Barking Abbey, part II

While the women of the poorer classes have been working since the beginning of time,hildegard_of_bingen_and_nuns “work” was not an option for women of the higher classes of society and in many cases the options were two: get married or join a convent.

The fact that some women either by their own will or by the will of the family became nuns has sometimes inspired thinking in the terms of at what rate it was religious convictions that made people join a nunnery, but I feel that in using those words, we are beginning to apply our secular way of thinking to people living in an age when “not believing in God” was as unlikely an option as finding work was for an Earl´s daughter.

This alone was not the reason for the number of daughters from the nobility choosing, or being expected to, to join a convent. Both Power and Barnes point out that doing so what not necessarily an undertaking done for free, something which is indicated already in the paying of a dowry by John of Gaunt to Barking Abbey for the admittance of Elizabeth Chaucer. Just as a wedding, the joining of the monastic life was a cost that often needed to be covered by, if possible, the bride´s family regardless of the groom was a man of flesh and blood or God.

Another factor that speaks to the advantage for women of the nobility was that the woman wanting to become a nun was expected to have some level of education. Among the lower classes, the literacy among men was lower than 20 percent England in the 1550´s, and far lower among women. Literacy among women could be found among the gentry, the mercantile class and the nobility, which obviously in most cases excluded for example the thatcher´s daughter from a life as a nun.

In 1527 they had seen Dorothy Barley, when she would have been around 37 years old, become elected abbess, a process that required a license from the patron of the order, in this case the king as Barking Abbey was a royal monastery and once that was achieved four scrutineers were chosen. Their task was to appoint candidates for the role as abbess and then the election would be held on a feast day.

medieval-nunsAll nuns would cast their vote, and to be an eligible candidate the minimum requirement was that the nun in question was at least 21 years old, of legitimate birth and of good reputation. While her popularity among the other nuns no doubt played some part, and it has been suggested that the social standing of her family outside the monastery also played its part, what was most important was her merit and capability, or as expressed in the Benedictine Rule chapter 64 requires that a nun be chosen for wisdom and doctrine.

As Abbess Dorothy Barley had her own household away from the rest of the nuns, and most likely it was also here that the children staying as wards lived. From 1437 to 1440 the two small boys Jasper and Edmund Tudor stayed here under the supervision of Katherine de la Pole, and in the last decade leading up to the surrender of the Abbey, Sir John Stanley dedicated his son to the care of the Abbess of Barking Abbey, where the boy would stay until the age of 12.

Possibly was that the same John Stanley who was an illegitimate son of the Bishop of Ely, and if so, the boy in question would only have been four at the time he joined the Abbess of Barking Abbey. For the upbringing and education of the young boy, the abbess received £20 per year. There are in some documents signs that other children may have been boarded in the household of the abbess, but unfortunately the names of their families does not remain.

She, the abbess, would also have had the responsibility for both the financial and the judicial sides of the monastery. The financial matters included the administration of the abbeys funds, which derived from leases of demesne land of the 15 manors that was in the possession of the abbey, the lease for the mill in Barking as well as rents and taxes. Added to that there was an inflow of grain, produce, hay and wood from the manors.

The ones belonging to Barking at the time of the dissolution was basically the same that hed belonged to the abbey since the 13th century: Barking, Abbes Hall, Bulphan, Caldecoates, Cokermouth, Down Hall, Great Warley, Hanley Hall, Hewkesbury, Highall, Hockley, Ingatestone, Leaden Roding, Mucking, Tollesbury, Wangey Hall, Westbury, Wigborough and Wood Barns.

Both products and cash were used by the Obedentiaries, such as the Cellaress, the Sacrist and the Infirmaress, for the upkeep of the monastery and the sustenance of the nuns and those living in the monastery, not always just the nuns, which I will return to, it seems as if the different offices had their “own” manors from which they received the revenue to make the economy of their “department” go round financially.

The abbess would also be involved in handle litigations, a not a too uncommon occurrence for the abbey as a major landholder with tenants. For these instances she had the assistance of stewards, two during the last years of the existence of Barking Abbey. They also were in employ of the monastery to keep an eye on the manors and lands belonging to the abbey, and from the 13th century it was common practice that these stewards had a legal education.

