Monday, December 9, 2013

Second Anniversary Giveaway!

Confessions is nearing it's SECOND anniversary! Similar to last year, I will be hosting a giveaway! All you have to do is answer a series of Anne Boleyn related questions! These answers can all be found around the Confessions website.

1. Who was the second husband of Mary Boleyn?

2. What does Le Temps Viendra mean and where is the phrase found?

3. What is the name of Anne Boleyn's childhood home?

4. After Henry's supposed disdain for Anne of Cleves became known, what was her nickname?

5. Where in Anne Boleyn buried? (Be exact!)

6. What was Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, executed for and when?

7. What was Anne Boleyn's motto as queen?

8. What was the cause of Cardinal Wolsey's death?

9. What was the name of Anne Boleyn's coronation song?

10. Under which noble woman did Anne Boleyn learn French and perfect her manners?

The winner of this giveaway will receive a copy of Susan Bordo's The Creation of Anne Boleyn

Send your answers to by January 1, 2014 at 12pm PST.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Read of the Week

This past weekend I was really excited to jump into Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation for the Tyranny of Henry VIII by Kyra Kramer. The book is a very interesting look at the mental and physical decline of Henry VIII and a possible explanation. Her theory is that Henry VIII's blood was Kell positive. As such, he would have had an extraordinarily difficult time fathering healthy children who thrived. Kell negative women who have children by Kell positive fathers have fine pregnancies the first time around, but develop an "allergy" to the Kell antigens afterwards, causing future fetuses to miscarry or die early in infancy.

Kramer, a medical anthropologist, does a commendable job of dissecting Henry VIII's medical, psychological, and behavioral history. She walks through the reproductive trials and tribulations of each of his first two wives examining how Henry's possibly Kell-positive status could have affected Anne and Katherine's pregnancies. It's entirely plausible and incredibly fascinating.

Kramer does not just give surface information and expect the reader to agree with her. Her research has immense depth; postulating that Henry may additionally have suffered from McLeod syndrome, a disorder that interestingly enough can cause major personality changes, including paranoia and schizophrenia. The author does an impeccable job of bringing together science and history to write an engaging and thoughtful book that humanizes Henry VIII, helping to lessen the historically accepted view of the lecherous, obese monster.

I commend Kramer for her incredible use of citations, she made this book a researcher's heaven. Her bibliography is extensive and impressive; pulling not only from historical and medical sources but also from sociology and anthropology. The book is well rounded, and impeccably researched.
Her tone is logical and professional, her own thoughts are carefully concealed, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. I enjoyed her style, because I did not feel led on to believe her theory blindly.

Kramer doesn't let her own voice intrude very much in her narrative, choosing to maintain a very  smooth, logical tone that fits well with the medical report style of the book. The one thing I think he could have improved on was to write for a more diverse audience. The book is fascinating, but if you are not a Tudor historian her lack of background/contextual narrative would have made the book difficult to read. All in all, I really enjoyed this book, it added a lot of nuance to my conceptions about Henry VIII. I suggest it for all readers who want to understand more about the man Henry VIII truly was, even if you do not accept her medical explanation for his decline.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Accession of Elizabeth I

On November 17, 1558 Mary I passed away after weeks of declining health, she was just forty-two years old. Despite the almost continual feuding angst between Mary and her younger sister Elizabeth, Mary never had her executed (to the disappointment of many of Elizabeth’s enemies) nor did she name another heir in Elizabeth’s place. Upon her death, Mary ring’s was carried to Elizabeth at Hatfield as proof that she was now queen. The House of Peers proclaimed her queen that afternoon from Whitehall. Elizabeth’s response to her sister’s death was not one of remorse, but of political importance. When the Privy Council arrived at Hatfield to meet with Elizabeth she spoke with them saying,

My lords, the law of nature moveth me to sorrow for my sister; the burden that is fallen upon me maketh me amazed; and yet considering I am God’s creature, ordained to obey His appointment, I will thereto yield, desiring from the bottom of my heart that I may have assistance of His grace to be minister of His heavenly will in this office now committed to me. And as I am but one body naturally considered, though by His permission a body politic to govern, so I shall desire you all, my lords to be assistant to me, that I with my ruling and you with your service may make a good account to almighty God and leave some comfort to our posterity in earth. I mean to direct all my actions by food advice and counsel. And therefore, considering that diver of you be of ancient nobility, having your beginning and estate of my progenitors, kings of this realm, and thereby ought in honour to have the more natural care for maintaining my estate and this commonwealth; some others have been of long experience in governance and enabled by my father of noble memory, my brother, and my late sister to bear office; the rest of you being upon special trust lately called to her service only and trust, for your service considered and rewarded; my meaning is to require of you all nothing more but faithful hearts in such service as from time to time shall be in your powers towards the preservation of me and this commonwealth. And for council and advice I shall accept you of my nobility, and such other of you the rest as in consultation I shall think meet and shortly appoint, to the which also, with their advice, I will join to their aid, and for ease of their burden, other meet for my service. And they which I shall not appoint, let them not think the same for any disability in them, but for that I do consider a multitude doth make rather discord and confusion than good counsel. And of my goodwill you shall not doubt, using yourselves as appertaineth to good and loving subjects.

Elizabeth’s first few days as Queen of England would be trying, she actively participated in the planning of her sister’s state funeral, faced questions about her intentions for marriage and moved quickly to appoint trusted advisors and ladies in waiting.
Elizabeth I's Coronation Portrait
Attributed to Hilliard

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Elizabeth I: Killer Queen?

Robert Dudley married Amy Robsart long before he was considered Elizabeth I's favorite. They spent much time apart as Robert became Elizabeth's master of horse and Amy remained at their estate, rumored to be ill.  As Elizabeth's affections for Robert grew, gossip started that if Amy were to die that Elizabeth would marry Robert and make him her consort.

 In April 1559 court observers noted that Elizabeth never let Dudley from her side; but her favor did not extend to his wife. Lady Amy Dudley lived in different parts of the country and was rarely seen at court. Robert had visited Amy for four days at Easter 1559 and she spent a month around London in the early summer of the same year. They never saw each other again; Dudley was with the Queen at Windsor Castle when his wife was found dead at her residence Cumnor Place near Oxford on September 8, 1560. It appeared she has fallen down some stairs and died of her injuries. Gossip immediately began at to whether Robert, Elizabeth or one of their "henchman" could have been responsible for her death, clearing the way for the two to marry.

In order to quiet the talk, Robert retired to his house at Kew, away from court and from the probable crime scene and pressed for an impartial inquiry which had already begun in the form of an inquest. The jury found that Amy's death was an accident: Lady Dudley, staying alone "in a certain chamber", had fallen down the adjoining stairs, sustaining multiple head injuries and breaking her neck. Despite the findings it was widely speculated that Dudley had arranged his wife's death to be able to marry the Elizabeth and share power, something his family had desired for years. The scandal played into the hands of nobles and politicians who desperately tried to prevent Elizabeth from marrying him. Some of these, like William Cecil and Nicholas Throckmorton, made use of it, telling Elizabeth that their marriage would cause outrage and more factional violence. As we know Elizabeth never married Dudley or anyone else. Robert would marry again, this time to Elizabeth's cousin Lettice Knollys who would feel the Queen's hatred for the remainder of her days.

