June 21, 1529 – Catherine of Aragon’s Epic Speech at Blackfriars

The Trial of Queen Catherine of Aragon, by Henry Nelson O’Neil (Public Domain via the Birmingham Museums and Wikimedia Commons)

This was a phenomenal speech, Catherine’s chance to plead her case before the world. And she did. Masterfully.

Some context: the “King’s Great Matter” started in 1527 or so. Henry was pursuing annulment the only way possible – through the Church. Annulment should have been a foregone conclusion – other monarchs had gotten them easily, and on much less legitimate grounds. The problem in this case was that Catherine’s nephew Charles V had just sacked Rome and therefore held the Pope essentially prisoner.

The Pope dickered for a long time, hoping the King would tire of Anne Boleyn and the issue would die, but that didn’t happen. Finally he made what looked like a concession – he agreed that a Legatine Court could hear the case in England and sent Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio to hear the case with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The first day, they called the King of England to the court – he gave the proper answer (“Here, my lords”). Then they called the Queen. Rather than answering (which would have acknowledged the court and its legitimacy), she rose, walked over to her husband, and threw herself on her knees to speak directly to him. George Cavendish (Wolsey’s gentleman-usher and then biographer) recorded the speech she gave:

Sir, I beseech you for all the loves there hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominions. I have here no assured friend, and much less indifferent counsel. I flee to you as to the head of justice within your realm. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I designed against your will and pleasure? Intending (as I perceive) to put me from you, I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true, humble, and obedient wife, ever conformable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein ye had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance nor showed a visage or spark of discontentment. I loved all those whom ye loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or no and whether they were my friends or my enemies. This twenty years have I been your true wife, or more, and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of the world, which has been no fault of mine.

And when ye had me at the first, I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there by any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart, to my great shame and disparagement; and if there be none, then here I most lowly beseech you let me remain in my former estate and receive justice at your princely hands. The king your father was in the time of his reign of such estimation through the world for his excellent wisdom, that he was accounted and called of all men the second Solomon; and my father Ferdinand, King of Spain, who was esteemed to be one of the wittiest princes that reigned in Spain many years before, were both wise and excellent kings in wisdom and princely behavior. It is not therefore to be doubted but that they elected and gathered as wise counselors about them as to their high discretions were thought meet. Also, as me-seemeth, they had in their days as wise, well-learned men, and men of good judgment as be at this present in both realms, who thought then the marriage between you and me good and lawful. Therefore is it a wonder to me to hear what new inventions are now invented against me, that never intended but honesty. And cause me to stand to the order and judgment of this new court, wherein ye may do me much wrong if ye intend any kind of cruelty; for ye may condemn me for lack of sufficient answer, having no indifferent counsel but such as be assigned me, with whose wisdom and learning I am not acquainted. Ye must consider that they cannot be indifferent counselors for my part which be your subjects, and taken out of your own council before, wherein they be made privy, and dare not for your displeasure, disobey your will and intent, being once made privy thereto. Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God, who is the just judge, to spare the extremity of this new court until I may be advertised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much indifferent favor, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my case.”

With that, “she rose up, making low courtesy to the king, and so departed from thence.”

A formidable woman.

[There’s lots more good stuff where this came from. Cavendish’s The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey is just wonderful! – You can access it through Archive.Org here]

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June 5, 1536 – Edward Seymour Created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache

Edward Seymour, by Hans Holbein (though this is disputed). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

More good times for the Seymours…now that Jane was married to the King, the rest of the family had to be ennobled a bit as well. There was precedent: well before he’d married Anne Boleyn, Henry had confirmed Thomas Boleyn’s Earldom of Ormonde and added the Dukedom of Wiltshire. Edward might have secretly been a bit miffed that he hadn’t gotten a better title, but advancement was advancement, especially since it came with money and land!

Specifically, the patent of creation as Viscount Beauchamp carried twenty marks a year. Plus the records show that he also received the following – further evidence of the great benefits derived by the Seymours (and others too) of the dissolution of the monasteries. I’ve left in a lot of the archaic language, I thought it was cool – FYI, a “messuage” is a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use:

  • Grant of the manors of Brodeton, Sherston, and Ambresburye, Wilts, and the hundreds of Ambresburye, Wynterbourne, and Alleworthbury, Wilts, and all lands, et cetera in those places belonging to the said manors and hundreds; to hold to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by dame Anne his wife, with remainder.
  • Grant in tail male of the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Holy Trinity, Eston, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera, within the circuit; the manors of Eston, Froxfeld, and Grafton, Wilts, the rectories of the parish churches of Estonne, Froxfeld, Stapleford, and Tydcombe, and the advowsons of the churches and vicarages thereof, the manors, messuages, et cetera in the villages, parishes, and hamlets of Eston, Froxfelde, Stapleford, Tydcombe, and Grafton, Milton, Wyke, and Puttale, and elsewhere in said co., lately belonging to the said priory, as enjoyed by Henry Bryan, late Prior, in right of the said priory on the 4 February last, which came into the King’s hands by virtue of the Act 27 Hen. VIII. Also the manor of Corseley, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Studley, Oxon, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera thereto belonging in Corseley; in the same manner as Mary Baynbrig, the late Prioress, held the same. Also the manor of Monketon, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Farleygh, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Monketon, in the same manner as Lewis Breknok alias Millen, Prior, held the same on the 4 February last. Also all messuages, lands, et cetera in Tudworth, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Mayden Bardley, Wilts, now dissolved by the said Act, in the same manner as Ric. Jenyns the Prior held the same on the 4 Feb. last; with all court leets, views of frankpledge, &c. in the above possessions.
  • Also grant in tail male to the said Edward and dame Anne his wife, of the manors of Barwyk, Basset, Richardston, Langden, Mydgehall, Studley, and Costowe, Wilts; parcel of the lands late of the abbey of Stanley, Wilts; and all messuages, lands, et cetera in those places, as fully as Thomas Calne alias Morley the Abbot held the same on the 4 Feb. last; the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Farlegh, Wilts; the church, bell tower, and churchyard of the same priory; all messuages, et cetera within and without the enclosure and circuit of the said late priory; and the manors of Farlegh, Chippenham, Thornehill, and Brome, Wilts; and the advowson of the parish church of Farlegh, and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Farlegh, Chippenham Thornehill, and Brome, as fully as the said Lewis Breknok enjoyed the same on the 4 February last. Also the manors of Erchefounte and Alcanings, Wilts; parcel of the lands of the late abbey of St. Mary, Winchester, likewise dissolved; the rectory of the parish church of Erchefounte and the advowson of the parish church of Alcanings, and the advowsons of the churches of Erchefount and Alcanings, and all messuages, lands, et cetera, in those places, parcel of the said late abbey, as fully as Eliz. Shelley the Abbess held the same on the 4 February last; with all views of frankpledge, court leets, et cetera in the above possessions.

To hold the possessions in the first paragraph to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by the said dame Anne; with remainder to the heirs male of his body by future wife, at the rent of 7l. 16s. 2d.; and those in the second paragraph to the said Edward and Anne and heirs male of the body of the said Edward by the said Anne; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs male of the body of the said Edward by any future wife; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs female of the said Edward, at rent 34l. 16d.

[From Letters & Papers, Grants in June 1536]

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May 19, 1536 – Anne Boleyn’s Execution Speech

Anne Boleyn Execution Speech – from Showtimes’ The Tudors

I am not going to comment or explain. I am just going to let Anne’s words speak for her. Rest in peace, innocent victim.

Good Christian people, I am come hither to die according to law, for by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak anything of that whereof I am accused, as I know full well that aught that I could say in my defense doth not appertain unto you, and that I could draw no hope of life from the same. But I come here only to die, and thus to yield myself humbly unto the will of my lord the King. I pray God to save the king, and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler or more merciful prince was there never. To me he was ever a good and gentle sovereign lord. If any person will meddle with my cause, I require them to judge the best. Thus I take my leave of the world and of you, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.

Agnes Strickland, Lives of the Queens of England, Volume IV

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May 9, 1538 – Henry Loses a Potential Bride

Marie de Guise and James V by an unknown artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was the day on which Marie de Guise married James V of Scotland by proxy, removing this crown jewel from the European marriage market. Marie was a member of the powerful Guise family, the power behind the throne in France, and at 21 was already a widow with a healthy son. She was said to be tall, beautiful and attractive, and her princess-sized dowry was provided by Francis himself. Could she get any better? Yes. She was also smart and witty.  When she heard that Henry (recently a widower) had explained to the French ambassador that she would be the perfect bride because Henry was “big in person, and needed a big wife,” she responded with a great dig: “I may be a big woman, but I have a very little neck.”

(Still, I have to admit, Christina of Denmark did her one better…When she was told of Henry’s interest, her response was, “If I had two heads, one would be at the disposal of the King of England.” In response, Wriothesley advised Thomas Cromwell that Henry should; “fyxe his most noble stomacke in some such other place.” A bit of great irony here, Christina would go on to marry Anne of Cleves’ former betrothed, Francis Duc de Bar.)

Marie’s marriage to James would be successful: she got pregnant quickly, giving birth first to James, Duke of Rothesay (born May 22, 1540) and Robert, Duke of Albany (born April 12, 1541); however, both died on April 21, 1541 (with the cause blamed mainly on a change of wet nurses and over-feeding). Their third and last child, Mary, was born December 8, 1542 and became Queen of Scots six days later. That’s a whole other story!

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April 10, 1544 – The Rough Wooing Begins

Contemporary sketch showing the deployment of Hertford’s forces before they burnt Edinburgh in May 1544 (public domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

This post involves a classic Henry letter, one that really shows us how dangerous he could be. Let’s set the stage.

In October 1543 all looked great: the Treaty of Greenwich was negotiated, pursuant to which the infant Queen of Scots would marry the future Edward VI – and unite Scotland and England. Things deteriorated in December when the Scottish lords rejected the treaty in December and turned back to their historical friendship with France … with whom Henry was preparing to war. Indeed, Henry would be going himself to invade France, a joint effort with Spain. And so he sent Edward Seymour, the Earl of Hertford, into Scotland with an army of ten thousand men. His purpose: to subdue the Scots and make sure they would not pose a threat…to punish them for the insult to his son and himself…and to force them to accept the marriage. That’s where the name “Rough Wooing” comes from – one of the Scottish lords  remarking that he “dinna like the manner of the wooing”…

This is the letter that gives Seymour his final instructions…The first paragraph conveys context and strategy, the second one is where we see what a sick man Henry really was.

