Prince Arthur: The Tudor King who Never Was – Review

Sean Cunninghamthe king that never was

Amberley Publishing

Publication: 15th July, 2016

I have had the honour to read the new book by Sean Cunningham about the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York that we rarely hear about; Prince Arthur, the intended heir to the crown.

When the name Tudor is mentioned, I dare say that it isn’t the name “Arthur” that pops up in the head of most people, but rather those of either his father, the Henry who won the Battle of Bosworth and became “the seventh” or – and probably the most likely candidate – one thinks of Arthurs younger brother, Henry, who should never have been king but still became maybe the most famous and infamous king throughout British history as Henry VIII.

But in between the two Henry´s, father and son, was the firstborn: Prince Arthur, the Tudor King who never was, which is exactly the title of Sean Cunningham´s book about the nearly forgotten son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

He was born in September 1486, and would live for only 15 years, dying after falling ill in the damp caste of Ludlow, only months after his marriage to the Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon who would later be his brother´s first wife of six, whereby Henry not only took the throne which should have been Arthur´s, but also his queen.

Sean Cunningham travels through these 15 years, exploring the hopes of Arthur´s father when the boy was born, Arthur was a name the came with expectations, taken as it was from the mythical Arthur, and speculate how England might have evolved differently if this firstborn son would have been allowed by the powers that be to live to an old age and have children of his own to inherit the crown.

Arthur was not only a son to Henry, he was the anchor that tied him down to the English throne that up until then could be lost just as easily as he had won it, through conquest. With an heir, that also was the grandson of Edward IV, his claim was strengthened.

Prince Arthur – the Tudor King who never was is an expose of the years leading up to a reign that never took place, and the result of which we can only piece together from the ambitions Henry VII drew up, and from which one can see the contours of maybe a different kind of monarch than his younger brother came to be. And Sean Cunningham does a good job.

He also recounts the point where Arthur´s ghost return to the English court he never was head of, when the doubts of whether or not Arthur´s marriage to Katherine was ever consummated, a doubt which was highlighted in the process which is known as Henry´s great matter, his strife for annulment of the years he had spent with his Spanish queen.

We also meet Henry himself in relation to the brother he barely knew, as Arthur at a young age moved to his own household at the castle where he far too early met his death.

But most importantly, and unlike in many other books, here Arthur becomes an individual of his own, built on an extensive research a work rarely done previously by historians who has had a tendency to view Arthur as nothing more than a parenthesis between the two Henrys.

The book is important, and well worth the read both for those who are completely unfamiliar with this part of Tudor history, which in other respects is so accessible and for those who has made the acquaintance of Arthur before.

 

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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

Henry VIII:s last speech to parliament – December 24, 1545

Henry VIII gave his last speech ever to his parliament on 24 December 1545. There is love,Henry rebukes and slight threats, maybe the king in a nutshell. A year later he would be on his deathbed. The words below was taken down by a member of his parliament, on this day 470 years ago.

‘Although my Chancellor for the time being has been used, before this time, very eloquently and substantially to answer such orations as have been set forth in this high court of parliament, yet he is not so able to open and set forth my mind and meaning and the secrets of my heart in so plain and ample manner as I myself can. Wherefore, taking it upon myself to answer your eloquent oration, master speaker, I say that where you, in the name of our well beloved commons, have both praised and extolled me for the notable qualities which you have conceived to be in me, I most heartily thank you all that you have reminded me of my duty, which is to endeavor myself to obtain and get such excellent qualities and necessary virtues as a prince or governor should or ought to have, of which gifts I recognize myself both bare and barren. But for such small qualities as God has endowed me with I render to his goodness my most humble thanks, intending with all my wit and diligence to get and acquire for myself such notable virtues and princely qualities as you have alleged to be incorporated in my person.

Having first remembered these thanks for your loving admonition and good counsel, I next thank you again because, considering our great charges (not for our pleasure but for your defense, not for our gain but to our great cost) which we have lately sustained, as well in defense against our and your enemies as for the conquest of that fortress which was to this realm most displeasant and noisome, and shall be by God’s grace hereafter most profitable and pleasant to our nation, you have freely of your own decision granted to us a certain subsidy, specified here in an act, which truly we take in good part, regarding more your kindness than the profit thereof, as he that sets more by your loving hearts than by your substance.