Many historians, myself included, do not believe that Robert, Elizabeth or anyone else was responsible for Amy's death. Ian Aird, a professor of Medicine suggested that Amy may have suffered from breast cancer, which would explain not only her prolonged illness but also could have caused metastatic cancerous deposits on her spine causing her neck to break even from limited strain. This video, despite popular historical opinion, asserts that Elizabeth DID have something to do with Amy's death.
Watch and weigh in!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Read of the Week

This week I chose to spoil myself with a historical novel :) The Tudor Conspiracy by CW Gortner was really interesting and fun to read. Most novels that deal with Elizabeth or Anne are told from a female perspective. Interestingly, this one story was told by a man, Brendan Prescott who was the illegitimate child of Mary Tudor, sister to Henry VIII. The child was fathered by Charles Brandon's squire who was madly in love with Mary. The story follows Brendan through his love life, efforts to save Elizabeth from a plot she herself began and his life at court where he also pretends to serve Elizabeth's sister Queen Mary I. Mary has been convinced by Hapsburg ambassador Renard that Elizabeth is a dangerous and traitorous heathen who must be executed in order for Mary's marriage to Prince Philip to take place. Both Cecil and Prescott know that this is not true. Prescott decides to work for Elizabeth, and infiltrate Mary's court to thwart Renard's plan. However, he is called upon by Queen Mary to find proof of Elizabeth's treachery and involvement in the plot to overthrow her. Now serving as a double agent, he must find the proof (whether it be treacherous or not) in Elizabeth's letters before his unknown nemesis finds it first and Elizabeth meets an executioner. This book is enthralling from beginning to end; humanizing the virgin Queen and giving us a few of her beginnings. For a true history lover, you can see the compressed timeline of the novel, but can also appreciate the way the author attempted to stay true to historical facts. I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to picking up another great book by him!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A St. Erkenwald's Day Wedding for Anne and Henry?

November 14, 1532 is the day that Henry and Anne landed back in England after their lengthy trip to France to gain support for their union with Francis I. The King and his intended took their time heading back to London, tarrying in Dover for several days for the purpose "...of having harbours constructed in the said town..." They did not return to the capital for ten days! Edward Hall, a Tudor chronicler wrote that they were not actually raising funds and buildings but rather that they had gotten married! He wrote, "The kyng after his returne<sic>, married priuily[privily, meaning in a private way] the lady Anne Bulleyn, on sainct<sic> Erkwnwaldes daie, whiche marriage was kept so secrete,<sic> that very fewe knewe it, til she was greate with child, as Easter after..."
This story directly contradicts the idea that they married in January, only after Anne found out that she was pregnant. We may never know the exact date of their marriage, but we do know that after this point the King and Anne began co-habitating and that she became pregnant sometime in December. I find myself leaning towards Hall's account; it seems unlikely that Anne would give herself to Henry after so many years of holding out unless she had gotten her ultimate goal, marriage.

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in history 1501 Arthur, elder brother of Henry VII, Prince of Wales married Katherine of Aragon, Infanta of Spain in a lavish ceremony at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. The bride and groom were clothed in white satin and the Archbishop of Canterbury presided. Their reception, which took place at Baynard's castle, included feasting, a fountain which distributed wine and many, many sweets. Following the ceremony the only public bedding in 16th century England took place. Katherine's bed was sprinkled with holy water and prayed over by Catholic priests. Katherine was undressed by her ladies in waiting, veiled and reverently laid in bed; Arthur entered the room to the sounds of musicians playing and together they prayed with the Bishop of London for their marriage to be fruitful. Unfortunately for them, the marriage was very short, less than six months. Arthur would die of either tuberculosis or influenza and Katherine would enter a tumultuous widowhood lasting seven years before she would remarry and become the first of wife of Henry VIII.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Reader Questions

Once again, I have fallen off of the band wagon of answering your questions! There were so many that I will post two sections of them this week. Here is section one:

Q: What did Anne Boleyn look like?
A: I have answered this question a lot, I never tire of it! Probably because I have wondered this very thing myself. Here is the link to my article on the topic.

Q: What did Mary I die of?
A: We cannot be entirely certain, she died during an influenza epidemic which could have done it, but we also know from her medical records that she was suffering from intense pain and bloating (so much so that she thought herself pregnant), possibly from Ovarian cysts or uterine cancer. Internal bleeding from the cysts or complications from the cancer could have caused her demise as well.

Q: Was Elizabeth involved in the Dudley plot against Mary?
A: I think you are incorrectly calling Wyatt's Rebellion the "Dudley Plot" Thomas Wyatt the younger led the rebellion because he, and other nobles, feared that Mary's marriage to the Spanish Prince Phillip would lead to the subjugation of England to the Holy Roman Empire. The rebellion also had religious roots, the Spanish prince and devout Catholic Mary would certainly try to return England to the Roman fold. The rebels sought to depose Mary and place Elizabeth in her stead. Robert Dudley, and his brothers, were often thought to have conspired in the plot even though no evidence could be found. We cannot be sure if Elizabeth was involved, although Mary certainly thought she was and locked her in the Tower for it.

Q: Did Henry VIII suffer from MacLeod's Syndrome?
A: Great question, one that cannot be answered without access to his body; which is unlikely to ever happen. However Kyra Cornelius Kramer makes an excellent argument for the case in her book Blood Will Tell: A Medical Explanation for the Tyranny of Henry VIII. I would suggest picking it up and drawing your own conclusions.

Keep your questions coming! I will endeavor to be more diligent about answering!

Friday, November 8, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history Katherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII and Queen of England made her confession of infidelity to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer had attempted to interrogate Katherine the day before but she became hysterical and unable to answer his questions. On this day it seemed her hysteria had calmed and led her to a state of repentance. Cranmer tried a more gentle tactic and coaxed Katherine into saying:

"Alas, my lord, that I am alive! the fear of death grieved me not so much before, as doth now the remembrance of the Kings goodness: for when I remember how gracious and loving a prince I had, I cannot but sorrow, but this sudden mercy, and more than I could have looked for, shewed unto me, so unworthy, at this time, maketh mine offences to appear before mine eyes much more heinous that they did before: and the more I consider the greatness of his mercy, the more I do sorrow in my heart that I should so misorder myself against his majesty."

Katherine continued the confession admitting that she had been sexual with Francis Deerham [Dereham] saying her often called her wife, kissed her and entrusted her with a large amount of money when he was away. You can read the entire examination of the Queen online at
Portrait believed to be of Katherine Howard
By Hans Holbein the Younger ca 1540

White Falcon: The Coronation Song of Anne Boleyn

In 1533, a song was composed by Nicholas Udall, praising Anne Boleyn. It was to be sung at her coronation at Queen of England. The song was a remarkable piece of PR work; it extolled Anne's virtues of chastity and fertility. It also spoke about her pale beauty and shining wit; additionally it hinted at her long position as Henry's favorite. Read on for the lyrics:

This White Falcon,
Rare and geason
This bird shineth so bright;
No bird compare
May with this Falcon White

The Virtues all,
No man mortal,
Of this bird can write.
No man earthly
Enough truly
Can praise this Falcon White.

Who will express
Great Gentleness
To be in any wight;
He will not miss,
But call him this
The gentle Falcon White.

