Wedding Day

Something that shouldn´t be forgotten about this day is that while Thomas Cromwell lost his life, Henry HowardCatherine02celebrated.

Maybe no exactly the fact that Cromwell was irrevocably gone, but definitely that for some people, life went on, just as he had danced when the news of the death of Katherine of Aragon had reached him, just as he was betrothed to Jane Seymour the day after the execution of Anne Boleyn.

On this particular day he married Katherine Howard, his “rose without a thorn”, the young woman who had grown up under the apparently lax supervision of her father´s stepmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, an upbringing that would one day be held against her.

Just as two of her predecessors, Anne and Jane, she had started her life at court as a lady-in-waiting to the previous queen.

I won´t go into here what would happen, that will have to wait for a later post. But from this day, 1540, the name of the English queen was Katherine Howard.

 

Sources: The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

 

The death of Thomas Cromwell

It was on this date that the rapid rise to power came to a definite and brutal end for Thomas Cromwell. AfterThomas Cromwell, Bodleian Library being at the side of Henry VIII for ten years, and at the outskirts of the court circles for even longer, the wheel of fortune stopped turning altogether.

There is however no straight forward explanation to the downfall of Thomas Cromwell, to say it was just due to the highly unsuccessful union with Anne of Cleves, which Cromwell had a very distinct hand in brokering, but it still had played a part in undermining the kings confidence in his most trusted servant. Just like his former master, Thomas Wolsey, more than ten years earlier, Cromwell had failed to grant the kings absolute wishes, in this case delivering a wife that lived up to the king´s expectations.

But this maybe could have been just a minor glitch in their relationship, had not those who had a much stronger desire than Henry VIII to see Thomas Cromwell fall; the men in who´s sides it was a thorn that a man of lowly birth had managed to become so close to the king and thereby stolen a position that several no doubt though rightfully belonged to them. Two of the noblemen that would have no problem seeing Thomas Cromwell fall was Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and Thomas Wriothesley who also obligingly helped removed his badges when he was arrested during a council meeting on July 10th

Coat_of_arms_of_Sir_Thomas_Cromwell,_1st_Baron_Cromwell,_KGAnother factor that was to be part of the reasons for Thomas Cromwell´s downfall was religion. Some people like to think that Henry was the fore bearer of Protestantism, which in no way was the case, Henry VIII was never anything but catholic, even if he obviously had views on how things were run in the church and, also obviously, had no interest in being told what to do by the Pope. But Thomas Cromwell on the other hand had protestant inclinations, and this is why the foremost accusation against Thomas Cromwell was that of heresy. He was not only accused of being a Sacramentarian – that is to say belonging to a group of Christians that not only rejected the Roman Catholic idea that the blood and wine during communion actually become the blood and flesh of Christ, but also rejected the Lutheran idea of the Sacramental Union, that the bread and wine represents a union with the blood and flesh of Christ – but also of spreading heretical literature as well as not only giving license to heretics to preach, but also of releasing them from prison once they ended up there.

He was also accused of sympathising with Robert Barnes, the reformer who for a while acted as intermediate between Henry and the protestant Germany and was active but in the work for an annulment of the marriage to Katherine of Aragon as well as securing a marriage to Anne of Cleves. In the end, he too was accused of heresy, and only a few days after the execution of Thomas Cromwell, Robert Barnes was burned at the stake.

But back to Thomas Cromwell; what made things complicated for him was that his accusers managed to produce correspondence between him and Lutherans and when the letters were presented to the king, Cromwell did not dispute them. This apparently really set off Henry´s wrath, and made it even easier for the enemies of Cromwell to have the king´s ear. When they suggested Cromwell was guilty of treason he chose to believe them, a result of the lack of faith in Cromwell that was the result of the failed marriage to Anne of Cleves.

Lucy Wooding also suggest that something that shook Henry profoundly was the notion that someone could have a view that differed from his own on, in this case, religious matters. She also states that Cromwell´s fall can only be understood in light of the religious development in London, which had furthered Henry´s fear of religious extremism.

11 years before his execution, on the July 11th 1529, Thomas Cromwell had written his testament in which he made specific gifts and bequest to his servants and his best friend, as well as making provisions for his son Gregory

Item I gyue and bequeth to William brabason my seruaunt xxli sterling A gowne A dublett A Jaquet and my second gelding.

