Sunday, 24 February 2013

German Fashion

When Anne of Cleves arrived at the English court, her clothes made an unfortunate impression on the English courtiers. Anne, being German, naturally wore the German fashion but this was far from popular with the English ladies. Let's take a look at what the German fashion actually looked like:

Saturday, 23 February 2013

The Tudor Secret

In the summer of 1553, a young orphan boy named Brendan Prescott becomes a part of the powerful Dudley-family's household. Finding himself now at court - the centre of power - Brendan is sent on a mission to Princess Elizabeth, the King's sister. Things becomes complicated when Elizabeth's trusted protector, William Cecil, convinces Brendan to become a double agent in exchange for him finding informations about Brendan's past.

When the seriously ill King Edward VI disappears Elizabeth's quest to find out the truth becomes more dangerous than ever.  With only a brave stable-boy and a lady-in-waiting, Brendan finds himself the centre of a world packed with lies, treason and constant mortal danger.

This is the first book of The Elizabeth I's Spy-Master Chronicles

The Complete Story

The Tudors - The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty is just what the titles says: the complete story. I bought this book and it is a must-read for everyone who has an interest in the Tudors. It described the time from the very beginning with Henry VII and ends with the death of Elizabeth I.

And there is more: after every chapter, there are short themes focusing on different aspects on Tudor society such as the monasteries, punishments etc. It's a treat for every Tudor-lover!

Poem of Margaret Salisbury

After Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury had been executed, a short piece of text was found carved into the wall. The Countess denied her guilt to the end and it is believed that the poem is written by the Countess herself.

For traitors on the block should die;
I am no traitor, no, not I!
My faithfulness stands fast and so,
Towards the block I shall not go!
Nor make one step, as you shall see;
Christ in Thy mercy, save Thou me!

Sadly, the elderly woman's prayer was not heard - her execution would be remembered as the most horrible execution of the Tower of London.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Ghost of the Nine Days Queen

Lady Jane Grey is one of the many tragic Tudor figures who has been seen at the Tower of London after her death. The last recorded sighting of the Nine Days Queen was on February 12, 1957 - the anniversary of her execution. Her ghost was seen by two guardsmen of the Tower that reports the lady was a "white shape shaping itself on the battlements".

Lady Jane Grey has also been spotted at Astley Castle. She is reported to be sitting, quietly and reading. After the castle was destroyed by a fire, Lady Jane Grey's ghost has still not left the palace. She can still appear, sitting and reading in her book but without the palace she seems oddly out of place.

Her husband, Guildford Dudley, was also executed for treason. His ghost has been seen at the Beauchamp Tower, sobbing.

Was Jane Seymour Henry VIII's Most Beloved Wife?

For many years it has been suspected that Henry VIII himself considered Jane Seymour his "true wife and Queen". Supporters of this theory points to two facts:
Henry had himself buried next to her and when he ordered a portrait painted of the Tudor dynasty so far, it was not the figure of his present wife, Catherine Parr, that appeared on the portrait next to him but Jane Seymour.

But was Jane the much-married King's favourite Queen and wife?

No, she probably was not. Before such a (well, rather drastic) statement is made it is important to look at the facts. Jane was the only wife that died before Henry VIII, whom he had not in some way already parted with. It is more likely that if Jane Seymour had lived after the birth - considering Henry's personality and marital past - she would eventually bore the King and he would tire of her.
And then there is the most vital thing in Henry's world: she gave him a son. For a man like Henry VIII this alone was enough to place her in a special position - but the affection probably did not stretch beyond the gender of their child. If Jane had died given birth to - yet another - girl then it would unlikely that Henry would ever have considered her the "love of his life".

So, it is likely that it was these two elements that made Jane Seymour as close to a perfect wife as possible: She had given him a son and then she had died at the height of his affection - before he could tire of her. But when you consider the way Tudor marriages worked, then there is a big difference between being a "good wife" and a "beloved wife". So far Jane had fulfilled her purpose as a good wife - but there is no evidence to support Henry's emotions towards his wife.

You just have to look to her predecessors to see the difference between Henry's (and the entire Tudor society) definition of a "good wife" and a "beloved" wife:
Catherine of Aragon was for almost 20 years a beloved wife of Henry VIII. Despite his adultery, he is said to have been genuinely loving her - until she "failed" in her job as a "good wife".

To be a "good wife" a woman had to be faithful, ever smiling and by his side and - most importantly - she had to give him a son. But after Catherine had had several stillborn sons and live sons who would quickly die, then she had not fulfilled the most important part of the Tudor period's version of a "good wife." And Henry's love began to fade.

When it comes to Anne Boleyn it is extremely unlikely that Henry was willing to get rid of a good and faithful wife, break with a church he believed in and turn half of Europe against him, for a woman he did not love. There is no reason to name all the proves of Henry VIII's love for Anne Boleyn but in the end she "failed" in the same task as her predecessor: she could not give him a son.

Did Queen Jane die from a C-section?

The greatest question that has surrounded the third wife of Henry VIII (and particularly her death) is whether or not a C-section was performed on Jane Seymour - and if so, did it kill her?

The death of Jane Seymour as imagined by
a later artist
When Jane Seymour went into labour it did not take long before the mid-wives knew that the birth would be long and very difficult. The poor Queen went through two days and three nights of labour before Prince Edward could be announced to the world. But ever since the birth ended - and especially after Jane died - rumours began circling, saying that a Caesarian section had been performed on the Queen.

It is therefore almost certain that there was no C-section performed on the Queen. A C-section was only performed on women who was either already dead during their labour. If it had only been this that spoke against a C-section for Jane Seymour then it would have been more likely. But the fact that Jane lived for twelve whole days after giving birth, makes it impossible. Due to the lack of knowledge of bacteria, anaesthesia and hygiene, there is no way that Jane would have survived such an extensive surgery.

