Erik and Elizabeth…and Mary

Erik_XIV_(1533-1577)_Domenicus_VerwildtDoing homework with my son and prepping him for a test in Swedish history this week, and that prompted this post. So, you may ask (or not), what place does Swedish history in a blog claiming to be about English medieval and renaissance history?

Ah! None of us exist in a vacuum, and neither did for example the Tudor monarchs. The subject of my son´s test is the House of Vasa, and the subject of this post is one of the more determined of Elizabeth´s suitors, the oldest son of Gustav Vasa, Erik, upon his father´s death to be crowned Erik XIV.

He was born in December 1533, in other words just a few months after the Queen whose refusal he would have quite a hard time to accept. The first proposal would come while she was still “just” a princess, and his envoy caused somewhat of a stir by breaching court protocol as he approached Princess Elizabeth before Queen Mary. Apparently Mary thought that an alliance between England and Sweden was not an altogether bad idea and sent a messenger to her sister to find out what she herself thought about, becoming – as that was what wasErik_XIV_of_Sweden_by_Steven_van_der_Meulen_1561 (friarproträtt) on the table at the moment – the Queen of Sweden, but as we all know, Elizabeth´s response was that she had no wish to marry at all.

Erik was not one to be easily put off. His proposals was to become a recurring feature in Elizabeth´s life for a number of years. The second portrait of Erik in this post is most likely the one he sent to Elizabeth to persuade her to marry him, in any event it spent considerable time in England, and wasn´t returned to Sweden until the 20th century and can now be seen at Gripsholm Castle some miles outside Stockholm.

He was presumably assisted in his goal to marry Elizabeth by his own sister Cecilia Vasa, who early on started a correspondence with the English Queen, and seems to have formed a genuine friendship, to the extent where she expressed a desire to stay unmarried and join the Cecilia_of_Baden-Rodemachern_c_1610English court instead, as a Lady-in-waiting of Elizabeth. Cecilia did however get married, to Count Christopher II of Baden-Rodemarchen. On September 11, 1565 Cecilia and her entourage arrived in London where they primarily were received by the wife of William Cecil.

They stayed at Bedford House, where Elizabeth came to visit. She ended up paying an allowance to Christopher for letting his wife stay in England. The reasons for Cecilia´s visit was not simply social; her main goal was to persuade Elizabeth to accept her brother´s proposal, but also to recruit privateers to plunder hostile Danish, German and Polish ships off the Swedish coast.

The opinions on how she succeeded in her mission has been divided, but we can easily conclude that she did not succeed in her aim to secure the English Queen as a consort for her brother. According to the Spanish emissary da Silva, she approached the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, asking him to put a good word for her brother, and maybe that´s where her objective failed.

While Cecilia is said to have been impressed by the way Elizabeth handled the threat posed by Mary, Oueen of Scots, it seems her brother was more impressed by Mary Young-Mary-Queen-of-Scotsherself.

We will most likely know whether he genuinely gave up on Elizabeth, or if he just wanted to increase her potential interest, but after a number of rejections from the English monarch, Erik instead turned his interest to Mary, something that undoubtedly did get some reaction from Elizabeth. This did not get a successful conclusion either, and he went on to explore the prospects among other European princess´s, one of which sent his envoy packing in 1564 after a love letter to Elizabeth, by now the Queen of England, came into light.

karin månsdotterErik would in time marry one of his maids – Karin Månsdotter – who was already the mother of his child. He would also come to suffer a rapidly deteriorating mental health which among other ways manifested itself by him simply murdering one of his noblemen, Nils Svantesson Sture, stabbing him to death. His brother Johan took the throne and Erik spent the remainder of his life being transported between different castles, effectively in prison, but the kind of prison that suited a disposed king.

Erik Vasa died in 1577, an event that in the 16th and 17th century didn´s stir much speculation, but in time the legend was born that he had in fact been murdered, poisoned by way of the traditional Swedish pea soup.

Whether the soup actually was what contained the poison we will most likely never know, but in the 1950´s the remains of Erik XIV was excavated and examined, and we now know that Erik XIV died from a lethal dose of arsenic.


(It should aslo be said that Cecilia Vasa is an acquaintance well worth making for anyone interested in history, as she was very far from the meek woman someone of her standing and time would be expected to be.)


The History of Sweden; Gustav Vasa and his sons and daughters – Herman Lindquist

The Children of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

Vasadöttrarna (The Vasa daughters) – Karin Tegenborg Falkdalen

Arvet efter Gustav Vasa (The legacy of Gustav Vasa) – Lars-Olof Larsson.



