Saturday, 31 August 2013

Elizabeth I at Windsor Castle

Elizabeth I's ghost is one of the many ghosts reportedly found at Windsor Castle. The legendary Queen appears in the Royal Library where she has been seen by several members of the English Royal Family. Edward VII once told his mistress that he had seen a ghost looking remarkably much like the portraits of Elizabeth I. George III (his madness put aside) once said that he had had a conversation with a woman who had told him that she was "married to England" - and wearing black. Whenever Elizabeth I appears at Windsor she always wears a black gown with equally black lace. Even George VI (Elizabeth II's father) said that he saw her just before the outbreak of the Second World War - perhaps she was returning to protect her country once again?

Her high heels echoes from the wooden floors as she makes her way through the library into an inner room. One of these sightings were reported by the Grenadier Lieutenant Glynn who was reading in the library when he heard that sound of high heels clacking on the floor. When he looked about he saw the manifestation of Elizabeth I and when she disappeared into the inner chamber (where there is just one entrance) he followed. However, when he entered the inner chamber she disappeared completely.  Also, her ghost has been seen at the window of Dean's Cloister - strangely enough Anne Boleyn has been seen standing in the window of that same cloister!

A Grieving Mother & a Neglected Child

Elizabeth Holby was the wife of Sir Thomas Holby and a close friend of Elizabeth I. Her ghost is said to haunt Bisham Abbey in Buckinghamshire where the couple once lived.

The tale goes that Elizabeth Holby had great ambitions for her children but was in despair to find that her youngest son, William, was a slow learner. She would often beat him if his studies did not meet her demands and one day Elizabeth Holby apparently found them to be not just poorly executed but also not finished at all. This provoked a specially severe beating and afterwards poor William was locked into the Abbey's tower until he had finished his studies. Shortly afterwards Elizabeth Holby was called back to court (perhaps Elizabeth I missed her) and she went right away. However, she forget to tell anyone that she had locked William in the tower...
Two days later she returned and wondered why her youngest son was not there to greet her. Soon it dawned on her and she hurried up to the tower where she found William dead. Elizabeth never forgave herself and mourned this slow witted child for the rest of her life - and beyond that.

Ever since Elizabeth Holby's death some 400 years ago her ghost has been said to appear on the ground of Bisham Abbey. She is always wearing mourning clothes for her dead child. Many of these sightings has reported that she is washing blood off of her hands. Admiral Vansittart - who lived here just before the 20th century - once wrote that he had seen the lady herself. The Admiral was in the Great Hall where Elizabeth Holby's portrait hangs when he felt that prickling feeling that tells you that you are being watched. He quickly turned around and just saw her before she disappeared. He then turned to the portrait to make sure that it was actually her and found the frame to be now empty!

It is not just the grieving mother who haunts the Bisham Abbey. Giving other strange little reports it would seem that William has never quite left either. Sometimes a flickering candle can be seen in the tower's window when there is no one around. Footsteps and a quiet sobbing also comes from within the house. This has all been reported by guests who stayed at the house.

Bisham Abbey

Friday, 30 August 2013

Blue & Fur

As worn by Jonathan Rhys Meyer in "the Tudors" season 4 episode 4 when Henry VIII visits the North for the first time since the Pilgrimage of Grace. His striped doublet is both blue wool and purple satin. His breeches are of the same purple colour as the doublet but with terns instead. Above the doublet is Henry's signature fashion mark: a dark fur vest. And to top it all off a large golden chain changing between topazes and pearls.
Just at the tip of the neck a very small dark ruff peeps out which is probably a part of his shirt underneath (it can also be seen at the edge of the sleeves). Though it cannot be seen on this picture he is also wearing tall, black leather boots.

Anne's Green Damask

Joss Stone wears this on "the Tudors" (season 4 episode 3) when she is with Elizabeth at Hever Castle and they are surprised by Henry VIII. The sleeves and the bodice mainly consists of dark green velvet while the petticoat and the cut-throughs are of an olive green damask. The neckline has been decorated with pearls only interrupted to show of more of the precious damask. At the centre of the bodice a very large square brooch with a topaz at the centre has been pinned to the stiff bodice. Besides the topaz there are four small pearls at each corner and a drop pearl hanging from the brooch.

