Mistress Parker

It is believed that before Henry found Mary Boleyn that there was a lady by the name of Mistress Parker who had a short tryst with the king. It is unknown exactly who this woman was but there are some thoughts on the matter: Author Kelly Hart writes, it has been suggested that this was Arabella Parker, a merchants wife, or Margery Parker, a member of Princess Marys household. It could also refer to Jane Parker who later married George Boleyn.

Author Philippa Jones also makes the same suggestions but seems to lean a little more toward Margery Parker since she was in his daughters household and this would have given him easy access to her. However, since Jane Parker was also the same masque as Anne Boleyn in 1522, it is possible that he noticed her there as well.

Mary Boleyn

Around the same time or shortly after Mistress Parker Henry took on Mary Boleyn as a mistress – Historian, Susan Abernethy states:

While we dont know the exact date of the commencement of King Henrys 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 Kings 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 dont know the exact dates or details. During Marys 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 VIIIs child although he didnt acknowledge her as his daughter. Because Mary was married at the time of the births of her children, they were legally considered William Careys children.

Very Handsome Young Lady

On the 27th of September 1534, Chapuys had reported that Henry had

Renewed and increased the love he formerly bore to another very handsome young lady of the court; and whereas the royal mistress (Anne Boleyn) hearing of it, attempted to dismiss the damsel from her service, the king has been very sad and sent her a message to this effect: that she ought to be satisfied with what he had done for her, for, were he to commence again, he would certainly not do as much; she ought to consider where she from and many other things of the same kind. Yet no great stress is to be laid on such words.Anne knows perfectly well how to deal with him.

Kathy Lynn Emerson of Whos Who of Tudor Women believes this lady may have been Elizabeth Hervey/Harvey who was referred to as Bess. Henry would have turned to Bess during Annes pregnancy in 1534. It is known that the lady was a friend of Lady Mary (Henrys daughter). Queen Anne attempted to remove her competition with the help of her sister-in-law, Lady Rochford but their mission failed and Rochford was instead dismissed from court for a time.

David Starkeys Six Wives recounts that Bess Hervey/Harvey was in service to Anne Boleyn and on friendly terms with Sir Francis Bryan. She was sent away from court in 1536, although she claimed she did not know why. If she was the “handsome young lady,” she had lost the king’s interest by then.

According to Carolly Erickson in Bloody Mary, an Elizabeth Harvey was one of Catherine of Aragon’s women in 1536. After Catherine died she asked to be placed in Mary’s service and was refused. In 1539, however, she was part of a group of court ladies who visited Portsmouth to tour the king’s ships, at Henry VIII’s special invitation. She was also among the ladies in Anne of Clevess household, as Elsabeth Harvy.

She was not appointed to Catherine Howards household, but during Catherine’s tenure as queen, Catherine gave Bess the gift of a gown.

Starkey also suggests Bess was Thomas Culpeppers paramour.

Mary Shelton

Some have believed that Anne Boleyn herself had convinced her cousin, Mary Shelton to become a mistress of the king. If his mistress was a family member then Anne would certainly remain secure on her throne.

The love affair merely lasted six months and then it was over – Anne Boleyns plot had been foiled.

After Mary Shelton and before the execution of Anne Boleyn, Henry was courting Jane Seymour.

There were other ladies who were rumored to be the kings mistresses: Mary Berkeley, Jane Pollard, Joanna Dingley, Anne Bassett and Elizabeth Cobham – but well leave those ladies stories for another day.

Becoming a mistress to the king meant that favor was brought to you and usually your family. To be chosen may have been flattering to some and a curse to others. For Anne Boleyn it made her a queen, for her sister, well, she did not have the fantastic life her sister had but she did find true love and she did outlive all of her siblings. Thats has to account for something, right?


**If you’re interested in my post on “Illegitimate Children of Henry VIII“, please click HERE**


Hart, Kelly; The Mistresses of Henry VIII

Jones, Philippa; The Other Tudors – Henry VIII’s Mistresses and Bastards

Emerson, Kathy Lynn; A Who’s Who of Tudor Women

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