Item I gyue and bequeth to John averey yoman of the bottell with the kynges highnes vjli xiijs iiijd, and doublet of Saten.

Item I bequeth to thurston my Coke vjli xiijs iiijd.

Item I gyue and bequethe to William bodye my seruauntt vjli xiijs iiijd.

Item I gyue and bequeth to Peter mewtes my seruauntt vjli xiijs iiijd.

Item I gyue and bequeth to Rychard Swyft my seruauntt vjli xiijs iiijd.

Item I gyue and bequeth to george Wylkynson my seruauntt vjli xiijs iiijd.

Item I gyue and bequeth to my Frend Thomas alvard xli and my best gelding.

Item I gyue and bequeth to my frend Thomas Russhe xli.

Item I gyue and bequeth to my seruauntt John Hynde my horsekeper iijli vjs viijd.

Item I wyll that myn executors shall Saluelye kepe the patentt of the Manour of Rompney to the vse of my Son gregorye and the money growing therof tyll he shall Cum to his lawfull Age to be yerely Retayned to the vse of my sayd Son and the hole revenew therof Cumyng to be trewlye payd vnto hym at suche tyme as he shall Cum to the age of xxj yeres.

Thomas Cromwell also stated in his will that the rest of his assets that were not bequeted or consumed by the

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

costs of his funeral, which he wanted performed without any earthly pomp should be distributed to works of charity.

But this was of course not to be, as Cromwell was arrested by an act of attainder, which meant that he lost all of his worldly goods. The act also meant that he never stood trial, but the sentence was passed by the parliament.

On July 30th he wrote to the king, a letter which has survived in a very sketchy shape, but the last words of it say a lot of the spirit in which it was most likely written (even if sent before his actual arrest): s….vppon my knees prostrate…..kyng pardon mercye and……Crist………

The last letter written by Thomas Cromwell was sent on July 24th 1540, four days before his execution, to the Lords of the Council where he strongly rejects the suggestion that he should have had anything to gain from “the affair with M. de Rochepot”. He ends his letter with “Any part thereoff my lordes, assure yourselffes I was not as God shall and may helpe me and this my good lords I pray the eternall Redemer to preserue you all in long lyffe good helthe with long prosperyte at the Towre the xxiiii ti daye of July with the trymblyng hande of your Bedman Thomas Crumwell

London_Tower_Hill_Plaque-Courtenay-Cromwell-Howard-Seymour-Wyatt-Howard-WentworthThomas Cromwell was beheaded on Tower Hill, on this day 1540, after which his head was put on a spike on London Bridge. Henry VIII would later deeply regret the execution of his most trusted advisor and maybe even friend and accuse his ministers of bringing about Cromwell´s downfall through false accusations.

But he himself did, at the time, chose to listen to those accusations.

 

Sources:

Robert Barnes – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Sacramentarism – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

Life and letters of Thomas Cromwell I & II – Roger Bigelow Merriman

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII

Images: Bodleian Library, mariordo, Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Barking Abbey – a glimpse

Of all the abbey´s to be found in England pre-reformation, one of the wealthiest over time was Barking Abbey, located in what is now greater London as the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.Barking_abbey_curfew_tower_london

Already from the start it was an abbey that housed the daughters of both nobility and royalty, and the position as an abbess there was more than once used as a kind of compensation for acts committed on royal authority.

Even if Henry II refused to admit, or rather strongly denied, that he had wished for the death of Thomas Becket he gave the position as abbess to Beckets sister, Mary Becket, after the murder. The Abbess of Barking Abbey would take precedence over all other Abbess´ in England.

Chertsey_Breviary_-_St._ErkenwaldThe abbey itself was founded in the 7th century, around 666 (which to me feels like an ominous number/year in this context) by Erkenwald from the kingdom of Lindsey, who would later become both the bishop of London as well as, after his death, a saint with a patronage against gout. The first abbess of Barking would come to be Erkenwald´s sister Æthelburh (also Ethelburga). At the time of the foundation there were no nunneries in England, and Erkenwald founded Barking precisely for this purpose.