This gentle bird
As white as curd
Shineth both day and Night
Nor far ne near
Is any peer
Unto this Falcon White,

Of body small.
Of power regal,
She is, and sharp of sight;
No manner fault
Is in this Falcon White

In chastity,
Excelleth she
Mostly like a virgin bright:
And worthy is
To live in bliss
Always this Falcon White.

But now to take
And use her make
Is time, as troth is plight;
That she may bring
Fruit according
For such a Falcon White.

And where by wrong,
She hath fleen long,
Uncertain where to light;
Herself repose
Upon the Rose,
Now may this Falcon White.

Whereon to rest,
And build her nest;
GOD grant her, most of might!
That England may
Rejoice always
In this Falcon White.

Check out the song here

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Anne Boleyn: Witch, Bitch, Tempress, Feminist

While I have often given Hilary Mantel a bad rap for her wildly inaccurate histories and scathing remarks about Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, I really did enjoy a recent article she wrote for The Guardian. In it Mantel talks about why Anne was so controversial and why she captivates historians and Hollywood nearly 500 years after her demise. Check out the article here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Two Gentleman Poets at the Court of Henry VIII

I love when new research becomes available about the Boleyn family! Thankfully, Claire Ridgway, from the Anne Boleyn Files, recently translated and published a nineteenth century biography of George Boleyn. It is currently the only biography of Anne's ill-fated brother and gives insight on the Howards as well! Claire translated this book from 1800s French to English in order to give Anne addicts who do not speak French access to the this work. My copy is on order, stay tuned for a review! Purchase your own copy here!

Friday, October 11, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history, 1532 Henry and Anne set sail from Dover bound for Calais. It was to be the first time Anne was presented on the international stage as Henry’s intended bride, despite the fact that he was still married to Catherine of Aragon. In preparation for Anne acting as his consort on this trip, abroad Henry had raised her to the rank of Marquis and presented her with a large collection jewels and new dresses to wear while in France.

The purpose of this trip was multi-faceted; to renew the friendship between England and France as well as to serve as a public showing of King Francis’ approval of Henry’s intended plans for marriage to Anne. Anne and Henry hoped that Francis would agree to meet with the Pope on their behalf to encourage a quick annulment of Henry’s first marriage for the sake of the Church and peace in Europe. Francis assured Henry of his support and in turn Henry, confident that a resolution of his Great Matter was coming soon, began a sexual relationship with Anne.  Anne conceived before Francis had a chance to appeal to the Pope resulting in the hasty crowning of Anne as queen of England.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Henry, Henry, Henry

Need to teach someone the basics about Henry VIII and his wives? Use this entertaining video set to the tune of Abba's "Money, Money, Money"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Read of the Week

This week I read the book The Daring Truth about Anne Boleyn: Cutting Through the Myth by Sylwia Zupanec. *Sigh* I know I should never start a book review like this but I honestly had a very hard time reading this book because of the incredibly poor grammar, spelling errors and strange punctuation. I found myself re-reading whole passages trying to understand what the author was saying. Almost every page was littered with improperly used words, incorrect tenses and erratic commas. I struggled with Zupanec’s inability to address her audience in a learned, professional way. Her conclusions often begin, “In this chapter, I have proven…” It seemed like it was written by high school student trying to meet the requirement of a standardized writing test. After doing some research on the author I discovered that her primary language is not English, which could account for the editing issues in the book. However, when I purchase a book that is marketed as an academically researched and written book, I expect that I will not see spelling errors. The premise of this book is that there are many misconstrued ideas about Anne because they are based on primary source documents which have been mistranslated by historians and researchers. It is hard to take this assertion seriously when there are so many obvious translation issues in the author’s own writing.
Grammar issues aside, the book, while well researched in some areas, had me screaming at others. The author used as a source for the definitions of several words. All of us millennials know that is about as unreliable as an electronic resource can be.  Zupanec goes on the defensive when addressing the primary source letters of Eustace Chapuys to Charles V. She states these letters can be used as reliable, accurate information because Chapuys was merely doing his job, reporting the court happenings to his master.  She goes so far as to call him "trustworthy" and "reliable." Honestly, it is one of the most ridiculous statements in the book. Chapuys constantly called Anne, even while she was Queen, a google eyed whore, the Great Concubine and other derogatory names. His reports, in several cases, contain outright lies and court gossip. The ambassador had a vested interest in trying to damage Anne’s reputation and limit her rise to power, so arguing that these letters can be used as legitimate sources is completely illogical. Most Tudor era historians, myself included, pick pieces out of the Chapuys letters that can be backed by other evidence to use in our writing, but are careful to realize and cite the obvious bias that is colored by Chapuys’ devotion to the Hapsburg family, his Catholic faith and his aversion to all things/people that were pro-French.
 The author also spends a lot of time painting what I view as an inaccurate picture of Henry VIII. Using the Chapuys letters, Zupanec's writing portrayal Henry as a weakling, toddling along behind Anne and abiding by her every desire. I found this depiction not only factually questionable but also offensive to the historical legacy of a king who changed the social and political landscape of an entire country to suit his whims. Henry was far from the lovesick, schmuck that Zupanec describes and she would know this if she had researched him more thoroughly. Unsurprisingly, the use of primary and secondary sources on Henry in her writing are scarce and almost non-existent in her list of sources.
I also normally do not critique the cover art or aesthetics of books (you know the old adage), but in this case, I cannot help but weigh in. When my copy of this book was delivered I could not help but think that the cartoon like image of Anne on the front cover was both unflattering and unprofessional. The formatting in the book is awkward with sub-heading titles that are not capitalized correctly and divide the book in to choppy sections and it drives me a bit crazy that the spine title is upside down.  All in all, there is nothing in the book that cannot be gleaned from a better written, better researched book such as The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives or Anne Boleyn by Paul Friedmann. My suggestion? Pick up one of them instead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Never with the mother!" The Relationship between Henry VIII and Elizabeth Boleyn

For many years during the life of Anne Boleyn, and certainly after her death, rumors about the relationship between Henry VIII and the Boleyn family swirled. Some writers and Tudor figures have asserted that Henry VIII not only had a relationship with sisters Mary and Anne, but that he also engaged in sex with their mother Elizabeth Boleyn and during the torrid affair that Anne was conceived. In this short article we will explore three things; where did these rumors begin? What is the likelihood that there is substance to them? What outcomes/obstacles were created due to the rumors?

The first thing we must do is evaluate where these stories originate. In order to beta test the origination of these stories we will consider two of the writers. Thomas Jackson and Nicholas Sanders were Catholics (as were almost all of the writers of these rumors), therefore inherently anti-Anne, as she and her family represented the Reformation movement in England. Jackson lived during the time period in question and was charged with saying, “…the King lived in adultery before his marriage [and] that he kept the mother and afterwards the daughter, ‘and now he hath married her whom he kept afore, and her mother also’”* Though he was a contemporary, Jackson would have been a very young man during the time of the supposed affair without access to Elizabeth or Henry. He also would have had motivation to write slander against the Boleyn family to defend against what he viewed as an attack on the Catholic faith.  Sanders, was writing two generations later during the reign of Anne’s daughter Elizabeth I. In addition to not having firsthand knowledge of Henry’s relationship with Elizabeth Boleyn, he also had much motivation to blacken Elizabeth’s history and relationship as he had been exiled from England because he was convicted of plotting to have Elizabeth killed and replaced with one of her Catholic relations. Sanders account says that Anne was conceived by Elizabeth during the time when her husband was abroad on King Henry VIII’s orders as an ambassador to France. Unfortunately for Sanders, Henry was not King in 1501 or 1507, which are the two debated dates of Anne’s birth.

