The Tudor Brandons by Sarah-Beth Watkins – review

Mary_Tudor_and_Charles_BrandonChronos Books

Today is the anniversary of the marriage that originally didn´t go down very well with Henry VIII; that of his sister Mary and who must be called his best friend, Charles Brandon.

I thought this would be the appropriate day to review a book that will be out in a bookstore – or online shop – near you in June: The Tudor Brandons by Sarah-Beth Watkins

When I was first asked to review this book, I have to admit that the question “what more can there possibly be to know about Charles Brandon for anyone who has read a fair bit about Henry VIII and his relationship to this man.

A fair bit, it turns out.

Not least was I ignorant about Charles Brandon´s illustrious grandfather and father, I had no idea, for example that Henry Tudor´s standard bearer at the Battle of Bosworth, the man killed by Richard III himself, was in fact Charles Brandon´s father. But he was.

Truth be told, I would have liked to read more about the two older Brandon´s, but with any luck there will in time be books about them as well.

Another thing that I didn´t know that in spite of chivalric values, Charles Brandon was220px-Charles_Brandon,_1st_Duke_of_Suffolk a bit of an…. a-hole.

But short re-cap. Charles Brandon basically grew up with Henry VIII, raising to fame but not as much fortune as he most likely would have wanted after the ascension of Henry VIII in 1509.

Mary was Henry´s younger sister, for a short while queen of France through her marriage to the more than 30 year older and sickly king Louis XII. Lucky for her, probably, the marriage didn´t last long and her loving brother sent his best friend and trusted companion Charles Brandon to escort her back from France, which he did, but not before he and Mary was married.

There was a problem here, you didn´t just marry the king´s sister and French queen dowager on a whim, and you most certainly didn´t do it without the king´s consent.

The happy couple was however forgiven, and the book The Tudor Brandons for the most part deals with the years Mary and Charles spent together, through ups and downs and fallings out with the most royal of brothers/brothers-in-law.

Sarah-Beth Watkins give a good and well researched account of the couple´s life through births and deaths of their children, through triumphant moments like their participation in the Field of Cloth of Gold and troublesome times such as the brewing war with France only a few years after the grand display itself.

marytudor-smIt also makes perfectly clear, in the event someone thought so, that Charles Brandon had a much more important part to play than just being a side-kick to the king, and how he on a number of occasions got firmly on the nerves of Cardinal Wolsey by putting his nose in diplomatic affairs where it didn´t belong, as well as his role in the sentencing of both Thomas More and Anne Boleyn

It also gives insight to the dealings with belated papal dispensations, annulments and legitimacy of the Brandon children at the very some time Henry was working his way through his great matter, at which point Mary herself didn´t have many years left to live and we get to follow Charles through his fourth and last marriage after Mary.

For the reader who has taken a particular interest in the reign of Henry VIII, much of the book will be familiar, but now from the angle of people close to him, with their joys and grievances. It´s a book very much worth reading, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

April: Shakespeare Month

We have entered the month which sees the anniversary of the death of the Bard,702px-Shakespeare William Shakespeare. On April 23rd it will be 400 years since the greatest playwright of all times passed away in 1616, opening the door to all kinds of speculation about him, and even about who he was.

Personally I will hold on to the opinion that the man who wrote the plays was who he said he was, a man born in Stratford upon Avon, son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, husband of Anne Hathaway until I´m beyond even the slightest shadow of a doubt convinced otherwise.

I will how ever take the opportunity to explore the different theories of those who believe otherwise.

My ambition for this month, which will for the already mentioned reason, see more posts than normally about Shakespeare, is to be able to present both regular posts/articles as well as interviews with people who in different ways has dedicated parts or all of their lives to William Shakespeare, his work and legacy.

In the meantime, please check out these links for activities in related to the anniversary:

England

Shakespeare400

Shakespeare´s England

Shakespeare´s Globe

Shakespeare Lives

USA

World-Wide Shakespeare

The Wonder of Will: 400 Years of Shakespeare

Shakespeare 400 Chicago

Spain

(where they also commemorate the 400 year annivarsary of the death of Cervantes)

Cervantes and Shakespeare

And last but not least, a European compilation

European Shakespeare Festivals Network

The Southampton Plot

Only last year was the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt where the EnglishHenry5 troops defeated the French, and firmly made Henry V go down in history as the warrior king, the type of king the men around his son, Henry VI would later want him to be.

