Category Archives: Henry viii

The fishy history of the codpiece

I have decided to take a look at something which to the modern eye can be difficult to judge if it´s a fashion statement designed to emphasise the “manhood” so to speak, or if it´s a protection to ward off a swift kick to the groin but which in fact is neither: the codpiece.

Portrait_of_CodIt has been assumed that the word cod originates from the Middle English word for scrotum, but new findings, both in relation to the language itself and to this particular part of men´s clothing gives at hand that the explanation is far simpler than that.

“Cod” means in fact cod as in the scale clad, swimming creature that is also described as a “fish” and belonging to the family Gadidae. For those who want to show off by referring to it in Latin, the most common cod in the codpiece – once it had reached the upper classes – was the Atlantic cod, which in that case should be referred to as Gadus Morhua.

The question that surely will appear already at the beginning of this text – maybe for several reasons – is “Why?”

And the answer is a bit blurred here, as there seem to be several reason to have a cod sticking out of your groin. It seems that in the very earliest of medieval times, this was by no means a rich and wealthy as it would later come to be. Instead it was a cover up to hide the very common poach fishing. Sneaking home from ponds and rivers – where the fishermen of course would not find Atlantic cod, but I´ll return to that – there was always the obvious risk of running in to a game keeper who would have no intention of letting the poachers keep their catch.

It isn´t quite clear how this solution to the problem came about, but historians believe it started with someone simply sticking a fish in his pocket. Anyhow, some clever person came up with the idea of sewing a kind of poach to the front of the trousers and as it soon turned out, this was the perfect solution.

The larger the codpiece, the less likely the chance of a game keeper volunteering to check out the validity of the claim of a caught poacher that he was on his way home to his wife and that he for every visible reason was in a kind of hurry.

This worked quite well for a few centuries, until some nobleman whose name has not Giovanni_Battista_Moroni_009survived to posterity discovered this and realised that it could be used to either flaunt or exaggerate what you had been given.

For a few decades the upper classes decided that they wanted to keep up the tradition of keeping a cod in the pouch – and *this* is where the actual name emerge, the rich and wealthy didn´t have to go to the creek or pond to catch some scrawny looking fish, they could actually afford to buy proper cod and stuff it into their pants.

It would soon become obvious that fish did not keep well in clothing. As the male members of the upper classes didn´t have any reason to unload the contents of their pouches on the dinner table, it happened that they carried it around far too long, with a hideous stench about them as a result.

137895359462The most famous wearer of the codpiece, Henry VIII, would on occasion to continue the fish tradition, as he found that the smell of a relatively fresh fish could cover up the smell from his severely infected legs, a remedy that for a while was somewhat of a comfort to him.

In time the codpiece would be made out of other materials than cloth, and elaborate creations in metal would appear, and as it grew as a fashion statement, it´s original function was forgotten, until now. But fashion come and fashion go, and towards the end on the 16th century, the codpiece began to slowly fade out among the fashion savvy.

But fashion, as everything else, goes in cycles, and the codpiece can once again be seen in certain subcultures and among heavy metal groups. The fish seems to have permanently discarded among these groups however.

 

Jeff Sixwhotsitdorf, without codpiece. And cod.

Sources:

The story of practical clothing – Professor A. Trout, Md.A and Pd.Q

Cultural Anthropology – Grace Q. Vicary

Poaching in the early Middle Ages – Dr. Fisch Sauze

A box of fish fingers.

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

*
If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts
*
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?
*
All pictures taken from Wikipedia
*
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.

Anne’s Not So Sacred Last Confession

Much and more was made of the Holy Sacrament in the 16th century. If someone swore on the Sacrament, you could be certain that they were telling the “God’s honest” truth. Henry Percy swore that he was not married to Anne Boleyn, but to be sure he was made to take Communion, which he could not do if his soul was burdened with a lie. Katherine of Aragon swore upon the sacrament that she was a virgin when she married Henry VIII. This was enough to convince the Pope and a lot of other people that it was true.

Monstrance

Another of Henry’s wives had occasion to swear upon the Sacrament. Anne Boleyn’s famous confession, given freely in the presence of Archbishop Cranmer and William Kingston is often given as absolute evidence of her innocence. Surely one so close to death would not jeapordize their soul by lying before or after communion!

