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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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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January 26, 1587 – James VI Begs Elizabeth I to Spare His Mother’s Life

James VI in 1586, attributed to Adrian Vanson (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

James VI in 1586, attributed to Adrian Vanson (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1585, a 55 year-old Elizabeth I and a 19 year-old James VI began a regular correspondence. Written in their own hands to stress the friendship – even intimacy – between them, it lasted until Elizabeth’s death (supplemented starting in 1601 by secret letters between James and Elizabeth’s councilors – notably Robert Cecil and Henry Howard).

As put by Janel Mueller (professor of English language and literature at the University of Chicago),

Throughout this correspondence, by one means or another, Elizabeth staked, protected, and cultivated her momentous investment in James. In this serial exchange of complex, inveigling letters the Virgin Queen can be observed creating her successor. With certain discomfiture but no lasting reluctance, James can be observed accepting his creaturehood at Elizabeth’s hands because of the mighty advancement it would bring him, in time–the monarchy of Great Britain.

Two years into this series, crisis hit when Mary of Scotland was convicted of treason for her role in encouraging the ill-fated Babington Plot, and sentenced to death. James wrote the next key letter in this sequence to Elizabeth on January 28, 1587, pleading with her to spare the life of his condemned mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.

This letter, while still maintaining the appearances of kinship and friendship, is the most combative and threatening that we see from James, though he continues to maintain the appearances of kinship and friendship. [Spoiler alert – he didn’t change the outcome. Elizabeth signed the death warrant on February 1, and Mary was executed on the 8th. Scotland didn’t’ invade, though the Spanish launched the Armada the following year – less in Mary’s name than because England was interfering in the Spanish Netherlands and subjecting Spanish ships to privateering…].

Judge for yourself…

 

To madame my very dear sister and cousin, the queen of England.

Madame and dearest sister,

If ye could have known what divers thoughts have agitated my mind since my directing of William Keith unto you for the soliciting of this matter whereto nature and honor so greatly and unfeignedly binds and obliges me – if, I say, ye knew what divers thoughts I have been in and what just grief I had, weighing deeply the thing itself, if so it should proceed (as God forbid), what events might follow thereupon, what number of straits I would be driven unto, and amongst the rest, how it might peril my reputation among my subjects – if these things, I yet say again, were known unto you, then doubt I not but ye would so far pity my case as it would easily make you at the first to resolve your own best into it. I doubt greatly in what facon to write in this purpose, for ye have already taken so evil with my plainness as I fear if I shall persist in that course ye shall rather be exasperated to passions in reading the words than by the plainness thereof be persuaded to consider rightly the simple truth.

Yet, justly preferring the duty of an honest friend to the sudden passions of one who (how soon they be past) can wiselier weigh the reasons than I can set them down, I have resolved in few words and plain to give you my friendly and best advice, appealing to your ripest judgment to discern thereupon. What thing, madame, can greatlier touch me in honor that is a king and a son than that my nearest neighbor, being in straitest friendship with me, shall rigorously put to death a free sovereign prince and my natural mother, alike in estate and sex to her that so uses her, albeit subject (I grant) to a harder fortune, and touching her nearly in proximity of blood? What law of God can permit that justice shall strike upon them whom He has appointed supreme dispensators of the same under Him, whom He hath called gods and therefore subjected to the censure of none in earth, whose anointing by God cannot be defiled by man, unrevenged by the author thereof, who being supreme and immediate lieutenants of God in heaven cannot therefore be judged by their equals in earth. What monstrous thing is it that sovereign princes themselves should be the example-givers of their own sacred diadems’ profaning! Then what should move you to this form of proceeding, supponing the worst, which in good faith I look not for at your hands – honor or profit? Honor were it to you to spare when it is least looked for; honor were it to you (which is not only my friendly advice, but my earnest suit) to take me and all other princes in Europe eternally beholden unto you in granting this my so reasonable request, and not (appardon, I pray you, my free speaking) to put princes to straits of honor wherethrough your general reputation and the universal (almost) misliking of you may dangerously peril both in honor and utility your person and your estate. Ye know, madame, well enough how small difference Cicero concludes to be betwixt utile [utility] and honestum [honor] in his discourse thereof, and which of them ought to be framed to the other. And now, madame, to conclude, I pray you so to weigh their few arguments that as I ever presumed of your nature, so the whole world may praise your subjects for their dutiful care for your preservation, and yourself, for your princely pity, the doing whereof only belongs  unto you, the performing whereof only appertains unto you, the praise thereof only ever will be yours.