Considering the King’s purpose to invade France this summer in person, the principal cause of his sending the army into Scotland was to devastate the country, so that neither they nor any sent thither out of France or Denmark might invade this realm. Angus and others standing bound to serve him otherwise than they do, the King had reason to think he might easier fortify and revictual these places, they giving hostages therefor (which Hertford was appointed to take at his entry) but as Angus and others have now traitorously revolted to the Governor and Cardinal’s faction, the foresaid two places which were to be fortified (standing in the heart of that realm and only to be victualled by sea, which, the wind being so uncertain as experience shows, cannot always be done, nor done without “inestimable charge”) might be recovered by the enemies, to the detriment of the King when he has better opportunity to invade, as he intends to do next year.

Hertford shall, therefore, forbear fortifying the said places, and only burn Edinburgh town, and so deface it as to leave a memory for ever of the vengeance of God upon “their falsehood and disloyalty,” do his best without long tarrying to beat down the castle, sack Holyrood House, and sack, burn and subvert Lythe and all the towns and villages round, putting man, woman and child to fire and sword where resistance is made; then pass over to Fifeland and extend like destruction there, not forgetting to turn upside down the Cardinal’s town of St. Andrews, so “as th’upper stone may be the nether and not one stick stand by another,” sparing no creature alive, especially such as be allied to the Cardinal, and, if the castle can be won destroying it piecemeal. By a month spent thus this journey shall succeed most to the King’s honor, the army’s surety and the saving of expense. He shall take order with the Wardens on the Marches to burn and destroy to the uttermost, not leaving Jedworth behind if it may be conveniently destroyed.

The laird of Nesby’s offer to serve, and to lay one of his sons in pledge, is to be accepted; but, seeing the falsehood of the Scots and “how little they pass on their pledges,” he is to be trusted only so far as his deeds give cause, and his pledge is to be taken with this condition that if he fail to serve truly his pledge may be “justified.” Order is to be taken with the Wardens that the borderers in Scotland may be still tormented now in seed time; for if not suffered to sow their ground they shall, by next year, be unable to live.

Source: Letters & Papers

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The Constables and the Queens – Guest Post by Adrienne Dillard

I am thrilled to host author Adrienne Dillard on the very first stop of the blog tour for her just-out The Raven’s Widow: A Novel of Jane Boleyn. I am also thrilled that there are TWO amazing giveaways associated with the blog tour – one of my lucky followers will win a copy of the book AND you will have the chance to enter a tour-wide drawing sponsored by MadeGlobal (Adrienne’s publisher) where the prizes are a Kindle e-reader or a special prize bundle (details available below).

So to start with, here is the book description from Amazon:

The river was as calm as I had ever seen it. Ordinarily, the tide would have been wild by this time of year, and woe unto any man unfortunate enough to fall into the fierce currents of the Thames. Tonight the tides were still, and the surface of the water appeared glassy. When I peered down into the dark depths, I saw my tired, drawn face wavering in the reflection. I quickly turned away as I fought back a wave of nausea, frightened by the anguish I saw etched there.

“Only a few moments more my lady, the Tower is just ahead.”

 Jane Parker never dreamed that her marriage into the Boleyn family would raise her star to such dizzying heights. Before long, she finds herself as trusted servant and confidante to her sister-in-law, Anne Boleyn; King Henry VIII’s second queen. On a gorgeous spring day, that golden era is cut short by the swing of a sword. Jane is unmoored by the tragic death of her husband, George, and her loss sets her on a reckless path that leads to her own imprisonment in the Tower of London. Surrounded by the remnants of her former life, Jane must come to terms with her actions. In the Tower, she will face up to who she really is and how everything went so wrong.

Next we’ll go to today’s post (which is what made you click through in the first place!). This was written for me by Adrienne, it gives you a great idea of her voice and take on things. After that, you can read more about Adrienne and get the details of the giveaways (!)

Over to Adrienne…

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The scene of Henry VIII’s second queen on her knees before the Constable of the Tower outside Traitor’s Gate is a ubiquitous staple of any fictional account of the life of Anne Boleyn.  “Am I to be sent to the dungeon?” she cries.  When Sir William Kingston assures her that she will be lodged in the royal apartments, she replies, “It is too good for me.  Jesu have mercy on me.”  Though not a wholly accurate account, as Anne was actually taken in through the Byward Gate, not the Traitor’s Gate, it is a haunting and poignant portrait of her relationship with the man charged to manage her imprisonment.  Kingston is an important piece of Anne’s story, and rightly so.  It’s because of his careful notes that we know just what was going on with the disgraced queen in the days leading up to her death.  We know of her cries and hysterical laughter.  We know of her fear and of her great courage.  It is because of his impeccable recording we know the details of her final confession to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer – a key-piece of evidence pointing to her innocence of the charges laid against her.

William Kingston’s value as a Tudor chronicler doesn’t stop with his account of Anne’s final days.  It is because of him that we know about the imprisonment and deaths of other luminaries: Archbishop John Fisher, Sir Thomas More, and Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.  Perhaps more importantly, it is his details of the men who are usually forgotten that are the greatest treasure: Marc Smeaton, Henry Norris, Francis Weston, William Brereton, and George Boleyn.  These five men condemned alongside Anne always seem to be an afterthought in fiction and biography alike, out-shined by the tragic death of the vibrant queen.  And though it is rarely pointed out, the constable’s letter to Cromwell describing the message he received from George’s wife, Jane Boleyn, is critical to dispelling the myth of her involvement in his downfall because of her unhappiness in their marriage.  It’s telling that it is she, alone, who offers any sort of comfort to George; the only one who doesn’t utterly abandon him to his fate.

Kingston was a complex and sympathetic figure, to be sure, but by the time Jane Boleyn found herself in the same alabaster prison that swallowed up her husband, the constable was dead.  A new man had taken up the keeping of the king’s prisoners and it was one who was no stranger to his future charge or the queen who would accompany her to the scaffold.