16th century books

In a back alley bookstore in the city of Cairo, an amazing discovery has been made. Tucked away, in a dusty old copy of Tyndale’s “Obedience Of A Christian Man” was a letter. Careful study has revealed that this letter was in fact  written by Anne Boleyn in 1535 to someone unidentified at this time. Though much of the letter is illegible, a few lines stand out, and may change everything we thought we knew about the innocence of Anne Boleyn.

eucharist

“Tis but a pice of bread”, the letter says, and further on, “does not speak of confessors, nor Purgatory”. We can only assume from this that Anne Boleyn, known for her reformist views, may have been even more separated from the Roman Catholic Church than previously thought! Was Anne indeed a Lollard? Did she deny the sanctity of the Host, and disavow the spiritual need for the sacrament of confession and penance? This letter would indeed indicate that this is so.

If Anne did not believe in the holiness of the Sacrament, it casts new light upon her last confession, and her innocence as well. Known for her rash words and her constant beleaguring of her husband, Henry VIII, Anne may have made this show of confession just to make him look bad.  Knowing that poor Archbishop Cranmer and William Kingston would repeat her words, Anne found one more way to make Henry look like a villain, instead of the perfectly pious and good natured fellow that he really was.Her plan worked well. Henry had to go out and execute another wife for the same reasons, just to make himself look better.

block

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

“Lollards and The People Who Love Them” by Ima Baker

“The Tudors”- Showtime

Cairo Dwellers Books and Emporium

“How To Make Your Man Look Bad” by Carmen Scold

 

I must admit, to find evidence pertaining to Anne Boleyn here, on the banks of the Nile, was surprising. I had come to Cairo to investigate some strange reports of irregular horse trade. While my mission proved to be a failure, I did find that the horses in Cairo are quite spirited, intelligent, and some of the best looking creatures I have been fortunate enough to come across. I am off now to another exotic location, on a mission so secret that I don’t even know what it is yet.

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (Part 2)

220px-Elizabeth_I_Rainbow_Portrait
Elizabeth in her wedding dress?

Behind the bike sheds: Well, after over 5 minutes of tedious waiting – and getting some very strange looks from the resident cyclists  – I was about to give up my quest when Bishop Stillington FINALLY appeared.

He seemed nervous, scared even. He kept looking behind him as he walked towards me. Did he think he was being followed? Was he being followed? I blinked, looked around and thought about it. No, he was definitely weird and not a little paranoid, but there was no one following him.

He walked straight up to me, slammed something into my hand – and left. Just like that. He was gone, swallowed up by the crowds of cyclists.

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
A 16th century love letter?

I looked at my hand nervously (the paranoia was obviously contagious). What had I got myself into?

The paper looked old, frail. It was brown at the edges, and curled up a bit?

But then I remembered one of my old art lessons. Wasn’t it possible to make paper look old and frail, by wiping a teabag over it? It was a pretty good effect, I recall. So how could I know? The handwriting looked old – all squirly and fancy, not like kids learn to write these days. There were no obvious signs of forgery in the text: no OMGs, LOLs or xoxo’s. But I still couldn’t be certain.

I called in at the nearest Costa Coffee, grabbed a cappuccino and settled down to read the text:

“My dearest, darling Elizabeth,

It was lovely to see you the other day, and spend those wonderful few hours together.

My heart yearns for you still.

I often hark back to our wedding day, thinking of you in that wonderfully coloured dress. I am reminded of it every time I see a rainbow overhead. How adorable you looked – and you had eyes only for me.

I love you so much, you are queen of my heart and my world (and the country, of course). How are we ever going to be together forever, have we only stolen moments in dark corners to look forward to?

I know all has changed. You said that I must forget about us, that I must move on, but do you mean it? How can you? How can I? No woman is as wonderful and majestic as you – I am yours to command, always.

Sweet Elizabeth, you are my wife, you swore we would be together forever. Elizabeth, is the crown worth our parting?

Come home

Your ever-loving husband

Bob

Bob? Bob? Who on earth was BOB?

It was a nice, sweet, sad letter, but undated. Was it real?

I resolved to find out and took a trip to my old alma mater. Leicester Uni has recently had some success in dating 500-year-old ‘things’, so I thought I’d see if they would check out the letter for me.

Unfortunately, all the really clever professors were busy or out to lunch, but one of the lab rats took a look at it. He had a sniff and a nibble and declared it could be carbon dated to the 1550/60s, give or take a hundred years – or so. That was good enough for me. The letter must be genuine, as it was written at the right time.

