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.