But often overlooked when discussing the battle is the incident that maybe could have put a halt to the triumphant expedition; the Southampton Plot.

There are historians who argue that the case may be that there never was a lot at all, only political moaning from noblemen not quite content with their lot in life, but whatever the case may have been, it didn´t matter much to the King once he was informed of what was said to be going on.

The three men behind the alleged plot were Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, Henry Scrope, 3rd Baron Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey

Richard_of_Conisburgh,_3rd_Earl_of_CambridgeRichard of Conisburgh was a grandson of Edward III through his fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile, but his immediate descendants would come to be even more interesting for the upcoming decades in England; in 1415 he had left behind a four-year-old son, he too called Richard, who would grow up to become the Duke of York and father among other children the three boys Edward (IV), George and Richard (III). Not least was he a cousin of the King.

When his father passed he left nothing for Richard, nor did his brother and this has by some historians been taken as a sign that he was in fact not the son of Edmund, but of John St. Holland 1st Duke of Exeter, who allegedly had had an affair with Richard´s mother Isabella. She how ever had made requested that Richard´s godfather, King Richard II, granted her younger son an annuity of 500 marks, a request that was granted. The sum was further increased over the years.

But when Richard II was deposed in 1399, his successor Henry IV was less inclined toRichard_II_King_of_England pay the annuity, and Richard would receive it either irregularly or not at all. As Richard of Conisburgh owned no lands, this was his only source of income.

The only significant appointments Richard of Conisburgh received in the years leading up to those days in Southampton was as commander over a force defending Hertfordshire against Welsh rebels and to escort princess Philippa to her wedding to king Eric of Denmark in 1406, prior to which he was knighted, so it isn´t hard to imagine that even though Henry IV died in 1413, there was some resentment brewing which may have been the reason for the assumed plot.

During his stay in Demark, he is believed to have become acquainted with Lord Scrope, who would later (in 1411) marry Joan Holland who for a few years after the death of Isabella of Castile had been married to Edmund of Langley.

Henry Scrope had at least seemingly a much better relationship to Henry V, in fact, he was considered to be a royal favorite who had been knighted in 1403 and fought alongside Henry IV at the battle of Shrewsbury that same year. Between 1406 and 1413 he had a number of diplomatic missions, and in 1410 he had been appointed Treasurer of England as well as Knight of the Order of the Garter. It is hard to see why he would get involved in plot at all, and historian Anne Curry suggests that he was simply fed up with Henry V and his French campaign.

The third of the plotters was Sir Thomas Grey, through his mother Joan Mowbray a descendant of Edward I. His father, also named Thomas Grey, had been one of the allies chosen by Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, to witness the abdication of Richard II. Thomas Grey the younger had been treated favourably by Henry IV in the sense that he himself had been granted the wardship of his inheritance before he came of age. He was connected to Richard of Conisburgh through the betrothal of his 12-year old son Thomas to Conisburgh´s 3-year old daughter Isabel. Thomas Grey´s involvement in the plot came from, by his own admission, the fact that he wanted to be more rich and “famous” than he was.

If we assume that this was an actual plot, and not only discontent being voiced in an extremely unwise way, the goal was to execute Henry V and his son, the future Henry VI, and replace the king with his own cousin Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March and brother of Conisburghs wife Anne Mortimer who had died in 1411.

Edmund was the great-great-grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, second surviving son of Edward III, through Lionel´s daughter Philippa. The “positioning” of his great-great-grandfather among Edward III´s great number of children actually gave him a stronger claim to the throne than that of Henry V, as he only descended from the third surviving son.  Added to this came the fact that Edmund Mortimer and his father, Roger Mortimer (dead 1398), in turn had been considered heir presumptive to Richard II who had had no children of his own.

King_Henry_IV_from_NPG_(2)There had been turbulence between the Mortimer´s and Henry IV. When he had deposed Richard II in 1399 and consequently had parliament proclaim him king and his own son heir apparent, he took the then 8-year old Edmund and his brother Richard into custody with Sir Hugh Waterton at Windsor Castle. Allegedly they were treated good and is said to, during periods, have been brought up with the king´s own children John and Philippa.

