Category Archives: Henry VII

Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Henry VII and the Strippers

Margaret Beaufort was a pious woman. Holy even. Fervent in her beliefs. A zealot beyond measure. Yeah, she was about as devout as one could be. But what about her son, eh? What was Henry Tudor really like behind the scenes? And why did it take so long for him to marry Elizabeth of York? What was he doing? The answer is as old as time. A male tradition long held and considered sacred. A stag party.

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Henry VII was a party animal. Records from medieval strip clubs show he ran extensive tabs, some of which remain unpaid to this very day (not surprising).  Journals kept by two different strippers show that he was a poor tipper, and very difficult to handle. Says  Saucy Bessie of Ye Olde Teats and Arse, “The new king never tosses coin, but gives coupons for a free horseshoeing at the smith!” and Wanda the Wench describes him thus, ” A meager tipper, but a lecherous kyng indeed.”

So how did a stag party last for months you might ask? It didn’t. The stag party lasted until word of the king’s failure to pay his bar tab got around, about 3-4 weeks. But one of the purveyors of these establishments, one John Goodgrabber, turned up on the doorstep of Coldharbour, the residence of Margaret Beaufort. It so happens that Elizabeth of York was the one to open the door.

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Now, Elizabeth was really not all that shocked by Henry’s behavior. She was the daughter of Edward IV, and everyone knows that the only thing larger than his codpiece was his libido. What concerned Elizabeth the most was that Henry would be such a cheapskate as to not pay for services rendered. History has showed us that she was right to be concerned about this. Elizabeth misjudged the situation and, indignant, went to the king’s mother to seek payment for the man. Lady Margaret fainted dead away, and when revived went into such a fury that Mr Goodgrabber reported her “as one enraged, casting holy water and curses in Latin”. The poor man ran, his account unpaid.

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Word got to Henry that Lady Margaret knew of his misadventure and Elizabeth of his miserly  ways. He did his best to avoid the two for as long as he could, seeking redundant  dispositions from the pope and asking him if he knew of any cheaper strippers. Finally, his excuses wore out, as had his welcome in the various establishments. He returned to Coldharbour, where he was promptly grounded. When the term of his punishment was ended, the marriage followed.

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

“The Life and Times of Wanda the Wench”

“Taxicab Confessions”

The Pussycat Lounge around the corner from my office

 

author’s note: In search of Dewars, I stumbled into a rather charming establishment called the Pussycat Lounge. Extensive research for this article has led me to the same unfortunate fate of Henry VII. I am now grounded.