Will Kempe – Shakespeare´s clown

When William Shakespeare wrote his plays, he didn´t do it for any random actors, but 800px-Will_Kemp_Elizabethan_Clown_Jigspecifically for his own company – first called The Lord Chamberlain´s Men and after the accession of James I The King´s Men – and most likely with the different actors in mind for specific parts in each plays.

In the company there was also a “clown”, the one to get the particularly comical parts, and the first one of these was William – or Will – Kempe.

It isn´t known for certain where Will Kempe was born, or who his parents were, but there are theories that he may have belonged to the Kempe family of the manor Olantigh in Kent.

Will Kempe started his career as an actor in Leicester´s Men, the company receiving its patronage from the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, and he is first mentioned performing at Leicester House in May 1585 together with the company and he toured with them in the Netherlands and Denmark.

Already in 1583 Leicester´s Men had begun to be slightly depleted when several of it´s members jumped ship to instead join the newly formed Queen Elizabeth´s Men, which had been created on the direct order of the Queen herself. In 1588 the Earl of Leicester died, and the theatre company, which he had endorsed, ceased to exist all together. In 1593 Will Kempe resurfaced in Lord Strange´s Men which consisted of retainers of the household of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. It the very same year the company changed its name to Lord Derby´s Men, as Ferdinando Stanley came into his father´s title.

By this time Will Kempe had started to become known, both to the audience and his fellow actors as a great comical talent, and he stayed with Lord Stange´s/Lord Derby´s Men for only a year, and joined The Lord Chamberlain´s Men in 1594 where just that talent was put to good use in roles such as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Peter in Romeo and Juliet and, as already mentioned, Falstaff and most likely Lancelot Gobbo in the Merchant of Venice as well as Bottom in A Midsummer Night´s Dream.

He may also have been the original Falstaff, but this is less certain. In the introduction to the 19th century print of Kempe´s own book, “Kemps Nine Daies Wonder Performed in a Daunce from London to Norwich”, which there will be more about later in his post, the Reverend Alexander Dyce also states that he most likely played the parts of Launce in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, Touchstone in “As you like it”, one of the grave-diggers in “Hamlet”, Justice Shallow in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and he supposedly also had a part in “Every Man in his Humour” by Ben Jonson, written in 1598 and performed by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men.

Will Kempe stayed with Shakespeare and The Lord Chamberlain´s only until 1599, and while the reason for him leaving isn´t documented, scholars have suggested that it was a result that William had had enough of his improvising on stage, and it has been said that Shakespeare made a reference to this conflict in Hamlet, where the following lines can be found in act 3, scene 2;

“And let those that play  your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh  too.”

Others suggest that he left because he had been denied a role in Hamlet.

Kemp's_Men,_Chapelfield_Gardens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_167501After the departure of Will Kempe from the company, Shakespear´s comical roles are said to have changed, and there are indications that Will Kempe had a physical way of acting which may have been hard for his successor to follow.

His ambition was to find another outlet for his comical talent, and one way of doing so was to, in 1599, embark on a Morris dance from London to Norwich, a distance of almost 100 miles which took nine days spread over several weeks (23 days all in all) from start to finish, and resulted in a book penned by Kempe himself; Kempe´s Nine Daies of Wonder.

If searching for information of Kempe´s Morris Dance, it should be noted that the year varies between 1599 and 1600, which allegedly has to do with differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendar, and that notes may have been changed after the fact.

In 1599 Ben Jonson wrote a sequel to his Every Man in his Humour, called “Every Man out of his Humour”. This too was played by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, the irony being that while Will Kempe was missing from the cast, he was very much present through a line in the play, alluding to his Morris dancing that very same year;

“Would I had one of Kemp’s shoes to throw after you!”

A year later he supposedly left England to tour Europe, returning in 1602, when he joined the acting company Worcester´s Men, but at the same time, he is said to during 1601 have borrowed money from the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe.

Just as only assumptions can be made when it comes Will Kempe´s background, this is also the case for when and where he died. He is mentioned one last time in Philip Henslow´s diary from 1602, and after that there is “silence”.