Despite a lack of evidence, the salacious gossip about Henry’s love-life was not kept under wraps. In fact both Henry and Thomas Cromwell were questioned about the rumors during a conversation with George Throckmorton regarding parliamentary business. Throckmorton’s recollection of the conversation was printed in the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, Throckmorton mentions the concerns of Parliament to the King saying “….I said to him that I told your Grace I feared if ye did marry Queen Anne your conscience would be more troubled at length, for it is thought ye have meddled both with the mother and the sister…” to that the King answered, “Never with the mother!”** The report continues with Throckmorton’s doubt coloring every word. There is evidence that Throckmorton heard these stories from Friar Peto, a known enemy of the Boleyn faction who preached a sermon drawing parallels between the Biblical story of Ahab and relating Anne to the character of Jezebel.

If we believe these stories have merit, we would also have to be willing to accept that Henry VIII, knowing that she was his daughter, married Anne anyway. As I have written about on many occasions, Henry VIII’s religious nature is undoubtable. He heard mass many times a day and it was reported that he was training for the priesthood prior to the death of his eldest brother and heir to the throne. He was known as Defender of the Faith due to his well-known piety and his response to the perceived heresy of Martin Luther. His deep faith troubled his conscious regarding his first marriage and led him to consider a complete conversion of his belief system.  It is, therefore, incomprehensible that someone who valued his immortal soul so completely would go so far in the world of consanguineal incest. Outside of contextual background on the situation there is also the tangible evidence of a timeline to consider. Anne’s birthday, while still debated in some historical circles, is most likely sometime in 1501 meaning that Henry would have been ten years old when Anne was conceived. It is, therefore very, very unlikely that there was any sort of relationship between Elizabeth Boleyn and the then Henry, Prince of Wales. Lastly, we can infer that these rumors were not true due to the fact that Eustace Chapuys, imperial ambassador to England, surely would have reported them to his master, Charles V. If they had been true and subsequently reported they would have been used as significant leverage to undermine the annulment process of Henry and Catherine of Aragon’s marriage.

Despite my vehement belief that these rumors are untrue, it is true though that almost every rumor starts with some kernel of fact. It is my belief that Elizabeth perhaps had a poor reputation regarding her chastity at court and Boleyn detractors saw this as an opportunity to damage the King’s relationship with Anne. On what do I base my thoughts? Well on the importance of symbolism to Tudor age people. Seeking to play up their good qualities, people often sought to have themselves associated with virtuous figures from the Bible and other literature. In fact, Anne herself was compared to Queen Esther. In Elizabeth’s case she was compared to Greek literary figure Cressida in a poem by contemporary writer John Skelton. Cressida, though always described as extremely beautiful, has also often been depicted by writers as being a false love, a paragon of female inconstancy. Because symbolism was so important to writers and readers of the time period we can assume that Elizabeth embodied the characteristics of Cressida, including her tendency for infidelity.

Though these rumors were exceedingly damaging to the reputation of Anne Boleyn and her family, Henry seems to have survived the accusations relatively unscathed. The insinuations that Henry had engaged in an incestuous relationship increased the dislike felt for the Boleyns amongst religious conservatives at court and also by the common people in London where the rumors were leaked. We can, in my opinion, discount these stories as sensationalism designed to undermine the Boleyn marriage and the reign of Elizabeth I.  There is not only little historical evidence to support them, but they all seem to stem from the same Catholic, anti-Boleyn source, Friar Peto.  The rumors have a blatant agenda of creating damage aimed specifically at the Boleyn family. Historical training teaches us to objectively evaluate the claims to determine their worth and significance. These have neither.

**Extracts taken from the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 1532, The Lady Becomes Marquess Pembroke

September of 1532 was a momentous time for Anne Boleyn; it was the month that Henry VIII created her Marquis of Pembroke. Women were rarely ennobled and if they were the title was almost always inherited and passed immediately to her husband upon her marriage. The excerpt below, from the Letter and Papers, recalls the ceremony:

“…creacion of lady Anne, daughter therle<sp> [the earl] of Wilteshier, marquesse of Penbroke”

“Sunday, 1 Sept. 1532, 24 Hen. VIII. The lady was conveyed by nobleman and the officers of arms at Windsor Castle to the King, who was accompanied by the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk and other noblemen, and the ambassador of France. Mr. Garter bore her patent of creation; and lady Mary, daughter to the duke of Norfolk, her mantle of crimson velvet, furred with ermines and a coronet. The lady Marques, who was in her hair [meaning she wore her hair down] and dressed in a surcoat of crimson velvet furred with ermines, with trait sleeved, was led by Elizabeth countess of Rutland, and Dorothy countess of Sussex. While she kneeled before the King, Garter delivered her patent, which was read by the bishop of Winchester. The King invested her with the mantle and coronet, and gave her two patents, -one of her creation, the other of 1,000l. a year. She thanked the King, and returned to her chamber.”

Anne becoming marquess is important for two major reasons; first of all it raised Anne herself to the peerage making her a more suitable wife for a king. Secondly, her letters patent tell us a lot about the relationship between Anne and Henry at that point in time; the papers leave out the customary language granting inheritance to sons “lawfully begotten” Was this a clerical oversight [unlikely in my opinion] or a physical manifestation of Henry and Anne’s mutual fear that an annulment was out of reach and a desperate attempt to legitimize their children who might be born out of the protection of wedlock? In my opinion it is high improbable that such an omission would have been accidental. Henry and Cromwell were meticulously and analytically planning Anne’s rise to queenship. Therefore, this piece of evidence leads me to believe that Henry and Anne were either having a sexual relationship at this point or near to it. The omission of the “lawfully begotten” language would have protected Anne’s children’s inheritance should she have fallen pregnant before Henry’s annulment was finalized. Such protection would not have been necessary had the two not been sleeping together and/or planning to.

Interestingly enough, the elevation also has significant contextual importance: Marquess is the second highest, non-royal title during this time period, second only to a Duke. This meant Anne was now raised higher than her father (Earl of Wiltshire) and her brother George (Viscount Rochford). Pembroke, the Welsh castle from which Anne’s title originated, last belonged to Henry’s great uncle Jasper Tudor. Jasper had been long hailed as a hero of the Tudor family because he was instrumental in helping Henry VII rise to the throne. By making Anne not only an important noblewoman, but also granting her one of his ancestral titles, Henry strove to show the world that he was serious about making Anne his wife. These honor are indicative of the high esteem he held her in; Anne was clearly not just a fleeting fancy.

Anne's Letters Patent

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Read of the Week

When I picked up Lacey Baldwin Smith’s book on Anne Boleyn, I was fully prepared for another analysis of her life which differed very little from any of the other books written about her. I expected it to follow the same time line and make the same arguments. I was pleasantly surprised; Smith instead treats his subject with a deep appreciation for historical and cultural context of the Tudor times and Anne’s life. I enjoyed the way he sought to understand the major players and characters from their own perspectives. He gave Henry VIII more room for thought and analysis than most other writers on the subject. The author really worked to present a book that is both balanced and insightful. He makes thoughtful remarks regarding the theories of other well know Anne historians including GW Bernard, Eric Ives and even amateur historian Alison Weir. He compares their research and suggests, very delicately, where they could improve and which of their arguments are sound. Interestingly, I found myself agreeing with him in the final chapter of the book where he cuts down the theories of many authors regarding the fall of Anne. It is a long held belief that Cromwell was ultimately responsible for Anne’s fall; this theory does not take into consideration the almost absolute power of Henry and the necessity of people involved in the trial to adhere to his wishes, or possibly pay with their lives. Smith is meticulous in detail and always is careful to neither demonize not beatify Anne. I appreciated his objective view, something not many Anne historians are capable of and certainly something I struggle with myself.

