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.

 

 

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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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Cromwell

Thomas Cromwell, whose name has risen to fame in this century not least due to the books by Hilary Mantel and laterCromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01 adaptation for TV of the same, became a most powerful man during the latter reign of Henry VIII.

Born in Putney, London, as the son of a blacksmith, fuller and clothes merchant, it must be said that Thomas Cromwell made a remarkable rise to power, no doubt as a result of his own intelligence and skills, but also with the help of a few useful patrons along the way, not least Thomas Wolsey, whose household he belonged to for a number of years.

There exist both contradictory and curious information about Cromwell´s early years, in the latter category one find both that he should have been a mercenary marching with the French army as well as an agent of the archbishop of York in Rome.

But it was in the 1520´s he began his rise to power. In 1517 and 1518 he had been leading an embassy to Rome to obtain a Papal Bull of Indulgence from the Pope for the town of Boston in Lincolnshire.
This was followed, in matter of career, by a seat in the House of Commons and 1524 he was elected member of Cardinal_Wolsey_Christ_ChurchGrey´s Inn.

His period in the household of Thomas Wolsey stretched from 1516 to 1530 and by 1529 his secretary. He aided the dissolution of monasteries to collect money for the war coffer in the 1520´s and towards the end of his time with Wolsey´s, Cromwell was one of Wolsey´s most trusted advisors. But at the end of 1529 Wolsey had fallen from grace with his master, just like Cromwell one day would.

Thomas Cromwell was instrumental in bringing about the annulment of Henry VIII´s marriage from Catherine of Aragon, and was at one point an ally of Anne Boleyn but has in many quarters gone down in history as the man guilty of her destruction. Whether this is true, we will most likely not entirely know.

During the 1530´s, Henry showered Cromwell in titles and appointments and in 1536 he was made Knight of the Garter, the honour expected to befall George Boleyn who instead was about to meet his death.

Among the offices bestowed on Cromwell was Master of King´s Jewel House, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Master of the Rolls, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster, Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, Lord Privy Seal, Dean of Wells, Governor of the Isle of Wight and Great Chamberlain to mention but a few. Ironically, the last office, as well as the title Earl of Essex, he received only months before his arrest Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_Anne_of_Cleves_(Victoria_and_Albert_Museum)and execution.

There has been much speculation about what it was that brought about Cromwell´s downfall, whether it was that he went to far in his religious convictions – while Henry was all for religious reform, he was never a protestant, something it is widely believed that Thomas Cromwell was, or that it was by him the arranged disastrous marriage between Henry and Anne of Cleves. Most likely it was a number of reasons that his adversaries used to topple him.
On this day, June 10th 1540, Thomas Cromwell was arrested on charges of high treason.

 

The Tudor Revolution in Government: Administrative Changes in the Reign of Henry VIII – G R Elton

Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious MinisterRobert Hutchinson

 

The Field of Cloth of Gold

 

1491_Henry_VIIIToday marks the 495 year anniversary of the demonstration of glory known as the Field of Cloth of Gold taking place just outside of Calais between the 7th and 24th of June in 1520.

It was said to be an effort to strengthen the ties of friendship between Henry VIII and Francis I of France. Only two years earlier a non-aggression pact called the Treaty of London, with England, France and The Holy Roman Empire, the Papacy, Burgundy and Spain as signatories, where they undertook not only to not attack each other, but also to come to each other’s aid if one of them came under attack by another nation. But only a few years later, the treaty was at risk of falling apart, not least due to England siding with Spain in the latter’s conflict with France.

The meeting had originally been planned for 1519 but was at the time postponed, something that made Henry promise not to shave until he met the French king, a challenge that FrancisFrançois_1515 accepted, and which was interrupted only by the fact that Catherine of Aragon made it clear that she did not like her husband bearded. He succumbed to her demands to shave it off, and it was decided between the kings that their love for each other was to be found in their hearts and not in their beards.

There was someone who was deeply worried by this newfound “love”, and that was Charles V of Spain. In his anxious to have a meeting with Henry before Francis did, he met up with Henry in Dover just before Henry was to leave for France. There is an account of how the two kings embrace on the steps to Charles bedroom in the Dover Castle where he was staying during his visit, which maybe can be taken as a proof that Charles at least for the moment had little to fear from Henry´s meeting with the French king;

“the Emperor hearing the king to be come, came out of his chamber to meet with the king, and so met him on the stairs ere he could come up, where each embraced other right lovingly: then the king brought the Emperor to his chamber, whereas their communing was of gladness”.

