Friday, November 14, 2014

Was 11/14 Henry and Anne's Wedding Day?

There is much speculation regarding the date of Henry and Anne's wedding; some historians argue that it is November 14, 2014 which is St. Erkenwald's Day and ironically, the day that Arthur, prince of Wales and Catherine of Aragon were married. Read about this possibility here!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Read of the Week

I have been doing quite a bit of reading since the last time I shared my thoughts with you. I'll start with one of the best books I have read lately: The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who Made England by Dan Jones is a great addition to any British historian's library. I have been trying to expand my general knowledge about high medieval England and this book gave great insights into the rise of the Plantagenet family including the root of their name, family trees and vignettes that gave you very detailed looks into the life of these spectacular rulers. It is a great survey book of the Plantagenet reign. That being said, it would have been nice if the author had included some social history. After all, he claims, the Plantagenets 'made England' but failed to show how their actions affected every day common English people. As far as gender emphasis is concerned, Jones was careful to weigh in on how women impacted the rise of the English nation state including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Matilda, some of the most fascinating, powerful females in English history.

The book covered nearly 400 years of history and so was understandably sparse in some areas, but I had a bit of a problem with the author ending his narrative with the deposition of Richard II when in fact that Plantagenet line continued until the brutal death of Richard III as Bosworth and the rise of the Tudors.

In addition to being incredibly informational, the book was very well written. It engaged the reader the entire length of the narrative and was well cited. The books mixes hard facts with engaging stories and makes for a fun, rather quick read. I suggest grabbing this affordable volume from your local book store today!

Le Temps Viendra

Confession: My life is crazy and my blog has not remained a priority...

I have been largely absent from blogging for a few months. In that time I: completed my first year of my M.A. in history, chose my thesis topic and committee and scheduled a trip to England to relax and research. I am planning for this blog to expand to include my personal stories of research struggles and keep you all up to date on my degree progress. Thank you for continuing to support Confessions as my life gets busy and my blogging time decreases.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Trial of Anne Boleyn

Today marks the 478th anniversary of the trial of Anne Boleyn. I have written quite extensively about today's nuanced, obviously pre-decided outcome and Anne's spectacular defense of herself. Read all about it here!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor History 1536 Cromwell continued his propaganda campaign against Anne Boleyn when he wrote to Bishop Stephen Gardiner saying:
"The Queen's incontinent living was so rank and common that the ladies of her privy chamber could not conceal it. It came to the ears of some of the Council, who told his majesty, although with great fear, as the case enforced. Certain persons of the privy chamber and other of her side were examined, and the matter appeared so evident that, besides that crime, "there brake out a certain conspiracy of the King's death, which extended so far that all we that had the examination of it quaked as the danger his Grace was in, and on our knees gave him laid and praise that he had preserved him so long from it" Certain men were committed to the tower, viz., Marks and Norris and the Queen's brother; then she herself was apprehended and committed to the same place; after her Sir Fras. Weston and Wm. Brereton. Norris, Weston, Brereton, and Marks are already condemned to death, having been arraigned at Westminster on Friday last. The Queen and her brother are to be arraigned tomorrow, and will undoubtedly go the same way...
I write no particularities, the things be so abominable that I think the like was never heard...."
Cromwell had already crafted opinion against Anne in England and his aim in writing to Gardiner was to spread these vile tales to France where the Bishop was serving as an ambassador. Notice how he essentially assures Gardiner that Anne and George will be condemned to death; not exactly a fair trial by peers eh? Stay tuned this week as we continue to count down the events leading up to Anne's execution.

**You can also read about the lives of Anne's accused lovers here!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

John Skip's Passion Sunday Sermon

Happy (very belated, as I forgot to post this) Passion Sunday to all of my fellow Christians! Today marks a very important day in the fall of Anne Boleyn. On Passion Sunday 1536 Anne's personal almoner, John Skip, preached a controversial sermon on the stories of the Old Testament of Esther, Nebuchadnezzar and Solomon. Skip's sermon portrayed Henry VIII as both Ahasuerus who was being led astray by his wicked and scheming advisor Haman, and as Solomon who lost his righteousness by choosing whores over his legitimate wife Naamah.
The Letters and Papers contain a primary source account of the sermon, one that shocked all of those listening:

"A sermon preached by My. Skyppe<sic>, in the King's chapel, upon Passion Sunday, in the year of Our Lord 1536, on the text Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato [which of you convinceth me of sin?] defending the clergy from the defamers and from the immoderate zeal of men in holding up to public reprobation the faults of any single clergyman as if it were the fault of all. He insisted upon the example of Ahasuerus, who was moved by a wicked minister to destroy the Jews. He urged that a King's councillor ought to take good heed what advice he gave in altering ancient things, and that no people wished to take away the ceremonies of the Church, such as holy water, holy bread etc. That alternations ought not to be made except in cases of necessity....