Sir John Gage was born on October 28, 1479 at Bristowe in Surrey, coming of age at the tail end of the “Wars of the Roses.”  He was relatively young when his father died and his wardship was bought by Robert Tate just a few weeks before his 20th birthday.  Shortly upon reaching his majority, he was wed to the daughter of Sir Richard Guildford, Comptroller of the Household.  The early years of their marriage began with Gage’s appointment as Esquire of the Body to King Henry VIII.  His star continued to rise after the king’s death and the ascension of his son, the Eighth Henry.  He was deputy of Guisnes and then Comptroller of Calais before taking on the post of Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household.  It is in this post that we start to see a strain between Sir John and his monarch.

The king’s obstinate quest to end his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his dogged pursuit to make Anne Boleyn his second queen enhanced the existing rivalry running rampant in his court.  Anne certainly had her share of detractors and the Vice-Chamberlain was chief among them.  When it became clear in 1533 that Anne would indeed be crowned, he spoke out against her promotion and found himself swiftly banished from court.  Undaunted, Gage renounced his position, declaring his intention to take the cloth and become a Carthusian monk, even though  by this point he and Philippa Guildford had been married for over three decades and had eight children between them.  It’s not entirely certain whether Gage’s dissatisfaction stemmed from a personal issue with Anne or if it was due to his own religious conscience.  It was noted at the time by close friend, Sir William Fitzwilliam, that Sir John was ‘more disposed to serve God than the world.’  This seems in line with the papal dispensations he sought in 1532 and 1533 for his sons.  During those two years, the king’s relationship with Rome was under great strain; while it is not inconceivable that Henry’s courtiers would seek Papal dispensations, it was probably considered ill-advised.

In 1536 both of the king’s wives shuffled off their mortal coils, paving the way for the reestablishment of ties that had long been frayed.  Gage returned to court with a clean conscience in 1537 for the christening of the first legitimate heir (as Henry VIII saw it).  The event was bittersweet; tinged by the tragedy of Queen Jane Seymour’s death.  Sir John joined the throng of courtiers at the funeral to mourn her passing, and then he stayed on at court to resume his duties to the monarch.

At the start of the next decade, Gage was swept into the intrigue swirling across the English Channel at the king’s stronghold in Calais.  He and Lord Sussex were sent to probe the claims that the deputy, Viscount Lisle, was involved in acts of heresy and abuse of power.  On their reports, Lisle was recalled to England and Lord Mautravers was sent to take the reins.  The conspiracy landed both the viscount and Thomas Cromwell in the Tower of London.  Lisle escaped with his head, but Cromwell already had a strike against him: the abject failure of the king’s marriage to his fourth wife, Anna of Cleves, a match Thomas himself had arranged.  When combined with a penchant for heretical leanings, there was no other appropriate punishment, save for execution.  Gage’s reward for a job well-done was a promotion to Privy Councillor, Comptroller of the Household, and Constable of the Tower.

It is during this time that we find Sir John Gage in The Raven’s Widow.  Alongside Sir Edmund Walsingham, Lieutenant of the Tower, he has overseen the executions of the king’s cousin, Margaret Pole; the king’s closest advisor, Thomas Cromwell; and a mentally unstable peer, Walter Hungerford.  When the king’s fifth wife, the young Katherine Howard, is accused of adultery, Gage finds himself at the head of another investigation.  He is swiftly dispatched to the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s home to suss out the truth of the queen’s involvement with Henry Manox and Francis Dereham.  It is through his and the other interrogators’ careful questioning of the Howard family and their intimates that Katherine’s connection to Thomas Culpeper is revealed.

Once the mountain of testimony against the queen had been put to the king, Gage commenced his duties again, escorting Dereham and Culpeper to the Guildhall in London to be tried for treason; a week later, he oversaw their deaths.  In the following days, Gage took custody of the family members who had hidden away Katherine’s past, including the Dowager Duchess herself; then he went to Syon Abbey, where the queen had been banished since her arrest, to break up her household and escort her to the Tower.  While all this was going on, Lady Anne Russell was nursing Jane Boleyn back to health at her home on the Strand.  Three days into her incarceration, Jane had fallen into a fit of madness; an event rendering her ineligible for execution.  Undaunted, the king changed the law so that he could carry out his punishment, and Jane found herself back at the Tower the day before her mistress.

Just as his predecessor had done before him, Gage took copious notes of the behavior of the queen.  He seems to have been quite disturbed by the distress she showed when he and the other lords arrived at Syon to take her to the Tower.  Her later request that he bring her the block so that she could practice laying her head upon it no doubt gave him pause.  Regardless of his feelings in the matter, he had a job to do and he did it well.  On morning of the 13th February, 1542, Gage entered the royal apartments twice; first for the queen, and then for her lady.  He led them, one at a time, to the scaffold where they made their final speeches and breathed their last.

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Adrienne Dillard, author of “The Raven’s Widow: A Novel of Jane Boleyn” is a graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies with emphasis in History from Montana State University-Northern. She has been an eager student of history for most of her life and has completed in-depth research on the American Revolutionary War time period in American History and the history and sinking of the Titanic. Her senior university capstone paper was on the discrepancies in passenger lists on the ill-fated liner and Adrienne was able to work with Philip Hind of Encyclopedia Titanica for much of her research on that subject. Her previous works include best-selling novel,“Cor Rotto: A Novel of Catherine Carey” and “Catherine Carey in a Nutshell” for MadeGlobal’s History in a Nutshell series. When she isn’t writing, Adrienne works as an administrative assistant in the financial services industry and enjoys spending time with her husband, Kyle, and son, Logan, at their home in the Pacific Northwest.

