Margaret Tudor – Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton

Non-fiction

margaret bokIf one is interested in the Wars of the Roses/early Tudor era, the chances that one has come across a number of prejudice ideas about Margaret Beaufort; a conniving she-wolf who would do anything to put her son on the throne, a woman who plotted, backstabbed and in some versions also was the one behind the disappearance and presumed murder of the princes in the Tower, all the while being pious on the verge of a fanatic.

In Elizabeth Norton´s book the true Margaret Beaufort, mother and grandmother of the two first Tudor monarchs, peaks through the veils of history and for a while become a woman of flesh and blood, far from her maligned rumour. Here we instead met a woman who is strong in a time when strength was needed to survive, and who, after her first marriage, refused to be the pawn of others but took charge of her own destiny as far as it was possible.
It also becomes clear that far from her cold, nun-like persona of fiction, Margaret Beaufort was a loving woman who cared for those around her, siblings from her mother´s other marriages, stepsons and also the sister of Elizabeth of York, Cecily.

An incident with a thank you-note and a pair of gloves suggest that she also had a kind of sharp sense of humour. While Margaret Beaufort most likely never would have identified with feminism, she certainly is someone to draw inspiration from in determination and feeling of self-worth and she steps out of the shadows as an incredibly fascinating, not “just” woman, but individual of the period.

Then there is of course heart aching story of her struggle for her son. Maybe I, as the mother of a son, is more susceptible than someone without a son – or daughter for that matter – would be, but this actually breaks my heart a little. To endure the separation from a child also demands strength.
If you think you know about Margaret Beaufort, and that knowledge has more in common with the first lines I wrote, than the latter, you need to read this book. If not, I think you should read it anyway.

Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury

We have just gotten over the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn when today, May 27, it´s time to rememberMargaret_Pole,_Countess_of_Salisbury_from_NPG_retouched another one of the horrendous acts that were so frequent in the very last decade of the reign of Henry VIII: the execution of Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury.

Something, other than the actual execution, that kind of send chills up my spine is that one might say that this was an act that definitively put the previous Royal House to rest, because Margaret was the daughter of George, duke of Clarence  -immensely troubled brother of Edward IV and Richard III – and Isabel Nevill, the eldest daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker.

Margaret who together with her future issue had been barred from the throne through the attainder against her father when he was convicted and executed (according to legend by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey) for treason against his brother king Edward IV, had married Sir Richard Pole, with whom she had 5 children, one of whom was Reginald Pole, cardinal and from 1536 a thorn in Henry VIII:s eye.

Margaret and her brother were kept by Richard III at Sheriff Hutton until 1585, when her brother Edward, earl of Warwick was put in the Tower after the battle of Bosworth and later executed allegedly for plotting against Henry VII together with Perkin Warbeck.

In 1487, Henry VII gave Margaret in marriage to Sir Richard Pole with whom she had 5 children. She became a widow in 1504 with limited land left to her by her husband, whose funeral were paid for by Henry VII.

At the time of Henry VIII:s accession, Margaret Pole was returned parts of her lands, and she was one of the gentlewomen of Catherine of Aragon. Despite her Plantagenet background, she was loyal to the Tudors, and she most likely never posed any kind of threat to Henry VIII, and she was also made governess of the young princess Mary. She had devoted her son Reginald to the church, and when the changes came in the 1530´s, he had warned against the marriage with Anne Boleyn and already in 1526 he had gone into voluntary exile as a response to Henry´s demand for support in the planned divorce from Catherine.

In 1536 the rift became irreparable when Reginald Pole after he had first spoken out against the marriage to Anne Boleyn and consequently encouraged the royal houses to depose Henry. In 1536 he had slipped back to Rome and in 1537 he was made a cardinal even though he had yet to become an ordained priest.

The previous “insubordination” of Reginald Pole would come to have a disastrous effect on his family back in England.

We will most never know in a “black and white” if he based it or fact or his convenient wishes, but Henry uncovered the Courtney conspiracy. It was an assumption of treason on the part of Margaret Pole, her son Henry and other individuals. The evidence was fragmentary, based on conversations and memories but most likely mostly based on Henry´s feelings for Reginald.

The Courtney conspiracy was an idea of marrying Edward Courtaney, grandson of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and thereby second cousin of Reginald Pole to the disinherited princess Mary.