The preacher insisted on the strict following of God's Word: That Christ chose ignorant followers, to teach men that nobility standeth not in worth but grace; and he cited the example of Solomon to show that he lost his true nobility towards the end of his life by taking new wives and concubines. He insisted on the need of a King being wise in himself, and resisting evil councillors who tempted him to ignoble actions, by the history of Rehoboam; observing that if a stranger visited this realm, and saw those who were called noble, he would conceive that all true nobility was banished from England. He warned them against rebuking the clergy, even if they were sinful, as rebukers were often rebuked, like Nebuchadnezzar, who was God's instrument to punish the Jews, but was damned for his labour. Against evil councilors who suggested alternation in established customer, he instanced the history of Haman and Ahasuerus. He then explained and defended the ancient ceremonies of the Church...."

The sermon, obviously approved by Anne, served to solidify her reformist views and to further break down her tenuous relationship with Thomas Cromwell. It was a thinly veiled threat, that assured all listening that she would prevail and condemned Jane Seymour, whom the King was known to be courting, as a whore. Skip was fined for his actions and was accused of "...preaching seditious doctrines on these words, and slandering the King's highness, his counselors, his lords and nobles, and his whole parliament."

**Excerpts taken from the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII and The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Death of Elizabeth I

On this day in Tudor history 1603, Elizabeth I, daughter of King Henry VIII and his infamous second wife Anne Boleyn, died at Richmond Palace. Elizabeth was sixty-nine years old and had been suffering from what Tudor expert David Starkey believes was severe depression. Elizabeth lost many of her closest advisers and friends over the course of three or four years and had fallen into a  "...settled and unremovable <sic> melancholy"* Elizabeth's 3rd cousin Robert Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, visited Elizabeth in her last days and wrote of her condition saying:

"When I came to court, I found the Queen ill disposed and she kept her inner lodging; yet she, hearing of my arrival sent for me. I found her in of her withdrawing chambers sitting low upon her cushions. She called me to her, I kissed her hand, and told her it was by chiefest happiness to see her in safety and in health, which I wished might long continue. She took me by the hand, and wrung it hard and said, 'No Robin, I am not well,' and then discoursed with me of her indisposition, and that her heart had been sad and heavy for ten or twelve days and in her discourse, she fetched not so few as forty or fifty great sighs. I was grieved at the first to see her in this plight, for in all my lifetime before I never knew her fetch a sigh..."**

On the 23rd of March Elizabeth counselors gathered round her bedside to determine who she would name as her successor. Elizabeth's decision to never marry and thus produce a Tudor heir to the throne meant that at her death, the direct Tudor line died out. Elizabeth was so ill that she could not speak; her adviser, Robert Cecil, asked if she wanted James VI of Scotland to ascend the throne following her death. Elizabeth gestured with her hands to assert that it was her wish that Mary Queen of Scots' son would become the next king of England. James had the most legitimate claim to the throne (He was the grandson of Margaret Tudor) and had been communicating with both Elizabeth and Cecil in the year before her death. Elizabeth died early the next morning from an unknown cause of death. Historian GJ Meyer believes it would have been one of the following illnesses: pneumonia, streptococcus, organ failure or lead poisoning from her make-up.Elizabeth's body was prepared for burial and laid in state for several weeks. Her funeral would take place on April 28th at Westminster Abbey.
Portrait of the aging Elizabeth I by Marcus Gheeraerts c 1595
Sources: Elizabeth I by David Starkey, The Tudors: The Complete Story of England's Most Notorious Dynasty by GJ Meyer, The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Boleyns' Irish Connection

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day being this week I wanted to write about Anne and her connections to Ireland. Anne herself was not ethnically Irish and it is unlikely that she ever visited the country but she certainly had familial connections to the island. Anne's grandmother Margaret Butler, wife to Sir William Boleyn, was an Irish noblewoman. Margaret was born in Ireland circa 1460 to Thomas Butler the 7th Earl of Ormond and his wife Anne. Thomas Butler was a friend and supporter of Henry VII and had dual seats in the English and Irish governments. He passed away in 1515 and left his estate to his daughters, Anne and Margaret. Sometime in the interim, Margaret had married William Boleyn, the fabulously wealthy son of Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Mayor of London. Thomas' death gave the Boleyns a claim to the earldom of Ormond, one of the most powerful and wealthy aristocracies in Ireland (located in the productive region of Leinster) Ownership of this hereditary title had been in dispute for quite some time but matrilineal claims to property were not honored in early modern England. In order to solidify their claim, the Boleyns had attempted to marry Anne to Jamie, the Butler heir apparent, in the early 1520s but those negotiations fell through. Uncertainty about the earldom continued until December 8, 1529 when Henry VIII pressured Piers Butler (a distant cousin to the 7th Earl of Ormond) to renounce his claims to the earldom. Henry then recognized the Boleyn family's claim and styled Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, Earl of Ormond and Whiltshire. The Boleyns would hold an estate in Ireland for nine years; in 1538 Henry revoked Thomas' title and recognized Piers Butler, an Irish lord and relative of the Boleyns, as the Earl of Ormond and the title once again reverted to the Irish aristocracy.

Further Musings....

The first law for the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Celebrating Women in History!