While the abbess in modern day terminology in many ways would have been seen as the public relations officer, spending most of her time dealing with the monastery´s contacts with the outside world – requiring her to be respected in a society run by men – she also had assistance by people who, to continue the modern day terminology, was in charge of the HR-department.

This was the work of the prioress, second in command to the abbess and a position held in the last years of Barking Abbey by Thomasina Jenney who had been at the abbey since the late 15th century and up until 1508 had held the position as sacrist. In 1508 she was elected prioress, a position she held for the remainder of the abbey´s existence. She was assisted by a sub-prioress and due to the wealth and power of Barking Abbey, a third prioress, and their work was to oversee the work of the obedentiaries who all held different offices within the monastery.

While the abbess was elected, the prioress and the obedentiaries were appointed, and this was a process that took place every year on the first Monday of Lent in the Charter House after Mass.  The work of the nuns holding the offices during the previous year was evaluated by the abbess and those who had excelled at their tasks might be in for a promotion while those who had performed a less than satisfactory work could be demoted from their positions and return to the life of an ordinary nun. One example of promotion is that of Margaret Scrope who had been made precentrix in 1527, lady of the pension in 1535-36 and promoted to sub prioress some time before 1539. Another example of someone who had clearly managed her office very well is Thomasina Jenney who, as previously mentioned, held her office as prioress for 30 years.

On this day positions which had become vacant due to for example the death of the previous holder was filled.

Sources:

House of Benedictine Nuns: Barking Abbey in “A history of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London 1907) British History Online

A nun´s life: Barking Abbey in the late-medieval and early modern periods – Theresa L. Barnes, Portland State University, 2004.

Barking Abbey: A study in its external and internal administration from the conquest to the dissolution – Winifred K. Sturman, University of London, 1961.

Dugdale Monasticon, Vol 1, part 15: Charthe longynge to the Office of the Celeresse of the Monasterye of Barkinge. 1655.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII, August-December 1539.

Barking Abbey, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Museum and Heritage, Local History Resources.

Essex Record Office

 

 

 

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The Tudor Brandons by Sarah-Beth Watkins – review

Mary_Tudor_and_Charles_BrandonChronos Books

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

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

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

A fair bit, it turns out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Evil May Day 1517

As desperate people come to Europe in the hope of a life in peace, intolerant forces brew. Unfortunately the intolerance is nothing new, as the below text will show, even if the “foreigners” in 16th century London were mainly French, German and Dutch, but even during the 16th century there were voices raised against this intolerance, as the excerpt from Shakespeare´s play about Thomas More, that I have chosen to include in the spirit of the anniversary, as well as a sign that there will always be a voice of reason.

On this day in 1517 a riot, which has gone down in history as Evil May Day, broke out in London. Allegedly it was the reaction to an inflammatory speech held on Easter Tuesday by one Dr Bell at St. Paul´s cross where he had called for all Englishmen to “cherish and defend themselves and to “hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal”.

During the weeks following the hateful speech, there were several attacks on foreigners as well as a rumour saying that on May Day, the city would rebel and slay all aliens.

The rumours worried the mayor and aldermen and they announced a curfew on the night of April 30th. This did not help, or stop the riots, during the night towards May 1st around 1 000 men gathered in Cheapside, freeing prisoners already apprehended for having attacked foreigners in the previous weeks.

Hans_Holbein,_the_Younger_-_Sir_Thomas_More_-_Google_Art_ProjectThe mob proceeded to St. Martin Le Grand, an area north of St. Paul´s Cathedral where several foreign families lived. When arriving there they were confronted by the under-sheriff of London, Thomas More who attempted to calm them down and persuade them to return home, but his attempts to defuse the situation came to nothing when the frightened inhabitants of St. martin started throwing stones and hot water from their windows, something which led to an even more heated situation.

The mob started looting the homes of foreigners, but the riot was over by 3am that same day, and 300 men had been arrested. No one had been killed, and most of the rioters would eventually be pardoned, ironically after a plea to the king from Katherine of Aragon who herself was a foreigner.

However, 13 of the rioters were convicted of treason and executed on May 4th, and a few days later the broker John Lincoln – believed to have been the instigator of the hate speech held during Easter, in that he had persuaded Dr. Bell of “the dangers foreigners posed against those born in London – was executed as well.

