Category Archives: Bloody Mary

The Much-Maligned King

Saint RichardWith the great historical discoveries we’ve had over recent years, there has been some major re-thinking on the history and reputation of one of England’s most hated and maligned kings – and rightly so.

While his mortal remains are now at rest this king’s legacy of evil and wickedness is still debated by eye-rolling, loony historians, fan-girls and sane history buffs on every Facebook page you come across (yes, I’ve checked, he even gets into groups dedicated to historical women *groan*).

He has, throughout, history, been demonised and vilified by historians and non-historians alike. Words such as “tyrant”, “monster” and “murderer” have been slung at this king for more years than I’d like to count.

The main beef for many is the propaganda levelled against this king by subsequent dynasties; the misrepresentation of his actions and the accusations of murder which just refuse to go away.

And mud sticks.

So it’s about time he was given the rights that all Englishmen have – the right to the “assumption of innocence until proven guilty”.

No, of course I’m not talking about Richard III! The man killed his nephews, why on earth should he be allowed to be presumed innocent?holbein henry

I’m referring to that great man of the Renaissance, the Hercules of England, Europe’s very own Alexander; Henry VIII, of course.

With this in mind I thought I would take a new look at the main accusations, strip away the propaganda and look at the deaths involved in their proper light; one at a time, rather than as one great killing spree.

Does responsibility lay at the king’s door?

Were the deaths justified for the good of the realm? Should I leave Cairo and move to more bridal climes? (Oops, sorry, that last was a personal question, not relevant – much – to this essay.)

The first person I looked into was Catherine of Aragon. Of course, Henry is not accused of killing her; but he is accused of treating her shamefully. Catherine married Henry having sworn that she’d never slept with her first husband Prince Arthur, Henry’s older brother. Catherine made thiCatherine_aragons declaration only after Arthur was safely dead – and therefore could not dispute it.

What was her motivation?

Well, Henry was a young, handsome – ok, gorgeous – 18-year-old Adonis who also happened to be king of one of the most powerful kingdoms of Europe, whereas she was a penniless Spanish princess who had been more-or-less abandoned by her own family. So, of course, she only said this out of her love for Henry, rather than any selfish reasons.

There was one problem with Catherine’s declaration; Prince Arthur had once sworn otherwise, declaring one morning, after leaving Catherine’s chamber, that he had “spent the night in Spain” (something no one bothered to tell Henry until many years later). Quite an unequivocal statement from a Prince who had no ulterior motive.

Poor Henry was a devout Catholic and knew that marrying his brother’s wife was a mortal sin and when he finally discovered the truth, what choice did he have but to divorce? And why would he do it with such vehemence and hatred? Surely it’s hard to be kind to someone who has endangered your immortal soul by making you commit such a heinous sin? Henry would have had to be a saint to be able to forgive. And it’s certainly not his fault that Catherine of Aragon stuck to this fib – through thick and thin – but neither is it Henry’s fault that he stuck to his own guns and fought to the very end to obtain a divorce.

So, now, we come to Henry’s “victims”.

Anneboleyn2Let’s look at Anne Boleyn first.

If Anne Boleyn was innocent of the crimes she was accused of – of sleeping with other men, including her brother and of planning the king’s death – then she is a true martyr and Henry is a monster worse than Darth Vader. However, thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know beyond any doubt that Anne did have an affair with her brother, George Boleyn. A French poem, written a few days after Anne’s execution by a Frenchman living in England, proves unequivocally that Anne slept with her brother.

And if one of the charges is true, then surely they all are?

And if Anne was sleeping around, what else could he do but execute her? Imprison her? Maybe, but an example from French history suggests the dangers in doing that. In 1314 the wives of France’s 3 princes were accused of adultery and imprisoned. However, the princes found obtaining divorces difficult (to cut a long story short) and all 3 ruled successively as kings of France, but were unable to  produce the much-desired legitimate male heir and the Capetian line died out.

With such an example from just a couple of hundred years ago, can Henry really be blamed for wanting a swift conclusion to his marriage?

And, to be honest, this same argument stands for Henry’s execution of Catherine Howard the poor chap is proof of the adage that lightning CAN strike twice in the same place).

One of the most heinous crimes that Henry is accused of is, of course, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury. And well, to be honest, I’ll give his accusers that one. Poor Margaret. But, then, every king is allowed one over-reaction; Richard III has Lord Hastings, Henry gets Margaret Pole.

thomas moreAnd then there’s Thomas More…

Well, I have a theory…..

Sir Thomas More was Henry’s friend. What if he committed an unforgivable betrayal. I’m not referring to his refusal to swear allegiance to the Act of Succession, rather I’m referring to his abominable, slanderous book about Richard III.