In 1987, in an effort promoted by the National Women's History Project, Congress declared March Women's History Month. Since that time the US Congress and our Presidents have recognized the importance of women's contributions both as subjects of history and as historians. This month we celebrate the achievements of women in our country and across the world! In recognition of the women who have shaped our world I will be hosting a give-away! On March 31 I will randomly draw a commenter from all of my March posts to receive a copy of The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives! Happy Commenting!

Check out the National Women's History Month website to learn more:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Musings of a Historian

"It has been said that the historian is the avenger, and that standing as a judge between the parties and rivalries and causes of bygone generations he can lift up the fallen and beat down the proud, and by his exposures and his verdicts, his satire and his moral indignation can punish unrighteousness, avenge the injured or reward the innocent."
-Herbert Butterfield

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Meet Cute of Henry and Anne

In the midst a very terrible cold I missed the anniversary of the Chateau Vert production. On March 1, 1522 Anne appeared in a court masque in which she portrayed the feminine virtue Perseverance  and Henry was cast as Ardent (oh the historical irony) It was Anne's first recorded appearance at Henry's court and recorded by the Tudor chronicler Edward Hall, he wrote:

On shrouetewesdaie [Shrove Tuesday] at night, the said Cardinall to the  to the Kyng and ambassadors made another supper and after the supper their came into a great chamber hanged with Arras, and there was a cothe of estate, and many braunches, and on every braunch xxxii torchettes of waxe, and in the nether ende of thesame chamber was a castle, in which was a principall Tower, in which was a Cresset burning: and two other lesse Towers stode on every side, warded and embattailed, and on every tower was a banner.... Hall continues describing the scene and goes on to say "...this castle was kept with ladies of straunge names, the first Beautie, the second Honor, the thirs Perseueraunce, the fourth Kyndne, the fifth Constance, the sixth Bountie, the seueenth Mercie and eigt Pitie: these eight ladies had Millian gounes of white satting, euery Lady had her name embraudered with golde, on their heddes calles....Vnder nethe the basse fortresse of the castle were other eight ladies who names were, Dangier, Disdain, Gelousie, Vykydenes [unkindness] Scorne, Malebouche [sharp tongued] Straungenes, these ladies tired like to women of Inde.
Then entered eight Lordes in clothe of golde capes and all, and great mantel clokes of blewe sattin, thse lords were names Amorous, Noblenes, Youth, Attendance, Loyalties, Pleasure, Gentlenes, and Libertie, the kyng was chief of this compainie, this compainie was led by one all in crimosin sattin with burning flames of gold, called Ardent.
Hall continues describing a play fight where the men rescue the desirable womanly virtues from their wicked detainers. While there is no evidence that this is when Henry's relationship with Anne began, it is certainly their first interaction. Most historians, myself included, would agree that it was more likely that Henry was pursuing Mary Boleyn at this point and would alter his affections to Anne in 1526/7.** The scene was altered slightly and brought to life on The Tudors in 2005. Check out the video here!
*The Chronicle of Edward Hall
**The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, by Eric Ives

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reader Questions

Q: I recently finished reading a book on Henry VII. Did he and Elizabeth of York have a poor marriage?
A: Good question, it was definitely not a love match but a marriage of political expedience. Their marriage attempted to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster. We do not know a lot about their marriage but they produced children and seemed to live in relative peace. When Elizabeth died on her 37th birthday Henry VII was deeply saddened. I think it is safe to assume that despite their arranged marriage Henry and Elizabeth grew to love each other.

Q: Was Thomas Cromwell related to Oliver Cromwell?
A: Yes, though not directly. Oliver was the great-great grandson of Thomas' sister Katherine. When Katherine married Morgan Williams they took the surname Cromwell because of it's prominence.

Q: Is there any evidence that Elizabeth I was hermaphrodite?
A: Absolutely not, the theory comes from a scientist Robert Bakan in the 1980s when he asserted that Elizabeth had testicular feminization. He used evidence such as her long hands, height and slimness to support his theory. A simple examination of the descriptions of Anne Boleyn gives us evidence that long hands and slimness were probably maternally genetic and Henry VIII was a very tall man at over 6ft tall when most men were only about 5'8 so Elizabeth undoubtedly inherited her height from the Tudors. The defect he believes she had is genetic and passed on from the mother. An examination of the women in Elizabeth's family show no evidence of this mutation. It is, in my opinion, an attempt to undermine Elizabeth's reputation as a strong female leader who was many years ahead of her court and their established gender norms.

Q: Can you recommend a good Mary I biography?
A: Mary I: England's Catholic Queen by John Edwards is good as is The Myth of Bloody Mary by Linda Porter.