Respect, then, good sister, this my first, so long continued, and so earnest request, dispatching my ambassadors with such a comfortable answer as may become your person to give and as my loving and honest heart unto you merits to receive. But in case any do vaunt themselves to know further of my mind in this matter than my ambassadors do, who indeed are fully acquainted therewith, I pray you not to ttake me to be a chameleon, but by the contrary to be malicious impostors as surely they are. And thus praying you heartily to excuse my too rude and longsome letter I commit you, madame and dearest sister, to the blessed protection of the Most High, who may give you grace to so resolve in this matter as may be honorable for you and most acceptable to him.

From my palace of Holyrood, the 26th day of January 1587.

 

SOURCE: Elizabeth I, Collected Works (edited by Leah Marcus, Janel Mueller and Mary Beth Rose)

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December 24, 1545 – Henry VIII’s Final Speech to Parliament

Henry VIII in Parliament, from the Wriothesley Garter Book (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Last speeches seem to be real highlights, and this one certainly does not disappoint. It is a chance to really hear Henry’s voice and remember how seriously he took religion even though he so often bent it to his own purposes. Who among us has not heard the quote, “I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the Word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung and jangled in every ale-house and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same”? It’s from this speech – a masterful performance that moved many of those present (including Henry himself) to tears.

Petre wrote to Paget to tell him of this event. “This morning, being Christmas Even, 24 Dec., Parliament was prorogued until 4 Nov. next, by the King in person. After hearing the proposition of the Speaker, a great piece of which consisted in laud of his Highness, the King required my lord Chancellor, whose office has ever been to make answer for the King, to permit him to answer himself; and did so with a gravity, “so sententiously, so kingly, or rather fatherly, as peradventure to you that hath been used to his daily talks should have been no great wonder (and yet saw I some that hear him often enough largely water their plants), but to us, that have not heard him often, was such a joy and marvellous comfort as I reckon this day one of the happiest of my life.”

But enough of a buildup, judge for yourself…(I left as much of the old language as I could – the first two paragraphs are a little slow but they do show you a great side of Henry’s majestic mix of flattery and threats and they will get your ear properly tuned to really enjoy the great stuff in the last two!)

Although my chancellor has been accustomed, very eloquently and substantially, to make answer to such orations as have been set forth in this high court of Parliament; yet is he not so able to open and set forth my mind and meaning, and the secrets of my heart, in so plain and simple manner, as I myself am, and can do. Wherefore, I take it upon me to answer your eloquent oration, Master Speaker, and say that where you, in the name of our well beloved Commons, have both praised and extolled me for the notable qualities that you have conceived to be in me, I most heartily  thank you all. You have put me in remembrance  of my duty, which is, to endeavor myself to obtain such excellent qualities, and necessary virtues, as a prince or governor should or ought to have; of which gifts I recognize myself both bare and barren. But for those small qualities with which God hath endowed me, I render to His goodness my most humble thanks, intending, with all my wit and diligence, to acquire such notable virtues, and princely qualities, as you have alleged to be incorporate in my person. 

Having thanked you for your loving admonition and good counsel, I now quickly thank you again, because you, considering the great charges (not for our pleasure, but for your defense, not for our gain, but to our great cost) which we have lately sustained, both in defense against our and your enemies and the conquest of that fortress which was to this realm most displeasant and noisome, and shall be, by God’s grace, hereafter to our nation most profitable and pleasant, you have freely decided to grant to us a certain subsidy, here in an act specified, which verily we take in good part, regarding more your kindness than the profit thereof, as he that setteth more by your loving hearts than by your substance. Besides this hearty kindness, I cannot a little rejoice, when I consider the perfect trust and sure confidence which you have put in me, as men having undoubted hope and unfeigned belief in my good doings and just proceedings,  because you, without my desire or request have committed to mine order and disposition all chantries, colleges, hospitals, and other places specified in a certain act – firmly trusting, that I will order them to the glory of God and the profit of our commonwealth. Surely, if I, contrary to your expectations, should suffer the churches to decay, or learning (which is so great a jewel) to be diminished, or poor and miserable people to be unrelieved, you might say, that I, being put in so special a trust as I am in this case, were no trusty friend to you, nor charitable man to mine fellow Christians,  neither a lover of the public wealth, nor yet one that feared God, to whom account must be rendered of all our doings. Doubt not, I pray you, but your expectation shall be served, more godly and goodly than you will wish or desire, as hereafter you shall plainly perceive.      