We all know Henry loved his mother dearly, and spent most of his childhood sat on her lap, listening to her stories about her childhood, her father and her wonderful uncle, Richard. We always think of the Tudors hating Richard III, but in Henry’s time the slanderous, legend blackening work of Shakespeare is still decades in the future. What if Henry knew of the gentler side of Uncle Dickon? What if he saw him as the loving uncle of a fatherless teenage girl, who gave her gifts and danced with her at Christmas.

EoY portraitThis is the intimate picture of Richard III that Henry grew up with, knowing him and loving him as a favourite great-uncle. And then his friend presents him with a manuscript saying “I’ve put together some ideas, have a look at it, just let me know what you think.”

Of course, Henry reads it and goes ballistic. How dare More write such hateful things about this great king, this hero, this Son of York, this man who saved the kingdom from the disasters that would, almost-definitely, have befallen the land had a child-king been allowed to live …. er, I mean, to reign?

Henry had no choice, More brought it on himself. Henry had to have him executed in order to prevent More’s slanderous work from reaching a wider audience. It was the only way to prevent publication.

It’s not Henry’s fault the “facts” still got out…

By Jeff R Sun

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Jeff R Sun has been supporting the Richards for years – I’m thinking of changing my allegiance to the Henrys. All advice appreciated.

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Photos: Wiki

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Sources: Measly Middle Ages; Terrible Tudors; Slimy Stuarts; Wiki; Daily Mail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

800px-Panorama_of_the_outer_curtain_wall_of_the_Tower_of_London,_2006
The Tower of London
Recently I had the honour and pleasure of attending the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. It takes place every night at the Tower, and has done since the 14th century.
Detroit_Publishing_Co._-_A_Yeoman_of_the_Guard_(N.B._actually_a_Yeoman_Warder),_full_restoration
Yeoman of the Guard
At exactly 9.53pm the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor uniform meets the TOwer of London Guard. Together, the Chief Yeoman Warder and the Yeoman Warder ‘Watchman’ secure the main gates of the Tower. On their return down Water Lane, they are challenged by the sentry:
Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”
Chief Warder: “The keys.”
Sentry: “Whose keys?”
Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys.” (identifying the keys as being those of Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch)
Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All is well.”
The party then makes its way through the Bloody Tower Archway into the fortress, where they halt at the bottom of the Broadwalk Steps. On the top of the Stairs, under the command of their officer, the Tower Guard present arms and the Chief Warder raises his hat, proclaiming:
 

Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.”
Sentry: “Amen!”

The keys are then taken to Queen’s House for safekeeping, and the Last Post is sounded.

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

The reason I mention it is the chat I had afterwards, with one of the Yeoman Warders. We were talking about the ravens and I mentioned the legend attached to them, which says that the monarchy will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London.

The Yeoman Warder laughed and said ‘yes, everyone falls for that one’. Intrigued – and not a little miffed at him laughing at me – I asked him to explain himself.

III
King Richard III

He told me a very interesting story that begins in the reign of Richard III.

We all know of the wise woman who saw Richard on his way to Battle at Bosworth, saying that his head would soon strike the bridge where his spur had just struck. Well, apparently there was a little bit extra to that story that the Tudor propagandists decided not to share with the little people.

The wise lady said something that confused Richard immensely – she shouted to Richard that “the monarchy will fall if the Howards ever leave the Tower of London.”

Now, Richard, as we know, took no notice of this warning and John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk was one of the men who fell fighting for Richard at Bosworth – and Richard lost his crown.

henry7bust
Henry VII

After the battle, the same wise woman sought out Henry VII and managed to shout the same warning – minus the comment about heads and bridges – to the king, before she was bundled away and unceremoniously thrown on a dung heap.

At first Henry dismissed the wise woman’s words as “fantasy and delusion”, but the events of 1487 (the Battle of Stoke Field) and the arrival of Perkin Warbeck made him think again. Being spiteful and nasty, Henry VII believed that the wise woman had meant a Howard had to be imprisoned in the Tower – and he started looking around for a suitable candidate.

Of course, his only problem was that Thomas Howard 2nd Duke of Norfolk, was annoyingly loyal and he could find no reason to send him to the Tower. He did manage to make him Lord High Treasurer, which meant he had offices in the Tower, and hoped that would be enough. Of course, shortly after this Henry’s son and heir, Arthur, died followed by his beloved wife, Elizabeth of York.

Henry started panicking.

However, not wanting to send the Howards into hiding, he bought 6 ravens, clipped their wings and had the rumour spread that if they ever left the Tower, the monarchy would fall.