Q: What happened to Perkin Warbeck?
A: He was hanged in 1499 after an attempted escape from the Tower with Edward, Earl of Warwick. For more information on Perkin's life and death check out the book The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy by Ian Arthurson.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Excommunication of Elizabeth I

On this day in Tudor History 1570, Pope Pius V issued his papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis. The document excommunicated Elizabeth and all those who remained loyal to her. Additionally, the document called for a Catholic uprising to depose Elizabeth in favor of her cousin and devout Catholic, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots.The bull was issued after it became clear that Elizabeth had no intention of marrying into the powerful Catholic Hapsburg family and she began to assert her power as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Despite being an attempt to return England and her Queen to Catholicism, the bull actually had the unintended consequences of increasing the harshness of recusancy laws against those still practicing Catholicism in England. These consequences included the trial, and even execution, of some Catholic priests, the issuance of deep fines against those who refused to attend services in the Church of England and the withholding of public office from Catholics. This backlash created a deeply marginalization of Catholics that would continue into the reign of the Hanoverians.

Read of the Week

I'll confess, I did not read this book this week. Nor even this month...I have whittling away at the mass amount of content in GW Bernard's The King's Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church for a few months. The book is monumental; it is over 800 pages and has hundreds of footnotes. Unfortunately, besides it's stature its not an impressive book. The author charges straight into Henry VIII's divorce assuming that the reader knows all of the major players and background information leading up to the break from Papal authority. Bernard tears apart other historians and their theories in a way that reeks of historical unprofessionalism. His writing is pretentious and wordy; Bernard assumes that he is the most knowledgeable person on the subject of Henry's reforms. He attempts to dispel the widely accepted historical ideals that Anglican reforms were a product of Henry and his advisors' belief systems, that there were court factions attempting to control religious policy and that Anne Boleyn influenced Henry's ideas about religion. Bernard attempts to do this by exploring primary source documents and reading 'what they actually say' His mistake with this methodology is that he fails to take into account sarcasm, duress, self preservation or any other normal human emotion/reaction. He interprets primary sources at face value without considering contextual evidence such as location, place in the power structure and most importantly the position of Henry's opinion at that particular moment. The King's Reformation is a tough read, but it is admirable that the author attempted such a huge undertaking. I would not recommend this book for anyone who is not deeply familiar with Tudor history and has formulated their own opinions regarding the events of Henry's reformation as the author scarcely tries to hide his objective view points and biases, allowing them to color every page.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1516 the future Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, was born at Greenwich. By this point Henry and Katherine had been married for nearly seven years and he was disappointed at the birth of a daughter after the stillbirths and neonatal deaths of Katherine's elder children including two sons. Despite this disappointment he expressed hope when he said, "We are both young; if it was a daughter this time by the grace of God sons will soon follow..."* Mary would be declared a bastard upon the divorce of her parents and would suffer a great deal under the pressure to conform to the Church of England and accept her father's every changing opinions and doctrines. Mary would ascend the throne upon the death of her brother, Edward VI, and be remember in history as Mary, Bloody Mary.

*This tract taken from Henry VIII: A King and His Court by Alison Weir

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Executions of Katharine Howard and Jane Boleyn

Yesterday marked the anniversary of Katharine Howard and Jane Boleyn's execution. I received several emails asking me about the nature of their death and what actually happened that day on the scaffold. First off, we must have a basic understanding of the charges against the women, you can read about them here. There is a lot of debate amongst historians about Katharine's scaffold speech; The Chronicle of Henry VIII, a primary source records her last words as:

"Brothers, by the journey upon which I am bound I have not wronged the King, but it is true that long before the King took me I loved Culpeper, and I wish to God I had done as wished me, for at the time the King wanted to take me he urged me to say that I was pledged to him. I f I had done as he advised me I should not die this death, nor would he. I would rather have him for a husband than be mistress of the world, but sin blinded me and greed of grandeur, and since mine is the fault, mine also is the suffering, and my great sorrow is that Culpeper should have to die through me..."*
The Chronicle is moving and shows Katharine as much more brave and accountable for her actions that most  accounts do; there are however, doubts about it authenticity. The author continues to say that following Katharine's beheading Thomas Culpeper met the axe man; this is incorrect as Culpeper had been executed in December, over two months before Katharine. There is a first hand account of the executions by a London resident Sir Ottwell Johnson, which does not mention Katharine's alleged shocking speech, which is surely would have. His account says:
 "I see the Queen and the Lady Rochford suffer within the Tower, the day following, whose souls, I doubt not, be with God, for the made the most Godly and Christian end, that ever was hear tell of (I think) since the world's creation uttering their lively faith in the blood of Christ only, and with goodly words and steadfast countenances they desired for all Christian people to take regard unto their worthy and just punishment with death for their offences, and against God heinously from their youth upward, in breaking all his commandments, and also against the King's royal Majesty very dangerously: wherefore they being justly condemned (as they said) by the laws of the Realm and Parliament, to die, required the people to take example of them, for amendment of their ungodly lives, and gladly to obey the King in all things, for whose preservation they did heartily pray; and wiled all people so to do: commending their souls to God, and earnestly calling for mercy upon him: whom I beseech to give us grace, with such faith, hope and charity at our departing of this miserable world, to come to the fruition of his God head in joy everlasting. Amen."*
Retha Warnicke, Alison Weir and other revisionist historians believe that Jane had something to do with Anne and her brother George's fall from grace in 1536 and went to the block praying for forgiveness saying, "God has permitted me to suffer this shameful doom as punishment for having contributed to my husband's death. I falsely accused him of living, in an incestuous manner, his sister, Queen Anne. For this I deserve to die. But I am guilty of no other crime..."** Several historians have worked to restore the image of Jane Boleyn which I spoke about here.
In my opinion, it is safe to say that Katharine and Jane probably made no grand gestures or speeches, but went to the scaffold with quiet dignity professing their sins and claiming that they deserved their punishments.
Katharine and Jane were both laid to rest at the Tower of London in St. Peter ad Vincula near Anne Boleyn and much like Anne their memories have been smeared and damaged due to Hollywood and literary interpretations. It is vital that we investigate these historical events from a primary source perspective and draw our own conclusions.
*Quotes taken from The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser
**Quote takes from The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history1520 Mary Boleyn, sister to the infamous Anne, married William Carey, an esquire of the body to Henry VIII, at Greenwich. The marriage was one of political matchmaking; William Carey was rising quickly in favor at court and he had noble blood through his grandmother's lineage. We do not have a lot of details about the marriage itself, but controversy would soon surround it. Just two short years later, Mary would strike up a romance with the King. This relationship has become fodder for historical fiction novels including The Other Boleyn Girl as historians and other interested scholars have debated about the paternity of Mary's children, Katherine(1524) and Henry Carey (1526) read my thoughts on their lineage here. Mary has been vilified by some historians, referred to as the Great Prostitute or English mare whom all men "enjoyed to ride" by authors and films. It is a reputation that is perhaps undeserved and perhaps served the purpose of undermining Anne's, and later Elizabeth's, influence. Read my article on the subject The Mary Mythology to draw your own conclusions about the most mysterious member of the Boleyn family.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Follow Confessions on Facebook!