I now turned my attention to the writer. Who could this ‘Bob’ be? I turned to Wikipedia – such a fabulous, accurate and complete research tool. It has been my saviour many times, during arguments on Facebook. No one can argue with Wikipedia and win.

220px-Robert_Devereux,_2nd_Earl_of_Essex_by_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex

To the candidates:

Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, was a favourite of Elizabeth’s later in her life. But did she marry him? It is possible. Given the example of her father – and she like to think she was a king of England, like him, it is entirely possible. Her father liked to chop the heads of his spouses when he tired of them. And Elizabeth did chop Devereux’s head off when she tired of him. Maybe it was cheaper than a divorce, certainly it was quicker.

Next there’s Robert Cecil, son of Elizabeth’s greatest adviser William Cecil, Lord Burleigh. Raised from childhood to serve the queen loyally. But to marry her? If he did, he got over the grief of her death very quickly – he was arranging for James VI of Scotland to take the throne before the poor woman was cold in her grave – actually, I don’t think she was even dead. So, no, not him. Surely?

bob
Bob

The penultimate candidate is Bob, page to the Lord Edmund Blackadder. A lively, adventurous, thigh-slapping chap, as I remember. He must have been great fun to be with – and Queenie did like Bob, as I recall. But….and it’s a pretty big but…. didn’t he turn out to be a girl? And run off with Lord Flashheart?

220px-Robert_Dudley_Leicester
Bob Dudley, Earl of Leicester

The most likely candidate, of course, is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He was Elizabeth’s own age and a close confidant until his death. But he was married – for some of the time anyway. He married Amy Robsart in 1550. According to Wikipedia, this was a love-match. But something went wrong. Amy took a nasty fall down some conveniently well-placed stairs and managed to break her neck. There were constant rumours about the two of them – stories abounded that they wanted to marry. But Elizabeth called him Robin, not Bob, didn’t she?

Of course, that may have been in public, to throw people off the scent, maybe. There’s nothing to say Elizabeth didn’t call him ‘Bob’ in private.

Is there?

*

Jeff R Sun, alumni of the University of Leicester, fan of lab rats and growing quite fond of cyclists, too

*

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

*

Photos taken from Wikipedia, except Bob which is thanks to Google Images

*

Sources: Wikipedia; Tony Robinson’s Kings and Queens, by Tony Robinson; Wikipedia; Cows in Action 1, the Ter-moo-nators, by Steve Cole; A Rough Guide to Egypt, by Dan Richardson; Blackadder II episode 1 ‘Bells’ (1st broadcast on BBC One 9th January 1986)

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (part 1)

220px-Darnley_stage_3
Was Elizabeth Tudor Mrs? ?

Why did Elizabeth I never get married?

This question has been long pondered by historians.

Many posit that her father’s or – more likely – her mother’s marital experiences put her off the whole idea. Her father – Henry VIII for those who were unsure – married 6 times, but never seemed to find that marital bliss he so obviously, and desperately craved.

Elizabeth’s mother, Anne Boleyn, married only once, but it didn’t end well – to say the divorce was acrimonious is perhaps a mild understatement. And the way it ended cut off her chances of ever having a successful 2nd marriage, if you get my meaning.

Anneboleyn2
Anne Boleyn, with head

So there were obvious reasons for Elizabeth to remain a spinster her whole life – and who would blame her? Her father was a serial monogamist and her mother was a head short because of this, poor woman.

However, new evidence has come to light to suggest that the reason Elizabeth never married was because she already was – married, that is.

I know!

Why didn’t we know this?

We all know secret marriages come to light eventually, and usually at the most inconvenient times. It doesn’t usually take 500 years.

But we all know Elizabeth was clever and she had ample experience, within her own family, of how secret marriages could cause considerable – shall we say – ‘fallout’?

4550226
532 years – coming, ready or not!

Elizabeth’s own great-grandfather, Edward IV, secret married Eleanor Butler, before he scandalously, secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. This led to no one knowing who he was actually married to and his sons running away to Burgundy, playing the longest-ever recorded game of ‘hide and seek’.

Luckily the wonderful Richard III stepped into the breach and saved the country from utter anarchy. Nonetheless, to this day no one is really sure who Edward was married to and the question regularly causes ‘fisticuffs’ on Facebook’s reputable history pages.

holbein henry
Cuddly Henry VIII

And if that wasn’t enough of an example for Elizabeth, there was the one of step-mother no.2 – sorry, no – it was stepmother no.3.