There were several things I did not like about the book, though in comparison they are relatively small. For example, on page 87 the author refers to Catherine of Aragon as “fat” and “sterile” I am still unsure whether he was trying to view the situation from Henry’s perspective (he was known to prefer slender women) or whether this is his own original thought. If it is his own, his reference of Catherine’ sterility is laughingly inaccurate. Catherine was pregnant at least seven times during the duration of her marriage to Henry, making her far from sterile. While it is true that she was beyond her years of reproductivity, it would have been more accurate to refer to her as post-menopausal or another less degrading term. My final complaint is a very personal one; I prefer footnotes to endnotes as used by the author. When there is a reference in writing that I find interesting I want to have the citation at my fingertips not be flipping back and forth between my current page and the end of the book to locate information.

This book glosses over a lot of details regarding Anne that he assumes a reader would already know. Therefore if you are unfamiliar with the story of Henry VIII and Anne or are new to the world of high level academic writing I recommend avoiding the book as you will not have done the research leg-work to understand the author’s insinuations and conclusions. Otherwise, pick it up. It makes a great addition to any Anne lover’s book collection.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why Anne Boleyn?

I get asked this question pretty regularly as soon as people find out I spend a lot of my time reading about her and have devoted my education to researching her. My very first reaction is to ask “Why not Anne Boleyn?” She was a fascinating woman, a woman who was ahead of her times in terms of learning and thought, ideals and politics. Then I recall that most people do not know this version of Anne.

I have now prepared myself with the following LB Smith quote on Anne, “Anne Boleyn was the crucial catalyst for three of the most important events in modern [British] history: the break with Rome causing the English Reformation, the advent of the nation state and the birth of a daughter whose forty-three years on the throne stand as England’s most spectacular literary and political success story….”

For the historical outsider, this answer is satisfactory. Only those who choose history and research as their lifeblood will understand my true reasoning; Anne is my historical perfect storm. A woman whose actions and life so changed the landscape of an entire country, yet one we know so little about that even the year of her birth cannot be confirmed. Anne inspired such hatred, and such devotion, during her time that it is no surprise that she continues to fascinate myself and scores of other scholars. Anne is ethereal, more myth and hypothesis than established fact. Digging for her story is a never ending challenge as little primary source material about her exists and the ones that do are colored by pro-Catholic and pro-Katharine of Aragon leanings. One of the most extensive primary sources on Anne is the series of letters between Eustace Chapuys, imperial ambassador to England, and his master, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (nephew to Katharine). Chapuys sees fit not to use Anne’s name in this correspondence; referring to her only as the Concubine, the lady and in some cases worse nomenclature. We scholars and lovers of Anne have constant debates about how seriously we can take the claims of one of Katharine’s most ardent supporters. With the elimination of Chapuys’ letters we are left with almost no other contemporary, personal accounts of Anne’s life making the hunt for answers about her even more difficult.

We know from surviving budget accounts that Anne was generous with her money, both in support of the poor and in patronage of artists, writers and theologians. She favored men of the Reformation, whether as a means to an end, (reformation ultimately meant Henry’s divorce) or because she truly believed that a more liberal, personal relationship with God was needed has also been hotly debated. Her downfall, naturally dramatic and the subject of intense sensationalism, has become the stuff of legend. Anne had six fingers, she was a witch, she gave birth to a malformed child, and she had a sexual relationship with her brother. These mythologies have enmeshed themselves so completely with established facts about Anne that most of the general public have a distorted perception of her. There are the people who want to vilify Anne, who claim she was guilty as charged, such as historian GW Bernard, a fact any historian who has explored the evidence will refute. Then there are those that put her on a perhaps undeserved pedestal such as martyrologist John Foxe. These factions are miles apart with most historians not able or willing to work towards a middle ground that would be representative of both truth and fact.  Anne, for the first 20+ years of her life was rather unremarkable. She lived only to the age of 36 and died tragically, yet her story and the unanswered questions that accompany it, reach across a span of nearly 500 years to enthrall movie-goers, novelists and historians alike.

Anne, when examined, is fascinating. The search for her story is hard work and sometimes frustrating; which makes it all worthwhile when I come up with a conclusion about her life or discover a new source about her. And that my friends, is why Anne Boleyn.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Read of the Week

This week I read a book I've been wanting to get my hands on for a while, The Fall of Anne Boleyn: A Countdown by Claire Ridgway. I am big admirer of Claire and her site She writes really, really well, bringing together passion for Anne with hardened historical research. She digs deep into the people and cultural context of the times. I really appreciate the level of detail Claire brings to every article she writes. Her book is written on that same level of academic integrity and creative ingenuity, with details I've never read anywhere else. I especially appreciate how she dissects every character involved with Anne Boleyn's fall stating their relationship to her, their early history and life as well as how they fared after the Boleyn faction fell from power. I especially learned a lot about Sir Henry Norris and Francis Bryan. Ridgway makes thoughtful inquiries regarding Anne's actions, ecnouraging the reader to think deeply and draw their own conclusions about Anne's life and history. I really enjoyed this book, I encourage everyone to pick it up!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1534 Queen Anne Boleyn spent her first full day in confinement. Confinement, in the historical sense, meant that a woman had retreated to her chamber for the remainder of her pregnancy. She would be attended only by her ladies in waiting and close female relatives; no men would be admitted other than the Queen’s priest who stood behind a screen to preach and hear confession. The amount of time spent in confinement ranged anywhere between four and eight weeks. Surprisingly, in Anne’s case, she retreated into her chamber just two weeks before daughter Princess Elizabeth was born. This could be because she calculated her dates incorrectly, easy to do in Tudor times when prenatal care was virtually non-existent, because she purposefully altered the time of conception or because Elizabeth was premature (unlikely as she would have been weak if born nearly a month early)

On August 26th the Queen had made a great ritual of the “taking to the chamber ceremony which took place at Greenwich palace. The pregnant queen attended a special mass at the Chapel Royal and then went with her ladies in tow, to the Queen’s chamber. Refreshments were served before the chamberlain prayed with the Queen and her maids for the safe delivery of a healthy baby prince. In Tudor times there was stringent restrictions on women after they entered the birthing chamber, as well as how the room should be set up.

According to the Royal Book, which dictated decorum (largely edited by Margaret Beaufort) the room must:

§  Be carpeted

§  Have its walls, ceiling and windows covered with arras, the tapestries should depict calming images

§  Have one window slightly uncovered to let in fresh air when necessary.

§  Be furnished with a large bed for the queen to recover in and a pallet at the foot of the bed which is where the queen would actually labor and give birth.