If you are reading Confessions but haven't liked us on Facebook, now is your chance! I am hosting a give-away on our site! When we reach 100 likes on Facebook I am giving away a copy of Anne Boleyn: The Young Queen to Be by Josephine Wilkerson!

Check out our profile here!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1536 Anne Boleyn miscarried her last child. It was an especially sad event as physicians who examined the fetus agreed that it appeared to be male. If Anne had given Henry his much sought after heir, her position would likely have been cemented. I wrote an information article on this topic last year, you can read it here.

The Death of Henry VIII

The death of Henry VIII was slow and painful; he suffered from excruciating, festering ulcers which rotted his leg, sporadic and violent mood changes, digestive problems, chronic headaches and likely last stage type II diabetes. Henry's obesity (his waist measured 54 inches) certainly exasperated these condition and hastened his death at the age of 55, which occurred on January 28, 1547 at Whitehall Palace. Henry must have sensed his imminent demise as he had begun vigorously reworking his will and paving the way for his son's smooth accession to the throne over the past several months. He prohibited his wife, Kateryn Parr and his children, from being at his side during his last illness, presumably because he wanted to maintain the image of him as a powerful king, not a man suffering through his last hours. On February 15 Henry's casket was interred at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle next to his beloved wife Jane Seymour.  The death of Henry VIII resulted in the rise of Edward VI to power and with him an Evangelical administration. Over the next several years the Church of England would shift a canonically Protestant institution for the first time.

Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger
circa 1542

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1457, Henry VII was born. Henry was born to thirteen year old Margaret Beaufort and her late husband Edmund Tudor, half brother to King Henry VI. the birth was very, very difficult; at one point her midwife and mother both thought she might die. Margaret's young age and small stature made delivering her first, and only, child hard. Henry would never know his father who died of the plague while being held captive by Yorkist forced at Carmarthen during the War of the Roses. Henry VII would spent his early years living in Wales with his uncle, Jasper Tudor, who would care for him until their subsequent exile to France in 1461. Jasper and Margaret would have a significant influence on Henry and his claim to the throne, bringing the Tudor dynasty to power in 1485.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Executions of Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper

[I finally finished this post after many weeks of working on it, I apologize for the delay]

Forgive my absence from blogging; I was held up studying for finals and struggling with illness
One of the interesting days in Tudor history that took place during my writing hiatus was that of December 10, which marked the anniversary of the Francis Dereham and Thomas Culpepper executions. The two men were accused of treason, namely for having relations with the queen Katharine Howard.

Thomas Culpeper was a favorite of the King with very personal duties as a gentleman  the King's privy chamber. As part of these duties Culpeper assisted the king with dressing and other hygiene practices and often slept in Henry's bedchamber. Culpeper also had close access and often came into contact with the Queen and her attendants. Thomas Culpeper was first introduced into Catherine Howard personally in March 1541. Henry had left on a trip to Dover and decided to leave his wife behind at Greenwich. Culpeper used his distant relationship (they were seventh cousins) to the Queen as a justification for asking for favors. Sometime soon private meetings between the two began, possibly in May. Jane Boleyn, the Lady Rochford, who served as a lady in waiting to the Queen, arranged the meetings. On these occasions, only she and Katherine Tilney, another of the Queen's ladies, were allowed to enter the Catherine's chambers.

On June 30 Katharine and King Henry VIII travelled north to York in the hope of meeting James V of Scotland. They arrived at Lincoln on August 9, where Culpeper met Katharine for another secret meeting in her bedchamber. These meetings continued in Pontefract Castle, after the court arrived on August 23. It is believed that the infamous letter Katharine sent to Culpeper was sent during these proceedings. In this letter she wishes to know how he is and is troubled that he is ill. Catherine also writes, “I never longed so muche for [a] thynge as I do to se you and to speke wyth you, the wyche I trust shal be shortely now,” and “my trust ys allway in you that you wolbe [will be] as you have promysed me...” These statements cause some audiences to believe that their affair was not one of passion at least for Culpeper, but rather about advancing his political career. With Henry's deteriorating health and only his toddler son Edward to succeed him, being Katharine's favorite would undoubtedly have put Culpeper in a very strong position of influence if the King were to die. As a well-liked member of the King’s Privy Chamber he enjoyed a close relationship with Henry and his council, again which would be beneficial if the King were to pass away.

Whispers about the Queen's premarital indiscretions had reached the attention of Thomas Cranmer, then serving as the Archbishop of Canterbury. As a diligent servant of his majesty Cranmer began digging for information on Katharine's past. During his investigations, Cranmer also came across rumors of an affair between the Queen and Culpeper; Culpeper was soon arrested for questioning. Both he and the Queen denied the allegations, but the letter from Katharine to Culpeper, found during a search of his rooms, provided the evidence for which Cranmer was looking. Whether the association between Culpeper and the Queen was ever consummated is still debated by historians, but the letter seems to give evidence of Katharine's feelings for Culpeper.

Henry, surprised by his young wife's actions,  ordered an investigation into the allegations. (Read more about Katherine's confessions here.) After Katharine's disclosure the two men were arrested and tried for adultery, they were sentenced to die a 'traitor's death' which included being hung from the neck, drawn and quartered; such a death would have been painful and long. Culpepper, as former favorite of the King, pleaded for mercy and had his sentence commuted to a beheading.

Culpepper and Dereham were executed at Tyburn and buried at Sepulcher-without-Newgate Church where their bodies lay to this day. This event, dramatic and tragic, was just a precursor to the execution of Katharine and Jane Boleyn which would take place just a few weeks later.
Interestingly, it was acknowledged by both parties involved and the prosecution that Katharine and Francis Dereham never had a relationship during the tenure of her marriage to Henry VIII. They had previously been lovers when she was a young woman at her grandmother's house. The exact extent of Katharine's relationship with Culpeper is still unknown, although it is likely that it was sexual.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1542 a bill of attainder was introduced onto the floor of the House of Lords. The bill claimed that the queen Katharine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII and her lady in waiting Jane Boleyn were guilty of high treason. It stipulated that the accused could be sentenced without the need for a trial. The text of the attainder is interesting and thought provoking:

Katharine Howard, whom the King took to wife is proved to have been not of pure and honest living before her marriage, and the fact that she has since taken to her service one Francis Dereham, the person with whom she "used that vicious life before," and has taken as chamberer a woman who was privy to her naughty life before, is proof of her will to return to her old abominable life. Also she has confederated with Lady Jane Rocheford, widow, late wife of Sir Geo. Boleyn, late Lord Rocheford, to "bring her vicious and abominable purpose to pass" with Thos. Culpeper, late one of the King's Privy Chamber, and has met Culpeper in "a secret and vile place," at 11 o'clock at night, and remained there with him until 3 a.m., with only that bawd, the lady Jane Rocheford." For these reasons, Culpeper and Dereham have been convicted and executed, and the Queen and lady Rocheford stand indicted.
The indictment of such as have lately suffered are hereby approved, and the said Queen and lady Rochford are, by authority of this Parliament, convicted and attainted of high treason, and shall suffer accordingly; and the said Queen, lady Rocheford, Culpeper, and Dereham shall forfeit to the crown all possessions which they held on 25 Aug.
The King and his regime continue the attainder charging several of Katharine's relatives with concealing the first treasons. Those he charged with participating in the Queen's crimes were forced to surrender all of their property to crown. The ends with a warning for Henry's future wives saying,
 " is declared that the Royal assent given by commission shall be valid in all cases hereafter, that any lightness of the queen for the time being may be revealed to the King or his Council, and that an unchaste woman marrying the King shall be guilty of high treason..."*
There are a great many things that spark my interest about this bill; first of all it seems to focus primarily on Katharine's relationship with Dereham, not with Culpeper. She was not attainted for being unfaithful to Henry, instead for the "dissolute life" she lived before her rise to power. Surely the King would have been more concerned about the alleged infidelities of his Queen while she was married to him than about her past indiscretions? (Read them here) I cannot help but wonder whether this was purposefully done because Culpeper had long been in the King's favor, having served his as a groom for many years. Also of note is the way in which the Queen's "lovers" were executed. Francis was hanged, drawn and quartered while Culpeper's sentence was commuted to decapitation.
 It would take several weeks for the bill to pass; there seemed to be some confusion amongst the members of Parliament about whether or not the charges actually constituted treason. The bill had a second reading on the 28th of January but did not receive assent until February 11. While the bill and subsequent evidence was weighed Katharine and Jane would wait in agonizing limbo, confused about their fate. The bill would become law on February 11 and the women would face the executioner's block just two days later.
*Taken from the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Elizabeth I, A Man?

