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!

Read of the Week

If I had to describe Susan Bordo’s book The Creation of Anne Boleyn I would characterize it as thought-provoking, a kind of historical sand-paper peeling back layers of mistruth and mythology that have accumulated about Anne’s life and death in last 500 years. Bordo is not a historian, rather an instructor in Philosophy and Gender Studies which lends new perspective and ideas to the search for the truth about our favorite Tudor queen.
The first half of the book is devoted to research on Anne’s life. For anyone who is very familiar with Anne there is not a lot of new information. I absolutely loved the second section of her book “Recipes of Anne Boleyn”. This portion of the book addresses how perceptions and interpretations of Anne have changed over time and what influenced this malleable image of England’s most infamous Queen. Bordo references the changes in Anne’s historical persona through the influence of literature and popular culture. The rise in feminist feelings led to a much more sympathetic view of Anne than ever before, while conservative agendas tend to paint her as the usurping whore. The third part of the book is devoted to the Hollywood picture of Anne and Bordo pursues interviews with Genevieve Bujold, Natalie Dormer and others who have been involved with the cinematic portrayal of Anne.
If I have one complaint about this book it is Bordo’s almost aggressive approach towards criticizing Tudor historians including Alison Weir and David Starkey. If you follow my reads of the week very closely you know that I have often reviewed these authors and find that while I may not agree with every point they make, these two undoubtedly lend much knowledge and incredible insight into the world of Tudor England. Bordo accuses them of fabricating history while making errors in her own research including in chapter four where she talks about Anne and Henry making their trip to Calais to meet King Francois I in 1532. She says that Fracois’ consort Claude snubbed Anne and refused to meet with her. This is incorrect; Anne had served in Claude’s court for many years and there were undoubtedly warm feelings between the two women. Not only did Claude not snub Anne in 1532, but she died in 1524 of child bed fever. It was Eleanor who refused to meet with Anne in Calais.  I do not mind Bordo’s criticism of Philipa Gregory. While she is one of my favorite historical fiction writers, Gregory’s work cannot and should not be taken as fact. Gregory has claimed to be a trained historian, which she is! Unfortunately, she does not use her doctorate in history to put forth truth, rather she bases her writing on historical probability; a ludicrous notion. Many people learn their history from popular culture, Gregory should be aware of this and shoulder the responsibility of producing fairly accurate historical fiction. Instead she has convinced the masses that Anne Boleyn had a sexual relationship with her own brother.
The Creation of Anne Boleyn is fresh, fun to read and sometimes “in your face” when Bordo discusses what she likes and dislikes about how Anne is presented to the general public. This book was enlightening and hard to put down. My best advice: pick it up today!

Friday, June 7, 2013

This Day in Tudor History

Just a few days after Jane Seymour was announced as Queen of England at Greenwich Henry paid for a lavish river pageant on the Thames to honor her. Henry and Jane were rowed along the river together from Greenwich to Whitehall. Charles Wriothesley, the most prominent of Tudor era chroniclers wrote of the flotilla saying,
“The 7th daie of June being Wenesdaie in Whitson weeke, the kinge and the queene went from Grenewych to Yorke Place at Westminster, by water, his lords barges going afore , him, everie lord in his owne barge, and the kinge and queene in a barge togeeter, following after the lorde’s barge, with his guard following him in a great barge; and as he passed by the shipps in the Thames everie shuppe shott gonns, and at Radclioffe the Emperoures Embassadour stoode in a tente with a banner of the Emperoures armes seett in the top of his tente and divers banners about the same, he himself being in a rych gowne of purple satten, with divers gentleman standing about him with gownes and cottes of velvet; and when the Beach Kinges barge came by him, he sent two bottes [boats} of his servants to rowe aboute the Kinges barge, one of them were his trumpetters, and another with shalmes [A type of flute] and sagebottes [Instrument similar to a trombone], and so made a great reverence to the Kinge and Queene as they came by him, and the he let shott a fortie great gonns, and as the King came against the Tower of London their was shott above fower [four] hundred peeces of ordinance, and all the tower wals towards the water side were sett with great streamers and banners; and so the King passed throwe [through] London Bridge, with his trumpets blowing before him, and shalmes, sagbuttes, and dromeslawes [drummers] playing also in barges going before him, which was a goodlie sight to beholde”

The celebration must have invoked memories of Anne’s River Thames celebration flotilla which took place three years earlier. Read about Anne’s own river pageant here!
Queen Jane Seymour by an Unknown Artist
Please be aware that this passage taken from the Six Wives is transcribed as written. Spelling had not been formalized yet  in the 16th century hence the misspellings and grammar errors. If you have questions regarding a meaning, please contact me via the contact form at the bottom of the Confessions homepage here. Also, please note my spelling and identification notes in the brackets.

Read of the Week

This week I dove headlong into the 765 pages of David Starkey's Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII.
The book, most notably, is written in Starkey’s snarky, entertaining fashion. He gives a lot of commentary about Tudor life and almost always interjects his own thoughts on marriage, inheritance and other issues relevant to the book. It is extremely long but gives a beginning Tudor enthusiast much of the background they will need to continue their traverse into the world of Henry VIII. Starkey successfully brings to life the women in Henry’s life. I think the part I loved the most was how much he humanized Catherine of Aragon, often she is painted as so pious that her character become flat and uninteresting. Starkey removed this misnomer and makes Catherine’s tenacity and personality as interesting as any of the other wives. David Starkey has one again brought his incredible narrative energy to English history making the events flow and intertwine to show how complex the situation really was, all the while keeping the reader 100% engaged. Most of this book is devoted to the study of Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, but this can be attributed to the fact that their lives shaped and changed Henry and England the most of any of his Queens. I strongly encourage you to pick this book up; but pace yourself and do not become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the book; this one is a marathon…not a sprint J

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anne and Thomas More: Mortal Enemies?