Besides this hearty kindness I cannot a little rejoice when I consider the perfect trust and sure confidence which you have put in me, as men having undoubted hope and unfeigned belief in my good deeds and just proceedings for you, since without my desire or request you have committed to my order and disposition all chantries, colleges, hospitals and other places specified in a certain act, firmly trusting that I will order them to the glory of God and the profit of the commonwealth. Surely if, contrary to your expectation, I should suffer the ministries of the church to decay, or learning (which is so great a jewel) to be diminished, a poor and miserable people to be unrelieved, you might say that I, being put in so special a trust as I am in this case, were no trusty friend to you, nor a charitable man to my fellow Christians, nor a lover of the public wealth, nor yet one who feared God, to whom account must be rendered of all our doings. Doubt not, I pray you, that you expectations will be fulfilled more Godly or goodly than you will wish or desire, as you will plainly see afterwards.

‘Now, since I find such kindness on your part towards me, I cannot choose but to love and favor you, affirming that no prince in the world more favors his subjects than I do you, and no subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord than I see you do me, for whose defense my treasure shall not be hidden, nor if necessity requires it will my person be not risked. But although I with you and you with me are in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue unless both you, my lords temporal, and you, my lords spiritual, and you, my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing which is surely amiss and far out of order, which I most heartily require you to do, which is that charity and concord is not amongst you, but discord and dissension bears rule in every place. St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in the 12th chapter: ‘Charity is gentle, Charity is not envious, Charity is not proud,’ and so on in that chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you when one calls another heretic and anabaptist and he calls him back papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Are these tokens of charity amongst you?

No, no, I assure you that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, unless this is healed and clearly made whole. I must judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly the negligence of you, the fathers and preachers of the spirituality. For if I know a man who lives in adultery I must judge him to be a lecherous and carnal person; if I see a man boast and brag about himself I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily that you of the clergy preach against each other without charity or discretion. Some are too stiff in their old ‘Mumpsimus’, others are too busy and curious in their new ‘Sumpsimus’. Thus almost all men are in variety and discord, and few or none truly and sincerely preach the word of God as they ought to do.

Shall I now judge you to be charitable persons who do this? No, no, I cannot do so. Alas, how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them in your sermons debate and discord? They look to you for light and you bring them darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word truly, both by true preaching and giving a good example, or else, I, whom God has appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my true duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant and an untrue officer.

Although (as I say) the spiritual men be in some fault that charity is not kept amongst you, yet you of the temporality be not clean and unspotted of malice and envy; for you rail on bishops, speak slanderoursly of priests and rebuke and taunt preachers; both contrary to good order and christian fraternity.  If you know surely that a bishop or preacher erreth or teacheth perverse doctrines, come and declare it to our counsel, or to us, to whom is committed, by God, the authority to reform and order such causes and behaviours and not be judges yourselves of your own fantastical opinions and vain expositions; for in such high casues you may lightly err.

And, although you be permitted to read holy scripture and to have the word of God in your mother tongue, you must understand, that it is licensed you so to do, only to inform your own conscience, and instruct your children and family, and not to dispute, and make scripture a railing stock against priests and preachers, as many light persons do.

I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same; and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst christians, never less reverenced, honoured, or served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother; love, dread, and serve God (to the which I, as your supreme head, and sovereign lord, exhort and require you); and then I doubt not, but that love and league, which I spoke of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And, as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them into execution, as you were in making and furthering the same, or else your labour shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved.

Source:

Dodd´s Church History of England from the commencement of the sixteenth century to the revolution in 1688, appendix pages 451 – 454.

 

 

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.

Sources:

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

 The life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir

 

The formidable Bess of Hardwick

Bess_of_Hardwick_as_Mistress_St_LoIt is often noted, and not without reason, that history mainly belong to the men in it. But there are a number of strong and impressive women who to a large extent shaped their own destiny, and one of those was without a doubt Elizabeth Talbot, known to history as Bess of Hardwick, which is what she will be called in this post.

Her exact birthdate is not known, and suggestions are made with in the wide range of 1521 to the last part of 1527, the latter more commonly accepted. She was the daughter of John Hardwick of Derbyshire and his wife Elizabeth Leeke who belonged to the minor gentry. Not much is known in detail about Bess’ early years, but she had four sisters of which one would later die at quite a young age, and a brother who would be heir to the family’s holdings when her father passed away around the age of 40.

It has been suggested that Bess at the age of 12 got to know both London and the Tudor court through the influence of Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche, who was lady-in-waiting of Anne Boleyn (and the one who introduced Anne B to the writings of William Tyndale), but there is no contemporary evidence to back this up.

What is clear though is that Bess, like so many other girls of her time, married very early, at “a tender age” which suggests she was younger than 16 and her first husband was the 13 year old Robert Barley. This marriage didn´t last long, due to Robert dying just a year or two later, and there is no evidence that they ever lived together as husband and wife. After his death Bess was denied her dower, which resulted in a court battle which lasted for years, but eventually was won by Bess.