(It’s so confusing, haven’t a clue how Henry managed to keep up with so many wives – maybe that’s why the last 2 were called Catherine? But that’s another story…)

So, yes, stepmother no.3 (no.4 for Mary Tudor, of course, and no.2 for Prince Edward), the unfortunate Catherine Howard who ‘forgot’ she had married (or promised to marry, at least) Francis Dereham – until he reminded her. Sadly, Catherine was already married to Henry when she inconveniently remembered her first wedding.

execution of Jane Grey
Poor Catherine Howard (I know this is Jane Grey – but you get the idea?)

 

Henry didn’t take kindly to being 2nd.

In a fit of pique, Henry lopped off her head and introduced Elizabeth to stepmother no.4 (no.5 for Mary Tudor and no.3 for Prince Edward), Katherine Parr.

And what does all this mean? Well, if Elizabeth was ever going to get married secretly, she wasn’t going to tell anyone – ever!

But there was a secret marriage – apparently.

So there was I the other day, minding my own business, sitting in Costa Coffee, drinking a cappuccino (with chocolate sprinkles, of course) and reading. I think I was reading The other Boleyn Girl, by that excellent historian whose name quite escapes me for the moment.

Anyway, this chap came and sat on the next table, looked over to me and smiled. Then he looked round, leaned over and went ‘pssstttt!’. He had to do this a good few times before I stopped deliberately ignoring him.

I looked at him.

29ef165692b30bd76b1b80f20739a98f
Bishop Stillington? 

He whispered, behind his hand ‘I know a secret about her daughter’, nodding to the book in my hands.

‘Who? The writer?’ I replied, with a bemused (I hoped, rather than scared) look on my face.

‘No, the queen, Elizabeth. She was married you know. None of this Virgin Queen stuff is true, she was well and truly married.’

‘Who are you? How do you know?’ I asked., still not falling for it. Then he said something that totally made me trust him.

‘Oh, I’m Bishop Stillington, from Bath – and Wells. I have a letter. I found it in the attic. From Elizabeth to her husband.’

‘Really?’ I asked. I was totally drawn in. It had to be true. How could you not believe or trust a man with the name Bishop Stillington? Well, if he was lying, I wouldn’t be the first one to have been taken in by him, would I?

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
The letter? We’ll have to wait and see..

 

‘Do you want to see it?’

‘See what?’ I asked, bemused and not a little discomfited.

‘The letter – I can show it to you’ Bishop Stillington replied. ‘You’ll have to meet me….’

So, the meet was set up. I’m meeting Stillington behind the bike sheds on Tuesday at 10.30 am – to see the letter (I hope, gulp!).

Look out for my update.

Yours truly, Jeff R Sun (looking forward to Tuesday with trepidation)

*

If you would like to be the first to see the Jeffs’ latest blog posts, please like the Double History Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Double-History/370098793163839?fref=ts

*

Photos taken from Wikipedia

*

Sources: The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory; Eleanor the Secret Queen by John ‘eye-roll’ Ashdown-Hill; I, Elizabeth by Rosalind Miles; The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George; Carry on Henry VIII; The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn by Robin Maxwell.

 

What Thomas More Didn’t Want You To Know

On April 12, 1534 Thomas More was asked to sign the Oath of Supremacy. Five days later, he was arrested and taken to the Tower where he spent the remainder of his days. So what was he doing during those five days? Was he taking the opportunity to persecute a few more heretics? Filling out the lengthy application for sainthood?  Was he indulging in some well-deserved self-flagellation? No, no, and no. The truth is… he had a bonfire party.

more's richard

You see, Thomas More had a lot of things to hide.  The ending to his “The History of King Richard III”, the whereabouts of at least one of the Princes in the Tower, and the directions to Utopia, just to name a few.  Thomas More had even figured out how to effect world peace, build a better mousetrap, and time travel.

More family portrait

More knew that the villain Henry VIII would see to it that he did not survive. But he would have his revenge on Henry and on the world, which he deemed sinful and full of vice. So he strolled out into his courtyard and he built  a pyre. He threw in the last chapters of Richard III, his decoder ring for his family portrait, and the iPhone he acquired on a trip to the 21st century.  He stood merrily by, toasting marshmallows and roasting sausages, as the answers to so many questions went up in smoke.

moreburningbooks

More languished in the Tower stubbornly refusing to sign the oath. His trial might have come much sooner, were it not for Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell had dined with More at Chelsea and had heartily enjoyed a wonderful pastry during the meal. For weeks, he browbeat More and history would have us believe that the Oath was his primary objective. In truth, it was the recipe for the marvelous dessert that Cromwell craved. Unfortunately, More had burned his cookbook along with the rest of the mysteries and refused to divulge the secret to the tasty tart.

tudor pastry

Almost five hundred years later, we still wonder what More meant by his History of Richard III and argue its relevance. Periodically, someone will point out a hidden message in the More family portrait and keyboards are ferociously pounded as historians great and small discuss the meaning of it all. Thomas More took to his grave the answers to some of the most puzzling questions in history.  But his stinginess in withholding the instructions to delicious pastry was just not a very saintlike thing to do.