However, the Queen may not have died of a C-section but she died of lack of care in her child bed. According to Antonia Fraser, Jane herself blamed her mid-wives and attendants when she realized that she was getting lethally weak. She would claim that they had not taken care of her in the right manner which resulted in her catching a cold and had failed to feed her what she needed. Besides, C-section, was prohibited by both the Catholic and Anglican Church. Whether Jane was right or not, it is widely accepted that she died of puerperal fever which was then known as "childbed-fever."  

Sir Loyal Heart

Henry VIII had chosen the nickname "Sir Loyal Heart" for himself and when he participated in tournaments and jousts, he would go under this name. He invented this name for himself during his marriage to Catherine of Aragon - how ironic it must have been for the people at court to see "Sir Loyal Heart" first abandon one innocent wife and then behead another!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Margaret Beaufort

Mother of a new dynasty - role model of her time 

Margaret Beaufort was born on May 31 either 1443 or 1441. Her parents were Margaret Beauchamp and John Beaufort (Duke of Somerset); her father was in good standing with the King and made sure that if he died on an up-coming campaign to France then the guardianship of Margaret should belong to the little girl's mother. But John Beaufort fell out with the King and was consequently banished from court - it would later be reported that he died of illness but some suggest that he committed suicide. By the death of her father, Margaret was the heir to his fortunes.

Arrest of a Queen

When Anne Boleyn miscarried a second son, time was running out for the young Queen. She probably knew that something was happening since her husband was courting Jane Seymour in public and rumours started circulating. When her friend, Mark Smeaton, was arrested and tortured, Anne knew that fate had turned against her.

The remarkable thing about Anne Boleyn's arrest was the manner in which it happened and the cold way in which her husband arranged it. Anne was attending the yearly May Day Joust on May 2 when her husband received news - it was most likely the confession that Mark Smeaton had given after being tortured. He then invited Sir Henry Norris to walk with him and thus the King left the celebration - and Anne.
Previously her brother, George Boleyn, had been arrested but it had been done in such a discreet manner that the Queen did not even know about - if she had known she would have known that she was next.

However, Anne Boleyn was still ignorant of the dangers she faced when she received a message that demanded her presence in front of the Privy Council immediately. The Queen had been watching a tennis match as a part of the May Day celebrations. Anne left the tournaments and made her way to the council room where she found herself face to face with what looked like a jury: the Duke of Norfolk (Anne's uncle), Sir William Fitzwilliam and Sir William Paulet. She was informed that she was accused of adultery with no less than three different men and that Mark Smeaton had already confessed. Anne - always quick in wit - stood her ground and refused to acknowledge any of the accusations - but it did not work. She was sent to her rooms where she was to wait until the tides of the River Thames could take her away.

At 2 o'clock that afternoon, Anne Boleyn was escorted down to an awaiting barge from where she was sailed to the Tower. And that was it - the reign of Anne Boleyn was over and the Queen would never come back.
Arrest of Anne Boleyn

Death of Five Innocent Men

The poem has been attributed to Thomas Wyatt - who was not only a personal friend of the Boleyn family but was also arrested along with the other four men; however he was released. It appears to be about the men who were executed on false charges of adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn: George Boleyn (Lord Rochford, Anne's brother), Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton. However, Brereton is the only one who is not mentioned in the poem.

As for them all I do not thus lament,
But as of right my reason doth me bind;
But as the most doth all their deaths repent,
Even so do I by force of mourning mind.
Some say: "Rochford, haddest thou not been so proud,
For thy great wit each man would thee bemoan,
Since as it is so, many cry aloud
It is a great loss that thou art dead and gone!"

Ah! Norris, Norris, my tears begin to run
To think what hap did thee so lead or guide
Whereby thou hast both thy and thee undone
That is bewailed in court of every side;
In place also where thou hast never been
Both man and child doth piteously thee moan.
They say: "Alas, thou art far overseen
By thine offences to be thus dead and gone."

Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou didst speak with tongue
So well esteemed with each where thou didst fare.

And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind does thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep, that thou art dead and gone.

Ah! Mark, what moan should I for thee make more,
Since that thy death thou hast deserved best,
Save only that my eye is forced sore
With piteous plaint to moan thee with the rest?
A time thou haddest above your poor degree, 
The fall whereof thy friends may well bemoan:
A rotten twig on so high a tree
Hath slipped thy hold and thy art dead and gone.

And thus farewell each one in hearty wise!
The axe is home, your heads be in the street;
The trickling tears doth so fall from my eyes
I scarce may write, may paper is so wet.
But what can hope when death has played his part
Though nature's course will thus lament and moan?
Leave sobs therefore, and every Christian heart
Pray for the souls of those be dead and gone.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Field of the Cloth of Gold

At the year of 1520 France was becoming a major power in Europe while England was still a minor player. The two leaders Francis I and Henry VIII were two young men of similar age and they both had the same wish: to out-shine the other. To make sure that none of the parties would be offended, everything was divided equally. Even the location was chosen with care: the meeting were to take place exactly at the edge of the English territory of Calais.

The Field of the Cloth of Gold as imagined by an artist in the
18th century.
Everything was arranged by Cardinal Wolsey. The idea was that the scenery of the meeting was to be a "camp" of tents of which each King was responsible for decorating and supplying. And the race for the best and most elaborate decoration was on. There was used so much Cloth of Gold (a very expensive fabric) in the construction of the tents and the costumes of hired actors and other entertainers that the meeting would be known as "the Field of the Cloth of Gold". Each part spared no means in showing what splendour their court was capable of presenting. Henry VIII brought with him a rather odd gift from the Ottoman sultan: two monkeys covered in gold leaf - these exotic animals was a source of great entertainment.

An entire palace (quickly erected and made of wood) of no less than 10.000 square metres (12.000 square yards) was build for the reception of the English King. But the palace was one big illusion - the only real solid thing was the brick base; the walls were cloth or tapestries hanging from wooden bars and were painted to look like bricks. And then there was the glass. Windows were expensive but the palace had been constructed with the usage of glass to give the visitors the impression that they were always outside.