It was firstly dedicated to Saint Mary, but would later be dedicated to Saint Æthelburh as well.

From the beginning Barking was a joint monastery with both monks and nuns, even if they lived separated. Eventually it would emerge as a nunnery which grew in importance. In his Historia Ecclesiastica, the Venerable Bede recounts a number of miracles that were supposed to have taken place at Barking Abbey.

For some reason, activity at the abbey seems to have ceased in the mid-9th century, and there is no proper evidence to say why, but on theory which is lifted by Teresa L. Barnes is that the abbey was attacked by Danish Vikings, something which was a common fate of abbeys during the era.

This, if it was in deed the case, was followed by about a century of silence from the abbey, after which is was re-founded by King Edgar the Peaceful who appointed as Abbess Wulfhilda, after a series of events that deserve, and will get, a post of its own.

This post is just the beginning of a subject that I during the upcoming months will spend a lot more time with.

 

Sources;

A nun´s life; Barking Abbey in late medieval and early modern times – Teresa L. Barnes

A dictionary of saintly women – Agnes Dunbar

 

Images;

Drawing of what Barking Abbey may have looked like in 1500 – Tudor place

Barking Abbey curfew tower – MRSC

Marriage undone

The marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves was never a happy union. Already before the wedding itself took Anne_of_Cleves,_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Youngerplace, Henry aired his misgivings, stating that she did not in her looks correspond to the apparently flattering painting Hans Holbein had painted before the marriage negotiations took place.

It may very well be that their relationship got off on the wrong foot to begin with, when Henry in the tradition of courtly love showed up in disguise that Rochester where she was lodging on her way from Dover to London. Henry had obviously not kept track on the physical change he himself had undergone over the recent years, and when a big man, both in height and girth came over to Anne, attempting to kiss her, she did not react in a good way.

From then on, Henry stated that he was no longer interested in the marriage and put pressure on Thomas Cromwell that he should find a way to get out of the agreement, something which proved impossible as it would have aggravated the Germans.

This however opened up for the enemies of Cromwell to turn on him and air their discontent, and the Anne of Cleves business would be at least the spark that started the process which in the end led to the, on Henry´s part later much regretted, downfall of Cromwell.

Recent x-rays have revealed a longer nose under the top layer of paint. Now at St. John's College Oxford

Recent x-rays have revealed a longer nose under the top layer of paint.
Now at St. John’s College Oxford

The marriage between Henry and Anne was never consummated, according to him due to an unpleasant body odour on Anne´s part as well as her sagging breast to mention but a few of his complaints. Maybe it´s not too farfetched to speculate that there was maybe other problems which Henry took the opportunity to conceal by pointing out his wife´s unattractive features; if he indeed at this point had diabetes, which isn´t unlikely, it may have been that he also had difficulties to “perform”.

It seems that Anne didn´t quite know what to expect in the marital bed, as she told the Countess of Rutland what a kind husband Henry was, kissing her every evening before going to sleep and every morning before leaving her. The Countess pointed out to her that a bit more than that would be required to achieve the much wanted spare to the throne. This didn´t much matter though, because on June 24th 1540, less than six months after the wedding, Anne was informed that she should leave the court and two weeks later that the king was reconsidering the marriage. When Anne was approached about an annulment she agreed, and this went through on July 9th 1540.

Anne of Cleves received a most generous settlement which included Anne Boleyn´s presumed childhood home, Hever Castle and Richmond Palace. She also built a deep friendship with Henry, who referred to her as his most beloved sister. Anne stayed in England for the remainder of her life, but never remarried. That Henry did, however, only weeks after his marriage to Anne had been annulled, this time to Katherine Howard.

Sources:

The six wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

Anne of Cleves : Henry VIII’s discarded bride – Elizabeth Norton

The life and death of Thomas More

Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger_-_Sir_Thomas_More_-_Google_Art_ProjectIf there somewhere exist a kind of Utopia, it was very far away on this day in 1535 when Thomas More lost his life on the scaffold due to his resistance to acknowledge Henry VIII as Supreme Head over the Church of England.