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GiveawayS

So – ready to try to win a copy? Paperback or kindle version, your choice! Just leave a comment below this post before midnight on Sunday, April 9.  Tell me something you love about the Tudor era (yes, if you want to just tell me how you loved my Jane the Quene I’ll accept it!)   One lucky commenter will be picked at random and contacted for their details.

AND – MadeGlobal (Adrienne’s publisher) is running a parallel giveaway during this time. Want to try to win a Kindle e-reader or a prize package consisting of a sterling silver pendant modeled after the book’s cover image, Henry and the Six Wives drink charms, and a Henry and Anne scarf? Click through to the giveaway site they set up to learn more about this – follow their simple instructions.

PS – there will be more chances to win a copy of the book at every stop of Adrienne’s book tour (!) and here is the schedule:

March 31, 1536 – A Far-Reaching Conversation

Chapuys speaking to James Frain’s Cromwell (from Showtimes’ The Tudors)

On April 1, Eustace Chapuys wrote a long, newsy letter to Charles V reporting what was going on at the English court. The most interesting bit recounted a conversation he’d had with Thomas Cromwell the day before (which is why I’m posting this today).

A bit of context before I reveal the letter: shortly before taking the first clear steps towards the destruction of Anne Boleyn, Cromwell made overtures to Spain. And these overtures were facilitated by the relationship he had with Chapuys – one in which the two faithful servants were able to balance personal friendships with political differences to the advantage of both.

This was an iconic conversation, emblematic of the intrigue and deceit of the Tudor court – and giving a major clue as to what is to happen. Chapuys starts hinting about the possibility of a new Queen – and while Cromwell responds that the King will remain in his present marriage, he says it in a way designed to let Chapuys know he is lying. And he reassures Chapuys on the most important point – if the King did marry again it would not be a French princess. Based on this conversation, the two men understood that they were in agreement, and that England and Spain would soon be close again as soon as Anne Boleyn presented no impediment to friendship. The only thing missing was how this would happen…

I told Cromwell that I had for some time forborne to visit him that he might not incur suspicion of his mistress for the talk he had previously held with me, well remembering that he had previously told me she would like to see his head cut off. This I could not forget for the love I bore him; and I could not but wish him a more gracious mistress, and one more grateful for the inestimable services he had done the King, and that he must beware of enraging her, else he must never expect perfect reconciliation; in which case I hoped he would see to it better than did the Cardinal, as I had great belief in his dexterity and prudence; and if it was true, what I had heard, that the King was treating for a new marriage, it would be the way to avoid much evil, and be very much for the advantage of his master, who had been hitherto disappointed of male issue, and who knows quite well, several reasons which he might sufficiently understand; and that although a more lawful marriage should follow, and male issue from it would be to the prejudice of the Princess, yet the affection I bore to the honor and tranquility of the King and kingdom, and towards him particularly, made me desire another mistress, not for hatred that I bore to this one, who had never done me any harm. Cromwell appeared to take all this in good part, and said that it was only now that he had known the frailty of human affairs, especially of those of the Court, of which he had before his eyes several examples that might be called domestic, and he always laid his account that if fate fell upon him as upon his predecessors he would arm himself with patience, and leave the rest to God; and that it was quite true, as I said, that he must rely upon God’s help not to fall into mischief. He then began to defend himself, saying he had never been cause of this marriage, although, seeing the King determined upon it, he had smoothed the way, and that notwithstanding that the King was still inclined to pay attention to ladies, yet he believed he would henceforth live honorably and chastely, continuing in his marriage. This he said so coldly as to make me suspect the contrary, especially as he said so, not knowing what countenance to put on. He leaned against the window in which we were, putting his hand before his mouth to avoid smiling or to conceal it, saying afterwards that the French might be assured of one thing, that if the King his master were to take another wife, he would not seek for her among them. He then said that when an answer came from your Majesty upon the subject of our communication we should discuss everything and do some good work.

PS – remember how I mentioned this was a long, newsy letter? This is also where Chapuys tells Charles how Jane Seymour refused the offer of a purse of sovereigns, and was given Cromwell’s apartments (so that the King could visit her in secret). Lot’s of great stuff in there!

Want to read all of it? Here you go:

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol10/pp240-259

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March 21, 1556 – Execution of Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer’s execution, from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the sad anniversary of the burning of Thomas Cranmer. His execution involved a surprise dramatic twist at the end that sealed him as an important Protestant martyr.

Anyone interested in the Tudor times knows Cranmer well. He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533; he established the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England – and pronounced the invalidity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He stayed close to Henry for the rest of that king’s life, helped steer the country towards further reforms under the Protestant Edward VI – but then was quickly jailed for treason and heresy once Catherine’s daughter, the staunchly Catholic Mary I, ascended to the throne.

He spent two years in prison, and was sentenced to death. This is where it gets tricky. On December 11, Cranmer was placed into the house of the Dean of Christ Church – and treated as an honored guest. A Dominican friar debated issues of papal supremacy and purgatory…and somehow persuaded Cranmer to recant. The recantations (there were four) were not strong enough to stay his sentence: on February 24, his execution was set for March 7. Two days after that writ was issued, Cranmer issued a full recantation – he repudiated all Lutheran theology, fully accepted papal supremacy and transubstantiation, and agreed that there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. He received absolution, and participated in the mass. Under Canon law, he should have been reprieved, but Mary decided she wanted to make an example of him and gave orders that the execution would proceed.