Henry & Jane's Pendant

Pendant designed by Holbein of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour's initialsThis might not be a piece of jewellery in itself but it is the sketch of a pendant by Holbein. It consists of the initials of Henry VIII (H) and Jane Seymour (I) - at the time there was no difference between a "J" and an "I". There are four gemstones set on the golden based pendant: two might be carnelians, one an emerald and one an onyx. Hanging from the pendant are three large pearls. From the drawing it seems that the pendant was supposed to be worn hanging from a ribbon rather than a metal chain.

Wyatt's Rebellion

Sir Thomas Wyatt was the "Wyatt" in question who began the rebellion alongside the Duke of Suffolk and Carew. It began in 1554 when the news of Mary I's intention to marry Philip of Spain had spread to the wide part of the population - and it was not a popular match. It was not so much the Spanish King who was the problem but rather the religious oppression he would bring with him; the English had just gotten used to a more liberal church and desperately wanted to prevent the Spanish Inquisition from sweeping through England.

The overall plan was to overthrow Mary and replace her with her half-sister Elizabeth who was then to marry Edward Courtenay whom Mary had already rejected as a husband (a bit slighted..?). In order for this plan to succeed the rebels would have to stage the rebellion at three key places: Kent, the Midlands and the West Country. Meanwhile a French fleet - who was fearing that a Spanish husband with Habsburg blood would pose to much of a threat - would take up the main part of the English Channel so that continental aid could not reach Mary. As with all rebellions all this was to take place without the Parliament's knowledge.

But then it went wrong. First of all the Parliament already knew that something was happening thanks to Simon Renard who was the Imperial Ambassador who contacted Stephen Gardiner. This would normally be reason enough to "cancel" a rebellion but the disaster was not over yet. It would seem that Wyatt had grossly misplaced his key locations for the rebellions. The West Country's population was mainly Catholic and as such would never have seen it as a problem that their Catholic Queen married a Catholic King. The loyalty that Mary had been promised at her coronation was still clear in the memories of the people of the Midlands who did not want to commit treason against their Queen. Consequently, the Duke of Suffolk found himself with only 140 men and in a very dangerous position.
Meanwhile, Stephen Gardiner had taken Edward Courtenay into interrogation. Because of his noble descent Courtenay would normally not be tortured but the protocols mentions that the interrogation was "robust" - perhaps an indicator that Gardiner disregarded Courtenay's privileges. Either way Courtenay soon began talking and told them everything he knew off.

It was only Thomas Wyatt himself who had had any sort of success with raising an army of 4000 men and now lead them towards London. The Duke of Norfolk was sent on behalf of Mary's government but the Duke had never expected 500 of his men to suddenly change their allegiance and join Wyatt! Wyatt failed to take advantage of this when he decided to wait before entering London - this meant that the city had plenty of time to secure itself. Ludgate was the gate that Wyatt had intended to cross to get to the heart of the city but it had been raised and he had to take his rebels through the narrow gates nearby. And this is where it all ended. Narrow streets are any soldier's nightmare because they leave you open to ambushes. This is was happened to Wyatt's troops and it would be the end of the rebellion.

What happened next?
Mary had been convinced that severe punishments would only help to estrange herself from her people so the punishments were surprisingly mild - for a Tudor, that is. It was about 90 people who were executed including Thomas Wyatt and the Duke of Suffolk. Others were simply let go. Prior to his execution Wyatt had been tortured in order to implicate Princess Elizabeth but he never caved in and as such no evidence could be found.
But there were two other nobles who could no longer count themselves save any more. Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley were both beheaded because it was considered too dangerous to have Lady Jane Grey as a figure whom people could support instead of Mary. So, despite having played no part in the rebellion Lady Jane Grey had to put her head on the block. The Wyatt Rebellion might have been put down but the displeasure of Mary's marriage was still widely felt by the population which would later add to Mary's rising unpopularity.

