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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August 6, 1540 – The French Ambassador’s Analysis of Henry VIII

Collected Political Correspondence of the French Ambassadors to England  1537-1542 (public domain via the University of Toronto)

Collected Political Correspondence of the French Ambassadors to England 1537-1542 (public domain via the University of Toronto)

This is a phenomenal letter, written by Charles de Marillac (the French Ambassador) to Anne de Montmorency (Grand Master of France, supervising the royal household and Francis I’s private service). Marillac had just written his official report to Francis detailing the political events that were taking place England – this was a more personal letter to a friend that cut to Henry’s character. And cut it does, providing an amazing analysis of Henry VIII’s “issues” as we would say today.

This is taken from Letters & Papers, so it is a synopsis of the letter itself. (You may be wondering how L&P got a copy – Marillac’s secretary was selling copies of the ciphered dispatches…a system Cromwell had put into place long before). The first two paragraphs are general grumbling, it really starts getting good in the third…

His letter to the King shall be his excuse for not dilating further upon this lamentable matter. The fine ordinance newly forged here, for judging men without hearing them or letting them know their accusation, is as unhappy in its result as wicked in its origin. Another has been added to it, by which the Estates have entirely transferred their authority to the King, whose sole opinion will henceforth have the force of an act of Parliament. Although formerly everyone condescended to his wishes, still there was some form of justice, but now will be only the King’s pleasure. Thus Parliament, so often prorogued and re-assembled in years past, has now been closed, and it is thought that for this reign there will be no meeting of estates, except that which is ordinary every year for the expedition of matters of justice.

Will not speak of the pamphlets and books which these bishops print daily, in which, to be found faithful and good servants in treating of true obedience, they permit their King to interpret, add to, take away, and make, more divine law than the apostles or their vicars and successors ever dared to attempt. They make of him not only a King to be obeyed, but an idol to be worshipped. Thus a climax of evils has arisen and all sorts of unhappiness are registered in England. And though Montmorency understands matters better than he can write, will, for once, state briefly what he has seen and can learn about this.

First, to commence with the head, this Prince seems tainted, among other vices, with three which in a King may be called plagues. The first is that he is so covetous that all the riches in the world would not satisfy him. Hence the ruin of the abbeys, spoil of all churches that had anything to take, suppression of the knights of St. John of Rhodes, from whom has been taken not only their ancient revenue, but the moveables which they had acquired which they have not been able to leave by will. Hence, too, the accusation of so many rich men, who, whether condemned or acquitted, are always plucked; and it is unlikely that he should pardon the living when he troubles even the dead, without fearing the offence to the religion of the world which reveres them as saints, witness St. Thomas of Canterbury, who, because his relics and bones were adorned with gold and jewels, has been declared traitor. Everything is good prize, and he does not reflect that to make himself rich he has impoverished his people, and does not gain in goods what he loses in renown. As it seemed difficult to attain his desires after withdrawing obedience from the Holy See, he got preachers and ministers to persuade the people that it was better to employ the Church revenue on hospitals, colleges, and other foundations tending to the public good than to fatten lazy and useless monks. Having under this pretext taken to himself what had been consecrated to God, when the same preachers and ministers exhorted him to fulfil his duty and remit it to better uses they have been condemned and burnt as heretics, as they said at their execution, to the scandal of everyone. And although they well deserved to be the end of that of which they had been the beginning, still, those who commanded them are not free from blame, for, if they showed repentance for what was done, they should restore what they have demolished; but they easily find a thousand ways to take things to themselves and not a single one to give them up.

Thence proceeds the second plague, distrust and fear. This King, knowing how many changes he has made, and what tragedies and scandals he has created, would fain keep in favor with everybody, but does not trust a single man, expecting to see them all offended, and he will not cease to dip his hand in blood as long as he doubts his people. Hence every day edicts are published so sanguinary that with a thousand guards one would scarce be safe. Hence too it is that now with us, as affairs incline, he makes alliances which last as long as it makes for him to keep them.

The third plague, lightness and inconstancy, proceeds partly from the other two and partly from the nature of the nation, and has perverted the rights of religion, marriage, faith and promise, as softened wax can be altered to any form.

The subjects take example from the Prince, and the ministers seek only to undo each other to gain credit, and under colour of their master’s good each attends to his own. For all the fine words of which they are full, they will act only as necessity and interest compel them. Henceforward I will write things simply as they pass; the above is to let you know that I have found what you predicted. 

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August 3, 1537 – Elizabeth Seymour Marries Gregory Cromwell

"Portrait of an Unknown Woman," said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

“Portrait of an Unknown Woman,” said to be Elizabeth Seymour, by Hans Holbein (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

In March 1537, Jane Seymour’s sister Elizabeth, a widow in a somewhat impoverished state, had written to Thomas Cromwell hoping to be considered for an award of lands from one of the dissolved abbeys. Instead, Cromwell took advantage of the opportunity to propose that she marry his only son and heir, Gregory. For Cromwell, this would be a huge step – he would be related to the King (not directly, more like an uncle-in-law, but the guys was a blacksmith’s son for goodness’ sake!). With Elizabeth’s consent, he worked out the terms with his good friend Edward Seymour and by June everything had been agreed.

Cromwell set his soon-to-be daughter-in-law up at Leeds Castle in Kent pending the wedding. She wrote him the following letter from there, making it clear that she had been well-educated (which is interesting to note since the lack of letters from Jane Seymour suggested to some historians that she might have been illiterate – this would argue against that conclusion). Without further ado, a charming missive from a bride-to-be to her powerful new father-in-law:

To the right honorable and my singular good lord, the Lord Privy Seal:

In most humble wise, as your assured poor beadwoman, I cannot render unto your lordship the manifold thanks that I have cause, not only for your great pain taken to devise for my surety and health but also for your liberal token to me, sent by your servant master Worsley; and farther, which doth comfort me most in the world that I find your lordship is contented with me, and that you will be my good lord and father: the which, I trust, never to deserve other but rather to give cause for the continuance of the same. Pleaseth it your lordship, because I would make unto you some direct answer, I have bene so bold to be thus long ere I have written unto you. And where it hath pleased your lordship as well to put me in choice of your own house as others, I most humbly thank you; and to eschew all sayings, I am very loth to change the place where I now am, and where my brother my lord’s house shall remove, the which, if such need e, shall be at one Ambrose Wellose, a quarter of a mile from your lordship’s place, as master Worsely can inform your lordship more plainly thereof. And where it hath pleased your lordship to give me leave, and also commandeth me, if I want, to send to you, and that I may be bold to open my heart, I ensure your lordship my heart hath been a great time in such trust; and now this letter from you, with that I find in it, doth me more pleasure than any earthly good for my trust is now only in you, and if I have any need I shall obey your lordship’s commandment herein. And thus I shall daily pray unto God for the preservation of your lordship most prosperously in health to continue. Amen.

Prayeth your humble daughter-in-law,

Elizabeth Ughtred

A quick note: we have letters from many great Tudor ladies in which they refer to themselves as “beadwomen,” often at the same time as they refer to themselves as friends and servants. While I cannot find a firm reference, the context suggests that the “beads” refer to the rosary so that they were assuring their recipients that they were praying for them. If anyone has any information about this, I’d love it if you’d share in the comments below!

SOURCES:

Letters: Royal and Illustrious Ladies of Great Britain Vol. II, by Mary Anne Everett Wood – Chiefly from the originals in the State Paper Office, The Tower of London, The British Museum and other State Archives (Volume 2)

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