Sunday, April 28, 2013

Henry VIII: Myths and Reality

Hey followers,
There has been some pretty negative feedback on Henry lately; it is a rough time of the year for all of us "Anne Addicts" because we are counting down to the anniversary of her execution. However, we still need to keep ourselves professional and continue learning about Henry as well as dispelling the mythology that surrounds the time period. Take a listen to this excellent podcast by the British Libraries which explores what peoples' ideas about Henry and what is the truth. I really enjoyed it and I hope you will too!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

On April 25, 1536 Henry VIII wrote a letter to several foreign ambassadors referring to Anne as "...our most dear and entirely beloved wife and Queen..." Additionally he spoke of his hopes for an heir in the near future. This letter came less than a month before Anne's execution. When I read the text of the letter it seems to me that Henry is still quite devoted to Anne despite her miscarriage earlier in the year. Henry was not one to suppress him emotions, what do you think followers? Was Henry still in love with Anne and committed to his marriage or was this all part of his ploy to bring her down?

Reader Questions

This week I received so many question submissions that I had to sort through them and choose just a few. If I do not directly answer your question in this post I will work diligently to get an answer to you as soon as possible!

Q: I was recently reading a book by Phillipa Gregory that insinuated Margaret of Anjou based off a bastard as the rightful Lancastrian heir to the throne during the War of Roses. Is that true?

A: We will never know for sure, but there was gossip during that time and many historians today believe that her son Henry was the offspring of either Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset or James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire (ancestor of Anne Boleyn) This gossip was born out of the fact that Margaret's husband Henry was weak, often ill and spent much of his days at prayer leading many courtiers to believe him incapable of producing an heir.

Q: The clothing in The Tudors is beautiful, but does not seem very realistic. Did the costume designer take creative liberties?

A: ABSOLUTELY, much of the costuming is very Elizabethan in nature. Also, the costume designer Joan Bergin said she was aiming for sexy and alluring rather than historical accuracy. The characters are often shown revealing more cleavage than would be considered moral in the Tudor period. The female characters also are rarely shown wearing chemises, a clothing staple in Tudor times as heavy dresses were difficult and expensive to clean and care for. Chemises kept sweat, cosmetics and other things from dirtying the heavy garments. Bergin also omits the codpiece which was an important part of male fashion during the reign of Henry VIII. Synthetic fabrics, which did not exist in the sixteenth century, are also noticeable. Bergin made the decision to design in this way, not from ignorance to the style of Tudor England, but because she felt that viewers would connect more to her more modern designs.

Q: I read your work on Catherine of Aragon's eating disorder; where can I find more information on the topic?

A: That is a great question; first of all let me say that my work is very original there has only been one other author who suggested that Catherine of Aragon suffered from Anorexia and he did not provide the background information that I did. His name is Gilles Tremlett and his books are widely available. Yet, my best advice to you is to dive into the primary sources and follow the patterns like I did. Do research on eating disorders and compare it to Catherine's habits.

Q: What was wrong with Henry VI?

A: He suffered from a mental disorder, most likely schizophrenia. From boyhood he was often paranoid, had grandiose, unrealistic ideas and at times very indecisive. At about the age of 30 or 31 he suffered from a mental breakdown where he was in an unresponsive, comatose state for nearly 18 months. After awakening he suffered from religious delusions, failed to properly care for his personal hygiene and seemed to not care that the country was on the brink of war due to his inability to rule. Eventually, his mental disorder resulted in the loss of his crown to the York dynasty, his wife and son (who were driven out of England by Yorkist supporters) and eventually his life. It is a sad, but very interesting story. If you are interested there is an excellent book on the subject called The Reign of Henry VI by Dr. RA Griffiths.

Q: When was Anne Boleyn born?

A: That is open for debate amongst historians although I definitely believe that she was born in 1500/01. I base my idea on the fact that in 1513 she was sent abroad to be a maid in waiting to Margaret of Austria. Practice dictated that maids in waiting had to be at least 12 years old. There is also the letter she wrote from Austria to her father which shows advanced French language skills and beautiful script much beyond that capabilities of a six year old, which in my mind negates the possible birth date of 1507 put forward by author Retha Warnicke.