He then warned his new heir, the magnificent Henry – soon to be the VIII of that name – that he should do everything in his power to keep a Howard in the Tower as often as he possibly could.

200px-Henry_Howard_Earl_of_Surrey_1546
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey

As we all know, Henry took his father’s words to heart. He tried to find a permanent solution, by lopping off the head of his 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn (whose mother was a Howard), and burying her in the Church of St Peter ad Vincular in the Tower, hoping that was an end to it.

But then there was the Pilgrimage of Grace…..

So he tried again with wife no.5, Catherine Howard, and this seemed to work. But then Henry got ill and even more paranoid, and started worrying about his son and the succession. In order to ensure the smooth accession of Edward VI, Henry made certain by imprisoning Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk AND Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey – then died content.

Unfortunately Edward VI’s regents released Norfolk – and Edward’s reign was cut short. Edward did manage to pass on the secret to his sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.

But she didn’t believe him – Howard was, after all, a Catholic. And as a result, Mary’s reign was short.

240px-ThomasHoward4HerzogvonNorfolk
Thomas Howard, Elizabeth I’s prisoner

Elizabeth, on the other hand, took the legend to heart and regularly threw a Howard in the Tower. Everyone thought that it was ‘just because she felt like it’, but she was just being extra cautious.

At this stage of the story the Beefeater started laughing uncontrollably. “Of course,” he said “they went to all that murderous trouble for nothing”.

Perplexed, I asked “what do you mean”

“The legend had nothing to do with the Norfolk Howards – in fact it was not so specific as to even mean a surname. During the Gunpowder Plot we discovered, that so long as someone in the Tower had Howard somewhere in their name, all was good.”

So, now, it’s just part of the recruitment process for Yeoman Warders, they have to be ex-military – and have ‘Howard’ somewhere in their name.

300px-London_tower_ravens
Raven Howard and a friend

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious – one of the Tower Ravens is also named ‘Howard’ – just to be sure.

 

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Jeff R Sun got locked in the Tower of London after a quick trip to the loo follow the Ceremony of the Keys. Can someone please let me out?
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All pictures taken from Wikipedia
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Sources: Ceremony of the Keys taken from Wikipedia; http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/theravens; Horrible Histories; 1066 and All That; Yeoman Warder Howard Carter of the Tower of London.

Bloody Mary and the map monster

It has often been queried by historians, proper historians that is, with degrees and everything, why Mary I had such a desire to kill. Her nick name, given to her after her death, was Bloody Mary and that was not because of the heaviness of her menses! but because she had the reputation of being a persecutor and cold blooded killer of those of the Protestant faith.

"Maria Tudor1" by Antonis Mor - Museo del Prado Catalog no. P02108 [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maria_Tudor1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Maria_Tudor1.jpg
Mary I known as Bloody Mary
Mary was the eldest child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon his first wife (or should that just be ‘wife?’ That depends which side of the argument you are, pro or anti Anne Boleyn and the other four.) Mary became monarch after the death of her brother Edward, the sixth king of that name. She reigned for just five years from 1553 to 1558. During this time she condemned 257 Protestants to die the terrible death of being burned alive.  Legend has her responsible for 50,000 deaths but this is slightly inaccurate by 49,713 souls and must have been a misprint. Printing was still, in real terms, in its infancy and these typos did happen from time to time. Her father killed 57,000 people who refused to recognise him as the rightful head of the church and Mary had a long way to go to catch up with that!

Mary was determined to return England to Catholicism, the religion of her childhood, and married Catholic King Phillip II of Spain. Despite the well known saying ‘no one expects the Spanish Inquisition’ after Mary married Phillip the populace of England certainly was expecting the Spanish Inquisition (or would that then be the English Inquisition?) and many accepted the Catholic faith to avoid the comfy chair.

Monty Python!
Monty Python!

Despite the inaccuracy  of the numbers, the question still remains, was she a cold blooded killer or did she in fact have a reason for her manic killing spree? That 257 represents about one a week during her reign, a lot in a country still under populated because of war, famine and the plague.

New evidence came to light last year which may shed light on this. A copy of a map was found in the back of a book in a library in Cornwall, England. Previously only two extant copies of this map were thought to be in existence, but this third turned up and blew academic research sky high. It had Mary’s signature in her own hand along with words in Latin in a different hand. Translated the words say, ‘’I will kill all pigs’’, on the face of it a strange thing for Mary to put her name to. She was Catholic, not of the Jewish or Islamic faith.