It wasn´t a positive turn of events, however, when Edmund´s uncle and namesake, Sir Edmund Mortimer in 1402 was captured by the Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndwr. Instead of sending men to his rescue or paying a ransom, Henry IV accused Sir Edmund of siding with the rebels voluntarily and confiscated his property.

Sir Edmund then went on to marry Glyndwr´s sister, write a proclamation that declared his nephew the rightful king of England and proceeded to, in collaboration with Glyndwr and the Percy´s (his sister had been married to Henry Hotspur) hatch a plot to free his two nephews from Windsor Castle, something which happened in early 1405. They were quickly apprehended and kept under stricter confinement for the remainder of Henry VI:s reign.

Despite the eventful years of his youth, Edmund Mortimer came to be on good terms with Henry V, who gave him his full freedom when he ascended to the throne in 1413, and maybe that is why, when Edmund Mortimer became aware of the new plot being formed with him as the man to be put on the throne, he went to his king and informed him of everything he knew. No doubt he was also doing his best to avoid ending up on the block.

He revealed the plans to the king on July 31st  at Portchester and within day the Portchester_castle_04accused were brought to Southampton to stand trial.

Sir Thomas Grey, who wasn´t a peer, received the trial of a common criminal on August 2nd and was sentenced to being hanged, drawn and quartered. After it was all over, his head was sent to Newcastle.

As they were peers, Henry, Lord Scrope and Richard of Conisburgh was tried by their peers, but it didn´t do them much good as they too were sentenced to death and Red_Lion_Inn_Southamptonexecuted on August 5th. Conisburgh was spared being hanged before being beheaded, and was also the only one of the three who was allowed to be buried together with his head. The head of Lord Scrope was sent to be displayed in York.

Henry V then sailed off to eventually fight the battle of Agincourt at which the older brother of Conisburgh, the Duke of York, was killed. As he had no children of his own, his title went to Conisburgh´s for years old son, as well as the claim held by the Mortimer´s. This he would, years later, when he as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, attempted to depose Henry VI.

In 1461, Conisburgh´s grandson, Edward IV, had the parliament declare the sentence against Conisburgh “irregular and unlawful”.

Edmund Mortimer himself was pardoned for nominal involvement in the plot on August 7th and followed the king to France. After the death of Henry V in 1422, Mortimer was appointed to the Council of Regency for the nine month old Henry VI. Mortimer died from the plague in Ireland in 1425, at the age of 33.

 

Sources:

Agincourt: A New History – Anne Curry

Richard, Earl of Cambridge (1385-1415) – G.L. Harriss/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Henry V and the Southampton Plot of 1415 – T.B. Pugh

Scrope, Henry le (1376?-1415) – James Tait/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Scrope, Henry, third Baron Scrope of Masham (c.1376–1415) – Brigette Vale

Mortimer, Edmund (V), fifth earl of March and seventh earl of Ulster (1301-1425) – R.A Griffiths/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Images:

Portchester Castle – Matthew Folley/Wikimedia Commons

The Red Lion – site of where the trial of the plotters was held

Clare Priory, resting place of Edmund Mortimer – Mym/Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately images of the actual plotters are less then scarce

Interview with Amy Licence

Recently I reviewed Amy Licence book “Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a trueAmy love story”, and now I have had the pleasure of asking her a few questions

 How did your interest in history start?

I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.

AmyAt what point did you realise it was primarily the women’s stories you wanted to highlight?

I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.

How important is history to C21st people and do you personally feel that lack of In bedknowledge influences the modern man?

I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.

sixWhat determines who you will be writing about when you prepare for a new book?

It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.

What will you be working on next?

I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want All about Richard IIIto set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.

 

Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.

Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).

Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII

Sir Francis Walshingham – Spymaster

“There is less danger in fearing too much than too little.”

Just as her father had had men he depended on, Elizabeth had people around her that800px-Sir_Francis_Walsingham_by_John_De_Critz_the_Elder played a significant rule during her reign, but while men like Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell had worked their way up from quite humble origins, Francis Walshingham was born in a well-connected gentry family, presumably living in Chislehurst, Kent.

His father, William Walshingham, had in his capacity as a successful lawyer served as a member of a commission to investigate the estates of Thomas Wolsey in 1530 and his uncle Edmund Walshingham, knighted after the Battle of Flodden, was in attendance of Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold as well as Lieutenant of the Tower from early 1520´s until Henry´s death in 1547.