The extravagance was endless: red wine flowed freely from two fountains and no less than 35 priests were employed at the chapel. Francis had called together the choir of the royal chapel which was famous for being one of the very best.

When two monarchs met, it required a lot of space and food to accommodate the huge entourages of the Kings. In just one month of the Field of the Cloth of Gold 2200 sheep were slaughtered for the two courts to eat. Guests of minor importance were housed in 2800 tents that had been erected at fields nearby.

When Henry VIII arrived on French soil on June 4, he settled into his main quarters at Guînes, while Francis I stayed at Ardres. Cardinal Wolsey - shining in the settings that he had organized - met with the French King. On June 7 the two Kings finally met at the Val d'Or. And then the entertainments could begin:
The numerous banquets and tournaments began and both Kings were eager to participate. They would also pay special attention to entertaining the Queen of the other King. Archery and wrestling was a part of the entertainment.
On June 24 Wolsey would say Mass and the two Kings would take leave of each other. Despite the elaborateness of the entire meeting, the following consequences were insignificant - Cardinal Wolsey would later arrange a treaty with Spain and Charles V who were the sworn enemies of the French.

Design of a tent that would be erected at the meeting

A Life Changing Portrait

This is the infamous portrait that would convince Henry VIII to marry Anne of Cleves. Hans Holbein was sent to Cleves to paint a likeness of the sisters Anne and Amelia of Cleves. When he returned the King adored the portrait of Anne of Cleves and consequently chose her as his fourth wife. But the King's adoration turned to disgust when she arrived for their wedding where he immediately proclaimed that he "liked her not" and that she looked like a horse.
If we are to judge by this picture - not regarding whether Holbein beautified it or not - Anne of Cleves was definitely not ugly - personally I think she is rather beautiful and looks like a very sweet person.

An Ageing Queen

This is one of those rare portraits of Elizabeth I that depicts a woman who is no longer young - to say the least. At the end of her reign, the artists wanted to keep the illusion - for Elizabeth herself and her people - that she was a woman whom time could not affect. It is easy to imagine the Queen being angered by a portrait showing an old woman. This portrait is referred to as the "Allegorical Portrait" and is packed with symbolism.
The Queen is resting her tired head on her hand while two angels (or cherubs) are removing her heavy crown - finally taking a burden of her shoulders. To her right is a man with a long white beard: Father Time. Death is looking over her shoulder to her other side. Everything in this portrait is aimed at depicting the passage of time and that Elizabeth's time is running out.

The portrait was painted in around 1610 which is seven years after the Queen's death. Even if it had been painted when she was alive, it would probably never have been shown to the Queen - considering the notorious Tudor-temper it is likely that Elizabeth would have been less than pleased with it.

Same Names!

Some names were extremely popular during the Tudor era which mean that many of the courtiers were named the same - quite confusing at times! If we take a look at the female and male names that was extremely fashionable among the nobility. Often the aristocracy would name their children after the reigning King or Queen as a tribute to the monarch - though it seems a bit cliché it worked. As always, ladies first:

Names for Women:

Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth Woodville, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Trockmorton,


Mary Tudor (Queen of France/Duchess of Suffolk), Mary I, Mary - Queen of Scots, Mary Sidney, Mary Boleyn, Mary Howard, Mary Grey


Catherine of Aragon, Katherine Howard, Catherine Parr, Catherine Grey, Catherine Willoughby, Katherine Ashley,


Jane Seymour, Jane Grey, Jane Parker,


Anne Boleyn, Anne Askew, Anne Stanhope, Anne of Cleves,


Margaret Beauford, Margaret Salisbury, Margaret Tudor, Margaret Douglas, Margaret More

Names for Men:


Henry VII, Henry VIII, Henry Brandon, Henry Carey, Henry Fitzroy, Henry Howard, Henry Grey, Henry Percy, Henry Sidney, Henry Stafford


Edward VI, Edward Seymour, Edward Stafford, Edward Courtenay, 


Thomas Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, Thomas Cranmer, Thomas Culpepper, Thomas Howard, Thomas More, Thomas Seymour, Thomas Wolsey, Thomas Tallis, Thomas Wyatt


John Dee, John Dudley, John Fisher, John Cheke, John Foxe, John Seymour, John Roger, John de la Pole, John Knox, John Hooper,


William Cecil, William Tyndale, William Warham, William Parr, William Butts, William Shakespeare,


Richard Rich, Richard de la Pole, Richard Topcliffe,


Robert Dudley, Robert Devereux, Robert Cecil, Robert Kert 

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer was born in 1489 to a family that did not belong to the aristocracy and his family had a modest fortune. When his elder brother, John, inherited the estate after his parents, Thomas was to join the church. At fourteen he was sent to the Jesus College but it took him eight years to finish his education there - a remarkable long time. After Thomas received his Masters of Arts, he married a woman named Joan. But because marriage was not yet acceptable in a priest, he lost his residence at Jesus College and began as a reader at another college. But Joan died during the birth of their first child and the Jesus College gave him his place back.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Many Faces of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I was painted a lot through her long reign and these are just a few of the paintings of her. Some of them will appear later with a detailed description in the "Painting the Tudors"-section, so make sure to keep an eye out for it ;)

  1. Rainbow Portrait
  2. Armada Portrait
  3. Darnley Portrait
  4. Coronation Portrait
  5. Ermine Portrait
  6. Hampton Court Portrait
  7. Portrait by Marcus, the Younger Gheeraerts
  1. Allegorical Portrait (father time is on her right)
  2. Pelican Portrait
  3. Coronation Procession
  4. Phoenix Portrait
  5. Untitled 
  6. Young Princess Elizabeth
  7. Young Queen Elizabeth

The Ideal Beauty

Even in Tudor and Elizabethan times there was a strict perception of how the "ideal" beauty was - a concept that sadly has not changed. The crusades had introduced new sorts of make-up and new ingredients that made it possible to vary the styles more than before.