Keep submitting, I am learning right along with you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Other Boleyn Girl (BBC Version)

There have been many portrayals of Anne Boleyn over the past 500 years, of course BBC had to weigh in. Enclosed is their version of The Other Boleyn Girl written by Phillipa Gregory. It is full length, let me know what you think and how it differs from the American version!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1534 Sister Elizabeth Barton (known also as the Holy Maid of Kent), a nun who prophesied that Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn was hanged.

In 1528, Barton met with the King and was endorsed by him because her visions went Henry's current political and religious path. She encouraged piety and warned against heresy when that was the official policy of the monarchy. Henry VIII quickly turned against her though when he sought not only an annulment from Catherine of Aragon, but also supreme control over the Church in England. In1532,  the Holy maid began prophesing that if Henry remarried, which he was planning, that he would die soon after. Barton also claimed that she had also seen the exact place in Hell where he would spend eternity. Despite her visions Henry would live for another 15 years and outlast three more wives.

Remarkably, Barton went unpunished for nearly a year, perhaps because she was more popular than the King and his government amongst both very rich and very poor. Because she had only talked about her visions and not done anything physically treasonous, Henry was required to pass an attainder, an Act of Parliament that could, without trial, punish actions done when they were legal. Henry's agents spread rumors that Barton was engaged in  heinous sexual relationships with many parish priests and that she suffered from extreme mental illness which is how her visions were propagated.

Her reputation was irreparably damaged and the Crown was then able to arrest Barton in 1533 and forced her to confess that she had fabricated her revelations. However, all that is known regarding her confession emanates from the King's chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, or his agents who participated in her interrogations. All available documents support the Crown's assertions that Barton was a fraud and a traitor. Furthermore, she and her companions were condemned without a hearing. She, along with five of her most vocal supporters, four of whom were local Catholic priests, were executed for treason and hanged at the Tyburn gallows.She was buried at Greyfriars Abbey  but her head was put on a spike on London Bridge, the only woman in the history of the bridge to be dishonored in such a way.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history, imperial ambassador and virulent enemy of Anne Boleyn, Eustace Chapuys was tricked into acknowledging her as Queen. Chapuys always referred to Anne as "the concubine" or "mistress Anne" despite recognition of her as Queen by the King and his government.

On the Tuesday after Easter 1536 Chapuys arrived at Greenwich Palace to meet the King and discuss matters that effected both the Henry and the Emperor, namely increasing tensions with France. He was met by George Boleyn, Lord Rochford  and the King's minister Thomas Cromwell, who carried a message from Henry firmly "asking" him to visit the Queen and kiss her hand, a universal sign of recognition and subordination. Chapuys pleaded with Cromwell to excuse him from this visit as he believed that "such a visit would not be advisable". The King,surprisingly, did not seem to mind. Chapuys records in his notes that "the King came out and gave me a very kind reception, holding for some time his bonnet in his hand, and not allowing me to be uncovered longer than himself; and after asking how I was, and telling me that I was very welcome". Despite Chapuys' pleasant meeting with the King, Henry,  Anne and her brother Lord Rochford were scheming, planning to manipulate the ambassador into recognizing her.

Chapuys, portrait at Annecy

Chapuys continues to desribe the scene saying:

"I was conducted to mass by lord Rochford, the concubine's brother, and when the King came to the offering there was a great concourse of people partly to see how the concubine and I behaved to each other. She was courteous enough, for when I was behind the door by which she entered, she returned, merely to do me reverence as I did to her."

This may not sound like a major event, but what Chapuys fails to mention is that Lord Rochford conducted him  to mass, purposefully placing the ambassador behind the door through which Anne would enter. Anne Boleyn, for her part, knew exactly where the ambassador stood and stopped as she entered, swung round to him and bowed. Chapuys, based on the rules of courtly manner, was forced to do likewise. He bowed to Anne, acknowledging her as Queen. The King and Queen finally got what they had long desired, recognition of Anne's status as consort.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"She changed her name from Marchionness to Queen..."