William Walshingham died in 1534 when Francis was only two years old – here it may be appropriate to mention, in the event someone has watched the Cate Blanchett film about Elizabeth I where Walsingham is portrayed as a man significantly older than Elizabeth, that he was in reality just one year older than his Queen – and four years after William´s passing his mother Joyce remarried to the courtier Sir John Carey, brother of William Carey in his turn married to Mary Boleyn, sister of the, by then, executed Queen Anne Boleyn.

In 1548 Walshingham enrolled in King´s College at the university of Cambridge, the college known for being ardently protestant and reformist, and only four years later he was admitted to Gray´s Inn in London where he embarked on his studies in law.

Maria_Tudor1During Walshingham´s second year at Grey´s Inn, the young king Edward VI died, which eventually – after the interlude if the Nine Days Queen, Jane Grey – led to the zealous catholic Mary taking the throne. Just as many other protestants, Walshingham – not without reason as would be obvious – saw fit to leave the country. During his five years in exile, he studied civil law in Padua and would during that time become fluent in both Italian and French.

He returned to England when Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, and with the support of Francis Russell, 2nd Earl of Bedford, one of his companions in exile, he was elected as a member of Elizabeth´s first parliament, representing Bossiney in Cornwall. In a re-election in 1563, he was returned for two different constituencies, Lyme Regis in Dorset, which was also under the influence of Bedford, and Banbury in Oxfordshire. Walshingham however chose to sit for Lyme Regis. To be a member of parliament was not something which appealed to Walshingham though, and it seems, even though he remained a member of parliament for the rest of his life, it was something he dealt with rather half-heartedly.

Already in the late 1560´s Walshingham was involved in gathering support for the Huguenots who were severely persecuted in France, and at this time the so called Wars of Religion were raging in France, primarily fought between Catholics and Huguenots. Walshingham himself would also be the eyewitness of something that no doubt further influenced his views on Catholics.

In 1568-69, he joined the service of William Cecil, chief advisor, secretary of state andWilliam_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley_from_NPG_(2) finally Lord High Treasurer of Elizabeth I. Walshingham´s assignment was to counter plots against the Queen, and no doubt it was now he started to build up the intricate networks of spies for which he has come to be known. The first plot he managed to defuse was the Ridolfi plot, named after the instigator Roberto di Ridolfi, in 1571 which aimed to have Elizabeth I murdered and replaced with Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary had been placed in house arrest in 1568, and a part of the plot was to have her married to Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and cousin of Elizabeth. Norfolk was subsequently executed, as would Mary be eventually, but Ridolfi would live on until 1612. Walshingham is also credited with being the one who anonymously wrote a pamphlet decrying the marriage plans between Mary and Norfolk.

But before this, Walshingham had in 1570 been appointed ambassador to France, where one of his missions was to negotiate a marriage between Elizabeth and the Duke of Anjou, an “adventure” where he fully got to suffer the classical ambiguousness of Elizabeth, where she – in relation to proposed marriages – gave the impression of being very eager only to stall and stall until it came to nothing. Walshingham himself was very much against an alliance with France, much due to the persecutions of Protestants, and beginning the night between the 23rd and 24th of August 1572 and continuing for weeks, he himself got to see it in all its horror.

Francois_Dubois_001In the week leading up to the event, religious tension had been running high in Paris due to the marriage between the Catholic king Charles IX sister Margaret to the Protestant king Henry III of Navarre, and on the 22nd an assassination attempt was carried out against the Huguenot leader Admiral Gaspard de Coligny. The attempt failed, just severing a finger on the admiral, and his would-be murderer got away. This agitated the Catholics of the city who feared retaliation, and on the night of St Bartholomew´s Day, a massacre of French Protestants started which made the Seine run red with blood. Apart from Admiral Coligny finally being murdered, it is believed that between 5 000 and 30 000 people lost their lives in the following weeks as the violence spread to towns and villages outside Paris.

In Paris, Walshingham´s home became a sanctuary for terrified Protestants. His wife Ursula managed to escape back to England with their four-year-old daughter, and shortly thereafter gave birth to a second daughter but Walshingham stayed on in France until April 1573. In December that same year he was appointed to the Privy Council as well as made principal secretary alongside Thomas Smith who retired in 1576, with Francis Walshingham becoming the keeper of the privy seal, although he was never formally invested. He was knighted in 1577.