By the time it was won she was already remarried, this time to the twice-widowed 593px-William_Cavendish_c1547William Cavendish, who had two daughters and was appointed Treasurer of the King´s Chamber. This marriage took place on August 20th 1547, the very last year of Henry VIII´s life. It would only last 10 years, as William Cavendish died in 1557, but the marriage resulted in eight children of which six survived. The death of Cavendish however left Bess heavily indebted to the Crown.

As the prospects for an unmarried woman was next to none in 16th century society, Bess remarried a second time in 1559 to her third husband, this time to William St Loe, making her Lady St Loe. By this time Elizabeth was on the throne, and William St Loe was captain of the Queen´s guards as well as Chief Butler of England, an appointment which basically included what the title suggests, but primarily at coronation banquets.  He held large estates in Somerset and Gloucestershire, and when he after only around six years of marriage died, something that seems to have been due to poisoning, the lack of male heirs (he had two daughters) made his worldly goods pass on to his widow Bess.

While the previous husband had left Bess in financial difficulties, William St Loe did the exact opposite, and made Lady St Loe one of the absolutely wealthiest women in the country with an annual income of £60 000, a sum which today would equal £ 16,8 million. To that should be added that she was also a Lady of the Bedchamber which gave her close and daily contact with Elizabeth I, something which undoubtedly gave her a certain amount of influence, and there is no wild guess to think that that in combination with her fortune and good looks was what made prospective husbands flock around her.

Maybe it was the knowledge that she was financially secure in her own right that kept her from rushing into a fourth marriage, as it took around three years, maybe slightly more, for her to remarry.

800px-George_Talbot_6th_Earl_of_Shrewsbury_1580Her last husband was George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, and before going into his life with Bess -or rather, her life with him – I just as a curiosity feel the need to mention that there a couple of generations back in his family tree is to be found a certain Eleanor Talbot, later Butler, who is no other than the female party in the alleged and oh so discussed pre-contract with Edward IV. But that´s all that will be said in regards to that matter in this post.

It´s maybe not easy to say who benefited most from what, but clear is that both Bess and George saw advantages in really tying their families together, because not only did the two get married, Bess 12 year old daughter Mary Cavendish was married to George´s 16 year old son Gilbert, while George´s 8 year old daughter Grace was married to Bess´s 18 year old son Henry Cavendish in a double ceremony.

Whether these two unions was to be happier than that of their parents I cannot say, but fact is that Bess and her husband George Talbot would eventually have a falling out, allegedly fuelled by no other than Mary Queen of Scots. When the Scottish queen had been driven into exile by her disgruntled lords and sought out the protection of her cousin Elizabeth I, we all know what happened, she ended up in an 18 yearlong house arrest, which for the greater part, 15 years, took place in the home of Bess of Hardwick and her husband.

It seems the Mary and Bess must have found some kind of friendship bond, andoxburgh together they spend hours at needlework, something they were both proficient at. The result is now known as the Oxburgh Hangings and can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bess´s tapestries marked by the initials BS, and part of Mary´s other embroideries were to become part of Bess´s extensive collection which can now be seen at Hardwick Hall. But there were downsides to the arrangement as well, Mary seems to have played out the Talbots against each other, with the result that Bess started rumours of her husband having an affair with the deposed queen. The marriage was falling apart, and even Elizabeth herself tried to act as a kind of marriage counsellor, but to no avail.

Hardwick_Hall_in_Doe_Lea_-_DerbyshireGeorge Talbot died in 1590, making Bess of Hardwick the Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury. Bess, now in her 70´s, did not marry again, but she did continue another “hobby”, she after having built Chatsworth House in 1560, she now embarked on Hardwick Hall, in the vicinity of the old Hardwick Hall where she lived as a child. The new hall was given it´s very own rhyme due to it´s design with an unusual amount of windows; “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”.

While she spent over a decade basically being a guarding an heir presumptive to the Lady_Arabella_Stuartthrone, Bes would in time herself raise one herself, her granddaughter Arabella, or Arbella, Stuart. Arabella was the daughter of Bess daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart, younger brother of Henry, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots.

This made Arabella great great granddaughter of Henry VII, and yet another possible heir to the throne. While Bess indeed had such ambitions for her granddaughter, Arabella herself was less than inclined, something which would eventually lead to a complete break between the two. Seven year after her grandmother´s death, Arabella would herself die as a prisoner in the Tower due to her own actions, but more about that in a separate post.

Due to Arabella´s refusal to stake her claim to both the Scottish and the English throne, Bess never got to see a descendant as monarch, but she does in fact have one right now; Elizabeth II

While no date of birth exist for Bess, the information on her death is more specific, and this formidable woman passed away at 5 pm on February 13th, which was a Sunday, 1608 at the age of 81. She was put to her final rest in All Saint´s Parish Church, Derby, today´s Derby Cathedral.