§  Have a font was required in likely case of a sickly child who would need immediate baptism

§  Have soft furnishings of dark crimson satin embroidered with the Queen’s respective arms

§  Have a cupboard specifically to hold the birthing equipment and swaddling bands

The room was kept dark and shut up against fresh air, it was thought by Tudor midwives that creating an atmosphere reminiscent of the womb would keep the baby from becoming sick as well as keep away evil spirits. Confinement was often a social time for the women involved. There would have been drinking, embroidery, gossip and much prayer. Despite the company and rest, I can only imagine Anne would have been hot and bored in the chamber where she was required to stay for a month after the Princess’ birth.

Friday, August 23, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

August 23, 1485 marked the first day of the reign of the Tudor dynasty. The day before Richard III, the last York king, fell at Bosworth Field to the halbert blow of a Welsh commoner, ushering in the reign of Henry Tudor, father to the famous Henry VIII. The Tudors would rule over England for the next one hundred and eighteen years. The monarchs, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, would change the social, religious and cultural landscape in enormous ways!

Henry VII
Unknown, ca 1501

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Secrets of the Virgin Queen: A Documentary

Secrets of the Virgin Queen is another documentary produced by the National Geographic Channel. It gives a ton of insight into Elizabeth I's life and reign. I really enjoyed it and I encourage you to watch it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Anne Boleyn by Norah Lofts, A Book Review

I’ve tried, throughout the course of this blog, to stay professional. I’ve worked hard to always evaluate sources, others’ opinions and available information in the most unbiased way possible. However, today I feel the need to rant. I recently read a book entitled Anne Boleyn: The Tragic Story of Henry VIII Most Notorious Wife by Norah Lofts. This book is an absolute travesty. Though marketed as a biography it perpetuated lies about Anne that have been disproven and the entire premise of the book is that Anne Boleyn was a witch. Lofts implies that witchcraft is the only way Anne could’ve snared Henry and held her influence over him for so long. History, and the study of it requires us to PROVE our theories, not rely upon superstition to support our assertions.

Lofts asserts that Anne Boleyn had a Wolfhound called Urian, meaning the “Devil’s Helper”. She is wrong in two ways, first of all Urian was a greyhound given to her by William Brereton who was later executed with her. Second, Urian is an old Celtic name meaning “from a privileged family” ironic as Brereton’s family was on the rise and Urian was his eldest brother’s name. I cannot imagine why the author chose to pervert the meaning of Anne’s beloved pet’s name but wolves were often associated with sexual predation in mythology so Lofts’ change in the breed of the animal makes sense in a diluted way, not in the researched ways of a professional historian.

Lofts presents the idea that Anne not only had a sixth finger, but that she also had large moles on her neck. On the first page of the book She says, Anne “…had two flaws; on that long slender neck a mole, said the be the size of a strawberry, and described by one of her detractors as ‘a great wen’, and on her right hands a rudimentary sixth finger of which again, much is made…” She backs this up with “evidence” saying the description came from a man whose grandfather saw Anne Boleyn once. What a load of trash. This rumor was started by Nicholas Sanders during the reign of Elizabeth I, Sanders was a Catholic priest in exile for plotting the overthrow of the Queen. Sanders sought to blacken the reputation of Elizabeth by associating her mother Anne with witchcraft. Physical deformities, including moles, were associated with those who had knowledge and/or participated in the craft. At the end of the book Lofts even suggests that Anne Boleyn came back after death and presented herself as a large hare, an animal which most during Tudor times thought a witch could transform into.

In addition to her ridiculous claims that Anne was a witch, Lofts is careless with her historical facts as well. She states that Anne’s first voyage abroad was as a lady in waiting to Mary Tudor as she sailed the channel to become queen of France. Primary source documents tell us this is not true, Anne first crossed the ocean to become a member of the household of Margaret archduchess of Austria. The archduchess’ home was viewed almost as a finishing school for the elite’s and quasi-royals of Europe during the time.

Another section I found repugnant as well as historically inaccurate, was Lofts’ idea that not only did Anne French kiss her brother but that incest was not uncommon during this time. She writes, “It was not that incest was so rare and unnatural a thingsto be unbelievable, everybody knew it happened, but in overcrowded hovels with brothers and sisters sharing beds, among people who lives were so isolated, or their appearance so unattractive, as to make normal sexual contact difficult…” so according to the author, people who lived in the country, or were ugly, often resorted to incest.

Another complaint of mine was the several pages Lofts spent asserting that the king’s eye had already fallen upon Anne in 1523 and that he was the reason for the heart wrenching breakup between Anne and Henry Percy. This, we know, is completely untrue. Most historians, myself included agree that Henry did not meet or begin showing attention to Anne until 1526. In 1523 Henry was in the midst of a passionate love affair with Mary Boleyn and celebrating his young son, the illegitimate Henry Fitzroy.

You’d think I would be out of complaints by now, but the author fueled deeper anger in me later in the book. The most offensive portion of this book is when the author is discussing Anne taking her last communion. Anne was a devout woman; that much is clear to all of us who admire and research her. Norah Lofts, feels differently writing, “There is, of course, just another possibility – that she was in fact the witch that Henry said she was; that she had gone over to the Devil…in this case taking the sacrament and telling a lie at the same time, could have been one more tribute to her Dark Master, offered perhaps at the hope of some magical even at the at the eleventh hour…It is a matter of history that some witches did die with exceptional courage and defiance…” Not only does the author’s assertion that Anne took the host as a tribute to the devil deeply offend me, it is also ridiculous. Anne used her last communion as a means of protesting her innocence of the disgusting crimes she was accused of. Anne took her duties and blessings as a Christian very seriously.

This book is not only riddled with lies and superstitions. It is also poorly researched with almost no notations as to sources. The author makes a complete mockery of true historical writing by portraying her trash as legitimate research.  This work is a complete waste of time and money. Do yourself a favor, never read it. End Rant.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Burning of Anne Askew

On July 16 1546, Anne Askew along with three other Protestants, John Lascelles, John Adams and Nicholas Belenian, were burned at the stake at Smithfield in London for heresy. As we have explored in my previous post Anne has been so badly racked during her interrogations at the Tower of London that she could no longer walk. Anne was carried to the stake and was tied to it when she could not stand. John Foxe, the writer known for working to rehabilitate the reputation of Anne Boleyn, also took this Anne under his literary wing writing, “Hitherto we have entreated of this good woman: now it remaineth that we tough somewhat as touching her end and martyrdom. She being born of such stock and kindred that she might have lived in great wealth and prosperity, if she would rather have followed the world than Christ, but now she was so tormented, that she could neither live long in so great distress, neither yet by the adversaries be suffered to die in secret. Wherefore the day of her execution was appointed, and she brought into Smithfield in a chair, because she could not go on her feed, by means of her great torments. When she was brought unto the stake she was tied by the middle with a chain that held up her body. When all things were thus prepared to the fire, Dr Shaxton, who was then appointment to preach, began his sermon. Anne Askew, hearing and answering again unto him, where he said well, confirmed the same; where he said amiss, “There,” said she, “…he missesth and speaketh without the book.”
The sermon being finished, the martyrs standing there tied at three several stakes ready to their martyrdom, began their prayers. The multitude and concourse of the people was exceeding; the place where their stood being railed about to keep out the press. Upon the bench under St. Bartholomew’s Church sat Wriothesley, chancellor of England; the old Duke of Norfolk, the old earl of Bedford, the lord mayor, with divers others. Before the fire should be set unto them, one of the bench, hearing that they had gunpowder about them, and being alarmed lest the faggots, by strength of the gunpowder, would come flying about their ears, began to be afraid: but the earl of Bedford, declaring unto him how the gunpowder was not laid under the faggots, but only about their bodies, to rid them of their pain: which having vent, there was no danger to them of the faggots, so diminished that fear.
Then Wriothesley, lord chancellors, sent to Anne Askew letter offering to her the King’s pardon if she would recant; who refusing once to look upon them made this answer again, that she came not thither to deny her Lord and Master. Then were the letters like-wise offered unto the others, who, in like manner, following the constancy of the woman, denied not only to receive them, but also to look upon the,. Whereupon the lord mayor, commanding fire to be put to them, cried with a loud voice, “Fiat justicia.”
And thus the good Anne Askew, with these blessed martyrs being troubled so many manner of ways, and having passed through so many torments, having now ended the long course of her agonies, being compassed in with flames of fire, as a blessed sacrifice unto God, she slept in the Lord AD 1546, leaving behind her a singular example of Christian constancy for all men to follow.”
Anne Askew went to her death proudly and with admirable courage. She became the first woman not only to be racked in England, but also the first female Protestant Martyr in what would become a long succession of deaths in England’s bloody religious infighting.
**Passage taken from The Actes and Monuments of John Foxe: The Complete Edition
The Martyrdom of Mistress Askew
by an unknown artist ca. 1869