Proposal painting – Steven van der Muelen

Painting thought to be Cecilia Vasa by unknown artist


Amy Robsart

Amy Dudley, more known to history as Amy Robsart, was married to Robert Dudley,3210e40c1ca465f6dba916c89c2f6369 Earl of Leicester and favourite of Elizabeth I.

While she without a doubt had qualities of her own, her name has primarily been remembered due to the fact that she on this day was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her temporary home at Cumnor Place in Oxfordshire.

On this day she had sent her staff away to the market and was alone in the house. There was an inquest into her death, and her husband, who was highly ambitious and assumed to have harboured wishes to marry the Queen was widely suspected of having orchestrated her wives death.

While he was to remain in the favour of Elizabeth I, any ideas of one day being Queen consort or even king, was effectively thwarted.

The theories around Amy´s death has been many over the centuries, and due to her apparently being of bad health and “suffering from a malady in her breast”, it has been assumed that she may have suffered from breast cancer and due to this chose to end her own life. If she indeed had cancer, she could also have suffered from a weak skeleton and her broken neck may in that case have been the tragic result from her slipping on the stairs. Her autopsy was found in 2008, and the result of that does not rule out suicide or murder.


Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart – Chris Skidmore.

 The life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir


Lambert Simnel – pretender

It was only two years into the reign of Henry VII that the first pretender to the throneLambert_Simnel,_Pretender_to_the_English_Throne,_Riding_on_Supporters_in_Ireland appeared on the “scene”, somewhat ironically trying to put himself off – or rather, being manipulated by others to do so – as the young Earl of Warwick, the son of George of Clarence, brother of Edward IV and Richard III, the original intention had been to pass him off as one of the princes in the Tower. The man behind the scheme was John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and nephew of Richard, and seemingly named as heir to the throne when his own son had died at a young age, even if this was never announced publically. Involved in the plot was also Bishop Stillington, who as a result of this – when all was said and done – would be kept in house arrest for the remainder of his life.

de la Pole had originally made peace with the Tudor regime after the battle of Bosworth, but only two years later he orchestrated the rebellion which had Lambert Simnel as its figurehead. Most likely it was the intention of de la Pole to take the throne himself, had the rebellion succeded. It seems a clergyman named Symond introduced de la Pole to Simnel, who appears to have had some resemblance with the real son of Clarence, who was in fact imprisoned in the Tower, and who had also lost the right to inherit the throne through the attainder against his father.

When it comes to the boy Lambert Simnel, very little is known by his background. It seems that the earlier mentioned clergyman had trained him in some courtly manners, but allegedly he was the son of a baker, and contemporary sources does not, before the actual events, refer to him as Lambert, but John, and in the attainder later passed against de la Pole, Simnel is described as the son of an Oxford joiner and organmaker.

At the time Lambert Simnel was crowned as Edward VI in Dublin and put forward as the rightful heir to the throne of England, he was not much older than ten years old, and could obviously not be “credited” with being the initiator of the rebellion that followed, a fact that most likely proved significant for his later fate.

de la Pole won the backing of the Irish lord Gerald FitzGerald, who was eager to return to the state of relative Irish self-rule that had been the case under the Yorkist kings. He also managed to convince Margaret of Burgundy that he had been part in aiding her nephew Warwick´s escape from the Tower – later she would also happily identify Perkin Warbeck as another one of her nephews, young Richard who had been put in the Tower together with his brother Edward – and she contributed to de la Pole´s rebellion with 2 000 Flemish soldiers.

The result of the rebellion was the battle of Stoke Field – considered to be the very last battle of the Wars of the Roses – which took place on June 16, 1487. The rebels had arrived in Lancashire on June 4 after which they grew to number around 8 000 men.

After a couple a skirmishes and a clash with Lancastrian troops on the 10th at Bramham Moor, when the victory belonged to the Yorkists, they finally met the army of Henry VII on the 16th. The royal army far outnumbered the Yorkists, and was also led by two skilled commanders, the king´s uncle Jasper Tudor and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.

John de la Pole was killed in the battle, which the Yorkists lost, and the boy Lambert Simnel captured. It is sometimes claimed that Henry VII made the process short with the pretenders to his throne, but Lambert Simnel put that claim to shame, as the boy was pardoned, most likely just because he was a boy who and been manipulated by adults.

He was given a position as a spit-turner in the royal kitchens, and later went on to be promoted to the king´s falconer. Just as there is little known about the first 10 years of Lambert Simnel´s life, very little is known about his later in life. He seems to have gotten married, and may have been the father of Richard Simnel, canon of St Osyth´s Priory in Essex.

Lambert Simnel died around 1525, at the estimated age of 48 years.



The Tudor Age – James A. Williamson

The Tudors – G. J. Meyer

Pole, John de la – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/Rosemary Horrox

Lambert Simnel and the battle of Stoke – Michael J. Bennett

The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir