Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Wedding of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

On May 30, 1536 Henry VIII married his third wife Jane Seymour. The wedding was small and took place in the Queen's Closet at Whitehall. Henry thought that Jane Seymour was actually his first "true wife" because his other marriages had been marred by incest and adultery. He believed that God would now grant him a son and heir; something he desperately hoped for. Jane made her public debut as Queen just three days later on June 2, 1536 at Greenwich.  Her appearance was described in a letter to Lord Lisle by John Russell. He said, " On Friday last the Queen sat abroad as Queen, and was served by her own servants, who were sworn that same day. The King came in his great boat to Greenwich that day with his privy chamber, and the Queen and the ladies in the great barge..." Jane was officially proclaimed Queen the next day on Whitsun, the 3rd anniversary of Anne's coronation.

Portrait of Henry, Jane and their son Edward painted post-humously by Hans Holbein.

Quote taken from The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

On May 29, 1533 Anne's coronation celebration began. Her marriage to Henry VIII had been declared legal and binding by the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, the day before. Anne's victory celebration was to last four days. On this day a river pageant rowed the pregnant Anne, who was dressed in cloth of gold, from Greenwich Palace to the Tower of London where she was to stay in the sumptuously remodeled queen's apartments. Her barge was lavishly decorated and was accompanied by a wherry that flew her badge, the crowned falcon, and had a choir of women singing as the procession went downriver. All along the river crowds watched the new queen as she waved from the deck of her barge. Reports say there were over 300 watercraft on the River Thames that day as nobles turned out to fly their arms in a show of wealth and power.  Gun salutes also followed the queen for two hours until she landed at the Tower Wharf where she was greeted by dignitaries, statesman, nobles and her husband who "...laid his hands on both her sides, kissing her with great reverence and a joyful countenance..." This day began the three year reign of Queen Anne Boleyn.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Reader Questions

This week I had over 30 question submissions! I am so glad that you guys are submitting and showing how curious you are about Anne and Tudor England! I am splitting this week's questions up in to two posts to make answering them all more manageable.

Q: Do you think Catherine of Aragon was a virgin when she married Henry VIII like she claimed?

A: It truly is impossible to know. Yet from my research and understanding of the primary source documents, I doubt it. The papal dispensation granted to Catherine and Henry said that her first marriage "might" have been consummated. Arthur and Catherine were bedded in front of the court, as was customary for the time, he made a joke about "...being in the midst of Spain" and that having a wife was "a good past time...". There was never any mention of there being sexual problems in the relationship until after Arthur's death. However, this is just my opinion and every person should research it and come to their own conclusions as it can never be proved one way or another.

Q: Why do portraits of Anne vary so much?

A: Well first off let me start by saying there is no absolutely authenticated portrait of Anne. I believe that the NPG and Hever portraits are most likely her. You can read my full article on the subject here.

Q: Did Anne have a relationship with Mark Smeaton? My instructor seems to think so.

A: Absolutely not, all three dates when Mark and Anne supposedly slept together have been disproven by historians. The first two dates were prior to Anne's official churching ceremony, meaning she was still in seclusion after the birth of Elizabeth, carefully watched by her ladies for signs of post-partum illness or distress. There is no way she could have "snuck out" to meet him. The third date was supposedly a meeting at Hampton Court in her closet, when court records prove that Anne was actually far away in Richmond.

Q: Did Anne and Henry really wear yellow to celebrate the death of Catherine of Aragon?

A: Great question! I don't think so, but it has been interpreted many ways. Some say they wore yellow in celebration, others say they wore yellow because it was the official mourning color of Spain. I have also heard that they wore yellow because it was often associated with the hierarchy of Ireland and Henry was trying to assert his claim as King of Ireland. Once again, this is a matter of opinion because they never told anyone of their exact reason for wearing yellow.

Q: What crimes was Catherine Howard convicted of?

A: Treason, she never admitted to adultery. I do not feel well enough informed to speculate on whether or not Dereham raped her as she claimed. I am however reading a great book on the subject right now called Catherine Howard: The Adulterous Wife of Henry VIII. I'll try to write a post on it when I feel more confident on what I think of her.

Q: Who is Catherine de Eresby?

A: Catherine de Eresby was the third wife of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and best friend of Henry VIII. People often are not aware that de Eresby is Catherine's last name because she is almost always referred to as Catherine Willoughby. Willoughby was actually her father's title, Baron Willoughby. She was called Catherine Willoughby in much the same way Anne Boleyn was referred to as Anne Rochford. Catherine later became an outspoken advocate of religious reform and the guardian of Kateryn Parr's daughter Mary.

Q: What exactly did Henry VIII die of?

A: We don't know exactly but he was suffering from severe gangrene in his feet, infection in his leg ulcers and he had several strokes prior to his death. It was most likely a combination of a bunch of health problems.

Q: Why couldn't Mary I have children?

A: Well as we have clearly explored on this blog, fertility problems ran in Mary's family. She also did not marry until well into her forties, likely after she had stopped ovulating. Even if she was still capable of conceiving after her marriage, her husband Phillip spent much time away from England often returning to Spain for extended periods of time making having a child nearly impossible.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Betrothal of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

On May 20, 1536 just one day after the execution of his wife Anne, Henry promised himself to Jane Seymour. Despite assertions that Jane was the most virtuous and discreet of Henry's wives, most Londoners believed that their relationship had been happening for a while. In fact, sometime between the arrival of Jane at Chelsea Palace and Anne's execution Henry wrote her a letter talking about the pamphlets and letters being circulated that condemned their relationship. Gossip and support of Anne were both on the rise suggesting that Henry was cruel for engaging in an extra-martial affair while his wife awaited trial in the Tower. He wrote:

"My dear friend and mistress:
The bearer of these few lines from they entirely devoted servant will deliver into they hands a token of my true affection for thee, hoping you will keep it for ever in your sincere love of me. Advertising you that there is a ballad made lately of great derision against us,which if it go abroad and is seen by you; I pray you to pay no manner of regard to it. I am not at present informed who is the setter forth of this malignant writing; but if he is found out, he shall be straitly[sic] punished for it.
For the things ye lacked, I have minded my lord to supply them to you as soon as he could buy them. Thus hoping, shortly to receive you in these arms, I end for the present,
Your own loving servant and sovereign,
H. R."

Despite this general sense of disapproval on the part of his subjects, Henry and Jane went forward with their betrothal, planning a wedding that would take place very, very soon.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Anne Boleyn's Scaffold Speech

"Good Christian people, I am come hither to die, according to law, for by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly to the will of the King, my lord. And if, in my life, I did ever offend the King’s Grace, surely with my death I do now atone. I come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of whatof I am accused, as I know full well that aught I say in my defence doth not appertain to you. I pray and beseech you all, good friends, to pray for the life of the King, my sovereign lord and yours, who is one of the best princes on the face of the earth, who has always treated me so well that better could not be, wherefore I submit to death with good will, humbly asking pardon of all the world. If any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge best. Thus I take my leave of the world, and of you, and I heartily desire you to all pray for me. Oh Lord, have mercy on me! To God I commend my soul.”

Anne Boleyn 1501- May 19, 1536

(Taken from Eric Ives' The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Six Wives of Henry VIII

This a great video that explores the story of Anne and Henry using primary source material
Check it out today!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Read of the Week

This week I really enjoyed The Other Tudors,  Henry VIII's Mistresses and Bastards by Phillipa Jones. It was a really interesting read in that Jones sought to humanize Henry's womanizing by describing it as his eternal search for the perfect woman. The author explores Henry's youth and how his mother influenced what he saw as the ideal wife. It also discusses his relationships with his wives Bessie Blount, Mary Boleyn, Jane Pollard and Mary Berkley. Jones believes that Henry had many illegitimate children (I can't say I agree) and presents evidence included how these bastards were treated by Edward, Mary and Elizabeth during their respective reigns and honors bestowed upon them, sometimes undeservedly. The author is convinced that Henry just loved being in love but was never fully satisfied hence the turn-over rate of his spouses. She emphasizes Henry's positive qualities, playing up his good treatment of his children and his wives, but fails to mention that once they fell from favor that treatment quickly ended. On an interesting side note, Jones also seeks to exonerate Mary Boleyn by suggesting she did not sleep with Francis I but rather that Henry VIII was her first love. It is an interesting interpretation of Henry's private life, despite my hesitation on fully agreeing with much of her research. Still, I encourage you to pick it up as it adds a lot of nuance to Henry's story.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Trial of Anne Boleyn

On May 15, 1536 Anne Boleyn was tried in the King's Hall of the Tower of London in front of approximately 2,000 spectators. A special elevated platform has been built in the hall so that nobles and commoners alike could attend the trial of Queen Anne. She was tried by a jury of peers rather than the Commision of Oyer and Terminer who had judged and convicted her accused lovers. Everyone in attendance and the King himself was convinced she would be found guilty. He said as much in a letter to Jane Seymour stating he would ..."send her news at 3 o'clock of the conviction of the putain..." In addition to the King's pressure to convict Anne, the jury was made up of many of her enemies including Charles Brandon (friend and brother in law to the King) her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, who knew that if he did not vote to convict his own life would be in danger, Ralph Neville friend to the Seymour family and the Earl of Surrey, cousin to Anne but who had often spoke against her religious policies.

Anne defended herself with grace and dignity; Charles Wriothesley wrote of her performations saying she "...made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she has never been faultie to the same..." Anne denied all the charges against her, except for the patronage of Sir Francis Weston. It was after all customary for the reigning queen to patronize promising artists. Despite her magnificent defense, the jury found her guilty. They stripped Anne of her titles, wealth and crown. It was recorded that the Duke of Norfolk had tears on his face as he read the verdict and sentence saying:

 "Because though has offended against our sovereign the King's Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and they judgement is tis: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have they head smitten off, as the King's pleasure shall be further known of the same..."

Lancelot de Carles recorded that Anne then spoke to the court saying:

"I do not say that I have been as humble towards the King as he deserved considering the humanity and kindness he showed me, and the great honour he has always paid me; I know that my fantasies have led me to be jealous...but God knows that I have never done him any other wrong"

Anne's quiet dignity and restraint during the trial garnered her much sympathy as word spread through London that the King sought to have his wife executed and marry another. In fact even the commoners, never overly fond of Anne, began to speak out questioning her guilt, the King's motives and besmirching his conduct of engaging in another relationship while his wife was awaiting trial. Despite the outpouring of support for Anne, the King and Cromwell moved determinedly forward towards her judicial execution.

Anne Boleyn Day Contest is hosting their annual Anne Boleyn Day contest. Normally the site founder, Claire Ridgeway, runs an essay contest; however this year she has decided to host a site wide scavenger hunt. Just answer the following twelve questions and email your answers to

1. In what year did Claire start the Anne Boleyn Files
2. What nationality is Claire
3. Who was Anne Boleyn's Master of Horse?
4. Which ambassador referred to Anne as "the concubine"?
5. How many Tudor books has Claire written
6. Sandra Byrd's To Die For tells Anne's story through which woman's eyes?
7. Where does Sarah Morris' title Le Temps Viendra come from?
8. Susan Bordo's The Creation of Anne Boleyn is describes as "Part biography, part..." (2 words)
9. Which Tudor queen did Katherine Longshore's first Tudor novel feature?
10. Where is Anne's place?
11.Where was Anne crowned queen?
12. Which movie has a scene in which Henry VIII visited Anne Boleyn in the Tower and Anne told Henry, "MY Elizabeth SHALL BE QUEEN! And my blood will have been well spent!"

Prizes for the hunt include a beautiful Anne Boleyn B necklace, autographed books and other great items! I urge you to enter and celebrate Anne Boleyn!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Yesterday in Tudor History

Yesterday, May 12th is the anniversary of the trial against Henry Norris, William Brereton, Mark Smeaton and Francis Weston. They are all found guilty of engaging in treasonous acts by allowing themselves to be seduced by the Queen, Anne Boleyn. For some information on their charges, trials and convictions please read my post here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Middlesex Indictment

On May 10th, 1536 Giles Heron, who was serving as the foreman of the Grand Jury of Middlesex and ironically married to the daughter of the late Sir Thomas More, announced that his jury had established that there was enough evidence to suggest the Anne and George Boleyn, Mark Smeaton, Henry Norris, Francis Weston and William Brereton were culpable of the alleged crimes carried out in previous months at both Hampton Court and Whitehall. Additionally, the jury suggested that they be indicted and tried before a jury.

Below is the text of the original indictment drawn up by the Grand Jury:
“Indictment found at Westminster on Wednesday next after three weeks of Easter, 28 Hen. VIII. before Sir John Baldwin, &c., by the oaths of Giles Heron, Roger More, Ric. Awnsham, Thos. Byllyngton, Gregory Lovell, Jo. Worsop, Will. Goddard, Will. Blakwall, Jo. Wylford, Will. Berd, Hen. Hubbylthorn, Will. Hunyng, Rob. Walys, John England, Hen. Lodysman, and John Averey; who present that whereas queen Anne has been the wife of Henry VIII. for three years and more, she, despising her marriage, and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, touchings, gifts, and other infamous incitations, divers of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations; viz., on 6th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, and divers days before and after, she procured, by sweet words, kisses, touches, and otherwise, Hen. Noreys, of Westminster, gentle man of the privy chamber, to violate her, by reason whereof he did so at Westminster on the 12th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII.; and they had illicit intercourse at various other times, both before and after, sometimes by his procurement, and sometimes by that of the Queen.

Also the Queen, 2 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII. and several times before and after, at Westminster, procured and incited her own natural brother, Geo. Boleyn, lord Rocheford, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, alluring him with her tongue in the said George’s mouth, and the said George’s tongue in hers, and also with kisses, presents, and jewels; whereby he, despising the commands of God, and all human laws, 5 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., violated and carnally knew the said Queen, his own sister, at Westminster; which he also did on divers other days before and after at the same place, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.
Also the Queen, 3 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and after, at Westminster, procured one Will. Bryerton, late of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so on 8 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., at Hampton Court, in the parish of Lytel Hampton, and on several other days before and after, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.
Also the Queen, 8 May 26 Hen. VIII., and at other times before and since, procured Sir Fras. Weston, of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, &c., whereby he did so on the 20 May, &c. Also the Queen, 12 April 26 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and since, at Westminster, procured Mark Smeton, groom of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so at Westminster, 26 April 27 Hen. VIII.
Moreover, the said lord Rocheford, Norreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton, being thus inflamed with carnal love of the Queen, and having become very jealous of each other, gave her secret gifts and pledges while carrying on this illicit intercourse; and the Queen, on her part, could not endure any of them to converse with any other woman, without showing great displeasure; and on the 27 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., and other days before and after, at Westminster, she gave them great gifts to encourage them in their crimes. And further the said Queen and these other traitors, 31 Oct. 27 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, conspired the death and destruction of the King, the Queen often saying she would marry one of them as soon as the King died, and affirming that she would never love the King in her heart. And the King having a short time since become aware of the said abominable crimes and treasons against himself, took such inward displeasure and heaviness, especially from his said Queen’s malice and adultery, that certain harms and perils have befallen his royal body.
And thus the said Queen and the other traitors aforesaid have committed their treasons in contempt of the Crown, and of the issue and heirs of the said King and Queen.”
Sir John Dudley, a noble close to the King, wrote to Lady Lisle describing the situation on May 10th saying:
“Is sure there is no need to write the news, for all the world knows them by this time. Today Mr. Norres, Mr. Weston, William a Brearton, Markes, and lord Rocheforde were indicted, and on Friday they will be arraigned at Westminster. The Queen herself will be condemned by Parliament. Wednesday, 10 May.”
it is apparent that Dudley, like most courtiers believed the Queen would be condemned with the men involved. Although, he does not seem to know yet that Rochford would also be tried by the Parliament on May 15th. He does not go into detail on the charges against Anne, but the list was lengthy.

The Queen was accused of:
*Entertaining malice against the King
*Hiring servants specifically to serve as lovers
*Seducing and committing treasonous adultery with Mark, Henry, William, Francis as well as committing incest with George
*Using her considerable wealth to entice men with gifts and money
*Plotting to kill the King
*Agreeing to marry Norris upon the King's death
*Never loving the King
*Causing extreme harm to the King