Some scholars believe him to have died in the plague in 1603, when one of the biggest outbreaks occurred, but no sources exist to really substantiate this. In parish records for St. Saviour in Southwark, there is a mentioning of “A man, Kempe” which died in late 1603. There is however no way of knowing that this is the right Kempe, but facts remain that he was never heard of again after this year.




William Kempe – Amanda Mabillard, Shakespeare Online, May 31, 2016.



A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964 – F.E. Halliday


The Elizabethan Stage – E.K. Chambers


Shakespeare A to Z – Charles Boyce


The Shakespearan Stage 1574-1642 – Andrew Gurr



Will Kempes Nine Daies of Wonder : Performed in Daunce from London to Norwich – Will Kempe/Camden Society/Gutenberg Project


Wood carving of Will Kempe in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich – Graham Hardy/Wikimedia Commons

Will Kempe. Nine Daies of Wonder – Wikimedia Commons

The Southampton Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Agincourt: A New History – Anne Curry

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

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

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

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

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


Portchester Castle – Matthew Folley/Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Unfortunately images of the actual plotters are less then scarce

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


George Boleyn, sentenced today


George_Boleyn_signatureHe was the only surviving son among the Boleyn-children, George, Viscount Rochford. At one point he had had two brothers, Henry and Thomas, neither of whom reached adulthood. Only George, Anne and Mary were fortunate to do that.
In the end, only Mary would be left. George was arrested on May 2nd, the same day as his sister and today, in 1536, he stood trial accused of treason and an incestuous relation with his sister Anne.
It was said that the child – a boy – Anne had miscarried in January had been gravely deformed, and the reason for this was that she had conceived it with her brother. There is how ever no proof that there should have been some inappropriate relationship between brother and sister, other than that George at one point is said to have spent an unusually long time alone together with her.

Unlike his sisters, George never received any education at the French court, but on the other hand, as a courtier of Henry VIII he went on several successful embassies to France in different matters, one of which was to arrange the marriage between his, at the time, very young princess Elizabeth and the French dauphin, something which obviously never came to be.
Among his many appointments, one find Gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Esquire of The Body, diplomat, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle. This indicates that the King liked and trusted George Boleyn in his own right, and it is said that before he know who he actually was, even Eustace Chapuys, who hated to Boleyn´s for no strange reason, had liked George.

In contemporary texts, all though mostly after his death, George is recognised as a charming and intelligent man of436px-Arms_of_the_Boleyn_family_of_London good looks, and as that is the description of the kind of courtier Henry surrounded himself with, it most likely is accurate. There was also another side to George Boleyn though, and that was an arrogant, proud and maybe even ruthless side. He was a womaniser and due to a poem by the gentleman usher of Cardinal Wolsey, George Cavendish, George Boleyn has also received a reputation as a possible rapist as the very first line of the poem reads “I forced widows, maidens I did deflower” which indicate that he didn´t take no for an answer.
On one hand, it can be argued that George Cavendish was a staunch catholic who hated the Boleyn´s for their support of a reformed religion, but on the other hand, the poem continues by praising George for the already mentioned intelligence (wit) and charm, thereby giving the poem a balance in which may make the text more credible.
At the time of his trial, most of those watching thought he would be aquitted, and Eustace Chapuys, again, confirmed that George Boleyn had put up a brilliant defence. He later stated that George had been convicted only on presumptions.

But convicted he was, and on this day George sentenced to die a traitors death by being hanged, drawn and quartered. This was later commuted to a beheading. On the scaffold, George Boleyn gave a speech that went a bit further than what was custom, and he stated “Masters all, I am not come hither for to preach, but for to die, for I have deserved to died if had 20 lives, more shamefully than can be devised, for I am a wretched sinner, and I have sinned shamefully.”

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

Site of ancient scaffold at Tower Hill

That he claimed to be a wretched sinner and that he´d sinned shamefully has come to be interpreted by some historians as a hint to George Boleyn being homosexual, and having lived out his orientation.