Today when perusing the Anne Boleyn blogs I love to read I came across the story about Elizabeth I secretly being a man. I had never heard this theory before and was shocked to know it had even been suggested. According to a new book written by Steve Berry, Elizabeth I's famous speech at Tilbury to her troops where she claimed she "...had the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too..." was meant literally, not metaphorically.

Once I got over the shock of this ridiculous claim, I began to look at the roots of this story. Bram Stoker wrote about the Bisley Boy legend in his 1910 classic Famous Impostors. The basic premise of this legend is that when Elizabeth was between the ages of 9-10 she died of some unknown disease at her house in Gloucestershire. Her servants, including governess Kat Ashley, were panic-stricken, convinced that if Henry VIII learned of her demise that his anger would be terrible to behold and might result in their own early deaths. Kat allegedly searched the local villages searching for a red haired girl to stand in Elizabeth's place for her father's upcoming visit. Unfortunately, there was no auburn haired girl to be found so the wily governess took one of the boys who had been Elizabeth's playmates and dressed him in the princess' clothing and presented him to the king. Their scheme was so successful that the boy continued to play Elizabeth and eventually became the famous monarch Elizabeth I. 

The story is rooted deeply in the Bisley village where many townspeople believe it to be true. Interestingly however is the fact that the local clergyman began the story. Rev Thomas Keble, the vicar of Bisley, told his family that during renovations at Overcourt, he had found an old stone coffin containing the skeleton of a girl about nine, dressed in Tudor clothing. The Reverend served at Bisley beginning in 1827 meaning that if he had unearthed a coffin, any Tudor era clothing would have been rotted away after nearly 300 years of decomposition. It is also questionable how he would know that the child was "about nine" Science was in its very early stages, and it is unlikely that a common church official could accurately guess the age of a set centuries old remains. This makes the origin of the Bisley legend very, very questionable.

Further evidence to refute this claim is the fact that Elizabeth spent her life surrounded by ladies in waiting who dressed and undressed her, accompanied her to the bathroom and slept in her chamber at night. Her maids confirmed for foreign ambassadors that Elizabeth menstruated regularly and was completely capable of having children. She was also examined regularly by doctors. Keeping male genitalia a secret from the masses of servants who spent time around her would have been impossible.

Skeptics of Elizabeth's femininity point to several of her physical features as masculine, including her hands. Her hands thin with long fingers, she was fond of showing them off. We know from existing pairs of her gloves that her hands were indeed larger than that of the average woman, but also that her father was a large man who was over six feet tall with large hands and that her mother, Anne Boleyn, also had long hands as described by court records. Her long, thin hands can be explained by genetics, not by some ridiculous claim that she was actually a man. Others have tried to use her choice of fashion as evidence for her gender. Berry suggests that she wore high-necked dresses and ruffs to cover an Adam's apple. This is silly conjecture as well, Elizabeth chose to wear high-necked gowns because it was fashionable and modesty was symbolic of her self-imposed virgin queen status. Ruffs were also considered a female fashion staple of the time. Clearly, there is little evidence that the queen was actually a man.

After the entire story and relevant evidence are examined, I still believe this story is complete garbage. This theory was created, in my opinion, because sixteenth century people, bound by the sexist stereotypes of their time, could not understand how Elizabeth could rule with such strength, cunning and emotional control. She was a woman, who by the ideas of the time was weak and incapable of much forethought or action without the advice and guidance of a strong husband. Elizabeth's decision to remain unmarried and rule her country did not conform to the gender norms of the time making the Bisley Boy legend spread in order to explain her ambivalence about marrying and producing heirs. Elizabeth I was undoubtedly a woman, the first of her gender to rule England successfully.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

This day in Tudor history 1536 marks the death of Katharine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII and mother to Mary I. The following day, news of her death reached the king. At the time, there were rumors that she was poisoned possibly by Anne, one of her kinsmen, or even Henry himself as all had threatened her life.  According to the Tudor chronicler Edward Hall, Anne Boleyn wore yellow for the mourning, which has been interpreted in various ways; Polydore Vergil interpreted Anne's reaction mean that she was happy the aging queen was finally dead. In direct contrast to Vergil's idea though is Eustace Chapuys' report that it was actually King Henry who decked himself in yellow, celebrating the news and making a great show of his and Anne's daughter, Elizabeth, to his courtiers. Another prevailing historical theory is that the dressing in yellow was out of respect for the late princess dowager (or queen, depending on your views) as yellow was said to be the Spanish color of mourning. With Chapuys' intense dislike of Anne it is unlikely he would fail to report her wearing yellow and celebrating. Either way, the royal couple's reaction to Katharine's passing  was seen as distasteful and vulgar by many.