The following the day Catherine of Aragon, Charles aunt, met up with the two in Canterbury.
After Charles had departed, the English court set sail for France in a logistic endeavour that in its planning was Thomas Wolsey´s doing. Henry VIII was accompanied by over 5 000 people on the journey. The party consisted of the highest nobility and a major part of the royal Court.

Basire_Embarkation_of_Henry_VIII

 

While the Field of Cloth of Gold aimed to achieve political results, there is no doubt the event itself was a big show off between the two monarchs, where they both hoped to outshine his counterpart.
A temporary palace was built just outside of Calais to house the English court, surrounded by tents for other the nobility and others in the retinue. Of course, these wasn´t any tents, they were made of cloth of gold, just like many of the other fabrics and clothes worn by the participants, and this is where the name of the meeting come from.

During the two week long meeting which consisted of jousting, dining, negotiations and socialising; one evening Catherine dined with the French king while Henry dined with the French queen Claude; even no proof exist to confirm it, it is very possible that one of queen Claude´s ladies-in-waiting served as interpreter by the English and the French on some occasions; Anne Boleyn.

British_-_Field_of_the_Cloth_of_Gold_-_Google_Art_Project

The meeting took place on neutral ground and when the two kings met for the very first time, they rode towards each other from opposite sides of an open field, only to embrace when they met in the middle.
In the jousting the two kings fought together as “brothers” instead of against each other, but it seems like Henry was the more gifted one in that field. There exist a story of a wrestling match where Francis allegedly won over Henry, but oddly enough it seems the only contemporary source that exist is that of king Francis´s best friend.

It turned out in the end that from a political point of view, the joviality between the two monarchs wasn´t worth much. Only two years later, when conflict ensued between Francis and Charles V, Henry took the side of his wife´s nephew, Charles, and the hereditary animosity of between the respective crowns continued for the time being.

 

Sources:

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

Hall´s Chronicle

Anglo-French Relations under Henry VIII/Tudor England and its Neighbours – Glenn Richardson

The Coronation of Anne Boleyn

Today, June 1, 1533, the last queen to be crowned separated from her husband was coronated at WestminsterAnneboleyn2 Abbey.
The queen in question, due to the year and the place, was of course Anne Boleyn. Another thing that separated Anne´s coronation from that of other queens was that she reputedly was crowned with the original crown of St. Edward, but as there exist several theories about this crown – that it on one hand was among the crown jewels lost by king John and on other hand that it was locked up in the royal treasury of Westminster all along and therefore used by Anne.

As I´m not in a position to prove or disprove either way, I´ll be content by stating that she may have been crowned with the crown of St. Edward. In the event of the latter, it has been suggested that the reason for this particular honour was that she was not only pregnant, but also expected to be carrying a son.
In any event, the medieval crown was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War, and the current St Edward´s crown was made in 1661.

Westminster-hallThe day previous to the coronation, Anne had taken part in a procession through London where she shaded by a canopy of cloth of gold, carried by the Barons of Cinque Ports, rode on a litter of white cloth of gold rested of two palfreys which in their turn were decorated in white damask reaching all the way to the ground. Anne Boleyn herself were wearing white with a golden coronet on her head. The public who witnessed the procession was said to be less than enthusiastic.
On the actual day of the coronation, Whit Sunday 1533, she wore crimson and purple coronation robes trimmed with fur. Once again under a canopy of cloth of gold, Anne walked from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey.
Followed by a train of noble women and men as well as bishops, abbots and yeomen of the Kings Guards, Anne walked along a red carpet which reached all the way to the altar of Westminster Abbey, where she after arrival in the abbey sat on enthroned on a raised platform.

After the ceremony, during which Cranmer anointed her and put the crown on her head. When the coronationSchatzkammer_Residenz_Muenchen_Krone_Heinrich_II_1270 itself was over, it was followed by a lavish banquet in Westminster Hall which lasted for hours. Seated alone at the centre of the top table, where she ate three out of 28 plates.
The coronation festivities went on for days with hunting, tournaments, dancing and banquets as Anne embarked on her 1 000 days as the queen of England.
But on this very day, even if not for the first time, the Nun of Kent – Elizabeth Barton – publically prophesised the doom for the King and his new Queen.

 

It should be pointed out that the crown in the image is NOT the crown of St Edward. It is however, unlike the crown from 1661, a medieval crown, and may look more like the one Anne Boleyn possibly wore than the now existing crown of St Edward.

Sources:

The Drama of Coronation: Medieval Ceremony in Early Modern England – Alice Hunt

Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey – Arthur Penryhn Stanley

The six wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

The wives of Henry VIII – Antonia Frasier

 

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.