But with Reginald Pole out of reach for Henry, he instead turned on the family, not least on the aging countess who was imprisoned for two years in the Tower. She was executed on May 27th 1541 at the age of 67 in a display which clearly showed the horrors of capital punishment.

She refused to put her head on the block, but the inexperienced executioner delivered a blow anyway which instead of severing her head gave her a deep cut in her shoulder. Legend has it that she was chased around the block, being struck several times before she finally died, something which in large part is confirmed by contemporary state papers.

Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was beatified December 29th 1886 by Pope Leo XIII.

The poem below is said to have been carved into the wall of her cell.

 

             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!

 

 

Sources:

Henry VIII – Elizabeth Wooding

 The execution of Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury – The Anne Boleyn Files

 Executions and beheadings at the Tower of London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Caxton – printer pioneer

William_Caxton_-_The_first_printer_at_WestminsterWhat did Margaret Beaufort and Anthony Woodville have in common, other than starting out as Lancastrians and for different reasons and with different amount of heart in it was forced to accept Yorkist rule?

The answer to that question is their patronage of William Caxton, the man who brought the art of book printing to England and made education and reading accessible to a larger percent of the population.

The date, or even year, of his birth are not quite known, nor is his parentage, but he is believed to have been born sometime around between 1415 and 1426. There are also uncertainties around where he was born, in the book “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye”- a French novel about courtly romance by Raoul Lefevre who was the chaplain of Philippe III of Burgundy – which Caxton translated and printed, he states that he was born and educated in the Weald of Kent. Oral tradition has him to be both from Hadlow and Tenterden.

The estimation of when he was born is based on an apprenticeship fee being paid in 1438 when the Mercer´s Company recorded his apprenticeship with Robert Large, a wealthy London dealer in luxury goods at the Mercer´s Company and in 1439 Lord Mayor in London.

In the late 1440´s or early 1450´s he was making trips to Bruges and settled there in 1453, where he over the years became prosperous enough to become Governor of English Nation of Merchant Adventurers, for four of the actually 30

years he spent in Bruges. During the period he also entered the household of Margaret of Burgundy, sister of Edward IV and Richard III, something that let him travel and it was on one of these journeys he came into contact with the printers in Cologne, which in their turn was inspired with the German printing that had been invented but Johannes Gutenberg at the turn of the 1430´s and 1440´s.

Apparently this appealed immensely to William Caxton, and it doesn´t seem that he wasted much time to put up a press at Bruges, where he printed the earlier mentioned “Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye” which he himself translated. It turned out that this was one may call a success, and in 1476 he was on his way back to England, not only with a printing press in his “back pocket”, but also, most likely, in the company of the Dutchman Wynkyn de Worde (some claim that Caxton didn´t bring de Worde to England until 1481 to be able to counter the growing completion).

Canterbury Tales - Caxton First EditionWilliam Caxton set up his printing press in Westminster Abbey, and the first book to be printed on it was Geoffrey Chaucer´s “Canterbury Tales”, and somehow it´s interesting that in a time when religious books were important, Caxton still chose a secular book to print. Maybe one can assume that that says something about the nature of Caxton himself.

It was also during this time that William Caxton came into contact with Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, as he himself Caxton_Showing_the_First_Specimen_of_His_Printing_to_King_Edward_IV_at_the_Almonry,_Westminsterhad translated a book, “Dictes or Sayengings of the Philosophres” – a (before Woodville´s translation) French text translated from Latin and originally in Arabic, written in the 11th century by an Egyptian emir – during a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and he wanted Caxton to proofread the text. He did and also added an epilogue to the story. This would be the first book printed in England that has both a date and the printer´s colophon which showed the name of the printer and the place it was printed.

It is also likely that Anthony Woodville commissioned William Caxton to print another two books, also based on his own translations; “The Morale Proverbes of Cristyne” in 1478 and “The book named Cordyal” in 1479. As Anthony Woodville was very close to his nephew Edward, it is also likely that it was he who prompted Caxton´s dedication to the prince of “A Boke of the Hoole Lyf of Jason”, 1477. It has also seems that it was actually Anthony Woodville that carried the cost of printing Canterbury Tales.