The ideal woman of a Tudor/Elizabethan woman had:
Porcelain-white skin and red lips was a must. The hair was blond or fair and the eyes were blue, green or grey. Rouge was not a an absolute must for the ideal beauty but it was something that showed status. When Anne Boleyn first caught the eye of the King, she was not considered to be beautiful because she did not have these features. Instead she had dark, brown hair and almost black eyes which was enough to keep her from gaining the praise of being a beauty.
This ideal - and the make-up that came with it - was a status symbol. Only the rich could afford to buy the complicated make-up of the day and it was a privilege.

A natural look
It was not until the Elizabethan age that the heavy make-up became a must in fashion. In the earlier Tudor-reigns it was preferred to focus on creams that would soften the skin; containing honey, beeswax and sesame seed oil - a clear example of the influence from the Middle East.
Perfumes became popular - another import - and it was usually made from roses, water-lilies and violets. Ochre was used to slightly redden the lips and cheeks.

Elizabeth I wearing ceruse
Especially the pale white skin was essential to women of the day - Elizabeth I is almost completely white in most of her portraits. To achieve this unnatural whiteness, women used ceruse. Ceruse was a mixture of white lead and vinegar which was applied to the skin for its whitening effect. But ceruse was - due to the lead - highly toxic and many women died rather young from lead-poisoning since the ceruse was added often and rarely washed off.
The pale skin was so desired by fashionable women that they were willing to be bled to achieve the perfect paleness that was demanded. It could also be used to hide wrinkles or scars from small-pox which was very common.

Fashion of hair
The main hairstyle that did not change was the high hairline. As I mentioned in an earlier post, women often plucked their hairs to drive their hairline back into a fashionable position. An arched brow was also a must, so women would also pluck their eye-brows - much like today actually.

Hair-colouring and wigs 
Women dyed their hair even in the Tudor era but used materials that would shock most women of today. Since the ideal dictated that a woman should have fair hair (blonde or red), many women aimed at these colour. To achieve the blonde hair it was common to use urine or a mixture of cumin seed, saffron, celandine and oil - all expensive ingredients that made it impossible for anyone else but the nobility to afford it. For those women who wanted to dye their hair red - specially popular during the red-headed Elizabeth I - it was common to use henna which could also dye the nails.

Wigs were a popular alternative to the time-demanding colouring processes. Also, it was popular with those who could not dye their hair to a fair colour but still wanted to be fashionable. Elizabeth I was very fond of wigs and had no less than 80 wigs at the time of her death - despite the fact that she did not need to wear a wig since her natural red hair-colour was already ideal.

Eyes and Lips
Kohl was another thing that could be found in any wealthy and fashionable woman's toilette. It had the purpose of a modern mascara and was applied to the eye-lashes to darken them. The red lips was given their colour through the use of mercuric sulfide because it contains the desirable vermilion colour - it was also used on the cheeks.

Hair Styles

As in any other court, the fashion was decided by the Queen. When it came to the hair styles of the Tudors the styles changed as often as Henry VIII's wives.

Long, flat hair:
Most women of the Tudor time rarely cut their hair which meant that they would end up with very long hair. It was the norm to conceal the hair under a hood or a headdress but there was exceptions (as always with fashion): on her wedding day a woman could keep her hair loose which was also the case at coronations. Anne Boleyn and her daughter, Elizabeth I both had loose hair at their coronations; Mary I had loose hair at her wedding. Both Anne Boleyn and Catherine of Aragon is said to have had hair down to their thighs.
The long, flat hairstyle was specially favoured by Anne Boleyn and in the most famous portrait of her, you can see that her hair is flat.

On this, Elizabeth I was different from her mother. Elizabeth preferred to have curly hair - which immediately became fashion among the ladies at court. Nowadays, women just use a curling-iron to achieve a perfect curly hair but in the Tudor era, women had to use a different strategy. The Tudor ladies used hot tongs to curve their hair into the fashionable hairstyle favoured by the Queen.

And remember...
Having your hair hanging loose was a sign of virginity and was mainly used by young women at their weddings. But as soon as a Tudor woman was married, it was no longer prudent to have loose hair. Instead, she was to have her hair in a bun - a practical arrangement that made room for the elaborate headdresses at court.
It was very fashionable to have a high forehead and women would even pluck their hairline back to achieve it! Also, it was in fashion to have your hair arranged in such a way that it would not cover the forehead.

Thomas Culpepper

Thomas Culpepper was born in 1514 and was a distant relation to the Howard family. In 1534 Thomas bought Higham Park and a year later, he was a courtier to Viscount Lisle.

Culpepper was described as being handsome and quickly became a favourite of Henry VIII. Other courtiers would often bribe Culpepper to use his influence with the King on their behalf. But Thomas Culpepper also had a darker side. He was accused of raping a gate-keeper's wife and then killing the gate-keeper when he came to demand justice - it has been argued whether it was Culpepper or his elder brother, who also happened to be named Thomas. Whichever brother it was, a pardon was given from Henry VIII.
Painting of Thomas Culpepper
made after his death

Monday, 18 February 2013

Wolf Hall: Home of the Seymours

The Seymour's main residence was at Wolf Hall; it was here that Jane Seymour (third wife of Henry VIII) was born. There is very little left of the building that was inhabited by a rising family that would become a powerful fraction at court. But the Seymour family left Wolf Hall and no longer lived there in 1575 - instead the estate was used to house servants until it could no longer be inhabited at all.

It was at Wolf Hall that Henry VIII stayed in September 1535 and started courting Jane Seymour. It is possible that the newly married royal couple held a celebration party in the barn belonging to the estate. When the barn burned down in the middle of 1920's it still had the hooks on which tapestries used for the celebration hung. After the executions of Thomas and Edward Seymour, the family's fortunes fell as drastic as they had risen - there was no longer a point in trying to improve the family seat of a family that no longer possessed any power.

The barn in which the wedding of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour was celebrated

Lost Children of Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon gave birth to a good deal of children during her marriage to Henry VIII but only Mary I would survive - something that would eventually lead to Catherine's dethronement. But how many children did Catherine give birth to? Where there really no boys among them?

