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.

 

 

The many virtues of Katherine of Aragon

On the night between 15-16th December 1485, Catalina de Aragón was born in Alcalá KatherineofAragonde Henares in Spain. She would of course in time become more known as Katherine of Aragon, princess of Wales and eventually Queen of England, as we all know ironically not married to the same man while being the princess as when she became queen.

For some reason, there is a tendency to bring up the tragic parts of Katherine´s life when her name is mentioned, she lived in misery between the death of her first husband prince Arthur and the marriage to her second husband, Arthur´s younger brother Henry VIII. She lost a heartbreaking number of children and she was eventually cast aside when Henry in a combination of successional panic and desire for Anne Boleyn decided he wanted the marriage annulled.

But there was more to Kathrine of Aragon than just the victim she often is portrayed as, born as the youngest surviving child of “Los Reyes Catholicos”, Ferdinand and Isabella – whose actions in defeating the Moors, the Spanish inquisition and role in the conquest of the Americas one can say a lot about but this is not the place – she had a mother who was a Queen in her on right, and who herself had taken part in battle.

No doubt she raised a strong daughter in whose corner she would be until she, Isabella, died. Through Isabella Katherine herself had a claim to the English throne as she just as Henry (and Arthur) was a descendant of John of Gaunt, but unlike them not through the Beaufort line which had been barred from inheriting the crown by Henry IV (the legitimacy of that decision has been questioned). She received a thorough education in arithmetic, canon and civil law, classical literature, genealogy and heraldry, history, philosophy, religion, and theology by her tutor Alessandro Geraldini, as well as languages. Apart from the obvious Spanish she also spoke French and Greek, as well as mastering Latin. No doubt her own education played a part when she years later would insist that her own daughter Mary receive the same education as if she had been a prince in line for the throne (which she in reality was).

Her promotion of learning was praised by the scholar Desiderius Erasmus who in a letter 1518 mentions Henry´s court as more of an academy than a court, but also describes Katherine as astonishingly well read, far beyond what would be surprising in a woman, and [she is] as admirable for piety as she is for learning”.

Katherine was also the patron not only of Erasmus, but of the Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives who dedicated two of his books to the queen, De Institutione Feminae Christianae (The Education of a Christian Woman) as well as De Ratione Studii Puerilis (The Plan of Study for Children), both written in 1523 while he was tutoring princess Mary.

But let´s go back slightly in time, and re-connect to the fact that Katherine was the daughter of a female ruler, Isabella of Castile more than once proved her ability as a monarch, it may not be surprising that Katherine herself proved to be a very competent governor of the realm and captain-general of English army while Henry campaigned on the continent against the French, fighting the relatively minor Battle of Spurs.

Back home, on the other hand his wife won a devastating victory over the invading Scottish army at the battle of Flodden. I won´t go as far as to say that it´s a fact that has been ignored, but it´s certainly far too often over-shadowed by the image of the miserable Katherine.

Maybe I haven´t shared something you didn´t already know, but I think that as her 530th birthday is upon us, Katherine of Aragon should be remembered for her knowledge and strengths instead of her failures and misery instead.

 

Sources

The correspondence of Erasmus – R.A.B Mynors and D.F.S Thomson

“Catherine of Aragon.” Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries

projectcontinua.org/catherine-of-aragon/

The wives of Henry VIII – Antonia Fraser

The wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

Isabella of Angoulême

Isabella of Angoulême was crowned Queen  consort of King John, at which time she 800px-IsabelledAngoulemewas only 12 years old on this day, October 8 1200.

She was the daughter of Aymer, the last Count of Angoulême of the House of Taillefer. After having been Queen of England for two years Isabella became Countess of Angoulême in her own right as her father died.

Isabella is said to have been a great beauty, but allegedly had a temper which was comparable to that of her husband, causing the marriage to deteriorate over time (even if the marriage had been a political coup for John, there are suggestions that he was infatuated with her at least for a time).

In relation to children, Isabella was fortunate compared to many other women of the period in the was that she got to see them all reach adulthood, and there was quite a few, in her marriage to John, five children were born, the oldest becoming Henry III at the time of John´s death.

After becoming the Queen dowager, she married Hugh X of Lusignan, the son of her former fiancée to who she had been betrothed when she´d been married to John and had another nine children. The plan had been to marry her eldest daughter to Hugh, but when he saw the beauty of his future mother-in-law, things took quite another turn.

Through this marriage she angered the King´s Council as she had not asked for their consent, and chances are, as they could make the decision, is that they may not have allowed her to remarry at all. As a punishment, they confiscated all her dower lands, with the result that she threatened to keep Princess Joan, promised in marriage to the Scottish king, in France. This escalated the conflict to the point where the council started sending letters to the Pope in the name of the young king, demanding that Isabella was excommunicated. The two parties managed however to reach an agreement.

After not being shown sufficient respect as Queen Dowager of England by the French Queen Blanche, for whom she had nothing but hate going back to 1216 when Blanche had encouraged an invasion of England in support of the Barons, she set plans in motion to create an English confederacy in France, something that came to nothing. After her second husband had made peace with the French king, Isabella´s resentment continued to simmer, and in 1244 she was accused of having bribed to royal cooks to poison the king.

Rather than accepting the consequences, she fled to Fontevraud Abbey where she died two years later, in 1246, 30 years after her first husband.

 

Sources:

King John and the road to Magna Carta – Stephen Church

The Magnificent Century – Thomas B. Costain

King John – Treachery, Tyranny and the road to Magna Carta – Marc Morris

 

Birthday of Richard III

On this day in 1452 Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitNorthamptonshire.

It is safe to say that no other medieval king has stirred such emotions over the centuries as Richard, first known as the black king who killed his nephews and over the last few years, the tide has turned drastically in Richard´s favour.