Gossip regarding the cause of Katharine's death continued to swirl, but exploded when it was discovered during her embalming that there was a black growth on her heart that may have been the result of poisoning. Modern medical experts are in agreement that her heart's discoloration was due not to poisoning, but to cancer (probably cardiac sarcoma) a medical illness not known or understood at the time.

Katharine was buried in Peterborough Cathedral with the ceremony due to a Dowager Princess of Wales, not a queen. Henry did not attend the funeral and forbade Mary to attend for fear that her presence would cause uprisings supportive of her position as heir apparent. The lay people of England were saddened by Katharine's passing and many entered periods of morning for the late, beloved queen.
Katharine painted as a young woman


Katharine in her later years

Read of the Week

Good morning Anne aficionados! Last night I finished up Alison Weir's The Life of Elizabeth I. I really enjoyed this book, Weir wrote a biography emphasizing the personal life of Elizabeth using a vast cache of primary sources including letters, government documents and journals. The reader finds out almost immediately that Elizabeth's need to marry is of the utmost concern, not just to her advisors and subjects but to the entire European marriage market.. Princes from all over continent wanted to marry for a variety of reasons and Elizabeth kept them on a string, guessing whether or not she would accept their offers and playing them against each other for the benefit of England. There was even intrigue among her highest nobility pressing their offers for her hand. Despite the continual urging of her closest friends and advisors to marry and produce "...heirs of her body..." the self styled Virgin Queen professes herself married to her country and her people; a bold statement for a woman who lived in a time when most believed that a woman could not survive without a husband.

 Outside of Elizabeth's matrimonial quandaries, Weir gave such great detail on who Elizabeth was, breaking the mold of Gloriana to explore the importance of symbolism, faith and relationships to Elizabeth's life. Alison gives us a ton of information on the Robert Dudley/Elizabeth relationship and how it changed and developed over time. The author was great about digging into Elizabeth's personal life, but the one subject I wish she would have spent more time on is Elizabeth's intellectual pursuits and how she encouraged and promoted education; it would become a hallmark of her reign.

I would however point out a few sections that I struggled with, namely Weir's assertion that Amy Dudley was murdered. The point seems small, considering the epic life of Elizabeth I, but the ways in which the author tried to justify herself seemed out of place given the normally meticulous research of Alison Weir. The author asserts that the person who may have murdered Amy Dudley is William Cecil. She spend many pages describing how he may [emphasis mine] have set the scene to frame Dudley for her murder ensuring that people were suspicious prior to her untimely death and that these suspicions meant Elizabeth would never marry Robert, leaving Cecil's influence over Elizabeth and her regime intact.

 While I enjoyed the depth of Weir's research, it really bothered me that she would quote primary source documents and other contemporary sources without using footnotes or endnotes. I am always looking for books to use in my research but Weir's lack of citations makes it extremely difficult to locate just where she is getting her information from.

This book is an excellent introductory biography for any historian or reader hoping to grapple with the grandeur of the Elizabethan era. Weir's grasp of making historical narrative come to life shines in her writing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On This Day in Tudor History

On this day in Tudor history 1540 Henry VIII married his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves at the royal Palace of Placentia in Greenwich in a ceremony conducted by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The union was not to be a happy one; Henry had been trying for several weeks to seek out a way to end his betrothal to Anne. His dislike of his intended bride was due perhaps in large part to her cold treatment of Henry the week before when he tried to surprise his fiancĂ© in disguise and she reacted badly (some historians believe she may have thought she was being abducted) Unfortunately for Henry, jilting Anne would have compromised the fragile alliance between England and the Protestant German states. England needed this alliance to ensure that she was not the victim of a joint attack by the recently allied France and Spain. Also, Cromwell had done his utmost to ensure that the marriage followed all laws and regulations to avoid another Katherine of Aragon/Anne Boleyn fiasco. The marriage negotiations, it seemed, were rock solid with no graceful exit for Henry. The wedding night, far from the joyous occasion it should have been. It was awkward as Anne was not only a virgin but had been sheltered from the realities of sexual relationships for the entirety of her life. Her innocence may have frustrated Henry even further. He complained to Cromwell that he could not consummate the relationship saying, "I liked her before not well, but now I like her much worse..." Henry had been very vocal about his disappointment in her looks, refuting the words of French ambassador who said Anne was of "...middling beauty, and of very assured and resolute countenance." The marriage would be Henry's shortest, lasting little more than six months.
Anne of Cleves
Hans Holbein the Younger c 1539

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Contest Winner

Happy new year Anne lovers! I am excited to announce that CatyIsMyLady is the winner of our anniversary giveaway! She will receive a copy of Susan Bordo's The Creation of Anne Boleyn. Thank you to everyone who participated; we had over 30 entries with 10 containing all correct answers. I appreciate your continued support of Confessions in 2014!

Thank you!