The answer to the last question is a definite "no" - Catherine gave birth to a number of sons but sadly none of them survived their infancy. These were the children of Catherine:

  • Catherine gave birth to a stillborn daughter on January 31 1510 - the girl died the same day
  • The son Henry wanted was born on January 1 1511 and was immediately named Henry and made Duke of Cornwall - he died on February 23 that same year
  • Another son was born in October/November 1513 but he died before he was named 
  • Henry, (another) Duke of Cornwell was born in 1514 in December but died within the month
  • Catherine finally gave birth to a child that would survive but the child was a girl: Mary. She was born on February 18 1516
  • Catherine's last child was a stillborn girl born on November 10 1518 
As the years show, Catherine was pregnant almost constantly from 1510-1518. After this period she did not conceive again and as nature has it, she eventually entered menopause. How unfair and painful it must have been for Catherine to listen to Henry and his councillors complaining that she never was able to produce an heir, while she had not only been through labour pains but the pain of losing the child as well - several times. 

Assassinating the Queen

Elizabeth I faced countless terrors and threats to her life through her entire life. One of the most memorable assassination attempts on the Queen occurred when Elizabeth was travelling on a barge down the River Thames.
Panic broke out when a shot was fired and a guard fell down - shot by a bullet that obviously was meant for the Queen. Elizabeth gave the man her personal hanker-chief to press against his wound. As she did so, she assured him "Be of good cheer, for you will never want. For the bullet was meant for me."

There has been theories that the incident was not an assassination attempt at all but a salute made to the popular Queen that eventually went wrong. However, considering the many attempts on Elizabeth's life, it is possible that it indeed was an assassination attempt.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey

Born as the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, Henry Howard was privileged from the very beginning. Actually, Henry Howard was a descendant of kings on both his maternal and paternal side: King Edward I on his father's side and King Edward III on his mother's side. He was born in the time around 1517.

Henry Howard was placed at Windsor with Henry Fitzroy (the illegitimate son of Henry VIII) and became quite close friends with the King's bastard son. Henry inherited his father and grand-father's military skills and was renown as a very good soldier who became "Lieutenant General of the King's Land and Sea".
But the privileged Henry Howard had a temper. Once he was arrested for striking another courtier and was arrested again after having walked through a town, breaking the windows of the sleeping inhabitants. But every time King Henry VIII came to his rescue.

Seal of Arthur, Prince of Wales

This was the wax seal of Arthur, Prince of Wales while he was heir to the English throne. Sadly, he never got to use it as a monarch due to his early death. The coat of arm is flanked by his personal badge with the large feather.

How No Age Is Content

This poem is written by Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey who was the last to be executed during the reign of Henry VIII.

Laid in my quiet bed, in study as I were,
I saw within my troubled head a heap of thoughts appear
And every thought did show so lively in my eyes
That now I sighed and then I smiled as cause of thought arise
I saw the little boy, in thought how oft that he;
Did wish of God to'scape the rod, a tall young man to be;
The young man eke that feels his bones with pains oppressed
How he would be a rich old man to live and lie at rest;
The rich old man that sees his end draw on so sore,
How he would be a boy again to live so much the more.
Whereat full oft I smiled to see how all these three,
From boy to man, from man to boy would chop and change degree;
And musing thus, I think the case is very strange
That man from wealth to live in woe doth ever seek to change.
Thus thoughtful as I lay, I saw my withered skin
How it doth show my dented chaws, the flesh was worn so thin,
And eke my toothless chaps, the gates of my right way;
That opes and shuts as I do speak, do thus unto me speak:
"Thy white and hoarish hairs, the messengers of age,
That show, like lines of true belief, that this life doth assuage,
Bid thee lay hand and feel them hanging on thy chin
They which do write two ages past, the third now coming in.
Hang up, therefore, the bit of thy young wanton time,
And thou that therein beaten art the happiest life define."
Whereat I sighed and said: "Farewell, my wonted joy.
Truss up thy pack and trudge from me to every little boy
And tell thus from me their time most happy is,
If to their time they reason had to know the truth of this."

Hever Castle - Home of the Boleyns

Hever Castle in Kent was the childhood-home of the notorious Boleyn family and most particularly Anne, Mary and George Boleyn - of whom two would die on the scaffold.
Originally, Hever Castle was build as a country house in the 13th century. Geoffrey Boleyn bought the castle in the beginning of the 16th century and modernized the country house into a mansion in the Tudor fashion. Since castles was no longer used for places of defence, the extension added by the Boleyn family was not aimed towards protection but comfort; their extensions would provide the family with comfortable living spaces.

It is argued whether or not Anne Boleyn was born at Hever Castle since the time of her birth is doubtful in itself. When Sir Thomas Boleyn died in 1540, the castle no longer belonged to the Boleyn family - despite that Mary Boleyn was still alive. Henry VIII granted the castle to Anne of Cleves as a divorce settlement - it must have been strange for the German Princess to own the castle that her predecessor and name-sake grew up in. She would own the castle until her death in 1557.

The main gate as seen from the inside of the court yard

Rose garden of Hever Castle

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, rivals, queens

The drama that played out between Queen Elizabeth I of England and Mary, Queen of Scots is still as fascinating to us now as it was 500 years ago. The two queens - who never met - embarked on a lethal rivalry that would only have one winner. A rivalry that would send Mary, Queen of Scots to the scaffold and leaving Elizabeth as the undisputed Queen of England.

In this book the very drama of these two women is played out not only through the two front-figures but by the power and ambition of the men that surrounded both monarchs.

Upcoming Tudor-author

Hilary Mantel has written these two books that immediately became popular with Tudor-readers.

Wolf Hall is about the rise of Thomas Cromwell and his ideas of religious reform in the Tudor-court that is left behind when Cardinal Wolsey fell from power. Thomas Cromwell has to figure out a way to get his agenda through while balancing on the edge between the King's extreme fits of rage and his dangerous appreciation - while the court watches.