It is of course impossible to write about Walshingham without getting into more detail about his work as the “spymaster” in service of Elizabeth I. It has been suggested that Francis Walshingham practically invented espionage, but that isn´t quite true, there had been spies before him, but he managed the task masterfully. Among his achievements was the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots, who thought she in secret communicated with her supporters, but due to Walshingham, together with people working for him, having developed a technique which allowed them to open letters without breaking the seal, as well as employing people capable of deciphering them, every letter she sent and received was read by the spymaster and his co-workers, thus exposing the Babington plot in 1586 which aimed not only to, again, murder the Queen and replace her with Mary, but also to facilitate a Spanish invasion of England.

The whole process started after Walshingham and Cecil realising that the isolation Mary-cipher-codeMary had been subjected to after a previous plot also meant that they had no means of discovering future plots to bring Mary to the throne, and she was once again allowed to communicate with her friends. The scheme to expose Mary involved Gilbert Gifford, originally part of the plot himself, but after having been arrested by Walshingham, he had agreed to act as double agent.

The letters were deciphered by Thomas Phelippes, a forger and intelligence gatherer in the employ of Walshingham who at the time was housed under the same roof, Chartley Hall, as Mary herself. When he had intercepted and deciphered the letter that finally, beyond any doubt, proved Mary´s involvement in the plot, he allegedly drew a gallows on the envelope before passing it on to Walshingham. It did indeed end in the execution of Mary within a week after the final evidence had been revealed.

Francis Walshingham was also instrumental in the preparations that greatly helped to secure the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

From the time of the discovery of the Babington Plot in 1586, Walshingham received a large number of dispatches from his agents on the continent regarding a planned Spanish attack on England and worked tirelessly to prepare England for war with Spain, and was among other things behind the rebuilding of the harbour at Dover as well as supporting Francis Drakes attack on Cadiz which left the Spanish fleet in bits and pieces in 1587. An invaluable asset in gathering intelligence was Anthony Standen who was a friend of the Tuscan ambassador in Madrid, and of course on Walshingham´s pay role.

loutherbourg-spanish_armadaThe Spanish Armada left Spain for England in July 1588, and on August 8th it was not much left of it then a memory. After the naval battle, the naval commander Lord Henry Seymour praised Walshingham for having “fought more with your pen than many in our English navy fought with their enemies”

One of the people believed by some to have been one of the spies in service of Francis Walshingham is the playwright Christopher Marlowe, for whom the court stood up when he was accused of travelling to France to study at a priest seminar, but there is no conclusive evidence of this, which maybe is only to be expected in the world of spies. The theory is however that Marlowe during his time in France acted as an agent for Walshingham, which would explain the royal intervention when he was accused. What can however most likely be dismissed as nothing but fantasies is the idea that Walshingham should have been behind the murder of Marlowe, not least since Walshingham himself had been dead for three years at the time of the murder.

As mentioned earlier, Walshingham was not the first to employ spies, but what has 500px-Queen_Elizabeth_I;_Sir_Francis_Walsingham;_William_Cecil,_1st_Baron_Burghley_by_William_Faithorne_(2)made him stand out was how wide his network was, with men in his service in England, Scotland, France, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, North Africa and Turkey. He planted agents in groups of Catholic exiles in Europe and managed to employ skilful co-workers.

Francis Walshingham died on April 6th 1590 at the age of 58. He was married twice, to Anne Barne and Ursula St Barbe and fathered two daughters in his last marriage of whom the youngest died at 7 years of age. His surviving daughter, Frances, married three times, to Sir Philip Sidney (dead as a result of a wound sustained in the battle of Zutphen in 1586) , Robert Devereux , 2nd Earl of Essex (executed for treason in 1601) and Richard Burke, 4th Earl of Clanricarde.

At the time of his death, Sir Francis Walshingham was heavily in debt, partly because he funded much of his intelligence work out of his own pocket, but also because he took over the debts of his son in-law Philip Sidney after his death.

He was buried at St Paul´s Cathedral but his grave was destroyed in the great fire of 1666. He is mention on a plaque at the cathedral as one of those once buried there.