Then the Marian government got greedy. They asked him to recant one last time before his death – and brought him for this purpose to the University Church to make a public speech. He started with a prayer, then deviated from the script… and recanted his recantation (!). Here’s that part of it:

“Every man desireth, good people, at the time of their deaths, to give some good exhortation that others may remember after their deaths, and be the better thereby. So I beseech God grant me grace, that I may speak something at this my departing, whereby God may be glorified and you edified.

First, it is a heavy case to see, that many folks be so much doted upon the love of this false world, and so careful for it, that of the love of God, or the love of the world to come, they seem to care very little or nothing therefore. This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St John teacheth, that the love of this world is hatred against God.

The second exhortation is, that next unto God, you obey your king and queen, willingly and gladly, without murmur and grudging. And not for fear of them only, but much more for the fear of God: Knowing, that they be God’s ministers, appointed by God to rule and govern you. And therefore whoso resisteth them, resisteth God’s ordinance.

The third exhortation is, that you love all together like brethren and sisters. For alas, pity it is to see, what contention and hatred one Christian man hath to another; not taking each other, as sisters and brothers; but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, To do good to all men as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural and loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that man, although he think himself never so much in God’s favour.

The fourth exhortation shall be to them that have great substance and riches of this world, that they will well consider and weigh those sayings of the Scripture. One is of our Saviour Christ himself, who saith, It is hard for a rich man to enter into heaven; a sore saying, and yet spoke by him, that knew the truth. The second is of St John, whose saying is this, He that hath the substance of this world, and seeth his brother in necessity, and shutteth up his mercy from him, how can he say, he loveth God?  Much more might I speak of every part; but time sufficeth not. I do but put you in remembrance of things. Let all them that be rich, ponder well those sentences; for if ever they had any occasion to shew their charity, they have now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victuals so dear. For though I have been long in prison, yet I have heard of the great penury of the poor. Consider, that that which is given to the poor, is given to God; whom we have not otherwise present corporally with us, but in the poor.

And now forsomuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life passed, and my life to come, either to live with my Saviour Christ in heaven, in joy, or else to be in pain ever with wicked devils in hell; and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith, how I believe, without colour or dissimulation. For now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have written in times past.

First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, &c. and every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Saviour Christ, his Apostles and Prophets, in the Old and New Testament.

And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and writ for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be: and that is, all such bills, which I have written or signed with mine own hand, since my degradation; wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished. For if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned. And as for the Pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.

[Here they interrupted him to remind him of his recantation. He responded:]

“Alas, my lord I have been a man, that all my life loved plainness, and never dissembled till now against the truth; which I am most sorry for. For the sacrament, I believe as I had taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester.”

At this point, he was pushed off the stage (“And here he was suffered to speak no more”) and carried away to the stake…where he doubled down:

And [Cranmer] answered (shewing his hand) ‘This is the hand that wrote it, and therefore it shall suffer first punishment.’ Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burning, crying with a loud voice, ‘This hand hath offended.‘  As soon as the fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while.

Rest in peace.

SOURCE:  Todd, Henry John. The Life of Archbishop Cranmer, Vol II.

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If you like my posts, you’ll love my book! Jane the Quene is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon.Com (here are some easy links to  Amazon.Com, Amazon.Co.UK and Amazon.Com.Au)!

 

The Six Wives Of Henry VIII – The TV Series (Guest Post by Roland Hui)

I am thrilled to host author Roland Hui on the third stop of the blog tour for his just-out The Turbulent Crown: The Story of the Tudor Queens, which recounts the dramatic events of the ten Tudor women who sat on the English throne. From the book description:

The Turbulent Crown begins with the story of Elizabeth of York, who survived conspiracy, murder, and dishonour to become the first Tudor Queen, bringing peace and order to England after years of civil war. From there, the reader is taken through the parade of Henry VIII’s six wives – two of whom, Anne Boleyn and Katheryn Howard, would lose their heads against a backdrop of intrigue and scandal.

The Turbulent Crown continues with the tragedy of Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who ruled for nine days until overthrown by her cousin Mary Tudor. But Mary’s reign, which began in triumph, ended in disaster, leading to the emergence of her sister, Elizabeth I, as the greatest of her family and of England’s monarchs.

Today’s post was written by Roland – it is a special post for me about the Six Wives series (he’s read my blog and he knows how much I admire Keith Mitchell’s masterful portrayal, so this was a really cool piece!)

I got a copy of the book – I just started it and I am enjoying it immensely. Roland has a wonderful, clear voice (you can hear it in the post).  And as part of the tour, MadeGlobal Publishing is offering one lucky follower of mine the chance to win a copy of the book as well (your choice between a  paperback or the kindle version) – details at the bottom of the post.

Over to Roland…

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The period from the middle 1960’s to the early 1970’s was the heyday of English history motion pictures. The critical and commercial success of ‘Becket’ (1964) was an indication that audiences were keen to see more of such films. ‘A Man For All Seasons’ (1966), ‘the Lion in Winter’ (1968), ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’(1969), ‘Cromwell’ (1970), and ‘Mary Queen of Scots (1971) were all made during this renaissance of historical pictures. Television, recognizing this interest in England’s past, released a teleplay of Maxwell Anderson’s ‘Elizabeth the Queen’ (1968). In 1970 an even more ambitious project was undertaken – ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’, a series of six teleplays about the King’s merry-go-round of queens.