The historian Retha Warnicke went as far as in her book “The rise and fall of Anne Boleyn” as to suggest that all men charged and executed in relation to Anne Boleyn was actually really condemned for being homosexuals. This, however, has been refuted by other historians but was in sorts resurrected by Alison Weir in her book the “Lady in the Tower – The fall of Anne Boleyn”. There are however no contemporary evidence that George Boleyn was homo- or bisexual, or even, apart from the possible translation of the first line in Cavendish poem, a violent man.

George Boleyn was executed on May 17th, two days before his sister, on Tower Hill and is, like Anne, buried in St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower.



Sources: Letters and papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII
Calendar of State papers, Spain.
The Lady of the Tower – The fall of Anne Boleyn – Alison Weir
The wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir
The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn – Retha Warnicke
The Anne Boleyn Files – Claire Ridgeway

Image of site of Tower Hill scaffold – Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Boleyn family Crest – NinjaKid/Ollie Martin

The accession

“But when you know what a hero he now shows himself, how wisely he behaves, what a lover he is of justice and goodness, what affection he bears to the learned, I will venture to swear that you will need wings to make you fly to behold this new and auspicious star…If you could see how all the world here is rejoicing in the possession of so great a prince, how his life is all their desire, you could not contain your tears of joy.”
Lord Montjoy to Erasmus, 1509

1491_Henry_VIIIIt was a handsome man who was proclaimed king today, after the death of his father.
6.2 tall, broad shouldered, athletic and a face “so round and beautiful that it would become a pretty woman” as the Venetian diplomat Pasqualigo wrote back home about the English king Henry VIII about eight years after Henry VIII had been crowned.

As foreign emissary´s didn´t really had anything to lose in being honest about the English monarch, it has been assumed as a truthful testimony to the fact that Henry actually was an attractive man in the years preceding the injuries that left him obese, sickly, erratic and dangerous.

But on this day, in 1509, the Henry which has unfortunately been the one to survive into posterity lay far ahead in the future.
His accession was the first one without surrounding conflict in over 100 years, and it was greeted with bonfires and celebrations.

In the months to come, the 17 year old would be guided by his formidable paternal grandmother, Margaret Beaufort, who in him would have seen her vision transform into the making of a dynasty.

Sources: Henry VIII; a study in Kingship – Michael A.R. Graves
Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle – writer of letters

If one for some reason watched the television series The Tudors, there is a risk that one believe Henry VIII had an uncleArmsOfArthurPlantagenet_ViscountLisle who was murdered in Urbino during some mission there. He didn´t
He did however have a maternal uncle, Arthur Plantagenet, who was the illegitimate son of Edward IV and to whom, in spite of their relatively large age difference, came to be close. This is the brief story of Arthur, who really deserve more than I am able to provide here.

It isn´t absolutely certain who the mother of Arthur was, the most often recurring suggestion is “the wanton wench” Elizabeth Wayte, and while the historian David Baldwin states that Arthur was called Wayte in his earliest years, it has also been suggested that she may be identical to one of Edward´s mistresses, Dame Elizabeth Lucy who was the mother of several others of Edward´s illegitimate children, or if she´s an entirely different woman. Another candidate that has been suggested as the mother of Arthur Plantagenet is Elizabeth Shore, while one of many who shared the King´s bed, maybe the most famous of them.

In any event, Arthur was born in Calais, still in English possession, sometime between 1461 and 1475 and spent his childhood at the court of his father, but it is not known who he spent the years directly after the death of his father.
His half-sister, Elizabeth of York, however, brought him to her household after her marriage to Henry VII and when she died in 1502 he moved to the household of Henry VII where he stayed until the old king died and was replaced by his son, Henry VIII. By all accounts, he was held in high esteem by his nephew, the new King, who called him “the gentlest heart living” and made him an Esquire of the King´s Bodyguard. In 1511 Arthur married Elizabeth Grey, widow after Edmund Dudley, and thereby paternal grandmother of Robert Dudley. In 1514 Arthur Plantagenet was appointed High Sheriff of Hampshire and from there went on to become captain of the Vice-Admiral´s ship Trinity Sovereign and rising to the position as Vice-Admiral of England in 1525.

