Friday, January 31, 2014

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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!

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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!