The Henry VIII most viewers were still familiar with at the time was actor Charles Laughton’s interpretation of the notorious monarch in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’ (1933) and again in ‘Young Bess’ (1953). As popular as Laughton’s interpretation was, it bordered on the comical. His Henry was a rather a buffoon, though even he had, arguably, better table manners! There was no suggestion of the cultured Renaissance prince who composed music, built palaces and warships, made war on the French and the Scots, and defied the Vatican by establishing his own Church.

To play such a larger than life personality, the producers of ‘The Six Wives’ chose Australian actor Keith Michell. In his early 40’s when he was cast, not only was Michell expected to interpret Henry VIII in all his complexity, but also to age from a young man of 17 to an ageing despot of 55. The physical demands of the part were not lost on Michell. It was ‘murder’ as he recalled. “The make-up got more and more complicated. Toward the end it was a 4 hour job that meant wearing plastic all over my head, a plastic nose, things in my face, padding up to my neck.” Interestingly enough, it was not Henry VIII himself who would inspire the actor, but rather plutocrats of another era. Michell imagined Henry as ‘a kind of cigar-smoking American billionaire, very rich and very powerful.’ The costumes, he also mentioned, with all their padding, jewels, and fur, were a big help in creating the King’s persona.

The series begins with the arrival of Catherine of Aragon (Annette Crosby) to England in 1501. It is commendable that the producers of the series chose to present Catherine as she actually looked. She was not stereotypically Spanish with an olive complexion and dark hair (as the character had appeared in ‘Anne of the Thousand Days’ for instance), but fair and blond as Catherine was depicted in her early portraits. The episode emphasizes the happiness she and Henry VIII shared as a young couple. Upon ‘the word of a Henry’, her husband promises, Catherine will always be loved.

However, the marriage sours when she is unable the bear a son, only a daughter, the Princess Mary. The years take a toll on her looks, and she is often ill and melancholy. Not only must she endure the humiliation of being a ‘barren’ wife, but also the King’s attraction to a lady of the Court, Anne Boleyn. So much for ‘the word of a Henry,’ as Catherine later muses with bitterness.

In ‘The Six Wives’, Anne Boleyn (Dorothy Tutin) was not a sympathetic character. She is brash, vain, and overly proud. While her personality was certainly meant to act as a foil to Catherine’s, when the series was made, the historical Anne was not viewed very kindly. Many perceived her as a shameless hussy who in the end got what she deserved, even though she was falsely accused of treason. This opinion was even expressed by actress Charlotte Rampling who played Anne Boleyn in the later film version of ‘The Six Wives.’ “Anne wasn’t a very nice girl, I’m afraid,” Rampling said in an interview, “she had dangerous qualities of spitefulness and arrogance.”

Though Queen, Anne comes to realize that her happiness, like Catherine’s, is fleeting. She too is unable to bear a son and the episode centers upon her fall from grace. Brittle and haughty, the proud Anne finds herself in the Tower of London charged with adultery. It is in her darkest despair that Anne redeems herself. She learns humility, and her courage shines through as she steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the crimes of which she is accused. She goes to her execution in assurance of her innocence.

The episode on Jane Seymour, Anne Boleyn’s successor, differs slightly from the others as her story is told in flashback. It begins in 1537 with the christening of her son, the longed-for Prince Edward. However, Jane (Anne Stallybrass) cannot experience the joyfulness. She is in delirium and, unbeknownst to her and all others, is in fact slowly dying. Her fevered mind recalls her courtship by the King. He is unhappy with his tempestuous wife Queen Anne and finds solace in the company of the meek and mild Jane. Historians continue to debate whether Jane Seymour was really as gentle a lady as she appeared, or rather a ruthless courtier itching for a crown. Evidently, the screenwriter imagined Jane as the former. However, even her tenure as Queen is troubled. Jane is haunted by thoughts of the late Anne Boleyn. Was she judiciously murdered so that she could take her place? As Jane tells her brother Edward Seymour, “I have no – no waking or sleeping moment when I am at peace.” Perhaps it was only by her death by puerperal fever that Jane was finally able to find that peace.

Two years after Jane Seymour’s passing, Henry VIII, at the urging of his chief minister Thomas Cromwell, decides to take another wife. No longer the athlete and handsome man he was, the King is now fat and ageing. Nonetheless, he still considers himself a worthy catch, and he contracts a marriage with the German Anne of Cleves (Elvi Hale). The writing of this particular episode was probably not without its challenges. The marriage was short-lived and, except for the fall of Cromwell, was relatively uneventful. As well, Anne spoke no English. Thus some dramatic license was taken with Anne already speaking the language (as an earlier incarnation of the character did in ‘The Private Life of Henry VIII’), and some facts distorted and made up. Unlike the historical Anne of Cleves who was most eager to wed the King of England, the ‘Six Wives’ version of her was not. At their first meeting, she is appalled by his appearance; an interesting twist in that history usually has it the other way around. Also, the real Anne did not meddle in politics, but the episode has her counseling her countryman, Philip of Hesse, who visits England in secret to seek advice on getting rid of his wife. Philip’s visit is entirely fictional, but it did serve to add more to the storyline.