Many years later, William Shakespeare would let Thomas More give a speech, partly written in Shakespeare´s own hand and as tragically current today as it would have been on that May Day 499 years ago.

 

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise

Hath chid down all the majesty of England;

Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,

Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,

Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,

And that you sit as kings in your desires,

Authority quite silent by your brawl,

And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;

What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught

How insolence and strong hand should prevail,

How order should be quelled; and by this pattern

Not one of you should live an aged man,

For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,

With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,

Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes

Would feed on one another.

……You’ll put down strangers,

Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,

And lead the majesty of law in line,

To slip him like a hound. Say now the king

(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)

Should so much come to short of your great trespass

As but to banish you, whether would you go?

What country, by the nature of your error,

Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,

To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,

Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—

Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased

To find a nation of such barbarous temper,

That, breaking out in hideous violence,

Would not afford you an abode on earth,

Whet their detested knives against your throats,

Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God

Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants

Were not all appropriate to your comforts,

But chartered unto them, what would you think

To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;

And this your mountanish inhumanity.
Sources/copyright

Henry VIII – Lucy Wooding

Playshakespeare.com

Henry VIII – Jasper Ridley,

Elizabeth Hungerford, prisoner of her husband

When you look around in archives, be it browsing through them physically or, as is possible today, searching through them on the internet, looking for a particular subject or person, it´s always the possibility of stumbling on something completely different which catches your imagination and empathy. One such case is the (fragmented) story of Elisabeth Hungerford;

Sometime in or around 1536 a letter arrives for the Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Cromwell,800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_East_Gate a letter which with our view on such things would have seem deeply disturbing.

The signatory is Lady Elizabeth Hungerford, and she asks Thomas Cromwell to do right by her, and let her have a divorce.

She writes that she for several years has been kept a prisoner at her husband´s castle, and that he on one hand makes sure that no one that can be considered friendly to her ever comes into her presence, but that he on more than one occasion has had his men trying to poison her. This has made her afraid to eat and the only reason that she is still alive is that kind women from the village bring her food at night.

She has however no way of paying them back, as her husband has not given her any money for a long time.

Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_from_the_south_east_-_geograph_org_uk_-_438798She states “that she could tell, if she dared, many detestable and urgent crimes on the part of her husband, as he well knew,” and especially of his notorious cruel conduct “always to his wives.”

Her letter ends by her saying that she “Wishes to be divorced upon reasonable causes, or else her husband to be required to let her out of prison. Would then come up on foot with some poor body to Cromwell for the security of her life. Will not longer continue this wretched life with him. Had rather destroy herself or beg her living from door to door.”

The letter is signed Eleisbet Hor´ford, but she was born Elizabeth Hussey, and she was one of four daughters of John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford and his second wife, Lady Anne Grey.

Her husband´s name was Walter Hungerford, squire of the body of Henry VIII, and as Elizabeth hints in her letter to Cromwell, she was not his first wife, nor the first one to be treated appallingly by him.

At first he was married to Susan Denvers, with whom he had a son, also named Walter450px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_tower_remains Hungerford. I haven´t been able to find any information on what year they were married, but already in 1527 when he himself, being born in 1503, was only 24 years old, he married for a second time, to Alice Sandys, the daughter of William, 1st Baron Sandys.

Here I find information that I really need to look further into, because it seems that William Hungerford the elder managed to get his second wife executed for his own murder, at least that is what the Grey Friars Chronicle as interpreted by Camden Society in 1862 suggests (They have traced the family trees of the Hungerford´s at the time and only found one ever married to an Alice; Walter Hungerford, later husband of Elizabeth), and in all honesty, they are as baffled as me. In any event, an Alice Hungerford was executed at Tyburn;

“And this yere in feverelle the xxti. day was the lady Alys Hungrford was lede from the tower un to Holborne and there put into a carte at the church-yard with one of her servanttes, and so caryed unto Tyborne, and there both hongyd, and she burryd at the Greyfreeres in the nether end of the myddes of the church on the north syde.”

In any event, Walter clearly wasn´t murdered, and he would move on to marry Elizabeth sometime after 1527.