In a letter dated April 15, 1535 Imperial ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote of Anne's procession into mass for the first time as recognized Queen. The King had, just a few days before, commanded his council to acknowledge Anne as his wife and Queen. In his words to Emperor Charles V, Chapuys describes the scene:

"On Saturday, Easter Eve, dame Anne went to mass in Royal state, loaded with jewels, clothes in a robe of cloth of gold friese. The daughter of the duke of Norfolk, who is affianced to the duke of Richmond, carried her train; and she had in her suite 60 young ladies, and was brought to church and brought back with the solemnities, or even more, which were used to the Queen. She has changed her name from Marchioness to Queen and the preachers offered prayers for her by name. All the world is astonished at it for it looks like a dream, and even those who take her part know not whether to laugh or to cry. The King is very watchful of the countenance of the people, and begs the lords to go and visit and make their court to the new Queen, whom he intends to have solemnly crowned after Easter, when he will have feastings and tournaments; and some think that Clarencieux went four days ago to France to incite gentlemen at arms to the tourney, after the example of Francis, who did so at his nuptials. I know not whether this will be before or after, but the King has secretly appointed with the archbishop of Canterbury that of his office, without any other pressure, he shall cite the King as having two wives; and upon this, without summoning the Queen, he will declare that he was at liberty to marry as he has done without waiting for a dispensation or sentence of any kind."

Katherine Carey: A Case for Royal Paternity

Catherine Knollys (nee Carey)
By Steven Van Der Meulen
For many years rumors have abounded in the historical community regarding Catherine Carey's, Mary Boleyn's daughter, paternity. In fact, there are questions about whether or not William Carey, husband to Mary at the time of the births, sired either one of her children. This doubt is rooted in the fact that during the time of Katherine's conception Mary was involved in an affair with King Henry VIII of England. In this article I will discuss what I feel is strong evidence proving that Henry VIII was indeed Katherine's father.

Mary Boleyn returned from France probably in 1519 after spending much time at the court of Francois I. She came, presumably, to let gossip regarding her flirtations and possible affair with the King die down as well as to finally marry. Her father had been working diligently to betroth her to William Carey, a rising star at the court of Henry VIII and a member of privy chamber. It is not known exactly when Mary caught Henry's eye but some small pieces of evidence would point to 1522. There was a series of royal grants made to William Carey in February 1522, suggesting that the King was rewarding him for his buxom bride,  additionally there were assertions by Cardinal Reginald Pole that the king "violated" Mary Boleyn in 1522. While we cannot be sure that Pole spoke truthfully or out of malice, but we do know that an affair took place. In 1528, while being questioned by Parliament a member accused Henry of sleeping with Anne's mother and sister. Undoubtedly flustered, the king replied: "Never with her mother." In 1527, Henry was planning to marry Anne Boleyn. He sought and received a papal dispensation to marry the sister of a woman with whom he had engaged in illicit/unlawful intercourse. Anne had only one sister - Mary.