If Anne Boleyn wasn’t a ‘nice girl’, her cousin Catherine Howard (Angela Pleasence) was worse. In ‘The Six Wives’ she is selfish, conniving, and immoral. She seduces one of the King’s courtiers to conceive a son to pass off as the King’s. She even considers having an old lover murdered to prevent him from revealing her sordid past. Although historians of late have been more sympathetic towards Catherine (that she was a child of abuse whose poor upbringing led her to make bad life choices is one modern opinion), the television series accepts the traditional view of her as a wanton woman. Catherine’s one redeeming quality is her loyalty to her Howard family, even though they, like her uncle the pandering Duke of Norfolk, have abandoned her to her fate. The young Queen goes to the block admitting her guilt and asks that her kin be spared the King’s wrath.

From a girl just out of her teens, Henry VIII moves on to a mature woman in her 30’s for his sixth Queen in the final episode of ‘The Six Wives.’ Catherine Parr (Rosalie Crutchley) is a sensible no-nonsense widow with a strong religious (Protestant that is) streak. The actual Catherine, though very pious, was not as severe as the series made her out to be. She was attractive and vivacious. It was these qualities, not her theological opinions that attracted the King to her. Still, emphasis was put on her religious views.  In ‘The Six Wives,’ John Foxe’s famous story of her getting in hot water for heresy was played out. But peace was restored with Catherine giving in, and she manages to outlive the King who dies in 1547.

‘The Six Wives’ was a success with critics and audiences. It won BAFTA Awards for Keith Michell and Annette Crosbie, as well as for the design and costume teams. It also received the Prix d’Italia for the sensitively written episode on Jane Seymour. When the series was exported to America for broadcast on ‘Masterpiece Theatre’, it was a hit with viewers there too, and Michell was given an Emmy Award for his performance. The positive response to the series spawned a sequel ‘Elizabeth R’ (1971), a prequel ‘The Shadow of the Tower’ (1972), and even a theatrical version entitled ‘Henry VIII and His Six Wives’ (1973). For the film, Michell repeated his part, but different actresses played his Queens.

In the years following Keith Michell’s celebrated role as Henry VIII, a multitude of actors (including Ray Winstone, Eric Bana, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Damian Lewis) have also tackled the part, but none have received the acclaim Michell did for bringing Henry VIII to life onscreen. In 1996, when the role of the King was being cast for a television adaptation of Mark Twain’s ‘The Prince and the Pauper’, the producers had only one actor in mind – Keith Michell. Even today, Michell (who sadly passed away in 2015) is remembered as the definitive Henry VIII.

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Roland Hui received his degree in Art History from Concordia University roland_huiin Canada. After completing his studies, he went on to work in Interpretive Media for California State Parks, The U.S. Forest Service, and The National Park Service. Roland has written for Renaissance Magazine and for Tudor Life Magazine. He blogs about 16th-century English art and personalities at Tudor Faces at tudorfaces.blogspot.com.

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Giveaway

So – ready to try to win a copy? Paperback or kindle version, your choice! Just leave a comment below this post before midnight on Sunday, March 5.  Tell me which was your favorite scene from the series, or your favorite other TV or film version of Henry and his wives, or just that you loved my Jane the Quene!   One lucky commenter will be picked at random and contacted for their details.

There will be a giveaway at every stop of Roland’s book tour (!) and here is the schedule:

roland_hui_book_tour_poster

February 17, 1547 – Edward Seymour Becomes Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, by an unknown artist (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons).

When Henry died on January 27, his will contemplated sixteen executors who would share power while his son was still a minor. Nice idea in principle, but even Henry found it impossible to impose his will after death. Somerset had been ready for this moment, and sprang into action.

The old King’s death was kept secret – according to the Spanish ambassador’s letters, “not even the slightest signs of such a thing were to be seen at Court, and even the usual ceremony of bearing in the royal dishes to the sound of trumpets was continued without interruption” – and all roads from London were closed until they had the new King with them and safely in the Tower. Meanwhile, Edward Seymour worked behind the scenes to seize power by get himself appointed Lord Protector – largely by figuring out the right bribes for the different Council members. And as long as rich offices were being handed out, why not one for the Lord Protector himself.

As W.K. Jordan puts it in his Edward VI: The Young King (quoting from Hargrave, Stow, and Edward VI himself),

The ceremony at the Tower, for all the haste in preparation, was elaborate and impressive. Before all the assembled nobility, Edward Seymour was first created a duke, being dressed in an ‘inner robe’ of honor, with the heralds preceding him, and the Garter next following. Then came the Earl of Shrewsbury carrying a verge (rod) of gold and Oxford carrying the duke’s cup and coronet of gold, while Arundel bore the sword. Escorted by the Duke of Suffolk and the Marquis of Dorset, Seymour offered his obedience to the child King sitting in the chair of state, and then knelt before him. Paget read the charter, while at the appropriate point Edward placed the duke’s mantle on Seymour, girt him with the sword, put the coronet on his head, gave him the verge of gold and pronounced him Duke of Somerset. Somerset then stood by the King while the others were ennobled.

(In case you were wondering, the Earl of Essex (William Parr) became the Marquis of Northampton, Viscount Lisle (John Dudley) became the Earl of Warwick, Lord Wriothesley became Earl of Southampton, Sir Thomas Seymour became Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Sir Richard Rich became Baron Rich of Leighs, Sir William Willoughby became Baron Willoughby of Parham, and Sir Edmund Sheffield became Baron Sheffield).

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If you like my posts, you’ll love my book! Jane the Quene is now available in ebook and paperback on Amazon.Com (here are some easy links to  Amazon.Com, Amazon.Co.UK and Amazon.Com.Au)!