British_-_Field_of_the_Cloth_of_Gold_-_Google_Art_ProjectBefore then he had attended Henry VIII at the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520, been created 1st Viscount Lisle in 1523, selected to the Privy Council and made Governor of Calais and Warden of Cinque Ports.
It is during his time in Calais that Arthur Plantagenet – and his second wife Honor – maybe unwittingly make his imprint on history. It didn´t happen through some heroic act, and probably wasn´t paid much heed to then, other than Cromwell to some extent criticized him for it: he wrote a copious amounts of letters. The criticism directed at him was that Cromwell felt he paid too much attention to trivial things that had no importance to the machinations of politics. But without those letters, today known as “The Lisle Letters”, chances are much less would have been known about the time in which Arthur Plantagenet lived and worked.
The correspondence was between Lord and Lady Lisle and their family, court acquaintances, servants, their retainers and Lord Lisle´s agent in London, John Husee.

Of these letters, the amazing number of 3 000 survives today, the largest collection of letters from the period belongingGeorgeRolle_LetterToLadyLisle_28Feb1539 to the same person, and has been of an enormous importance for historians and others interested to gain an insight to the period. The main reason for them surviving is a sad one.
In 1540, several members of the Plantagenet household was arrested for treason on the charges of plotting to surrender the town on Calais to the French. The actual plotters were all executed, but no evidence could be found against Arthur Plantagenet himself, even though his extensive correspondence had been seized and read by the crown. Even so, he was kept in the Tower for two years, and no longer being a young man, it no doubt took its toll on him. I recently read that Arthur eventually was allowed to move around the Tower walls. Looking out over the Thames, he saw his nephew and old friend, Henry VIII, travelling in the Royal Barge. Arthur raised his hands, waved and shouted.

The next day he had a visit to his cell from Henry´s secretary with the news that he was going to be free and be returned to his offices. This was however too much for the old man to handle and he had a heart attack.
Two days later, on March 3rd 1542, Arthur Plantagenet died.

His vast correspondence is now kept at The National Archives at Kew, and can be looked at by the public. The letters range from January 1st 1533 to December 31st 1540.

Sources: The Lost Prince, The survival of Richard of York – David Baldwin

The Lisle Letters, an abridged version – Muriel St. Clare Byrne

Letter to Honor Plantagenet, Lady Lisle, from George Rolle, Devon – The Lisle Letters, 6 vols, Muriel St. Clare Byrne

Richard III and the murder in the Tower

This is not a book to my liking. While that is not a general requirement for books, it is a requirement for books I read.

It´s not that I am unused to reading academic texts, but this is just too much, and fact is that when I read it I can´t avoid the feeling of being at a lecture where the speaker is so enthusiastic over his subject so he just don´t know where to start or really where to go.

Peter A Hancock´s aim is to analyse the events surrounding the murder of Will Hastings by – even if by proxy – Richard III, or as he was titled at the time; Duke of Gloucester and Lord Protector under the minority of Edward V.

The author Peter A. Hancock want to find the answer to if Richard all along had the ambition to take the throne for himself, of if he was “just a man of his time” and acted on information given to him on the day of Lord Hastings death.

He makes the assumption that it may be connected to Edward IV:s alleged pre-contract with Eleanor Butler, and spends a great deal of time attempting to prove that such a contract even existed, which is quite a fruitless endeavour, because even in the event it existed at the time, any evidence is long gone.

But he goes through the connections of Richard of Gloucester and Edward IV to see how, where and when contact could have been made between Butler and Edward, he goes through William Catesby, well basically his entire family tree, as well as for Lady Butler, analyse the behaviour of Bishop Stillington who allegedly was the one who let the cat out of the bag; that is to say; revealed that there was a such a thing as a pre-contract which made the marriage between Edward and Elizabeth Woodville null and void, and thereby all their children illegitimate.

While there are many non-fiction books which work perfectly to read as a novel, this is not one of them, it may be better served in rather small portions, if at all.