Now since I find such kindness on your part, towards me, I cannot choose but to love and favor you, affirming that no prince in the world more favoreth his subjects than I do you; nor any subjects or commons more love and obey their sovereign lord than I perceive you do me, for whose defense my treasure shall not be hidden, nor, if necessity require, shall my person be unrisked. Yet, although I with you, and you with me, be in this perfect love and concord, this friendly amity cannot continue unless you my lords temporal, and you my lords spiritual, and you my loving subjects, study and take pains to amend one thing, which is surely amiss and far out of order, which I most heartily require you to do and which is that charity and concord is not among you, but discord and dissension beareth rule, in every place. St. Paul saith to the Corinthians, in the thirteenth chapter, charity is gentle, charity is not envious, charity is not proud, and so forth, in the said chapter. Behold then what love and charity is amongst you, when the one calleth the other heretic and anabaptist, and he calleth him in turn papist, hypocrite, and pharisee. Be these tokens of charity amongst you? Are these the signs of fraternal love between you? No, no. I assure you, that this lack of charity amongst yourselves will be the hindrance and assuaging of the fervent love between us, as I said before, except this wound be salved, and clearly made whole. I must needs judge the fault and occasion of this discord to be partly by the negligence of you, the fathers, and preachers of the spirituality. For, if I know a man that liveth in adultery, I must judge him a lecherous and carnal person; if I see a man boast and brag, I cannot but deem him a proud man. I see and hear daily that you of the clergy preach one against another, teach contrary to one another, criticize one against another without charity or discretion. Some be too stiff in their old mumpsimus, other be too busy and curious in their new sumpsimus. Thus, all men almost are in variety and discord, and few or none do preach, truly and sincerely, the word of God, according as they ought to do. Shall I now judge you charitable persons doing this? No, no; I cannot so do. Alas! how can the poor souls live in concord when you preachers sow amongst them, in your sermons, debate and discord? From you they look for light, and you bring them to darkness. Amend these crimes, I exhort you, and set forth God’s word, both by true preaching, and good example-giving, or else I, whom God hath appointed his vicar and high minister here, will see these divisions extinct, and these enormities corrected, according to my very duty, or else I am an unprofitable servant, and an untrue officer.

Although (as I say) the spiritual men are in some fault that charity is not kept amongst you, yet you of the temporality are not clean and unspotted of malice and envy; for you rail on bishops, speak slanderously of priests, and rebuke and taunt preachers; both contrary to good order and Christian fraternity. If you know surely that a bishop or preacher erreth, or teacheth perverse doctrine, come and declare it to some of our Council, or to us, to whom is committed by God the authority to reform and order such causes and behaviors, and be not judges yourselves of your own fantastical opinions and vain expositions; for in such high causes you may lightly err. And, although you are permitted to read holy scripture and to have the word of God in your mother tongue, you must understand that it is licensed you so to do, only to inform your own conscience and to instruct your children and family, and not to dispute and make scripture a railing and a taunting stock against priests and preachers, as many light persons do. I am very sorry to know and hear how unreverently that most precious jewel, the word of God, is disputed, rhymed, sung, and jangled in every alehouse and tavern, contrary to the true meaning and doctrine of the same; and yet I am even as much sorry that the readers of the same follow it, in doing, so faintly and coldly. For of this I am sure, that charity was never so faint amongst you, and virtuous and godly living was never less used, nor was God himself, amongst Christians, never less reverenced, honored, or served. Therefore, as I said before, be in charity one with another, like brother and brother; love, dread, and serve God (to the which I, as your supreme head and sovereign lord, exhort and require you); and then I doubt not but that love and bonds, which I spoke of in the beginning, shall never be dissolved or broken between us. And, as touching the laws which be now made and concluded, I exhort you, the makers, to be as diligent in putting them into execution as you were in making and furthering them, or else your labor shall be in vain, and your commonwealth nothing relieved.