 

 

Sources:

Encyclopaedia Britannica/Stephen Budiansky

Her Majesty´s Spymaster – Stephen Budiansky

Walshingham and Burghley in Queen Elizabeth´s Privy Council – Conyers Read/The English Historical Review.

Elizabeth I, Queen of England – Neville Williams

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I – John Cooper

Sir Francis Walshingham, painting – John de Critz the Elder

Mary I, painting – Antonis Mor

William Cecil, painting – unknown, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger

St Bartholomew´s Night Massacre, painting – Francois Dubois

Actual deciphering code of Francis Walshingham, used to decipher the letters of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Defeat of the Spanish Armada,  painting – Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg

 

 

 

The Oxford Martyrs

While “Bloody Mary” is a name that didn´t come about until after the death of the woman it´s said to describe, Mary I, and it maybe was an unfair epitaph, there is no avoiding the fact that there were substantial religious persecutions during her reign, much more so than during the brother that preceded her or the sister that succeeded her.

Of all the martyrs she created during her reign, the maybe most notable were Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and Thomas Cranmer, together known as the Oxford Martyrs.

Born in 1487 Hugh Latimer managed to “cover” three Tudor monarchs, and even if he hadHugh_Latimer_from_NPG seen both up´s and downs during the reign of Henry VIII, whom he managed to provoke in the 1520´s by advocating an English translation of the Bible in a time when Tyndale´s translation of the New Testament had just been banned this resulted in a summons before Thomas Wolsey in 1528 who gave him an admonition and a warning. But the tables would soon turn, and as Wolsey fell from grace, the star of Latimer began to rise as he became one of the leading reformers at Cambridge.

In 1535 he was appointed Bishop at Worchester cathedral where he continued to advocate both reformed teachings as well as the destruction of religious icons. In May 1538, he gave the held the last sermon for the Franciscan friar John Forest before the latter was burned at the stake, the downfall of whom had partially, and ironically, been brought about by Hugh Latimer and Thomas Cranmer at the behest of Thomas Cromwell.

But in a fickle world it was only a year later that Latimer himself was sent to the Tower for opposing Henry´s six articles, something which also resulted in Latimer losing his bishopric. In 1546 he was sent back to the Tower for his ideas on reforms, to be released only when Edward VI ascended to the throne. He was restored to favor and was appointed to a position as a court preacher.

Hugh Latimer´s time in the sun was however as short as the reign of Edward, once Mary became Queen and embarked on her mission to restore the catholic faith, his faith was sealed, and he was arrested together with bishop Nicholas Ridley – the only one to be called bishop of London and Westminster – who was a thorn in Mary´s side no only due to his teachings, but also for his support of Lady Jane Grey. He had also been highly involved in the Vestments controversy with John Hooper in the early 1550´s and a written debate between them represent the first written documentation of a split within British Protestantism.

800px-Nicholas_Ridley_from_NPGWhen it became obvious that Edward VI wouldn´t survive his illness, Nicholas Ridley was highly involved in bringing Jane Grey to the throne instead of Edward´s older sister Mary, and on July 9th 1553 he was at St Paul’s Cross, giving a sermon in which he stressed the fact that both daughters of Henry VIII were indeed bastards.

As we all know, support for Jane faded as Mary was advancing towards London, and on the day Mary was proclaimed queen, Nicholas Ridley was arrested and brought to the Tower together with other supporters’ of Lady Jane. The month of February 1554 was spent dealing with the immediate circle around Jane, and several executions took place, including that of Jane herself. When this was over, time had come to deal with the leaders of the English reformation, something Mary obviously wanted nothing to do with. Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley was sent to the Bocardo prison in Oxford together with Thomas Cranmer.

Thomas Cranmer had assisted Wolsey in the work to have Henry´s marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled and was allegedly also the one who came up with the idea to gather the opinion on the marital situation from the universities, something that took him on journeysThomas_Cranmer_by_Gerlach_Flicke through a Europe in which some countries had already moved closer to Protestantism, and he got in contact with important figure heads of the reformation, both on this trip and during travels as a resident ambassador to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, nephew of Kathrine of Aragon. In Cranmer´s mission it was included that he should convince Charles to give his acceptance to the divorce, something which never happened.