Caxton_deviceAnthony Woodville became a most likely important and steadfast patron of Caxton´s, and he didn’t take he didn´t take kindly to the fact that this man, who may even have been a friend, was the first victim of Richard´s usurpation of the throne. Less than a month before the Battle of Bosworth he published a part of the so called Winchester manuscript – the oldest surviving version of Thomas Mallory´s Le Morte d´Arthur and the kind of arturian romance appreciated at the time – with his own little twist. In the scribed original there is a section where Arthur has a prophetic dream of a horrendous struggle between a dragon and a bear during his campaign against the Roman emperor. The bear is killed and a ‘phylozopher’* tells Arthur that the dragon represents himself, while the bear ‘betokyns som tyraunte that turmentis thy peple’.

It is here the indignant, maybe grieving and quite possible horrified Caxton sees his chance. In his own printed version of the segment, the bear is replaced by a white boar, a symbolism which can hardly be mistaken. And only weeks later the white boar was indeed killed by the welsh dragon.

With that victory, Caxton also received a new patron. Margaret Beaufort was genuinely interested in learning and Plack, William Caxtoneducation, and both translated books from French to English as well as, in time, founded colleges. When her son had ascended the throne after the battle of Bosworth she started turning her attention to William Caxton and his printing press in the almonery of Westminster Abbey. It was the possibility to bring reading to a wider number of people that awoke her interest, and she was to become one of his leading patrons.

Her support helped him to once again getting the attention in court circles he most likely had enjoyed during the patronage of Anthony Woodville, and the appreciation shows in a dedication from Caxton to Margaret Beaufort in the book “The Hystorye of Kinge Blanchardyne and Queen Englantyne his Wyfe” where he flatter her by calling her the Duchess of Somerset.

William Caxton died in 1491, but Margaret Beaufort continued to hire the services of his worker and successor Wynkyn de Worde who kept the business running for another 40 years.

He is buried in St Margaret´s Chapel and in Poet´s Corner a white stone plaque can be seen with the text “”Near this place William Caxton set up the first printing press in England.”

 

Sources:

Caxton, William – Dictionary of National Biography

Caxton and the first English printed books – Dr Anne Marie D´Arcy, University of Leicester (course material)

Caxton, Woodville and revenge – Dr Anne Marie D´Arcy, University of Leicester (course material)

Chaucer´s Caxton – The British Library

Margaret Beaufort-Mother of the Tudor Dynasty – Elizabeth Norton

William Caxton-a biography – George D. Painter

 

 

*philosopher

Interview with historian David Baldwin

David BaldwinHistorian and author David Baldwin has been kind enough to answer some questions of mine, for which I´m very grateful. As well as having written several interesting books, among those the book Lost Prince – the survival of Richard of York – of which I have written in an earlier post – he has spent many years as a lecturer at Leicester. David Baldwin is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

 

 

Back in 1986 you wrote that Richard III was most likely buried in Grey Friars, and that we might see him found during the 21st century. What were your thoughts when his remains were discovered?

Surprise actually. I had supposed that an excavation would only be possible when a major redevelopment of the Grey Friars site was undertaken – to find Richard in the one small area in which it was possible to dig (the Social Services car park) was incredibly lucky. My main argument my 1986 article was that his ‘slight remains’ had not been exhumed and lost at the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and could, therefore still be discovered ‘at some time in the twenty-first century’.

Would you say that the work around the discovery of Richard III has in any way changed the way we view history, or how it will be dealt with in the future?

I don’t think there will be any fundamental change. We have learned much about Richard’s appearance, his medical conditions, and how he died, but no more about his character and intentions or what made him ‘tick’, as the expression has it. We must hope that new discoveries in archives will bring us closer to answering these questions in due course.

One of the biggest mysteries in English history – which you yourself has written about – is of courseElizabeth-david the princes Edward and Richard. Do you think anything would be put to rest if the bone fragments in Westminster Abbey were to be tested?

If the Plantagenet Y-chromosome could be extracted from remains preserved in Westminster Abbey there would be little doubt that they were the bones of the missing Princes. But we would still not know precisely when they died or by whose hand.

In your very fascinating book The Lost Prince: The survival of Richard of York you suggest that the youngest of Edward IV’s sons was brought to Colchester and lived out his life as a bricklayer; while you yourself say in the book that you´re not sure if it´s fact or fiction – do you personally think that is what might have happened?