Anne's five "lovers" were indicted for their supposed parts in Anne's crimes, yet was there any real justice in this situation? I would argue no:
On May 10th, William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower was ordered to "...bring up the bodies of Sir Francis Weston, knt. Henry Noreys, esp. William Bryerton and Mark Smeton, gent. at Westminster, on Friday next after three weeks of Easter" In The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, Eric Ives makes the point that this order was made before the Grand Jury ever met, meaning an indictment and guilty verdict was expected. Sadly, if the Jury had failed to indict they would have felt the wrath of not only Cromwell, but surely the King as well. There must have been immense pressure on these people, not to mention the fact that Giles Heron, the foreman, had a vendetta against Anne. His wife, daughter of Thomas More, and her family believed that Anne was personally responsible for the demise of their father. Interestingly, the indictment makes no mention of Henry Page or Thomas Wyatt, both of whom were imprisoned on suspicion of treason at the time.
Additionally, when dates of the events in question were impossible, downright lies the alleged offences were covered by “divers days before and since” and “several times before and after”, these open for interpretation phrases made is nearly impossible to deny the claims of the crown. Cromwell and his minions must have been very pleased with themselves, Anne's purported behavior was so scandalous, so shocking that the citizens indicting and judging her would want to do right by the King and destroy the woman who caused him so much emotional pain and anguish. The charges against her accused her of using her tongue to seduce her own brother and as having sexual appetites to carnal that she took countless lovers and was still insatiable. She was the devil incarnate, it said, a woman so completely enshrouded in evil that she would even plot the death of the King to whet her lust. Anne never stood a chance against the might of Cromwell and the King with their ability to manipulate English subjects to do their bidding. The indictment was one more step towards Cromwell ridding himself of one his biggest challengers for courtly power and a giant leap forwards in the King being able to marry Jane Seymour. It was apparent to all witnesses that both would get what they wanted.

Henry VIII: The Inner Life of a Most Public King

Hey all,
I am absolutely loving the collection of Tudor themed podcasts available through the British Libraries. I listened to another last night entitled Henry VIII: The Inner Life of a Most Public King. The audio discusses his relationships, worries and personal failures. It really humanizes Henry is a way I have never heard/read before. I really encourage you to listen to it here

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Arrests of Anne and Her "Lovers"

On this day in Tudor history 1536, Sir Henry Norris, friend to the King and Groom of the Stool was taken to the Tower to await trial. He had been held over night at York Place but refused to confess to any wrong doing. Mark Smeaton was already imprisoned and George Boleyn, Lord Rochford was arrested that afternoon. During the arrests, Queen Anne had been busily watching a lively game of tennis at the Greenwich courts when she was interrupted by a messenger ominously telling her that the King had ordered her to present herself before his privy council. Anne left the match and appeared before the royal commission in the council chambers. The Council, made up of her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, Sir William FitzWilliam and Sir William Paulet informed her that she was being accused of committing the treasonous act of adultery with three different men and that Smeaton and Norris has already confessed. Anne was held under force in her chambers until the tide of the River Thames turned favorable and then, at two o'clock in the afternoon, she was rowed by barge to the Tower of London. Anne entered the Tower by the Court Gate of the Byward Tower, not Traitors' Gate as often reported. There she was met by Sir Edward Walsingham, the Lieutenant of the Tower. Walsingham escorted her to the Royal Palace, where Sir William Kingston, the Constable of the Tower was waiting. Not long after Kingston recorded was happened at their meeting in his correspondence with the King's minister Thomas Cromwell.

"On my lord of Norfolk and the King's Council departing from the Tower, I went before the Queen into her lodging. She said unto me, "Mr. Kingston, shall I go into a dungeon?' I said, 'No, Madam. You shall go into the lodging you lay in at your coronation. 'It is too good for me, she said; Jesu have mercy on me;' and kneeled down, weeping a good pace, and in the same sorrow fell into a great laughing which she has done many times since.
She desire me to move the King's highness that she might have the sacrament in the closet by her chamber, that she might prayer for mercy, for I am as clear from the company of man as for sin as I am clear from you, and am the King's true wedded wife. And then she said, Mr/ Kingston, do you know where for I am here? and I said, Nay. And then she asked me, When saw you the King? and I said I saw him not since I saw {him in} in the Tiltyard. And then Mr. Kingston, I pray you to tell me where my  Lord, my father is? And I told her I saw him afore dinner in the Court. O where is my sweet brother. I said I left him at York place; and so I did. I hear say, said she, that I should be accused with three men; and I can say no more by nay, without I should open my body. And there with opened her gown. O, Norris, hast thou accused me? Thou are in the Tower with me, and though and I shall die together; and, Mark, thou art here to. O, my mother, though wilt die with sorrow; and much lamented my lady of Worcester, for by cause that her child did not stir in her body. And my wife said, what should be the cause? And she said, for the sorrow she took for me. And the she said, Mr. Kynston shall I die without justice? And I said, the poorest of the King's subject hath, hath justice. And there with she laughed."

Perhaps Anne laughed because she had seen the King's "justice" at work and knew that things would likely not end well for her. Her fears were well founded as today in history 1536 began the process of the first judicial execution of a reigning Queen.
The Tower of London