Thomas Wyatt

Claimed to be Wyatt's list of arms
Depiction of Wyatt's execution

Greenwich Palace

Built in 1477 Greenwich Palace is also known as the Palace of Placentia - a name given by Henry VIII which means "the Palace of Pleasure". It was first the property of Henry V who gave this little present to his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. In 1499 Henry VII was on the throne and had the palace expanded using no less than 600,000 red bricks - all produced in England of course. A favourite of the Tudors it was also known to be the most modern palace of its' time so of course the royal Tudors spent a lot of time here. By the time the Tudors inhabited the palace it was located quite a bit outside of London and close to the Thames because it was easier to travel by water than by the roads which were often muddy.

Henry VII added three large courtyards around 1500 and also had a hunting park of 200 acres. Henry VIII also added a tiltyard measuring 650 x 250 feet! Also, two octagonal towers overlooked the tiltyard making it perfect for great displays.

It was the birthplace of no less than four Tudors: Henry VIII, Edmund Tudor, Elizabeth I and Mary I. Henry VIII was baptised in the church of St. Alfege and Elizabeth I was baptised in the church of the Observant Friars which was just close by. But there is also a more sinister story concerning the Tudors and Greenwich. Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon as well as Anne of Cleves in the chapel. It was here that Anne Boleyn was staying when she was arrested and taken by barge to the Tower of London. Later on Anne Boleyn's death warrant was signed by Henry VIII here.

Henry VIII loved this palace nonetheless - apparently he never thought of the terror his previous wives had felt there - and made it his favourite residence until Whitehall and Hampton Court Palace became all the rage. But while he stayed there Henry had the place expanded again to accommodate his need of entertainment: a jousting area, a cock pit, tennis courts, kennels for his hunting dogs and stables. But that was not all. A new banqueting hall, forges and armoury was also added.

Ironically enough it was at the jousting grounds of Greenwich that Henry VIII had his jousting accident that left him unconscious for two hours - he would never joust again. Elizabeth I spent most of her summers at Greenwich and it is allegedly where Walter Raleigh is said to have put his cape over a puddle for the Queen. When Mary Tudor had married Charles Brandon - without her brother's permission - the palace was were the marriage was solemnized and made public.

The sad thing is that Charles II had the Tudor parts torn down to built his own sumptuous palace.

The Palace of Placentia during Tudor Times
Greenwich during the Tudors

Anonymous painting of Greenwich Palace during the reign of Henry VIII. [Wiki]

Model of the palace during the Tudors


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Tudors and their Trees

It may seem odd but there actually are a few connections between the Tudors and different trees. Let's take a look at how they are connected...

Queen Elizabeth oak, Northiam, East Sussex, UK, you might think this 1,000 year old tree is just a tree but it's a very special tree! When Queen Elizabeth I journeyed to Rye on August 1573 she sat under this tree and ate a meal. She changed her shoes of green damask silk with a 2 5" heel and pointed toe and left them behind as a memento of her visit. They are still in existence and are shown on special occasions. They are kept at Brickwall a Jacobean House in the villageThis tree is known as "the Queen Elizabeth Oak" and is located in Northiam, Sussex. Elizabeth I stayed here on her way to Rye in 1573 and decided to eat her meal in the shade of the oak. When she was done she left her shoes behind. These green damask shoes - with a heel of 2,5 inch - still exits and are exhibited at Brickwall House. The little plaque next to the tree informs visitors of the oak's royal past.

And it was under an oak tree that Elizabeth first heard the news that she was now Queen of England. The actual tree is long gone but Queen Elizabeth II herself planted a new tree on the exact spot of the old one to honour the memory of her namesake. The new (and old) oak tree was placed at Hatfield House where Elizabeth had been under house arrest. The to-be Queen was either eating an apple or reading when courtiers suddenly rushed to her side and bowed down to her. She then dropped gracefully to her knees herself - having risen at the sight of the courtiers - and made her famous quotation in Latin: "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes."