Lost princeI’ve continued my research into this subject in the years since The Lost Prince was published, and have discovered other pieces of corroborative evidence. But it is unlikely that we will ever find definitive proof of what would have been a closely guarded secret even then.

What person would you really like to write about that you haven´t already, and why?

I’ve considered and abandoned a number of projects when it became apparent that not enough was known about them. Francis, Viscount Lovell, Richard III’s friend and chamberlain, has always been a particular interest of mine, but details of his life are thin on the ground.

Last but not least; your latest book ‘Henry VIII’s Last Love’ is about Katherine Willoughby. Would you like to say something about it?

Katherine is a fascinating character, but one who has been little noticed Henry´s last loveuntil now. At the age of 14 she was married to Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII’s closest friend, and after Brandon died in 1545 it was rumoured that Henry meant to wed her himself.

A committed Protestant, she spent four years ‘on the run’ in Europe during Queen Mary’s reign, and after returning to England had an uneasy relationship with Queen Elizabeth whose attitude towards religion was more tolerant than her own. At one point she feared that Elizabeth was about to have her executed, but she survived to die in her bed. Her many letters  to William Cecil reveal a feisty character, outspoken and opinionated, often complaining, sometimes having to apologise for her intemperate words or for being slow to answer, and imbued by the single-minded conviction that her version of religion was the only one acceptable to God.

 

 

Books and other productions:

King Richard´s Grave in Leicester – Transactions of the Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society: 1986

Elizabeth Woodville, The History Press: 2004

The Kingmaker´s Sisters: Six Powerful Women in the Wars of the Roses, The History Press: 2006

Stoke Field: The Last Battle of the Wars of the Roses, Pen and Sword Books: 2006

The Lost Prince: The Survival of Richard of York, The History Press: 2007

Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked, Amberly Publishing: 2010

Richard III, Amberly Publishing: 2012

The Women of the Cousin´s War – with Philippa Gregory and Michael Jones, Simon & Schuster: 2012

The White Queen – What happened to the Princes in the Tower, BBC History, 9 August 2013

Richard III. The Leicester Connection. Pitkin 2013/2015

Henry VIII’s Last Love. The Extraordinary Life of Katherine Willoughby. Amberly Publishing: 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

The curse of a date

There are certain dates that seem cursed, somehow.
One date is September 11, not just in the US, as many who read this might think.
On this date the coup d’ etat in Chile took place in 1973, the Swedish Formula 1 driver Ronnie Peterson (one of the most famous sportsman of his generation) died after a crash at the Monza track in 1977. The attack on the US took place 2001 and the Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh died in 2003 after having been attacked by an assailant armed with a knife the previous day.
But this post obviously won´t be about September 11. It will be about May 19, a date which at least in a 16th century perspective may seem just as haunted.

We all know that on this day, in 1536, Anne Boleyn was executed on the Tower green after having been convicted of Anneboleyn2treason, incest and witchcraft. I have only recently written about the events leading up to her kneeling in a scaffold as a French executioner approached her from behind, so I won´t go in to that here. One can only wonder what she was thinking those last minutes in life? Did the she hear the slight whining sound as the blade cut through the air before cutting in to her neck, which was “but little”? Could she in her wildest nightmares have imagined that 18 years later, her only child, Elizabeth would find herself imprisoned in the Tower on the order of her own sister Mary? But Elizabeth survived.

Princess-Elizabeth-c-1546On the very same day her mother had died, Elizabeth was released from the Tower 18 years later, in 1554. I find it next to impossible to think that Elizabeth was not very conscious of the significance of the date. Even if her mother maybe no longer was talked about other than in a hushed voice, Elizabeth must have known on which day her mother died, and her thoughts most likely drifted to the memory, even if vague by now, of her mother who had entered this place and never left again. Did she think the same fate was awaiting her? Or would it have been incomprehensible to her to think that her own sister, who had loved her, and cared for her when she was a child without a mother, would really mean to cause her harm? But Elizabeth survived and she left the Tower.

But was she conscious of the date in 1568? Because on this very day Elizabeth, now a Queen Mary, queen of scotsherself, had another queen arrested; Mary, Queen of Scots. And Mary, as we know, would meet the same fate as Anne Boleyn. Was Elizabeth aware of the significance of the date? She was allegedly of the habit of delegating the blame when she had to make decisions she found uncomfortable, but on this particular date, it most likely wasn´t clear to her what decision she one day, due to Mary´s unceasing plotting would force her to make.