Bring up the Bodies centres around the downfall of Anne Boleyn, her trial and the execution of her and her accused lovers. Once again Thomas Cromwell is a central figure and this time he has to consider how far he is willing to go for Anne's head.

The de la Pole Family

The de la Pole - or simply Pole - family were the descendants of the Plantagenets and therefore belonged to the former ruling family of England. After the defeat of Richard III - who was the last Plantagenet-King - the family became a powerful family at court but not the ruling family. It is rather the complete destruction of the family that has been remembered through history.
Since Henry VIII was always looking out for a possible threat to his throne and when Cardinal Reginald Pole did not adapt to the King's religious changes, Henry saw an opportunity to lower the Pole family even further. But Henry - or his spies - could not catch the Cardinal who had fled to Rome and instead the King went after the Pole family still living in England. Despite that Henry had no real evidence against Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (and mother to the Cardinal) and her other family members, he had them arrested and executed. Margaret Pole's execution would be remembered as the most horrible execution within the Tower.

Allegedly, the Poles descended from an ancient Welsh family and Sir Richard Pole rose through the ranks and even became a Knight of the Garter in 1499.

Unfortunately, there is almost none surviving portraits of the Pole family members except for these two:

Cardinal Reginald Pole
Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

The Boleyn Family

The Boleyn family was the most prominent family at court until 1536 where Anne and George Boleyn were executed. Until then, the Boleyns had been the leading fraction in court and supported many politicians and priests such as Thomas Cranmer.

Originally, the Boleyn family was from Norfolk and rose quickly through the hierarchy of the Tudor society. Anne, Mary and George Boleyn was descendants of a London Mayor, a knight and two aristocratic ladies. They were related to the Howard family and one of their ancestors counted Edward I of England - Anne Boleyn was of a higher noble state than Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr.
Geoffrey Boleyn rose from being a wool merchant to the Lord Mayor of London and would eventually become wealthy enough to purchase Hever Castle. Thomas Boleyn elevated his status by marrying Elizabeth Howard who were above his station.

Of the Boleyns who were painted or drawn there are (from the left):
Sir Thomas Boleyn (died of unknown causes), George Boleyn (beheaded), Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Mary Boleyn (died of old age) and Elizabeth I (died of old age).

 Besides these five prominent members of the Boleyn family, it is also worth mentioning:

Elizabeth Howard - mother of George, Mary and Anne
Geoffrey Boleyn - elevated from merchant to Lord Mayor and bought Hever Castle
William Boleyn - father of Thomas Boleyn

A Different Side of Mary 1

Mary I is remembered as a very strict and religious woman whom only the court fool could make laugh. But Mary had inherited some of her father's love of luxury and the entertainments offered by a court. She had two great fancies: luxury clothing and gambling.

Like her father, Mary I loved expensive clothing and would order gowns made from the most luxurious fabrics of the time. The first year always meant that the Grand Wardrobe saw it's expenses raised considerable due to the coronation which demanded the very best of clothing for the newly made monarch. Mary I's first year as Queen of England was made even more expensive because she did not just need an elaborate dress for her coronation but a just as splendid one for her wedding. In total her cost on her Grand Wardrobe amounted to 18.000 pounds that year!
Later on her expenses on that account would drop to 6.000 pounds which was a bit less than Henry VIII's during the last years of his reign.

Mary's second passion was for gambling - something it is difficult imagining the highly religious and morally strong Mary indulging in such a thing. But Mary I was lucky enough to have rather large sums to bet with. Unfortunately, she was not always on the winning side which resulted in a rather embarrassing behaviour of a Queen of England: Mary was placing money on a game of bowls but had run out of founds, so she asked her servants to borrow her more! But they refused and Mary - determined to continue playing - decided to wage the breakfast of the next day. Apparently the Queen lost again for according to her book attests: "Payed for a Brekefaste loste at Bolling by my lady Mary's grace."

Not Becoming of A Christian Princess

It is - and was - not a secret that Princess Mary and Prince Edward did not see eye to eye on religious matters but as it turns out, the siblings had different views on royal behaviour.

Prince Edward wrote to Catherine Parr, asking her to keep the Princess Mary from dancing foreign and exotic dances. In his own words Mary should "attend no longer to foreign dances and merriments which do not become a most Christian Princess." You can almost imagine Mary's indignation towards being reproved by her younger brother on her behaviour.
Despite personal pride, Mary may also have found a sort of comfort in the foreign dances since her mother had brought many Spanish and "Moorish" dances to the English court when she arrived to marry Arthur, Prince of Wales.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Seymour Family

The Seymour family became the leading family after the fall of the Boleyns. Like their predecessors, their power came from the King's affection for a woman in their family - in this case Jane Seymour. Since Jane did the convenient thing and died after giving the King a son, the Seymour family remained in favour even after the death of the Seymour Queen. The patriarch of the family was John Seymour but it was his children that led the Seymour to the fame and power that comes from the love of a Tudor.

But the main figures of power from the Seymour family after Jane's death was her brothers Thomas and Edward who both ended their lives on the scaffold - sent there by their nephew, a half-Seymour.

From the left: Thomas Seymour (beheaded), Edward Seymour (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died in child bed), Anne Stanhope/Seymour and Edward VI (died of tuberculosis) - half Tudor, half Seymour.

Modern Elizabeth

I found these beautiful pictures of Elizabeth I in a modern interpretation on:  (all credit to this side)

and I thought I would share them:

Catherine the Queen

"The Lady Katherine is a proud, stubborn woman of very high courage. If she took it into her head to take her daughter's part, she could quite easily take the field, muster a great array, and wage against me a war as fierce as any her mother Isabella ever waged in Spain." 

This is what Henry VIII himself said about Catherine of Aragon. It is strange that he still chose to go up against her in the matter of their marriage's trial - he must have known that Catherine would never leave the title, she felt belonged to her by right.