He was born in 1478 as the son of Sir John More, a successful lawyer and judge who passed away only five years ahead off his son at the age of 79. He had sent his son to what was considered one of the finest schools in London at the time. Between the age of 12 and 14, he was in service as a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Morton, who – when he saw the intellectual potential in Thomas More – nominated him to the University of Oxford where he studied for only stayed for two years before moving on to legal training at New Inn in London.

John Morton has been suggested to have another role in the life of Thomas More, and that is as the actual brain behind the writing The History of Richard III which should then have been re-written by Thomas More. The fact is that while one faction put the blame on Thomas More for the blackening of Richard III:s reputation, More in his “History…” does not really assert anything. While he was writing stating that the story of the princes is such that he has heard it told, he at the end, the historian David Baldwin points out, round it off in such a way that can be interpreted  that he will not personally vouch for the stories accuracy.

Thomas More was deeply religious, which may not separate him from many others of his time, other than in the senseMore_famB_1280x-g0 that he according to his friend, the theologian and renaissance humanist Erasmus, contemplated giving up his legal career for the life as a monk. He didn´t however, Thomas More would come to be a devoted family father who had four children by his first wife, Jane Colt. Jane however died quite young and he remarried the rich widow Alice Harpur Middleton. While there was no children in this marriage, Thomas More raised Alice daughter Margaret as if she was his own. As I mentioned Thomas More´s book with the account of the fate of the princes, I have to avoid how this fate has been further intertwined with Thomas More through his adoptive daughter Margaret.

More gave made sure his daughters received the same education as his sons, something which was far from common at the time, and through this managed to convince his friend Erasmus that the education of women wasn´t a complete waste of time after all.

In 1504 More was elected to the parliament, and held from 1510 the seat for London and from 1514 he was a member of the Privy Council. In 1516 he wrote his legendary book Utopia about a far away island republic where men were free from oppression and even the animals were considered sentient beings with the right to life and freedom. The lack of private property in Utopia, whit the goods being kept in warehouses where the people request what they need – and get it, gave Thomas More and his book high esteem in the former Soviet Union, more than 400 years after it was written.

In 1523 More was elected a knight of the Shire for Middlesex, and on the recommendation of Cardinal Wolsey, speaker of the House of Commons. When Wolsey ultimately fell from grace in 1529, Thomas More became the Lord Chancellor. He was loyal to Henry VIII, supporting the idea that the marriage to Katherine of Aragon was unlawful. But the beginning of the end came when Henry challenged the authority of Rome.

Isola_di_Utopia_MoroAs the reformation started to take root among the public and some people started protestant sympathies, Thomas More was to be found at the forefront in the battle against heresy. He was accused of personally torturing people during interrogation, something he himself strongly denied, but the fact remains that six people were burned at the stake for heresy during More´s time as chancellor.

Thomas More continued to be steadfast in his support of the Pope, something that oddly enough did not cost him his position as a chancellor, but after refusing to sign a letter urging the pope to dissolve Henry´s marriage, he soon found himself isolated. This in combination with his decline to be present at the coronation of Anne Boleyn as well as his refusal to acknowledge Henry as Supreme Head would become the undoing of Thomas More.

He was brought to trial on Juli 1st  1535 for treason under the Treason act of 1534, where he defended his stand on the supremacy issue by quoting the Magna Carta clause that protected the privileges of the church. It took the jury 15 minutes to find him guilty, much due to the diligence of Thomas Cromwell, and he was sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, a punishment which was commuted to beheading.

He was executed on this day, July 6th 1535. When he came to mount the steps to the scaffold, he is widely quoted asChelsea_Old_Church_14 saying (to the officials): “I pray you, I pray you, Mr Lieutenant, see me safe up and for my coming down, I can shift for myself”; while on the scaffold he declared that he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.

His head was left on a pike on London Bridge for a month and his body laid to rest in an unmarked grave St Peter ad Vincula.

He was canonized in 1935 and is celebrated on the same day as John Fisher, June 22nd by the Catholic Church and on July 6th by the Church of England.

 

 

Sources:

The Life of Thomas More – Peter Ackroyd

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

The Lost Prince – David Baldwin

The life and death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives

 

Images:

Thomas More – Hans Holbein the younger

The family of Thomas More – Hans Holbein the younger/Rowland Lockey

Photo of statue at Chelsea – Edwardx