Thomas More was a close friend of the King; so close they may have been brotherly but Anne Boleyn turned Henry away from him and brought about his ultimate demise because he refused to acknowledge her as Queen.

What a myth. This misrepresentation of Thomas More and his downfall can be attributed to the influence of Hollywood and tacky historical novelists. The real story of Sir Thomas More is much more complicated and interesting. More was a noted Renaissance Humanist who deplored war and strove to be a moderate voice amongst Henry VIII's ambitious, sometimes ill informed advisers. More held minor positions in Henry's household and a seat in Parliament. Until the falling out of Thomas Wolsey and Henry VIII over negotiations with the Pope for an annulment of Henry's unhappy and rapidly deteriorating marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

After Cardinal Thomas Wolsey fell, More succeeded him to the office of Chancellor in 1529. He dispatched England's cases with unprecedented rapidity. He was undoubtedly devoted to Henry and the royal prerogative; More initially cooperated with the King's new policies, denouncing Wolsey in Parliament as ineffective and scheming. He also joined the opinion of the theologians at Oxford and Cambridge that the marriage of Henry to Catherine had been unlawful because of her relationship with his older brother Arthur. Yet as Henry's actions became more extreme and he denied Papal Authority, More's qualms about the extent which the King would go to grew.

As the conflict over supremacy between the Holy See and the King of England reached its climax, More continued to remain ardent in his support of the supremacy of the Pope as the vicar of Christ over that of the Henry. In 1530, More refused to sign a letter by the leading English churchmen and aristocrats which asked Pope Clement VII to annul Henry's marriage to Catherine, and also quarrelled with Henry VIII over the heresy laws trying to protect Catholics in England.

 In 1531, Henry began to move against More by purging nearly all of the clergy who supported Roman authority from senior positions in the church, this action left his isolated from those who shared his devotion. Additionally, Henry had solidified his denial of the Papacy's control of England by passing the "Statute of Praemunire" which forbade appeals to the Roman Curia from England, in essence silencing Catherine of Aragon's pleas for papal intervention in her divorce proceedings. More quickly realized his isolated position and attempted to resign after being forced to take an oath declaring the King the Supreme Head of the English Church " far as the law of Christ allows". Furthermore, the Statute of Praemunire made it a crime to support in public the claims of the Papacy to be the sole, something he had done while burning Protestant heretics and pursuing the arrest and execution of William Tyndale. Thus, he refused to take the oath in the form in which it would renounce all claims of jurisdiction over the Church except the sovereign's. Despite his refusal, the reputation and influence of More as well as his long relationship with Henry, kept his life secure for the time being and consequently Henry refused to accept his resignation from office. However, with his supporters in court quickly disappearing, in 1532 he asked the King again to relieve him of his office, claiming that he was ill and suffering from sharp chest pains. This time Henry granted his request.

In 1533, More notably refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn as the Queen of England. This is the first piece of evidence sensationalists will use to suggest that there was enmity between Anne and More. Despite claims by multiple authors this act in and of itself was not treasonous, as More had written to Henry acknowledging Anne's queenship and expressing his desire for the King's happiness and the new Queen's health. Though we cannot know for sure the reasons for his absence at the event, but there were rumors of illness, proven increasing poverty and unpoularity at court as the Boleyn faction grew in power and influence.

On  April 13, 1534, More was asked to appear before a commission and swear his allegiance to the parliamentary Act of Succession. Instead More accepted Parliament's right to declare Anne Boleyn the legitimate Queen of England, but he steadfastly refused to take the Oath of Supremacy of the Crown in the relationship between the kingdom and the Church in England. Holding fast to the teaching of Holy See supremacy, More refused to take the oath which reads:
"...By reason whereof the Bishop of Rome and See Apostolic, contrary to the great and inviolable grants of jurisdictions given by God immediately to emperors, kings and princes in succession to their heirs, hath presumed in times past to invest who should please them to inherit in other men's kingdoms and dominions, which thing we your most humble subjects, both spiritual and temporal, do most abhor and detest..."
With his refusal to support the King's assertion of absolute religious authority in England More's enemies had enough evidence to have the King arrest him for treason. Four days later, King Henry VIII had More locked away in the Tower of London. While he was imprisoned, Thomas Cromwell made at least three visits, urging him to take the oath; for his part More continued to refuse. As a result he was tried by a panel of judges  that included the new Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Audley, as well as Anne Boleyn's father, brother and uncle. Writers have tried to point to this as evidence of Anne's influence in his destruction. Historians however, see this as only natural when one takes into account the immense power wielded by the Thomas Boleyn, the Earl of Ormonde, George Boleyn, ennobled as Viscount Rochford and Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk.

More was tried, and found guilty, under the following section of the Treason Act 1534:
If any person or persons, after the first day of February next coming, do maliciously wish, will or desire, by words or writing, or by craft imagine, invent, practise, or attempt any bodily harm to be done or committed to the king's most royal person, the queen's, or their heirs apparent, or to deprive them or any of them of their dignity, title, or name of their royal estates...

That then every such person and persons so offending... shall have and suffer such pains of death and other penalties, as is limited and accustomed in cases of high treason.
After the verdict was read and prior his sentencing, More spoke freely of his belief that "no temporal man may be the head of the spirituality".

AS we can clearly see from the evidence available, More's downfall was a direct result of his inability/unwillingness to accept Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church in England. His deeply held and unchaging Catholicism made it impossible for him to consider that the Apostolic line might not lie with the Pope. There was no personal quarrel between Anne and Sir Thomas More; in fact she kept a copy of Utopia amongst her belongings. This is just another example of irresponsible myth spreading thanks to those with little respect for historical fact or research.