There is reasons to believe that Cromwell didn´t act on Elizabeth´s plea, already in 1532 her own father had written to Crowell and stated that his son in law wished to be introduced to him, as well as desired the position as Sheriff of Wiltshire.

The request was granted, and apparently the work carried out to Cromwell´s satisfaction, because in 1535 he suggests that Walter Hungerford should be rewarded for his service, and just a year later Walter was created 1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury (not to be confused with Baron Hungerford).

800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_Inner_CourtWalter Hungerford´s fortune was however to come to a swift ending only four years later, in 1540 he was executed on July 28th, the very same day as Thomas Cromwell himself, accused and sentenced for treason, witchcraft (allegedly trying to have find out the life span of Henry VIII) and buggery. He was executed, like – if we assume that that´s who she was – his wife Alice, on Tyburn.

While I at the moment haven´t been able to find out what happened to Elizabeth during the years between her letter to Cromwell and the execution of her husband, she did move on to a new life, marrying Robert Throckmorton, courtier and first cousin of Katherine Parr in or around 1542.

Together with Robert he had four daughters; Muriel (who would later have a son, Francis Tresham, one of the members of the Gun Powder Plot), Anne, Elizabeth and Temperance.

Elizabeth Hungerford, later Throckmorton, died in 1554, approximately 44 years old.

I will return to her and her life.

 

Sources:

‘Henry VIII: Addenda, Cromwell Period Papers’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 510-568. British History Online

 ‘Additional notes’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 99-104. British History Online.

 ‘The Chronicle of the Grey Friars: Henry VIII’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 29-53. British History Online

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. Ja

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 259-274. British History Online

 Images;

Due to the lack of images of Elizabeth and Walter Hungerford, the post is illustrated by images of Farleig-Hungerfod Castle where Elizabeth was held prisoner by her husband.

 

  • Photpgraph by nicksarabi/flickr
  • Graham Horn/Creative Commons
  • Ian Knox/Creative Commons
  • Aegidian/flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Amy Licence

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

 How did your interest in history start?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will you be working on next?

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

 

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

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

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

Erik and Elizabeth…and Mary

Erik_XIV_(1533-1577)_Domenicus_VerwildtDoing homework with my son and prepping him for a test in Swedish history this week, and that prompted this post. So, you may ask (or not), what place does Swedish history in a blog claiming to be about English medieval and renaissance history?

Ah! None of us exist in a vacuum, and neither did for example the Tudor monarchs. The subject of my son´s test is the House of Vasa, and the subject of this post is one of the more determined of Elizabeth´s suitors, the oldest son of Gustav Vasa, Erik, upon his father´s death to be crowned Erik XIV.

He was born in December 1533, in other words just a few months after the Queen whose refusal he would have quite a hard time to accept. The first proposal would come while she was still “just” a princess, and his envoy caused somewhat of a stir by breaching court protocol as he approached Princess Elizabeth before Queen Mary. Apparently Mary thought that an alliance between England and Sweden was not an altogether bad idea and sent a messenger to her sister to find out what she herself thought about, becoming – as that was what wasErik_XIV_of_Sweden_by_Steven_van_der_Meulen_1561 (friarproträtt) on the table at the moment – the Queen of Sweden, but as we all know, Elizabeth´s response was that she had no wish to marry at all.

Erik was not one to be easily put off. His proposals was to become a recurring feature in Elizabeth´s life for a number of years. The second portrait of Erik in this post is most likely the one he sent to Elizabeth to persuade her to marry him, in any event it spent considerable time in England, and wasn´t returned to Sweden until the 20th century and can now be seen at Gripsholm Castle some miles outside Stockholm.

He was presumably assisted in his goal to marry Elizabeth by his own sister Cecilia Vasa, who early on started a correspondence with the English Queen, and seems to have formed a genuine friendship, to the extent where she expressed a desire to stay unmarried and join the Cecilia_of_Baden-Rodemachern_c_1610English court instead, as a Lady-in-waiting of Elizabeth. Cecilia did however get married, to Count Christopher II of Baden-Rodemarchen. On September 11, 1565 Cecilia and her entourage arrived in London where they primarily were received by the wife of William Cecil.