Another little tidbit is about Elizabeth's doomed mother Anne Boleyn. Her ghost is said to appear at her childhood home Hever Castle in Kent where she roams around a large oak (perhaps a family favourite?). As it happens this was one of the trees under which Henry VIII courted Anne before their tragic marriage. Legend has it that the couple even danced around the tree. Despite this link to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII the tree is also known as "the Queen Elizabeth Oak" (the names have been ground for confusion)

Monday, 12 August 2013

Vengeance is Mine

Vengeance Is Mine: A Novel Of Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, And Lady Rochford The Woman Who Helped Destroy Them Both  by Brandy Purdy
Brandy Purdy's "Vengeance is Mine - A Novel of Anne Boleyn, Katharine Howard and Lady Rochford - the woman who helped destroy them both" is about how Jane Parker (Boleyn) played a vital role in the downfall of the two Queens. The book is written from the point of view of Lady Rochford herself from her position as a prisoner in the Tower where she is haunted by the memory of the husband and sister-in-law she sent to their deaths.

Romantic Henry

Purse; crimson velvet; in the shape of a powder flask, with stiffened centre padded with horsehair; a drawstring pouch on each side and silver braid round edge.
This red velvet purse was given by Henry VIII to "Anne Bullyne". The purse is in the shape of a flask but its exact purpose is unknown. Its centre has been stiffened with horsehair.
Silver braiding adorns the edge of the purse and it is opened by a drawstring pouch. Perhaps it was used for coins?

Fashion is Status

Fashion has always been a mean to show off your status and the Tudor times were no different. The rules were many, complicated and oh yeah, enforced by law. Remember the Earl of Surrey who got beheaded for wearing his ancestors badge because Henry VIII thought it was provocative?
The Sumptuary Laws divides people into categories according to who could wear what. Remember that the King and Queen (as well as their children) could wear everything so they are not listed among the remaining titles. Those who are not listed were simply not allowed to wear whatever garment or fabric it might concern.
Take a look at these rules and step into the "Versailles"-ish Tudor fashion rules.


  • Cloth of gold and silver including gold/silver silk, satin and sables:

Exception: viscounts and barons are permitted to use these fabrics on their doublets and their coats - as long as the coat is sleeveless!

Dukes, Marquesses, Earls and their children as well as Barons and knights

  • Wool made in a foreign country
  • Crimson, scarlet and blue velvet

This one actually has a logical reason to it. In order to make sure that the English farmers would not loose money (causing inflation) it was forbidden to buy wool that was not English - or at least except if you are noble or royal. So actually this can be seen more as a strange way to keep employment in England than a restriction.

Sons of Barons, knights and men of a certain income

  • Velvet for a gown, coat or entire ensemble
  • Leopard's fur
  • Embroidery
  • "Pricking" of gold and silver - and never in silk
  • Taffeta, satin, damask and silk on the outer outfit 
Any man who makes a profit of at least a 100 pounds a year:
  • Furs from outside any of the crowns' lands
  • Velvet
The son (as long as it is an heir) or daughter of a knight, that son's wife and a man worth more than 200 pounds in goods
  • Silk in hoses, hats, girdle, bonnet, nightcaps, scabbards and shoes
And these were just the rules for the upper part of society! But since the other part is also the greatest there is no need to leave them out:

It was prohibited for any serving man (except those of noble birth) to wear fur. Nor were they allowed to use more than 2½ yards of fabric for their coats. The serving females were not allowed to use more than 3 yards of fabric on a long gown.

Finally servants, common labourers, shepherds and farmers worth less than 10 pounds a year are not allowed to wear cloth worth more than 2 shilling. And if you did so anyway? Three days in the stocks! 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

My Other Blogs

As you might have guessed I am a history nerd and of course I have more than one blog on history. These are my other blogs and I hope you will visit them and tell me what you think :)

This Is Versailles Madame:
Everything on the French court at Versailles and the people living there before the revolution - from Louis XIV to Louis XVI.


The Kingdom of Denmark:
The world's oldest kingdom has a very rich and dramatic story with many colourful personalities - as a Dane I can only recommend it.


Historical Myths and Rumours:
There are surprisingly many things about historical events and people that we believe to be true but actually is not - and the other way around.


Feel free to ask me questions or comment on any of my blogs, it is always nice to meet someone with the same interest as me