The truth of who the man was can most likely be found somewhere between the “black” Richard and the “white” Richard. The fact is, however, that he all through his brother´s, Edward IV, reign was a trusted and loyal Lord of the North and known as an excellent soldier.

The events about which opinions will most likely differ forever took place after Edward´s death:  the arrests of the lords Rivers and Grey at Stoney Stratford and their subsequent executions, the confinement of young king Edward V and his brother Richard at the Tower, the alleged pre-contract and the following Titulus Regius which made all children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate, the very dubious execution of lord Hastings and finally the disappearance of the princes from the Tower.

These are the things we know happened, even if we may never fully find out the answers to why and how. What kind of king Richard would have made in the long run is almost impossible to say as he only held the throne for two years before being killed at the Battle of Bosworth where he met Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII in 1485.

As we all know, the remains of Richard was found under a carpark in Leicester in September 2012, on the site where the Grey Friars church once stood. He was put to his final rest in Leicester Cathedral earlier this year.

Today we wish him a happy birthday!

Lambert Simnel – pretender

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:

The Tudor Age – James A. Williamson

The Tudors – G. J. Meyer

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

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

The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir

The king´s fool – Will Somers

Until the the overthrow of Charles I, the tradition of not only court jesters, but also in

the households of prominent noblemen was a common feature, even if the name jester didn´t appear until mid-16th century, among earlier names we would find fol (fool), disour, and bourder The Royal Shakespeare Company has described them as follows:

In ancient times, courts employed fools and by the Middle Ages the jester was a familiar figure. In Renaissance times, aristocratic households in Britain employed licensed fools or jesters, who sometimes dressed as other servants were dressed, but generally wore a motley (of mixed colours or materials) coat, hood with ass’s ears or a red-flannel coxcomb and bells. Regarded as pets or mascots, they served not simply to amuse but to criticize their master or mistress and their guests. Queen Elizabeth is said to have rebuked one of her fools for being insufficiently severe with her. Excessive behaviour, however, could lead to a fool being whipped, as Lear threatens to whip his fool.

There is no wonder that Royal Shakespeare Company has had reason to explore the fool, as they are recurring in several of Shakespeare´s plays. In Twelfth Night, it is stated that the jester is the one who is wise enough to play the fool.

The fools of Elizabeth, or at least one of the, is someone who is the reason for this entire post and I will return to him, but first I want to look at the jester, or the fool, as a cultural phenomenon. Apart from criticizing the king or queen, and –maybe one can say – serving as a kind of conscience for the monarch, the jester also of course provided entertainment such as storytelling, joggling, magic and acrobatics. It could also be the jester who delivered bad news to his or her monarch when no one else dared, something which was maybe facilitated by the ability to play the “fool” and maybe thereby taking the “edge” of the bad tidings.

The jester, of fool, that I hinted at earlier, is of course Will Somers, who was with every Tudor monarch from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I, if even only up until the coronation of Elizabeth.

800px-WillSommers_engraving_300dpiWill Somers was born in Shropshire and had somehow ended up in Calais where he apparently dazzled the merchant Richard Fermour with his humour, because Fermour introduced Will to Henry VIII at Greenwich as early as 1525, and he would not only stay with the king throughout his reign but as I mentioned earlier, server all of his three children, even if retiring after the coronation of Elizabeth.

It seems a genuine friendship grew between the king and fool, maybe fueled by the fact that unlike the nobles, Will Somers never seem to have tried to capitalise on his friendship with the king, something which no doubt was something of a new experience for the king. Even so, the friendship wasn´t entirely without friction, around 10 years after Will Somers had entered the court Sir Nicholas Carew dared him to call queen Anne a ribald and young princess Elizabeth a bastard, something that sent the king into such a flying rage that he threatened to kill the Somers with his own bare hands.

The poor jester had to hide at Carew´s home in Beddington until the king´s anger had abated. Even so, it was around this time the king really started having physical ailments, something which would only grow worse over the years until the time of his death, and while Will Somers obviously could be at the receiving end of Henry´s anger, it is said that he was the only one who could lift the kings spirit when the pain from his ulcers kept him confined to his chamber or made it difficult for him to be in a benign mood.

Towards the end of the king´s life, Will Somers would be one of less than a handful of people to whom Henry VIII shared his most inner thoughts.

When Henry died, one can say that Will Somers was part of the inheritance left to Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, but he had lost his prominent position in relation to the reigning monarch, while it is noted that he made Edward laugh, he was in large parts reduced to a sidekick of Mary´s own Jane the Fool. His last recorded performance was at the coronation of Elizabeth I.

Family_of_Henry_VIII_c_1545

He is believed to be the Will Somers whose death is recorded on June 15th 1560 in the parish of St. Leonard´s, Shoreditch.

 

Fools and jesters at the English Court – John Soutworth

Notes of the Fool – Royal Shakespeare Company

Jester – Encyclopaedia Britannica

King & Court – Alison Weir

The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

 

Images: Wikipedia

It is said that the man in the background of the painting of Henry´s family is believed be Will Somers

The death of Thomas Cromwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Item I bequeth to thurston my Coke vjli xiijs iiijd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:

Robert Barnes – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Sacramentarism – Encyclopaedia Britannica

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

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

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of Henry VIII

Images: Bodleian Library, mariordo, Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Marriage undone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

The six wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

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

The life and death of Thomas More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sources:

The Life of Thomas More – Peter Ackroyd

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

The Lost Prince – David Baldwin

The life and death of Anne Boleyn – Eric Ives

 

Images:

Thomas More – Hans Holbein the younger

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

Photo of statue at Chelsea – Edwardx

 

 

 

 

 

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