 

You can read Petre’s letter in Letters and Papers. For the speech itself, go to Dodd’s Church History of England  – quoting Hall’s Chronicle p. 864

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December 9, 1539 – Gregory Cromwell Writes to His Wife

Elizabeth Seymour (probably), by Hans Holbein the Younger (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today’s is a bit of a feel-good post. While Jane Seymour was Queen, Thomas Cromwell managed to create a brilliant familial link to his sovereign – he had his son Gregory Cromwell marry Jane’s sister Elizabeth. While Jane’s death tempered the political benefits of the alliance, it was still a very successful marriage. We can see glimpses of their closeness in this letter that Gregory sent to his wife in December 1539 – while he was off in Calais to welcome Anne of Cleves. Back when this fourth marriage of Henry’s showed incredible promise.

Gregory doesn’t say much, even remarks that she will probably have heard his news before she reads his letter. He really seems to be writing just to make a sweet connection with his “bedfellow”…

Bedfellow,

The day before the making hereof we received the just news of my lady Anne’s repair hither the same being appointed upon Thursday next coming; which thing, although it be now news, yet I fear that lack of expedition in the conveyance of these my letters shall be occasion the same to be old before they shall be of you received, forasmuch as such news are more swiftly set abroad by tongues than writing. It is determined that she shall remain here Friday and Saturday all day, and upon Sunday, wind and weather serving, take her passage into England. After she once entereth the English pale but she and her whole train shall be at the King’s charge. Hitherto she hath been at her own. There are in her company three hundred horses, whereof one hundred rideth before for provision, and two hundred wait upon her. My lord deputy, with all the spears and officers of the town, shall receive her at the English pale; my lord admiral, with all us accompanying him, a little without the town; my lady Lisle, with all the other ladies and gentlewomen, at the town gates.

I am, thanks be to God, in good health, trusting shortly to hear from you like news, as well of yourself as also my little boys, of whose increase and torwardness be you assured I am not a little  desirous to be advertised And thus, not having any other news to write, I bid you most heartily well to fare.

At Calais the 9th of December. Your loving bedfellow,

Gregory Cromwell

 

RESOURCES: Letters of Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain, by Mary Anne Everett Wood

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November 30, 1601 – Elizabeth’s Golden Speech

Elizabeth Before Parliament by an Unknown Artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was one of the two great speeches of Elizabeth’s career (the other was the speech to her troops at Tilbury right before the expected invasion of the Spanish Armada). This one was delivered to Parliament only 16 months before her death, and is viewed as marking the symbolic end of her reign. She really sets up her legacy, speaking eloquently of the love and respect she had for her country. The Six Wives of Henry VIII does a beautiful job with it – they have Cecil’s son mentioning how a candle always flares up before its flame is extinguished…

The following is the full text of the speech, from a document from the University of Munich; I have cleaned it up a bit, and highlighted the portions that are best known – they really do sing…

We perceive your coming is to present thanks unto us; know, I accept them with no less joy, than your loves can have desire to offer such a present, and do more esteem it, than any treasure of riches; for those we know how to prize, but loyalty, love, and thanks, I account them invaluable: and though God hath raised me high, yet this I account the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves. This makes that I do not so much rejoice that God hath made me to be a Queen, as to be a Queen over so thankful a people, and to be the mean, under God, to conserve you in safety, and to preserve you from danger; yea, to be the instrument to deliver you from dishonor, shame, and infamy; to keep you from servitude, and from slavery under our enemies, and cruel tyranny, and vile oppression intended against us: for the better withstanding whereof, we take very acceptably your intended helps, and chiefly in that it manifesteth your loves, and largeness of heart to your sovereign.