Now that we have established the affair took place with its probable start in 1522, we shall discuss the child born of the relationship. Because there is no contemporary proof of Katherine's paternity we must investigate circumstantial evidence. Many have decried the theory of Catherine being Henry's daughter because he never recognized her in the same fashion he did Henry FitzRoy, his illegitimate son with Mistress Elizabeth Blount. First of all we must consider historical social context. When Henry FitzRoy was born in June of 1519 it was likely that the King had all but given up on the prospect of a legitimate heir by his wife Catherine of Aragon. She had only given him a daughter, Princess Mary born in 1516 and it was probably known that Queen Catherine was no longer able to become pregnant. In the absence of a legitimate male heir, it makes sense that Henry would not only acknowledge his bastard son, but also ennoble him, paving the way for him to possibly be acknowledged as the next king. Mary Boleyn's daughter, on the other hand, would have served no dynastic purpose; not only was she illegitimate, she was a female barring her from direct inheritance. Not only would Henry's acknowledgement of Katherine have served him no purpose, it would have also destroyed Mary's already tenuous reputation and publicly labeled her husband a cuckold. Had Henry chose to acknowledge Katherine as his own daughter following the 1527 fall out of his marriage, it would have seriously jeopardized his ability to marry Anne Boleyn; essentially creating the same familial bond between himself and Anne that he believed existed between he and Catherine of Aragon because of her previous sexual relationship with his brother. When I put forward this theory, a fellow Anne enthusiast asked then why Henry would not have acknowledged Katherine following Anne's death. There are several reasons, namely that Henry wanted to distance himself from Anne and her kin, but also that after proclaiming himself head of The Church in England it would have been morally questionable to have bastard children.

Because Katherine's birth is recorded as early Spring (March/April 1524) we can assume that the child was conceived in the summer of 1523 when the King and Mary were seeing each other. In order to dodge questions of her child's paternity, Mary chose to name the child Katherine, in honor of the reigning queen. It is very safe to assume that Mary's pregnancy was an accident and that it resulted in the distancing of the couple as sex during pregnancy was considered dangerous and sinful in the Tudor era. The King would have found someone else to keep him company during Mary's pregnancy. Following her first pregnancy, the King's grants to William Carey lessened though he retained his position as a member of the King's household and Mary's time as a favorite was over.

Following the death of William Carey of the sweat in 1528 his lands and wealth transferred to his sole heir Henry Carey. Mary would have had use of these funds and lands until wardship of young Henry was transferred to Anne in December of 1528. When Anne assumed wardship of the child, his monies and properties were all taken into her keeping as well, leaving Mary quite destitute. Swiftly, the King had a pension transferred to Mary of about 100 pounds per year. This is the equivalent of 32,000 GBP or $49,187.00 USD by today's standards. This was not a typical action as widows normally became the responsibility of their families until another marriage could be arranged for them. This again suggests that Henry had a vested interest in ensuring that Katherine was provided for. Additionally, he intervened with Thomas Boleyn, urging him to take Mary and Katherine into his home and provide care for them, something he had originally denied them, possibly due to his disapproval of her compromising her reputation so many times.

In addition to the timing of Katherine's conception being suspect there is also the evidence in the similar facial features of the Tudor dynasty and Katherine Carey. Anyone who examines the above portrait can see definite Tudor features. The red hair, prominent chin and heavy lids are all distinct and noticeable in portraits of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I as well as Elizabeth of York, suggesting they are the genetic manifestations of Plantagenet blood.

Without a genetic test we could never be sure that Katherine was indeed the King's illegitimate daughter, but I feel there is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that she was. Whoever was her father, Katherine Carey was a rising star at court who made a fantastic marriage and had eleven children. She remained close with Elizabeth I for the remainder of her life and when she died she was buried in a sumptuous funeral, her sarcophagus is one of the richest and most beautiful in Westminster Abbey both paid for by the notoriously penny pinching Elizabeth. Her legacy as a powerful woman at Elizabeth's court lives on through her famous descendants descendants including Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Sources:  Weir, Alison; Ives, Eric; Warnicke, Retha; Jones, Phillipa.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Read of the Week

Though it has taken me a while, I finally finished another book. Over the past few weeks I have been enjoying Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir. The book is a much needed exploration of Mary's life, despite a lot of guesswork and conjecture on the part of the author. Mary's life is much like a blank slate, with little details available to fill in the gaps. This book discusses her affairs with both Francois and Henry as well as her marriages, children and reputation. I really enjoyed reading it, despite the fact that I felt it lacked a certain support system of primary source evidence. Weir, a clear Anne enthusiast also spends quite a lot of time focusing on Anne in relationship to Mary. So much in fact, that sometimes I would forget I was reading about Mary and not Anne. Weir obviously does the best with what evidence is surviving and available to her and she dug deep into not only historical documents but also social customs and context to paint the most clear portrait of of Mary that I have ever read. It is interesting to explore the "other" Boleyn girl in a historical, rather than Hollywood created, setting. I would recommend it to Weir's fans and those interested in learning more about general Boleyn family history.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Reader Questions

Like much of my research work lately, answering reader questions has fallen by the way-side. Please forgive the delay and I will try to be more diligent about addressing your questions!