It contains a lengthy reference list, but I find that Peter A. Hancock not to the extent I would like makes it clear in the actual text on what he based his assumptions, guesses and speculations on. This may sound like I belittle his work more than is required for making a point of not liking the book, but in this topic assumptions, guesses and speculations are all any of us have. The only “evidence” any of us have around the reason why Richard of Gloucester acted as he did when he assumed the crown for himself.

This book is clearly directed to the most staunch of Ricardians, and while I don´t see Richard as a villain, I´m not one of them, which may be a reason to why I can´t bring myself to think this is a book that was really worth the “trouble”.



Richard III murder in tower

Finally to rest

Crown of Richard III

Domine Jesu Christe, liberare dignetur ,

servus regis Ricardi de omni angustia ,

in quo positus sum …

Tribulationem et exaudi me,

in nomine tuo ,

pro eo quod gratias ago ,

et omnia dona concessit ei mihi,

quod nihil ex me tibi amorem et misericordiam ,

dignetur de redemisti aeterna damnatio aeterna pollicebantur .

Coffin, white rosesSo, today is the day. After being lost and without a proper grave at least since the dissolution of the Grey Friars friary, Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, will finally be put to rest.

During the week so far, thousands upon thousands of visitors has queued to pay their respect. Ceremonies has been held and prayers have been said. Every day during the past days people have been able to pay their respect to the former king, and while I haven´t been fortunate to be n Leicester myself during this week, friends I´ve never met has been kind enough to lend me their images, as well as Leicester Cathedral.

The day will start with a procession at 10.30 from the Guild Hall in Leicester and an hour later it´s time to finally letPlanta Genista and white roses - tree of life Richard rest at Leicester Cathedral.

The prayer at the top of the page is taken from Richard´s book of prayers. Maybe it won´t be said today, but in any event it may be fitting. English translation at the bottom.

May you rest in peace

Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free my, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…hear me, in the name of all your goodness, for which I give thanks, and for all the gifts granted to me, because you made me from nothing and redeemed me out of your bounteous love and pity from eternal damnation to promising eternal life.




A final journey to Bosworth Field








Knights and rose - cathedral


Crown of Richard III – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Crown of spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Photography

 Coffin and white roses – Photo Mike Sewell, copyright Leicester Cathedral

 Planta Genista and white roses – Photo and copyright: Rosalind Broomhall

Crown on spear – Photo and copyright: Susan Vernon Phopgraphy

 Coffin in Cathedral – Photo Will Johnston, copyright Leicester Cathedral

In my end is my beginning


The quote in the headline in attributed to Marias Stuart, queen of the Scots, who on the 8th of February met her death through beheading at Fotheringhay Castle, sentenced for conspiring to murder her the cousin of her father as well as regent of England, Elizabeth I. As the only surviving child of James V of Scotland – son of Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII – and Mary of Guise, Mary became queen at the tender age of 6 days and Scotland came to be ruled by a council of regency, not least since Mary Stuart from the age of 5 lived in France where she had been married to the dauphin, one day to become Francis II. She returned to Scotland in 1561 after only a short time on the French throne as Francis died in 1560, only a year after being crowned king.

The execution of Mary, which took place on this day 428 years ago, is connected to her claim to the English throne as a successor to the childless Elizabeth I. to the chagrin of Elizabeth, Mary shortly after her return from France, had married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (I will return to this at some point), an arrogant and self-absorbed man who also was her cousin through the half-sister of her father, Margaret Douglas. Together they had the son James, who in other words was of blood royal though both parents, which almost made his claim to the throne stronger than that of Elizabeth. Mary demanded that James should be named heir to the English throne, but Elizabeth was of the opinion that as soon as she named an heir, her days would be counted, not least due to the strong support enjoyed by Mary from the English Catholics.