Wyatt's Rebellion

When Mary I published her intentions of marrying the Catholic Philip II of Spain, it sparked a rebellion that would be known as the Wyatt rebellion named after it's main leader. Sir Thomas Wyatt, Sir James Croft, Sir Peter Carew and Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, were the four main leaders of the rebellion against Mary I.

Thomas Wyatt by Hans Holbein
the Younger
It is considered that the motive of the rebellion was religious since all the main leaders were committed Protestant. Each of the riot-leaders rose a rebellion in their respective counties and joined forces to march on London on March 18 1554. Their goal was to dethrone Mary I and replace her with Elizabeth, who they then wanted to marry Lord Devon. Meanwhile a French fleet should prevent Philip II from reaching England.

Oh Death, Rock Me Asleep

This poem is thought to be written by Anne Boleyn the days before her execution and supports the theory that she welcomed death in the last hours of her life.

Death, rock me asleep,
Bring me to quiet rest,
Let pass my weary guiltless ghost,
Out of my careful breast.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

My pain who can express?
Alas, they are so strong,
My dolour will not suffer strength,
My life for to prolong.
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Alone in prison strong,
I wait my destiny.
Woe worth this cruel hap that I;
Should taste this misery
Toll on, thou passing bell;
Ring out my doleful knell;
Let thy sound my death tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Farewell, my pleasures past,
Welcome, my present pain!
I feel my torments so increase
That life cannot remain.
Cease now, thou passing bell,
Rung is my doleful knell;
For the sound my death doth tell.
Death doth draw nigh;
There is no remedy.

Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour was born in around 1500 and would be the brother of Queen Jane Seymour. When he was 14 he received an appointment in the household of Mary Tudor.
Edward married twice; his first marriage to Catherine Fillol was annulled due to her adultery and his second marriage was to Anne Stanhope in the time before March 9th 1534.

When Jane Seymour became the third wife of Henry VIII, Edward was created first Viscount Beauchamp on June 5th 1536 and Earl of Hertford in October 1537. He was sent to the Scottish border to "teach the King of Scotland a lesson" on behalf of Henry VIII - a task he carried out with extreme ruthlessness. Even after the death of his sister Edward remained in high favour with Henry VIII which turned out to last even beyond this Tudor-king.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Book Theme: Catherine Parr

The last of Henry VIII's wives who caused a scandal when she married the man she loved shortly after her royal husband's death. Catherine Parr is remembered as the Protestant wife of Henry VIII who reunited the old King with all his children:

Catherine Parr by Elizabeth Norton

Catherine Parr: Henry's Last Love by Susan E. James

Katherine the Queen: the Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr by Linda Porter

Katherine Parr: A guided tour of the life and thought of a Reformation Queen by Brandon G. Withrow

The Sixth Wife by Jean Plaidy

The Boleyn Series

It is almost impossible to avoid Philippa Gregory when searching for Tudor fiction - and there is a reason for that. Her "Boleyn Series" takes place during the Tudors' reigns and often is centred around minor characters that have a connection to the Tudor monarch of their specific time. Personally, I own all of the books and there is only one that I am not that happy about: The Virgin's Lover. I really did not like how Philippa Gregory portrays Elizabeth I as an extremely dependent and love-sick teenager when it is pretty safe to say that she was everything but that.
Anyway, here are the six books and I hope that you will read them. To help you out (that is if you have not already read them) I have written who the main character is and which Tudor monarch they serve - in that way you can choose your favourite Tudor :) :

The Constant Princess - Catherine of Aragon during her short marriage to Prince Arthur and then in the end there is a short glimpse of her trial at Blackfriar's Court 

The Other Boleyn Girl - Mary Boleyn as she catches the eye of Henry VIII and becomes his mistress but must step aside when her sister, Anne, replaces her in the King's affection - and drives Mary to finally choose her own life

The Boleyn Inheritance - This novel follows Jane Rochford as she battles her immense guilt of sending her husband and sister-in-law to the scaffold, Anne of Cleves during her short marriage to Henry VIII and Katherine Howard as she goes from the King's beloved wife to another traitor on the scaffold.

The Queen's Fool - Hannah is a Jewish secret refugee who fled the Inquisition in Spain and is discovered because of her gift of the "Sight" which sends her to the court of the very Catholic Mary I where she becomes her Holy Fool

The Virgin's Lover - An dependent Elizabeth I and her relationship with Robert Dudley takes place in front of a baffled court while Robert Dudley's wife, Amy Robsart, longs for her husband in the country-side

The Other Queen - Mary, Queen of Scots, and her rivalry with her cousin Queen Elizabeth I which eventually leads to her execution

Secrets of the Tudor Court

Kate Emerson is the author behind a series with the name "Secrets of the Tudor Court". Her novels features minor historical figures of the real Tudor era as the protagonists - the books are works of fiction but featuring historical men and women (much like Philippa Gregory).

So far there are six books in the series and in case you have difficulty reading the titles, here they are:

1. The Pleasure Palace
2. Between Two Queens
3. By Royal Decree
4. At the King's Pleasure
5. The King's Damsel
6. Royal Inheritance

A Tudor Mystery

A book on the Nine Days Queen who died despite her reluctance to commit take the crown over Mary I. Eric Ives takes on a new presentation of Lady Jane Grey - not as a Protestant martyr or a helpless pawn in a dangerous political game - but as a woman of high integrity and strong moral standards.

Book Theme: Edward VI

Edward VI was the Tudor-king that people forgot - he died before he could make any real change or have anything permanently established for history to remember him alongside his father Henry VIII and grand-father Henry VII. But he has emerged from history and several books have been written on this little boy who became a King too soon.

Edward VI - The Lost King of England by Chris Skidmore

The Boy King: Edward VI and the Protestant Reformation by Diarmaid MacCulloch

The British Josiah: Edward VI, the most godly King of England by N.A. Woychuk

England's Boy King: the Diary of Edward VI by Edward Tudor

Coins of the Realms

The monarch was - and still is - the face of a monarchy's currency. That was the same in Tudor England and some of the coins have survived as a testimony to an age long gone by.