Of myself I must say this, I never was any greedy scraping grasper, nor a strict fast-holding Prince, nor yet a waster; My heart was never set upon any worldly goods, but only for my subjects’ good. What you do bestow on me, I will not hoard up, but receive it to bestow on you again; yea, mine own properties I account yours, to be expended for your good, and your eyes shall see the bestowing of it for your welfare.

Mr. Speaker, I would wish you, and the rest to stand up, for I fear I shall yet trouble you with longer speech. Mr. Speaker, you give me thanks, but I am more to thank you, and I charge you, thank them of the Lower House from me, for had I not received knowledge from you, I might a fallen into the lapse of an error, only for want of true information. Since I was Queen, yet did I never put my pen to any grant but upon pretext, and semblance made me, that it was for the good, and avail of my subjects generally, though a private profit to some of my ancient servants who have deserved well: but that my grants shall be made grievances to my people, and oppressions, to be privileged under color of our patents, our princely dignity shall not suffer it. When I heard it, I could give no rest unto my thoughts until I had reformed it, and those varlets, lewd persons, abusers of my bounty, shall know I will not suffer it. And Mr. Speaker, tell the House from me, I take it exceeding grateful that the knowledge of these things are come unto me from them. And though amongst them the principal members are such as are not touched in private, and therefore need not speak from any feeling of the grief, yet we have heard that other gentlemen also of the House, who stand as free, have spoken as freely in it, which gives us to know that no respects or interests have moved them other then the minds they bear to suffer no dimi∣nution of our Honour, and our Subjects love unto us. The zeal of which affection tending to ease my people, and knit their hearts unto us, I embrace with a princely care far above all earthly treasures. I esteem my peoples love, more than which I desire not to merit; And God that gave me here to sit, and placed me over you, knows that I never respected my self, but as your good was concerned in me: yet what dangers, what practices, and what perils I have passed, some, if not all of you know, but none of these things do move Me, or ever made me fear, but it is God that hath delivered me. And in my governing this land, I have ever set the last judgement day before mine eyes, and so to rule, as I shall be judged and answer before a higher Judge, to whose Judgment-Seat I do appeal in that, never thought was cherished in my heart that tended not to my peoples’ good. And if my princely bounty have been abused, and my grants turned to the hurt of my people contrary to my will and meaning, or if any in authority under me have neglected, or converted what I have committed unto them, I hope God will not lay their culps to my charge. To be a king and wear a Crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it: for my self, I never was so much enticed with the glorious name of a king, or the royal authority of a queen, as delighted that God hath made me His instrument to maintain His truth and glory, and to defend this kingdom from dishonor, damage, tyranny, and oppression. But should I ascribe any of these things unto my self, or my sexly weakness, I were not worthy to live, and of all most unworthy of the mercies I have received at God’s hands: but to God only and and wholly all is given and ascribed. The cares and trouble of a Crown I cannot more fitly resemble, than to the drugs of a learned physician, perfumed with some aromatical savor, or to bitter pills gilded over, by which they are made more acceptable or less offensive, which indeed are bitter and unpleasant to take; and for mine own part, were it not for conscience sake to discharge the duty that God hath laid upon me, and to maintain His glory, and keep you in safety, in mine own disposition I should be willing to resign the place I hold to any other, and glad to be freed of the glory with the labors: For it is not my desire to live or reign longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had and may have many mightier and wiser princes sitting in this seat, yet you never had, nor shall have, any that will love you better.

Thus Mr. Speaker, I commend me to your loyal loves, and yours to my best care, and your further counsels; and I pray you Mr. Controllor, and Mr. Secretary, and you of my Council, that before these gentlemen depart into their countries you bring them all to kiss my hand.

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October 1537 – Henry is Ready to Marry Again…

Wolfe Morris as Thomas Cromwell in BBC's The Six Wives of Henry VIII

Wolfe Morris as Thomas Cromwell in BBC’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970)

Jane Seymour died on October 24, 1537, after giving Henry the son he had craved for so long.  At least two weeks before her funeral (held November 12), he was already thinking of his next wife: we have the letter, dated only “October,” in which Cromwell announces the death of the Queen – and instructs England’s representatives in France to open discussions with the French king.