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On June 3, 1533 Henry VIII’s council wrote to William Blount, Catherine of Aragon’s personal chamberlain instructing him to tell Catherine that she was not longer to refer to herself as Queen, instead she should be addressed by her rightful title of Princess Dowager. This title recognized only Catherine’s short marriage to Arthur, Henry’s older brother.  Despite the annulment of their marriage and the recognition by Parliament of Anne Boleyn’s new queenly status, Catherine persisted in calling herself Queen and Henry’s true wedded wife. The instructions to Blount were as follows:

“As the King cannot have two wives he cannot permit the Dowager to persist in calling herself by the name of the Queen, especially considering how benignantly and honorable she has been treated in the realm. She is to satisfy herself with the name of Dowager, as prescribes by the Act of Parliament, and must beware of the danger if she attempts to contravene it, which will only irritate the feelings of the people against her. If she be not persuaded by these arguments to avoid the King’s indignation and relent from her vehement arrogancy, the King will be compelled to punish her servants, and withdraw her affection from his daughter. Finally, that as the marriage is irrevocable, and has passed the consent of Parliament, nothing she can do will annul is, and she will only incur the displeasure of Almighty God and of the King.” *

Despite the thinly veiled threats in the instructions Catherine rebelled, refusing to acknowledge the end of her marriage, Anne as Queen or even the authority of any person in England to decide her case, arguing that only the Pope had that right. She refused to abandon her title and the legitimacy of her daughter until the Pope made his decision. In fact Catherine asked for her own copy of the instructions which would be translated and sent to Rome. The daughter of Isabella and Ferdinand was showing her courage and defiance once again!


*Excerpt from the Six Wives: The Queen of Henry VIII by David Starkey

Monday, July 1, 2013

Inside the Body of Henry VIII: A Documentary

Hey all, this weekend I watched an awesome Youtube video on the health of Henry VIII. It explores the mental and physical decline of the notorious monarch and possible causes for this deterioration. I found it absolutely fascinating and I hope you do too!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reader Questions

I have gotten a bit behind on answering submitted questions, I apologize! We have had so many great submissions in the past few weeks :) Thank you and I will do my best to answer them all!

Q: The other day a friend told me that Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger. I thought this was a lie until she showed me a website that confirmed what she said! What is your idea?

A: The myth that Anne had a sixth finger began after her death. Nicholas Sander, who was a Catholic living in exile during the time of Elizabeth I, disliked Elizabeth and sought to undermine her rule by blackening the reputation of her mother Anne. He also accused Anne of having an extra, protruding tooth and large moles on her neck. Sanders never saw Anne and his assertions are not found anywhere in contemporary primary source accounts of Anne. It is also safe to assume that Henry would not have pursued her for almost a decade if she had noticeable physical defects, he would have had his pick of attractive women.

Q: How did Lady Jane Grey have a claim to the throne? I am confused as to why she was nominated by Edward?

A: First of all Jane had a very weak claim, hence the reason her reign lasted nine days. Jane was the daughter of Frances Brandon, who herself was the daughter of Mary (nee Tudor) and Charles Brandon. Mary Tudor was Henry VIII's sister. Jane was nominated because she had Tudor blood and shared the virulent Protestant ideas of Edward. Edward and Mary (his eldest sister) often clashed over religious ideologies so he wanted to prevent her from ruling should he die without an heir. He chose to disinherit her based on the nullity of her mother's marriage to Henry VIII but in order to do so he would also have to disinherit Elizabeth regardless of the fact that she had protestant sympathies. Therefore when researching who would be next in line to inherit the throne Edward named Jane as she was his first cousin (once removed) and the eldest Tudor heiress.

Q: Why did Mary choose to place her allegiance with her mother, rather than her father? It would have seemed to serve her better?

A: If you are at all familiar with Catherine of Aragon's reproductive woes you will know why she doted so much on her daughter Mary. Unlike many royal parents Catherine took a very active role in her daughter's upbringing. She personally selected Mary's tutors, religious instructors, clothing and members of her household. When Mary was sick Catherine tended her and they saw each other frequently, writing letters when physical visits were not possible. Catherine's care and love in Mary's upbringing made her more sympathetic to her mother's plight and thus more loyal. we must also examine the fact that siding with her father meant denying her own legitimacy and inheritance, something she wasn't likely to do as she was raised as the heiress apparent and had expectations of ruling England one day.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Read of the Week

When reviewing books for this blog I always try to use something that will not only be enjoyable to my readers but also give them historical insight or knowledge. Sometimes I choose novels, either to give my mind a break from research or to just find out how others perceive and write about Tudor England. Whenever I indulge in a novel it is normally a Philipa Gregory one, her writings are my guilty pleasure because despite their vast historical inaccuracy they are fun to read. This week I settled in and battled the rainy blues by enjoying The Boleyn Inheritance.  The book covers three women vital to the story of Henry VIII; Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Jane Boleyn, viscountess Rochford. Each section of the novel tells the story from these women’s personal points of view. Dodging scandal, spying and playing the game of court politics is everyday life. Gregory brings to life Tudor England and the characters most of us tend not focus on. I greatly enjoyed the sections about Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard but I found her descriptions of Jane Boleyn hard to manage. I know this is historical fiction but the perpetuation of the rumor that Jane’s testimony sent her sister-in-law and Anne and husband George to the scaffold really bothers me. Despite this slight bias I have in the last section the book is amazingly well written and so readable. Pick it up today!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Arrest of Anne Askew