Over the past years a large number on letters, to and from Bess of Hardwick has been found and compiled in an online database by the University of Glasgow. The letters has helped change the view of Bess and I will return to them in a later post.

 

Sources:

Mistress of Hardwick – Alison Plowden

The Life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir

Bess of Hardwick; Portrait of an Elizabethan Dynasty – David Durant

Bessofhardwick.org

Images:

Oxburgh Hanging – Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

Hardwick Hall in Doe Lea, Derbyshire/Wikimedia

Arabella Stuart – Robert Peake/National Galleries of Scotland

My lady, the King´s Mother

Less than a week after her grandson Henry VIII had been crowned, and the day after his 18th birthday, the true founder of theLady_Margaret_Beaufort_from_NPG Tudor dynasty gave up her last breath. Having outlived her only son and three husbands, Margaret Beaufort died on June 29th 1509 at the deanery of Westminster Abbey.

Having lived through the turbulent period of the Wars of the Roses and seen the wheel of her fortune take it´s turn for both the better and for the worst, she went to her death as a woman who had been caring and loving to those close to her, and also prepared to help those who needed, being said to at any given time having had at least 12 poor people living with her, whom she provided with food, clothes and housing.

She has been accused by modern writers for being scheming and conniving, but she was a tough survivor when times demanded that of her, and she has even been accused of being the orchestrator behind the presumed death of the princes in the Tower, which, according to me is simply ridiculous, not least as she at the time was placed under house arrest, and someone else obviously ”had the key to the door.”

When Margaret died, members of her household as well as her friend and chaplain John Fisher who decades later would be executed surrounded her on the order of her grandson.

Margaret Beaufort was laid to rest in a tomb at Westminster Abbey

Source: Margaret Beaufort-Mother of the Tudor Dynasty – Elizabeth Norton

Elizabeth Barton – the Nun of Kent

I mentioned Elizabeth Barton in my previous post, and while many interested in the Tudor era may know who she was,Elizabeth-Barton there may still be many who doesn´t, and as my posts also are a learning process for myself, here she comes;

There isn´t much known about the early life of the woman who would become known as “the Nun of Kent”, firstly both tolerated and respected, depending on which layer of society you´d ask. She is said to have come from a rather poor background in Aldington outside Canterbury, and like so many other women from the lower classes of society, she was working as a servant in a more well off home, the house of Thomas Cobb, when the visions began in 1525 when Elizabeth was 18 years old. The starting point of her visions coincided with a grave illness, where she by some accounts were catatonic up to 7 months, which may be an exaggeration, but on the other hand – without having seen either of them, obviously – what comes to mind is the state of Henry VI which lasted for over a year. After her illness she became a nun at St Selpulchre´s in Canterbury.

There have been suggestions however that she may have suffered from epileptic fits, a thought that may be supported by an account by Thomas Cromwell who wrote to a cleric “Her face was wonderfully disfigured, her tongue hanging out, and her eyes being in a manner plucked out, and laid upon her cheeks, and so greatly disordered.”

While we today most likely would look with great scepticism on someone claiming to have divine visions, but in Tudor times these were acceptable, even if unusual manifestations of religious devotions and Elizabeth Barton soon gathered a following consisting of thousands of people.

To begin with, her visions were rather harmless, she encouraged people to live good Christian lives and to undertake pilgrimages, she predicted the death of her patron´s son and she claimed to be able to give accounts of faraway places and the afterlife and she gained the blessing of the archbishop of Canterbury.

When she claimed an angle had told her that she had to go to the king and tell him terrible things would happen if he denounced Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn instead, Henry´s patience started to deteriorate. Even so, there are records that he actually received her twice. She also had meetings with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop John Fisher, Thomas More and a large number of monks at Canterbury, Observant Franciscan Friars from Greenwich and Richmond as well as the Birgitte Nuns and priests of Syon.

It had been all fine and well while she was condemning rebellions and heresy, but when she started to interfere in the King´s business, her days were counted. She turned against the reformation, as well as the marriage to Anne, and stated that Henry himself would soon die a villain´s death. Henry swiftly decided that she was a fraud. Elizabeth Barton was arrested in 1533 and allegedly admitted that all her revelations and prophesies was fraudulent, after which she was condemned by attainder. All information that exists about her confessions, however, come from Thomas Cromwell and his agents.

Elizabeth Barton and five of her chief supporters, five of which were priests, were hanged for treason on April 20th 1534. She is the only woman in history who after execution has had her head put on a spike London Bridge.

 

 

 

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

New Worlds, Lost Worlds; The rule of the Tudors 1485 – 1603 – Susan Brigden

The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

The Holy Maid of Kent: The Life of Elizabeth Barton: 1506–1534 – Alan Neame