This is one of those jaw-dropping scenes that The Six Wives of Henry VIII handled so well. Norfolk and Edward Seymour rolling shocked eyes when the cynical Cromwell starts to talk marriage with the King with Jane Seymour’s lifeless body behind them in the room – and Norfolk and Seymour standing open-mouthed when Henry responds with the physical requirements that are important to him (“I’m big in person, I need a big wife”). The actual letter (well, the summary reflected in Letters and Papers) is equally chilling:

They are to announce to Francis that though the Prince is well and “sucketh like a child of his puissance,” the Queen, by the neglect of those about her who suffered her to take cold and eat such things as her fantasy in sickness called for, is dead. The King, though he takes this chance reasonably, is little disposed to marry again, but some of his Council have thought it meet for us to urge him to it for the sake of his realm, and he has “framed his mind, both to be indifferent to the thing and to the election of any person from any part that with deliberation shall be thought meet.” Two persons in France might be thought on, viz., the French king’s daughter (said to be not the meetest) and Madame de Longueville, of whose qualities you are to inquire, and also on what terms the King of Scots stands with either of them. Lord William must not return without ascertaining this, but the inquiry must be kept secret.

Woof.

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October 11, 1542 – Death of Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein

Sir Thomas Wyatt, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Sir Thomas Wyatt was one of the bright poetic lights at the court of Henry VIII, often credited along with Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey for introducing the sonnet from Italy into England.  Anne Boleyn fans will remember the poem he is said to have written about her in her youth, Whoso List to Hunt, as well as the moving Circa Regna Tonat (It Thunders Through the Realm) on her arrest (I’ve posted it – read it here).

Surrey wrote stanzas on Wyatt’s death (entitled, fittingly, Stanzas on Wyatt’s Death):

Wyatt resteth here, that quick could never rest :
Whose heavenly gifts increased by disdain ;
And virtue sank the deeper in his breast :
Such profit he by envy could obtain.

A head, where wisdom mysteries did frame ;
Whose hammers beat still in that lively brain,
As on a stithe, where that some work of fame
Was daily wrought, to turn to Britain’s gain.

A visage stern, and mild ; where both did grow
Vice to contemn, in virtue to rejoice :
Amid great storms, whom grace assured so,
To live upright, and smile at fortune’s choice.

A hand, that taught what might be said in rhyme ;
That reft Chaucer the glory of his wit.
A mark, the which (unperfected for time)
Some may approach, but never none shall hit.

A tongue that serv’d in foreign realms his king ;
Whose courteous talk to virtue did inflame
Each noble heart ; a worthy guide to bring
Our English youth by travail unto fame.

An eye, whose judgment none effect could blind,
Friends to allure, and foes to reconcile ;
Whose piercing look did represent a mind
With virtue fraught, reposed, void of guile.

A heart, where dread was never so imprest
To hide the thought that might the truth advance ;
In neither fortune loft, nor yet represt,
To swell in wealth, or yield unto mischance.

A valiant corpse, where force and beauty met :
Happy, alas! too happy, but for foes,
Lived, and ran the race that nature set ;
Of manhood’s shape, where she the mould did lose.

But to the heavens that simple soul is fled,
Which left, with such as covet Christ to know,
Witness of faith, that never shall be dead ;
Sent for our health, but not received so.

Thus for our guilt this jewel have we lost ;
The earth his bones, the heaven possess his ghost.

(From Wikisource)

 

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October 2, 1536 – The Lincolnshire Rising

Pilgrimage of Grace, by an unknown 19th Century illustrator (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Pilgrimage of Grace, by an unknown 19th Century illustrator (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Lincolnshire Rising was a sudden protest of the suppression of the monasteries. Shortly after the closure of Louth Abbey, the local villagers were at evensong at St. James Church in Louth and…well… next thing you know they were revolting and the unrest quickly spread to neighboring towns. Their numbers and organization grew until some 40,000 protesters marched on Lincoln and occupied Lincoln Cathedral.  The King quickly sent threatening orders for the rebels to disperse, which they by and large did. By October 14 the leaders had been captured and hung. It all seemed over…

Until it wasn’t.