She who has been the Queen of England on Earth……

….will today become a Queen in heaven

It is said that Anne Boleyn to the very last hour expected her husband, Henry VIII to pardon her for the crimes she anne-boleynmost likely never committed, and to which she most certainly never pleaded guilty. But that pardon never came, and today she was beheaded by a French executioner, brought to England as a concession from Henry to his wife, to let her be beheaded by means of a sword rather than an axe.

She had been tried and found guilty of adultery, incest and high treason on the 15th, crimes that merited a punishment by being hanged, drawn and quartered for men and burning alive for women. None of the condemned had to face these gruesome endings, and on this day Anne found herself on her knees in front of a French swordsman.
On the very last day of her life, Anne is reported to have been of good spirit, maybe because that was the only alternative that seemed acceptable to her. As a parent, one can´t help but think that her thoughts must have gone to her small girl Elizabeth, wondering what would become of her.

Shortly before dawn she had sent for the constable of the Tower, William Kingston, so he would her mass with her, and while he was with her, she twice swore on her eternal soul that she had never been unfaithful to her husband the King. Kinston would later write;
“This morning she sent for me, that I might be with her at such time as she received the good Lord, to the intent I should hear her speak as touching her innocency alway to be clear. And in the writing of this she sent for me, and at my coming she said, ‘Mr. Kingston, I hear I shall not die afore noon, and I am very sorry therefore, for I thought to be dead by this time and past my pain.’ I told her it should be no pain, it was so little. And then she said, ‘I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck,’ and then put her hands about it, laughing heartily. I have seen many men and also women executed, and that they have been in great sorrow, and to my knowledge this lady has much joy in death. Sir, her almoner is continually with her, and had been since two o’clock after midnight”

anne-boleyn-in-the-tower-edouard-cibotIn spite of the “good countenance” that was reported, of the “devilish spirit” the author of the Spanish Chronicle claimed she had demonstrated, I can´t rid myself of the impression that she was afraid. After all, in spite of the fact that the evidence against her was most likely concocted, it had come to this, and she wanted it to be over with. She wished that her life had been ended at the beginning of the day, not wait, not until noon.

There is a poem that has been attributed to Anne Boleyn, and is said to have been written by her during her last days in the Tower. There are no conclusive evidence that this is the case, and some also claim it to have been written by her brother George, Lord Rocheford with whom she shared her faith;

O 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 pains 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.

Anne Boleyn was brought out from her quarters in the Queen´s House by two gentlewomen as well as the constableTower_of_London_scaffold Kingston. She was dressed in a red petticoat and a loose, dark grey gown of damask trimmed in fur and a mantle of ermine. According to the historian Eric Ives she was not executed on the site where the memorial is now located, but on a scaffold erected on the north side of the White Tower. She climbed the scaffold from which she held a short speech;

“Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, for according to the law, and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that, whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the king and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never: and to me he was ever a good, a gentle and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me. O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul”.

Anne´s ermine mantle was removed and she was blindfolded. In the audience in front of her, one would have been able to find Thomas Cromwell, in some theories the man guilty of having orchestrated her dramatic downfall, Henry VIII:s illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy and Charles Brandon.

Anne Boleyn died by a single stroke by the swordsman and was buried in an unmarked grave in the chapel St. Peter ad Vincula. Her remains is said to have been identified during renovations of the chapel in 1876 and a resting place is now marked. Some believe how ever that the remains under the plaque is those of her sister-in-law Jane Rocheford and that St Peter ad VinculaAnne in her turn rests under the plaque bearing Jane´s name.
The title for this post is taken from a statement attributed to Bishop Cranmer on the day of Anne´s execution, when he is said to have been found crying.

Sources:
Thomas Cranmer – Diarmaid MacCulloch
The Lady in the Tower – the fall of Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir
The life and death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives
Henry VIII and his court – Neville Williams

This day…

Executed on this day in 1536 on Tower Hill:

George Boleyn, Francis Weston, Henry Norris, William Brereton and Mark Smeaton. 

These bloody days have broken my heart ~ Thomas Wyatt the Elder