 

In 1532 Cranmer was appointed archbishop of Canterbury, and as such he denounced the marriage between Henry and Katherine, going as far as threatening Henry with excommunication if he didn´t stay away from his wife of more than 20 years as well as mother of his only surviving child at this point. This makes it more than credible that when Mary I struck against Cranmer, there was more than accusations of heresy behind her wrath.

The_Martyrs_Memorial_against_the_west_side_of_BalliolDuring the following years, Cranmer would become closer and closer to Henry, and was involved in the downfall of both Thomas Cromwell and Katherine Howard. He led Edward´s funeral on August 8, and just over a month later he was sent to the Tower, and sentenced to death in November that same year, meaning that Cranmer spent longer time than Ridley and Latimer, who were sentenced in April 1555 and burned at the stake in Oxford on October 16th 1555. Thomas Gardiner had been brought there to watch Latimer andMartyrs'_execution_location,_Broad_Street,_Oxford,_Mar_2015 Ridley burn, but he himself wasn´t burned at the stake until six months later on March 21st 1556.

He was however burned in the same spot, and for the three Martyrs a memorial has been erected in Oxford, as well as a cross on Broad Street where the stake is assumed to have been standing.

 

 

 

 

 

Encyclopedia.com

 

Thomas Cranmer – Jasper Ridley

 

Thomas Cranmer, A Life – Diarmaid MacCulloch

 

Hugh Latimer – Harold S. Darby

 

 

Photo: Martyrs Memorial – Ozeye

Grief fills the room up of my absent child – Hamnet Shakespeare

At this time 419 years ago, there is reason to think that William Shakespeare was at MTE1ODA0OTcxNzgzMzkwNzMzhome with his family in Stratford-upon-Avon. It seems he had been on tour in Kent at the time, but there is no reason to think that he may not have returned home when hearing that his son was sick.

That was an occurrence that wasn´t that common, the playwright spent most of his time in London where he had his theatre, or on the road, travelling with his company, The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, but on this day, a young boy was brought to his final resting place; Hamnet Shakespeare, the 11 year old son of William and his wife Anne Hathaway.

1024px-Shakespeare's_family_circleHe was not the only child in the family, he had an older sister, Susannah, born only six months after the marriage between William and the older Anne, but he also had a twin sister, Judith, both of the most likely named after Shakespeare´s friend and neighbour Hamnet Sandler and his wife Judith. Some scholars have suggested that the play Hamlet had lent his name from the son who passed far too early.

It has been pointed out that while for example Ben Johnson wrote heartfelt about the loss of his own son, Shakespeare himself did never really openly introduce the character of his lost child in any of his plays, and it has been suggested that since Shakespeare in reality “abandoned” his family when the twins still were just infants to pursue his career as an actor and playwright in London, only to visit on occasion, his grief may have just been brief, not least since a one out three of children at the time died before the age of 10. The explanation should have been that parents could not really “afford” to invest too much emotion into a child they may never see grown up anyway

But we all grieve differently and in an article from 2004 Stephen Greenblatt pointsHamnetDeath out that while Shakespeare during the four years that followed Hamnet´s death, wrote some of the most light-hearted plays of his production, such as The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing and As You Like it, he also just the year after Hamnet´s death introduces a grief stricken mother in his play King John which includes a line that could break the heart of anyone with children in their lives; “Grief fills the room up of my absent child”.

One can of course argue that Shakespeare had hardly seen the boy since he was an infant, but as we are collectively so willing to state how little we know of Shakespeare the man, we of course know nothing of his feelings faced with the fact that he was no longer the father of a son.

Greenblatt also suggest that the grief of Ophelia´s brother in Hamlet, the play with the name so closely resembling that of the lost son, is Shakespear´s grief, that when Laertes lament the lack of ceremony at her grave, it is the Bard himself that laments the same at his son´s grave?

Only a few years after Hamnet´s death his grandfather, John Shakespeare, died, a man who is said to have had Catholics leanings in a world that had over the last decades turned more and more protestant, and one suggestion is that the play is his eulogy over both his son and his father

Sources:

The death of Hamnet and making of Hamlet – Stephen Greenblatt, The New York Review of Books

Shakespeare´s Last Will and Testament

William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life – Samuel Schoenbaum

Images: Wikipedia