While the Lincolnshire Uprising was failing, the rest of the North was mobilizing into the Pilgrimage of Grace, which has been called the “most serious of all Tudor rebellions.”  The Pilgrims wanted the breach with Rome to be repaired, they wanted the abbeys to be restored – and they wanted Thomas Cromwell gone (Cromwell was blamed for the changes). This kind of questioning of policies drove Henry into a rage. On October 19, he would send off two letters. First, to the Duke of Suffolk detailing the lesson he wanted them to be taught:

After this, if it appear to you by due proof that the rebels have since their retires from Lincoln attempted any new rebellion, you shall, with your forces run upon them and with all extremity “destroy, burn, and kill man, woman, and child the terrible example of all others, and specially the town of Louth because to this rebellion took his beginning in the same.”

Second, to the rebels themselves:

I have never heard that princes’ counsellors and prelates should be appointed by ignorant common people nor that they were meet persons to choose them. “How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm and of least experience, to find fault with your prince for the electing of his counsellors and prelates?” Thus you take upon yourself to rule your prince.

As to the suppression of religious houses we would have you know it is granted to us by Parliament and not set forth by the mere will of any counsellor. It has not diminished the service of God, for none were suppressed but where most abominable living was used, as appears by their own confessions signed by their own hands in the time of our visitations. Yet many were allowed to stand, more than we by the act needed; and if they amend not their living we fear we have much to answer for.

As to the relief of poor people, we wonder you are not ashamed to affirm that they have been a great relief, when many or most have not more than four or five religious persons in them and divers but one; who spent the goods of their house in nourishing vice.

As to the Act of Uses we wonder at your madness in trying to make us break the laws agreed to by the nobles, knights, and gentlemen of this realm, whom the same chiefly toucheth. Also the grounds of those uses were false and usurped upon the prince.

As to the fifteenth, do you think us so faint hearted that ye of one shire, were ye a great many more, could compel us to remit the same, when the payments yet to come will not meet a tenth of the charges we must sustain for your protection?

As to First Fruits, it is a thing granted by Parliament also. We know also that ye our commons have much complained in time past that most of the goods and lands of the realm were in the spiritual men’s hands; yet, now pretending to be loyal subjects, you cannot endure that your prince should have part thereof.

We charge you to withdraw to your houses and make no more assemblies, but deliver up the provokers of this mischief to our lieutenant’s hands and submit yourselves to condign punishment, else we will not suffer this injury unavenged. We pray God give you grace to do your duties and rather deliver to our lieutenant 100 persons than by your obstinacy endanger yourselves, your wives, children, lands, goods, and chattels, besides the indignation of God.

I kept the full text of this second letter in – even some five hundred years later you can feel yourself being cowed by his anger and threats. I can only imagine what the Pilgrims must have felt on reading this (even without knowing about the letter to Suffolk)!

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August 9, 1588 – Elizabeth’s Speech to her Troops at Tilbury

Elizabeth at Tilbury - portrayed by Glenda Jackson in the BBC's wonderful 1971 series, Elizabeth R

Elizabeth at Tilbury – portrayed by Glenda Jackson in the BBC’s wonderful 1971 series, Elizabeth R

This is one of the most famous speeches of all time – delivered by Elizabeth I to inspire her forces just before the arrival of the Spanish Armada. And inspire she did. Carolly Erickson describes her riding “through their ranks on a huge white warhorse, armed like a queen out of antique mythology in a silver cuirass and silver trauncheon.” The speech was received with thunderous applause, and word of it quickly warmed the hearts of her entire country. As Leicester wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury, “Our royal mistress hath been here with me to see her camp and people, which so inflamed the hearts of her good subjects, as I think the weakest person among them is able to match the proudest Spaniard that dares land in England.”

My loving people,

We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear, I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.

I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field.

I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the meantime, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

SOURCES:

Wikipedia has a specific page for this: Speech to the Troops at Tilbury.  If you want something more in-depth, Carolly Erickson’s The First Elizabeth offers a wonderful  description. And if you really want a deep dive, you can’t beat Susan Frye’s article, The Myth of Elizabeth at Tilbury.

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