On this day in Tudor history 1546, Mistress Anne Askew was arrested for heresy. Anne was married at fifteen to William Kyme but refused to adopt his last name as her own. William and Anne had at least one child. She developed her skills as a poet and used her talent with words to begin preaching strong Protestant beliefs. She went to London and gave speeches that taught against the doctrine of transubstantiation. Subsequently, William kicked her out of their home.  Anne returned to London almost immediately to apply for a divorce. She said her husband was not a true believer and therefore her divorce was legitimate under scripture, particularly 1 Corinthians 7:15. Her request for divorce was denied but Anne remained in London giving sermons and distributing banned books to people across the city. The first action taken against her was to order her to return to her husband in Lincolnshire.  She returned under duress but soon escaped and was back in London preaching what she viewed as religious truth.
In 1545 Anne askew was arrested and accused as a heretic. She was examined by English clerics about her religious leanings and they found her to disagree with their transubstantiation doctrines. Anne was brought before Bishop Bonner, a religious traditionalist gaining power at Henry VIII’s court. He questioned her but was unable to discover anything incriminating. He then taunted her, saying she lived an unclean, dishonest life. His techniques did not work; Anne remained steadfast in her beliefs.
The Lord Chancellor of England, Thomas Wriothesley took over the prosecution of Anne following the failures of church officials. Anne was subjected to long interrogations, recorded as lasting up to five hours. He asked her opinion of the bread and the Eucharist. She replied; "I believe that as oft as I, in Christian congregation, receive the bread in remembrance of Christ's death, and with thanksgiving, according to His holy institution, I receive therewith the fruits also of His most glorious passion." She was then asked; "How can you avoid the very words of Christ, 'Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you?'" She replied, "Christ's meaning in this passage ... is similar to the meaning of those other places of Scripture, 'I am the door', 'I am the vine', 'Behold the Lamb of God', 'That rock was Christ', and other such references to Himself. You are not in these texts to take Christ for the material thing which He is signified by, for then you will make Him a very door, a vine, a lamb, a stone, quite contrary to the Holy Ghost's meaning. All these indeed do signify Christ, even as the bread signifies His body in that place. Anne again escaped this interrogation relatively unscathed.
On June 18, 1546 Anne wasn’t so lucky; she was arrested by Martin Bowes who ordered Anthony Kingston, the Tower Constable, to torture Anne in order to force her to name other Protestants. The intent of her torturers was likely to implicate the Queen, Kateryn Parr, and several of her ladies in waiting who were thought to be of a like mind as Anne.
In her own account written from prison, Askew claimed she fainted from the pain of torture, thus she was lowered from her ropes and revived. This wracking was completed twice. Repulsed by her obviously pain, Kingston refused to be party to further torture of the woman. He left the tower and sought a meeting with the King at his earliest convenience to explain his position and also to seek his pardon, which the king willingly granted. With the less enthusiastic Kingston out of the way, Wriothesley and Rich set to work themselves. They wracked her so hard that Anne’s body was drawn apart; her shoulders and hips were pulled from their sockets, her elbows and knees dislocated. Askew's tortured screams could be heard in the garden next to the White Tower where the Lieutenant's wife and daughter were walking. Despite her ordeal, Askew gave no names, and her torture ended when the Lieutenant ordered her to be returned to her cell. Unfortunately for Anne, her test of faith was far from over. She would be the first woman in England to face the fires of Smithfield.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1536 Princess Mary (known at this time as the Lady Mary) was the recipient of a visit by members of her father's council. Their intentions were to try and force her by way of threats to acknowledge her father as Supreme Head of the Church in England as well as making her admit that she was not the legitimate heir to the throne. For many years Mary had remained staunch in her assertions that her mother Catherine of Aragon was Henry's only legally wedded wife and therefore she was the only heir to the throne. The Second Act of Succession had recently been enacted declaring both Mary AND Elizabeth bastards. This was Henry's way of clearing the way for the inheritance of the children he hope to have by his newest wife Jane Seymour. Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote of the visit in a letter to Charles V, uncle to the Lady Mary, saying,

" induce her to obey his commands and accede to his wishes, the King send to her a deputation composed of the duke of Norfolk, the earl of Sussex, the bishop of Chester, and several others, whom she literally confounded by her very wise and prudent answers to their intimation [intimidation]. Upon which, finding that they could not persuade her, one of them said that since she was such an unnatural daughter as to disobey completely the King’s injunctions, he could hardly believe that she was the King’s own bastard daughter. Were she his or any other man’s daughter, he would beat her to death, or strike her head against the wall until he made it as soft as a boiled apple, in short that she was a traitress, and would be punished as such. Many other threats of the same sort did the said deputies utter on the occasion, assisted in their task by the Princess’ governess, who happens to be the same as before, having then and there received orders not to allow the Princess to speak a word to any one, and to watch over her so that she should never be left alone by night or day."
The ambassador was previously convinced that Lady Mary's position would now be safe with the death of Anne Boleyn, obviously he was very mistaken. The king's actions and words revealed much about who had actually been responsible for the mistreatment in Mary's life over the past years. Chapuys was now more worried than ever about Mary's physical safety and encouraged her to acquiesce to her father, ensuring her that she would be spiritually forgiven by the Pope himself at a later date and that her survival and eventual accession to the throne was necessary for a return of England into the fold of Roman power and religion. Mary relented, finally, and signed the paperwork declaring herself a bastard and her mother an incestuous liar. Chapuys wrote again to the Emperor saying, " appears, however, that after signing the paper as above said, the Princess fell suddenly into a state of despondency and sorrow…”
The lady Mary must have felt as if she betrayed everything her mother had fought for and died believing. It is no wonder that she felt a sort of depression and self disgust.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thomas Cromwell: An Introduction

Thomas Cromwell has become one of the most discussed and debated characters in the Anne Boleyn world. I will devote parts of this month to writing about his life, religion and downfall as we approach the anniversary of his execution. For those of you who are not as familiar with him, the following is a short summary of Cromwell’s rise and fall.
June was the month of staggering change for Thomas Cromwell. Once the favorite advisor of King Henry VIII, he was key in engineering the annulment of the king’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and in structuring the new Church of England. He supervised the fledgling religious institution from the post of vicegerent in spirituals and as Vicar General. Despite their religious similarities, Cromwell and the new queen, Anne Boleyn had a disastrous falling out and Cromwell once again became primary in planning and carrying out the plot that led to her destruction and subsequent execution. During his meteoric rise to power Cromwell made many enemies, chiefly those who supported traditional religious values and the rights of Princess Mary.  In addition to his power, Cromwell’s exceptional wealth inspired jealousy and anger amongst the older, established noble families of England who viewed him as an upstart not worthy of advising the King. He had become rich during through his many official appointments and assistance in the suppression of monastic life in Britain. However, Cromwell quickly fell from favor when he arranged a “detestable” marriage between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Cromwell thought that by marrying the king into a German duchal family he would secure an alliance with the Protestant League. He also hoped that the arrival of Anne of Cleves would refresh and jumpstart the Reformation in England. Unfortunately for Cromwell, the marriage was disastrous and ended after only six months. Cromwell was arrested on June 10 and arraigned under a bill of attainder. On June 12, 1540 Cromwell wrote to King from his room at the Tower recalling his “most miserable state” and begging for leniency while professing his innocence. The King however was no being influenced by the conservative faction at court and was not even moved by Cromwell’s sad letter that was “…written with the quaking hand and most sorrowful heart of…[his] most sorrowful subject and most humble servant and prisoner…” Cromwell would write many such letters and continue to humble himself before the King. Despite his prostrations, Cromwell was further stripped of his wealth and titles leaving his heir poor and disliked at court. His pleas for leniency also went unanswered and he was executed in late July. Though the King would later express regret at the loss of his chief minister.
Stay tuned all month for more juicy details on the life and death of Thomas Cromwell!