Islandia Reproduced with permission of Lady White Art
Islandia**

The strange words may now have been given meaning following research by a *Dr Don Ashtray-Pill, an independent historian and the author of many books on mediaeval history. Dr Pill found that Mary was fascinated by what today would be called Geography but was more commonly described as Cosmographia during her lifetime. In 1545 she obtained a rare copy ofWonders of the sea and rare animals, as they are found in the midnight lands in the sea and on the land’ by Sebastian Münster. (Sebastian’s brother is credited for being the founder of the family on which the 1960s CBS television programme ‘The Münsters’ was originally based.)

‘Wonders of the Sea…’ was printed in many languages including English, Czech, French Italian and Latin. Mary’s copy was in Latin. It was so popular that 24 editions were produced in 100 years, the success mainly being due to the fascinating woodcuts by Hans Holbein the Younger, Urs Graf,  Manuel Deutsch and others.

The inclusion of Holbein’s work made Mary look at the Holbein oil painting anew and she noticed with distaste that whilst Holbein was a skilled and painter, her friend ‘Cremuel’ (as her father’s concubine Anne Boleyn called him) had been painted looking fat and greedy ‘like a hog’. It was pointed out to Mary that he could hope for no better as he was not only guilty of treason, but was known also to be a Protestant.

Mary mused on these words but it was not until several years later that she understood what the speaker was really trying to say. In the meantime Mary’s hatred of Protestantism grew and grew. She blamed the rise of the bastard faith on everything bad that had ever happened to her, her parent’s separation, her mother’s downfall, her father’s alienation of her, her lack of rights and privileges as the daughter of a king….she even blamed her short stature on Protestantism, though that was more likely to have been genetic as her great uncle, Richard of Shrewsbury, also had dwarfism https://doublehistory.com/tag/dwarfism

The map that was found in the book in the library in Cornwall is  known as ‘Islandia’ and was created by Abraham Ortelius, a Flemish map maker and geographer, recognized as the creator of the first atlas, the ‘Theatre of the World’. In his later life he was appointed official geographer to the man who was Mary’s husband, Philip II of Spain. It is considered that the map may have been specifically commissioned for Mary by her husband due to her fascination with anything geographic, a rare sign of communication if not affection between the two.  The excerpt of the map (above) shows sea monsters that some believed inhabited the surrounding waters.  Mistakes about marine life have ranged from inaccurate assumptions about the behavior of known species to fanciful depictions of animals that “might” exist.Some speculate that this monster-riddled map is aimed at dissuading Europeans from moving to an island that the current settlers preferred to keep to themselves! These beasts in the seas all have their own story and none more pertinent to Mary than the story of the the Sea Swine or Sea Hog described by Olaus Magnus a few years earlier and I quote:

”After pointing out that a “monstrous Fish” appeared off the coast of England in 1532,

Sea Hog (top) **
Sea Hog (top) **

 

Olaus Magnus wrote, “Now I shall revive the memory of a monstrous Hog that was found afterwards, Anno 1537, in the same German Ocean, and it was a Monster in every part of it. For it had a Hog’s head, and a quarter of a Circle, like the Moon, in the hinder part of its head, four feet like a Dragon’s, two eyes on both sides of his Loyns, and a third in his belly inkling toward his Navel; behind he had a Forked-Tail, like to other Fish commonly.”

Olaus Magnus then went on to compare the beast to heretics, Protestants, who, he believed, lived and behaved like swine. The naturalist had been born a Catholic, but his homeland of Sweden was Protestant by the time he produced his monster filled map.

When Mary heard of this she embraced the idea that Protestants were swine, hogs or pigs, with fervour and decreed that if unrepentant they should be cooked like swine – roasted on fires – which does not say a lot about her knowledge of cookery but does explain why 237 Protestants were burned during her reign.

And on that sombre note Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff will go and eat a cheese sandwich, having rather put himself off the lovely pork chop that he treated himself to earlier. For some reason Jefferty does rather fancy a Vodka and Tomato juice – strange that!

Bloody Mary drink

Primary Sources:

The Munsters: TV programme

Sea Monsters by Joseph Nigg

Blurry and Moo – Blog by Richard Ian

The Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens: Michael Ashley

Facebook page ‘Richardian’

A few other Facebook pages that I cannot be bothered to name

Lady White Art

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/4986765/Jonathan-Potters-collection-of-rare-antique-maps-up-for-sale.html?image=1

http://islandskort.is/en/map/view/36/1828/1;jsessionid=90DF2C0D96BCF6DCD45BC8AA1760936E

* The author called Dr Don Ashtray Pill has asked for his real name to be disguised to protect the innocent and spare the blushes of his family and friend.

** Art work reproduced by kind permission of Lady White Art.

© Jeff ”Jefferty” Jeff, 2nd March 2015