Mary, who can´t, even with an endless amount of good will, be said to have been a good monarch, fled toTrial_of_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots_-_Documents_relating_to_Mary,_Queen_of_Scots_(1586),_f.569__-_BL_Add_MS_48027 England after a number of very strange decisions and events which included the murder of Lord Darnley, where she hoped to enjoy the protection and support of Elizabeth. This, however, was not to happen and Mary instead found herself under house arrest for the next 19 years, during which Mary committed herself to one conspiracy after another directed against Elizabeth. What was finally to become her undoing was the so called Babington plot which entailed a Spanish invasion led by Elizabeth´s former brother in-law, Philip II. It has to be said that Elizabeth over the years had had an enormous forbearance with a number of attempts to overthrow her, in which Mary more as a rule than an exception had been involved, but now it had to end.

Mary was arrested August 11th and was sentenced to death on October 25th based on evidence gathered by the master spy of Elizabeth, Sir Francis Walsingham. On February 8th she was finally beheaded in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle. It took several blows with the axe to separate her head from her body, and it´s said that her small lap dog had hidden under her skirts during the execution where it was found soaked in blood and had to be thoroughly bathed to remove the blood. When the executioner lifted up Mary´s severed head, the long auburn locks were revealed as a wig, and the now 44 year old Mary turned out to have very short, completely grey hair.



When Elizabeth was informed of the execution of Mary, she claimed that she had been misunderstood, and that her intention had never been to take Mary´s life. Maybe the reminder of her own mother death was too strong, as well as the knowledge that if some queens could be executed, so could they all. That if find the quote to be an appropriate headline for this post is because that she was right of sorts. When Elizabeth passed away on the 24th of March 1603, Mary´s son, James VI of Scotland, took the throne as James I of England.


Mary, Queen of Scots and the murder of Lord Darnley – Alison Weir

Mary, Queen of Scots – Antonia Fraser

Calendar of State papers, 1587


Christopher “Kit” Marlowe



The exact birthdate of Christopher Marlow is not known, but bearing in mind that baptism at the time took place quite Marlowe-Portrait-1585soon after the actual birth to protect the infant from what was believed to be an eternal purgatory, there is reason to believe that he was born just a day or two before the date of his baptism, which took place on February 26th.

The year was 1564, and he is thus not only the same age as another immortal playwright of the time, William Shakespeare, they both this year, 2014, turn 450 years old.

He studied at King´s School in Canterbury where he was born, and after these studies he received a scholarship to attend Corpus Christi College at Cambridge, and it was here the first seeds to all the rumours which still today give fodder for speculations about Christopher Marlow and his doings were planted.

He received what was that times equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in 1584 without any problem, but when he three years later was to receive his master’s degree, the university put its heels down. The reason for this was a rumour that he intended to travel to Reims for studies to become a catholic priest.

Francis WalshinghamAt this moment it arrives a communication from the Privy Council of Elizabeth I, where it was stated that when Marlow did whatever he did to give rise to the rumour that he was going to attend a priest seminar, ha had acted loyally and faithfully served the Queen. WHAT he had actually done was never disclosed and has given rise to the speculation that still endures to this day, that Christopher Marlowe was part of the efficient network of spies that had been founded by Sir Francis Walshingham, chief of the intelligence service at the court of Elizabeth I. Marlow´s role as a spy has never been confirmed, but the letter itself confirmed that he indeed had had some kind of secretive mission on behalf of the Queen.

Christopher Marlowe was the greatest playwright and poet of his time, and served as an inspiration to among others William Shakespeare, who didn´t come to popular attention until after the death of Marlow, a fact that has served as fodder for one of the countless theories that exist around the identity of William Shakespeare.

Christopher was only active for seven years, but during these years, he managed to produce seven plays of which onlymassacre at paris Tamburlaine The Great and Tamburlaine The Great II, was published before his death in 1593.

The other plays are as follows:

Dido, The Queen of Carthage, which is believed to be his first play.

The Jew of Malta

Edward the Second

The Massacre at Paris

Dr Faustus.

Just as is the case with William Shakespeare, very little is known about Christopher Marlow´s actual person. He has not only been assumed to have been a spy, but also an atheist – a sharp contrast to the allegations at the university, that he had plans to join a seminar to become a priest – homosexual, troublemaker, magician (which in a way any playwright is), forger, tobacco user (!) and last but not least, licentious and dissolute. Regardless of which of these allegations, if any, are true, it seems safe to say that Christopher Marlow left quite an impression on those who met him.