Q: What happened the Henry FitzRoy?

A: Historically, he is recorded as having died of consumption, which most historians believe is Tuberculosis. However, he could have died of another pulmonary infection such as cancer, pneumonia or influenza. Without access to modern medical technology and autopsy practices we cannot be completely certain.

Q: Were Mary Carey's (nee Boleyn) children the illegitimate offspring of Henry VIII?

A: We can't be 100% sure, but I plan to address the question in a blog post this week. Stay tuned.

Q: Did Reginald Pole have a strong claim to the English throne? If not why was Henry VIII intimidated by him?

A: This is an excellent question and to fully explain I need to give a short genealogy lesson. Reginald Pole was the son of Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury. Margaret's father was George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence and brother to both Kings Edward IV and Richard III who ruled as part of the York dynasty. George was executed for high treason by his elder brother Edward. Upon the death of Edward, his heir should have been crowned Edward V but he was declared illegitimate along with his younger brother, clearing the way for Richard to seize power. Richard was killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field while fighting Henry Tudor, who would become Henry VII, father to the infamous Henry VIII. Richard died without a successor. Now, to evaluate the claim that Reginald would have had a strong claim to the throne; Henry Tudor had a legitimate, if weak claim to the English throne. His father was half brother to the deposed former Lacastrian king Henry VI and his mother was second cousin to Henry VI meaning his claim through the Lancastrian line was quite stable. Margaret was the sole remaining heir of George but as women could not inherit her eldest son would have been the York heir to the claim. That son was Reginald Pole. I believe that while Reginald could stake a claim, that claim would have been based on the crown being taken from the Lancastrian line by the Yorks as well as the fact that any inheritances George would have left to his children were seized following his death. It was only the kindness of Edward that restored George's family to some semblance of nobility. Also, in an attempt to unite the warring country Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. Because her brothers were presumed dead by this point that made her the heir to her father. Therefore, by the time Henry VIII ascended the throne he had a strong claim to the throne because of his Lancastrian AND York heritage. I find that Henry's dislike of Pole came more from his very public opposition to Henry's divorce and remarriage to Anne Boleyn as well as his refusal to join the Church of England, Pole remained staunchly Catholic for the remainder of his life.

Thank you for your questions! Continue submitting via the contact form and I will answer them in a timely fashion.



Saturday, April 6, 2013

Author Hilary Mantel on Anne Boleyn

In honor of me re-reading Bring Up the Bodies and hoping to like it more the second time around, I am sharing this video of the book's author Hilary Mantel and her thoughts on Anne, her novels and how to open up history to a wider audience than strictly professional historians. I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, April 5, 2013

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history Richard Rouse, official cook for Bishop John Fisher was boiled to death. Rouse, a commoner, admitted to poisoning porridge that was subsequently served to Fisher and several guests visiting him. Because Fisher was virulently against Henry VIII divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his desire to marry Anne Boleyn, many were quick to blame her for the poisoning which resulted in several deaths. The poisoning has been portrayed in Hollywood versions of Anne's story including The Tudors which implied that Thomas Boleyn provided Rouse with the poison. Fortunately, there is no evidence to support this claim and Henry VIII did not belief gossip at the time.

Primary source evidence references the event in several locations, this excerpt is from the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII:

"On the Eighteenth day of February, 1531, one Richard Roose, of Rochester, Cook, also called Richard Cooke, did cast poison into a vessel of yeast to baum, standing in the kitchen of the Bishop of Rochester's Palace, at Lambeth March, by means of which two persons who happened to eat of the pottage made with such yeast died".