1. Coin from Henry VIII's reign
2. Early groat from Henry VII's reign
3. Elizabethan coin depicting the Queen and the Tudor rose
4. A golden coin from Mary I's reign. It depicts Mary on a ship carrying a sword and shield
5. Coin made during Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon
6. A silver groat from the time of Mary I

Did the King have syphilis?

One of the longest-lasting rumours that has surrounded Henry VIII for centuries is related to his physique. Because did the infamous womanising King have syphilis?
Since the King was notorious - even at his own day - for his many casual liaisons with many different ladies it is possible that he had caught a disease. The rumour even states that Henry's syphilis may have caused the miscarriages of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn and that the ulcer that plagued Henry throughout his life was a sign of the STD.

However, today the theory is no longer considered to be likely mainly because of the lack of evidences to support the statement. Also, syphilis was a well-known disease in the Tudor age and even if the King had had it, there would have been a cure.

So this is a rumour that we can quite safely say is untrue.

Henry VIII - Quotes

Despite the notorious life of Henry VIII, not many of his quotes have survived but those that have tells us a thing or two about the King's personality:

Elizabeth I - Quotes

The Virgin Queen left her mark and personality for us to see through the quotes that survived her

Lady Jane Grey

Lady Jane Grey was the eldest daughter of Henry Grey (Duke of Suffolk) and Lady Frances Brandon. She had royal blood in her veins through her mother who was the daughter of Mary Tudor, Queen of France. It is assumed that she was born between 1536-37. Jane grew up with her two sisters, Lady Catherine Grey and Lady Mary Grey.

Jane received a good education, learning both Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Italian. Through her childhood and education she became an ardent Protestant. Jane was fond of book-studies and would prefer to study rather than attend a hunting-party. Jane was sent from home in February 1547 to join the household of Thomas Seymour and stayed with him during his marriage to Catherine Parr. She only left after Catherine's death. After the funeral of Catherine Parr - in which Jane acted as chief mourner - she stayed at Thomas Seymour's house again. However, she moved a few months before he was arrested.

Jane was betrothed to Lord Guildford Dudley in the spring of 1553 who was the son of the Duke of Northumberland. The couple was married on May 21st.

Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk

Charles Brandon was born in around 1484 to Sir William Brandon and Elizabeth Bruyn. He is mainly remembered as Henry VIII's closest childhood friend and consequently spent most of his childhood at court during Henry VII's reign. His first appointment of any influence was that of Master of the Horse in 1513. Furthermore he was created Viscount Lisle after he was betrothed to Elizabeth Grey but when she came of age she refused to marry him and he then had to give up the title.

Charles became noticed after his successful sieges during the French campaign in 1513. Henry VIII tried to get Margaret of Savoy to marry Charles and made him Duke of Suffolk for the same purpose. At the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, Brandon was present at was still in high favour with the King and was even sent to Calais to lead the English troops there just three years later.
When Cardinal Wolsey fell from power, Suffolk immediately found his influence growing on a daily basis. He was acting as High Steward at Anne Boleyn's coronation and was - against his will - send to disband Catherine of Aragon's household (something he found very uncomfortable).

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell was born in around 1485 but very little is known of the life of Thomas when he was young. He was the son of Walter and Katherine Cromwell and spent his childhood at his birthplace in Surrey.

Thomas left England and set sail for continental Europe, where records show that he spent time in Italy, France and the Low Countries. There have been many stories of what Thomas did while visiting these countries but they are often contradictory. Thomas would return to England and marry Elizabeth Wyckes in 1515 with whom he had two daughters and one son.

By 1520 (just five years after his return to England) he was already well-known the mercantile and legal circles of London. He even gained a seat in the House of Commons but nothing of that period has survived. Cromwell was apparently skilled because in the middle of 1520's he joined the service of none other than Cardinal Wolsey. Within long he had participated in the dissolution of almost thirty monasteries to raise money for schools build by Wolsey and must have made an impression on the Cardinal for by 1529 he was one of Wolsey's most trusted advisers - however the Cardinal fell from power later that year.

Mary Tudor's Dislike of Katherine Howard

When Henry VIII married (yet) again to his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, the new Queen did not charm the entire court. Actually you do not even have to look beyond Henry's own family to find an intense dislike.

Princess Mary was far from satisfied with her father's new wife. The dislike may have routes in two things: first of all, Katherine was 9 years younger than Mary and it is possible that Mary may have felt jealous at this young woman who was certainly more unintelligent than herself but still married - it was considered an embarrassment to grow old as a spinster and despite that Mary was not old, she was still older than her father's new wife. Perhaps Katherine reminded Mary of what she wanted - a household of her own.

Secondly, Katherine's silly behaviour was so far from what Mary had experienced from her first years with her mother, Catherine of Aragon, that Mary may have found it difficult to accept a young, giggling girl sitting at the throne her mother had sat in. It is very likely that the immensely proud Mary saw the marriage of her father as a demeaning to the image of an ever-dignified Queen that Catherine of Aragon had imprinted on her daughter.

But the dislike turned into a scandal when Katherine noticed the hostility from Princess Mary and consequently complained to her husband. To prove her new status Katherine had two of Princess Mary's maids removed which was a public humiliation and the scandal was well-known.

Princess Mary
Katherine Howard

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Boleyn Cup & Table Fountain

The Boleyn Cup belonged to Anne Boleyn herself and carries Anne's falcon (with it's crown) placed on a tree stump. The cup was made out of silver and gilt. After being in Anne's possession it actually went on to her daughter, Elizabeth I, which is special when you consider how few of her disgraced mother's possessions Elizabeth received. Elizabeth gave it as a gift to her physician, who decided to give it to the church. Today, the cup is still in the possession of the church and can be seen at St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Gloucestershire.

The drawing is of a table fountain designed by Hans Holbein and was designated as a New Year's present to Henry VIII from Anne Boleyn in 1534. Her falcon is engraved into the fountain - one can only imagine what Henry did with it after Anne's execution.