When it comes to the suggestion that he was a spy, no evidence that he was part of Walsingham’s network has ever been found, something which is to be expected, spies were not supposed to leave evidence behind, even for posterity. What does survive however are records showing that he spent far more time away from the university in Cambridge than what was actually allowed to be able to continue the studies, and maybe he during these periods was away on missions on behalf of Sir Francis Walshingham. What can also be seen in surviving documents is that when he returned after these periods, ha had more money to spend than his scholarship would have made possible.

So, what can these missions have consisted of? One theory that was lifted in 1937 was that the person Morley who in 1589 was tutor to Arabella Stuart – great great grandchild of Henry VII through his daughter Margaret – and a real threat to Elizabeth´s position, was in fact Marlow who was placed in the household to spy on the young pretender and the goings on around her person.

The year before his death, 1592, Christopher Marlow was arrested in Flushing in the Netherlands, accused of counterfeiting coins. He was sent back to England and was to be dealt with by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer. Nothing happened, however, not in the shape of a prison sentence or any other kind of punishment. One possibility is that the arrest terminated a mission as a spy that the court was very much aware of, and that the counterfeited coins had been part of that same mission.

mIngramOn May 18th 1593 a warrant for Christopher Marlow´s arrest was issued. No explanation was given, but rumour had it that the reason was the distribution of heretical texts. On May 20th he was brought before the Privy Council, but no proof has been found by posterity that the Privy Council was even meeting on that day. Marlow was ordered to return every day until he was instructed to do otherwise.

Ten days later, on May 30th, Christopher Marlow was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer in Deptford, today part of southeast London.

Ever since Marlow died at the age of 29, there has been speculations as to the reason for his murder, but it has never been proved that his death had any relation what so ever to his arrest ten days earlier. Theories around his death include his alleged relationship to Thomas Walshingham (cousin of Francis Walshingham). Through the centuries Marlowe has been presumed to have been homosexual, something which there is no proof of either, but the theory in relation to this is that the wife of Thomas Walshingham should have contracted Frizer to protect the reputation of her husband.

Other theories is that he would have been murdered on the order of William Cecil, as a result of catholic propaganda in his plays, or by direct order of Elizabeth for the distribution of atheist propaganda. One can only hope that this confusion did not actually exist for real in the Elizabethan court. On the other hand, it´s a fascinating illustration of the complexity of Christopher Marlow.

The maybe most creative theory is the one suggesting that Christopher Marlow didn´t die at all. Instead he would have continued his career as a playwright under a new name, that of William Shakespeare. This is of course one of the numerous theories designed to prove that the man from Stratford wasn´t who most of us assume he was. A variant of this theory was put forward in an article by an anonymous writer in 1819, suggesting that “Christopher Marlow” was in fact a nom de plume used by Shakespeare during a period; in other words suggesting that Christopher Marlow never existed. No one has ever bothered with this theory, however.

Christopher Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in Deptford and therefore, unlike many other distinguishedMarlowe, gravplatta English authors and playwrights, lack a plaque in Poet´s Corner in Westminster Abbey. On the other hand, he was given a commemorative window in 2002, founded by the Marlowe Society. Even though they according to their Abbey_Plaque_350153819statutes does *not* try to prove that Marlowe was Shakespeare, the window has a slightly provoking question mark after the year that is generally considered to be the year Christopher Marlowe died.

This tiny mark has led to articles, books and demands that the window should be removed by the faction that fights to prove that Shakespeare was actually Shakespeare. It has to be said that it´s not bad for two playwrights to, 450 years after they were born, be able to still stir such strong emotions.

Finally, the theory as to why Marlowe died that is generally accepted by those less inclined to embrace conspiracy theories is that he was killed over an unpaid bill.



The World of Christopher Marlowe – David Riggs

The Cambridge Companion to Christopher Marlowe – David Riggs

Christopher Marlowe; Poet and Spy – Honan Park

Marlowe; Facts and Fiction – J.A. Downie

Constructing Christopher Marlowe – J.A. Downie & J.T. Parnell