They stayed at Bedford House, where Elizabeth came to visit. She ended up paying an allowance to Christopher for letting his wife stay in England. The reasons for Cecilia´s visit was not simply social; her main goal was to persuade Elizabeth to accept her brother´s proposal, but also to recruit privateers to plunder hostile Danish, German and Polish ships off the Swedish coast.

The opinions on how she succeeded in her mission has been divided, but we can easily conclude that she did not succeed in her aim to secure the English Queen as a consort for her brother. According to the Spanish emissary da Silva, she approached the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, asking him to put a good word for her brother, and maybe that´s where her objective failed.

While Cecilia is said to have been impressed by the way Elizabeth handled the threat posed by Mary, Oueen of Scots, it seems her brother was more impressed by Mary Young-Mary-Queen-of-Scotsherself.

We will most likely know whether he genuinely gave up on Elizabeth, or if he just wanted to increase her potential interest, but after a number of rejections from the English monarch, Erik instead turned his interest to Mary, something that undoubtedly did get some reaction from Elizabeth. This did not get a successful conclusion either, and he went on to explore the prospects among other European princess´s, one of which sent his envoy packing in 1564 after a love letter to Elizabeth, by now the Queen of England, came into light.

karin månsdotterErik would in time marry one of his maids – Karin Månsdotter – who was already the mother of his child. He would also come to suffer a rapidly deteriorating mental health which among other ways manifested itself by him simply murdering one of his noblemen, Nils Svantesson Sture, stabbing him to death. His brother Johan took the throne and Erik spent the remainder of his life being transported between different castles, effectively in prison, but the kind of prison that suited a disposed king.

Erik Vasa died in 1577, an event that in the 16th and 17th century didn´s stir much speculation, but in time the legend was born that he had in fact been murdered, poisoned by way of the traditional Swedish pea soup.

Whether the soup actually was what contained the poison we will most likely never know, but in the 1950´s the remains of Erik XIV was excavated and examined, and we now know that Erik XIV died from a lethal dose of arsenic.

 

(It should aslo be said that Cecilia Vasa is an acquaintance well worth making for anyone interested in history, as she was very far from the meek woman someone of her standing and time would be expected to be.)

Sources:

The History of Sweden; Gustav Vasa and his sons and daughters – Herman Lindquist

The Children of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

Vasadöttrarna (The Vasa daughters) – Karin Tegenborg Falkdalen

Arvet efter Gustav Vasa (The legacy of Gustav Vasa) – Lars-Olof Larsson.

 

 

Proposal painting – Steven van der Muelen

Painting thought to be Cecilia Vasa by unknown artist

 

Margaret Tudor – Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton

Non-fiction

margaret bokIf one is interested in the Wars of the Roses/early Tudor era, the chances that one has come across a number of prejudice ideas about Margaret Beaufort; a conniving she-wolf who would do anything to put her son on the throne, a woman who plotted, backstabbed and in some versions also was the one behind the disappearance and presumed murder of the princes in the Tower, all the while being pious on the verge of a fanatic.

In Elizabeth Norton´s book the true Margaret Beaufort, mother and grandmother of the two first Tudor monarchs, peaks through the veils of history and for a while become a woman of flesh and blood, far from her maligned rumour. Here we instead met a woman who is strong in a time when strength was needed to survive, and who, after her first marriage, refused to be the pawn of others but took charge of her own destiny as far as it was possible.
It also becomes clear that far from her cold, nun-like persona of fiction, Margaret Beaufort was a loving woman who cared for those around her, siblings from her mother´s other marriages, stepsons and also the sister of Elizabeth of York, Cecily.

An incident with a thank you-note and a pair of gloves suggest that she also had a kind of sharp sense of humour. While Margaret Beaufort most likely never would have identified with feminism, she certainly is someone to draw inspiration from in determination and feeling of self-worth and she steps out of the shadows as an incredibly fascinating, not “just” woman, but individual of the period.

Then there is of course heart aching story of her struggle for her son. Maybe I, as the mother of a son, is more susceptible than someone without a son – or daughter for that matter – would be, but this actually breaks my heart a little. To endure the separation from a child also demands strength.
If you think you know about Margaret Beaufort, and that knowledge has more in common with the first lines I wrote, than the latter, you need to read this book. If not, I think you should read it anyway.