 

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources:

The History of King Richard III

Thomas More The Saint and the Society

The Keebler Elves

 

Having sworn off strip clubs and agreeing to cut back on my consumption of scotch, I am happy to report that my wife seems less disgruntled than has previously been the case.  I am not long to linger in domestic bliss, however. My next super secret spy mission is taking me to Phuket, Thailand, and then perhaps on to Cairo. There have been reported disturbances in these places, in regards to reggae music and national and historical safety.

 

 

Mary Boleyn – Sister, Harlot, Spy

Mary Boleyn is known as the Other Boleyn Girl, the Great Whore and the Mistress of Kings. She has been written about, portrayed on stage and screen, and there is speculation about her life to this very day. Yet the late Eric Ives, arguably the most knowledgeable person on the subject of the Boleyns since my great aunt Tessie, tells us that what we don’t know about her could fill a book.

So, that got me  wondering. Why would a woman of whom we hear so much leave so little evidence of herself behind? We don’t even know for sure when she was born. Then she spoke to me. I was finishing off a bottle of Dewars and studying her portrait. At least we think it could be her portrait. It probably is. Maybe not.  It could be. But I digress. Anyway, there I was with my Scotch, and all of a sudden, it hit me. Mary Boleyn was a spy. I even spotted some secreted writing in her portrait, but I have not been able to find it since, so stealthy were the clues.

francis1

 

We know that Thomas Boleyn, a ruthless and grasping man, placed his daughters in foreign households. Mary promptly finagled herself into the inner sanctum of the king of France. But while she was under the covers, was she truly under cover? The answer is yes. Mary was engaging in espionage, learning all of Francis’ secrets and passing them on to her ambitious father and uncle, the archetypical villain, Thomas Howard. I know! I know that this seems outlandish because we know that Mary was an empty-headed yet fecund tramp, but that was all part of her ingenious cover.

After a while, Mary was recalled to England and prepared to marry. As the eldest daughter, she might have expected to marry James Butler, and make a nice little life as a countess in Ireland. At least we think she was the eldest. She might not have been. But she probably was. See how far this cloak of uncertainty was drawn over her? Anyway, instead of being shipped as a very attractive if somewhat  dimwitted parcel to Ireland, she married one William Carey. Carey was a bit of a nobody really. Some distant cousin to the king, but hardly the heir to Ormond. So why was she kept in England? So she could continue in her trade, duh!

holbein henry

Mary was situated among the ladies of Katherine of Aragon. There she was in an excellent position to sniff out information that passed between the queen and her Spanish ambassador. At the time, everyone wanted to know what was being said between those two. Henry VIII was a bit of a wanker where the saintly Katherine was concerned, and it did not take long for Mary’s kind heart to go out to her mistress. We know Mary was kind  because she portrayed the virtue “Kindness” in the Chateau Vert pageant. So, caring and fearing for her mistress, Mary tried to help her. She started sleeping with Henry.

Now, we don’t know when the affair started, nor when it ended, or if it was a love affair or a booty call, but we do know that at some point Mary was under cover again. She may even have born the king a couple of kids to complete the ruse. They might be his kids. Probably not. But they could be. Anyway, by this point, Mary was a double agent. She was spying on Katherine and the Spanish and Henry and the English. All this information went straight to her dastardly father and her infamous uncle. And where did they go? To France, of course. Yes, yes, I know she was spying on Francis earlier, but allegiances change. Besides, this is what fits with what little we know.

After Mary’s sister entered the game, things got really tricky. Anne either did not want Mary snooping around or maybe they just didn’t get along, but either way Mary again married some random fellow and got kicked out of court. However, she continued corresponding with Thomas Cromwell, and we all know what kind of guy he was.

Anneboleyn2

Eventually,  the feces hit the rotary oscillator between Henry and the Boleyns. He arrested a few, executed a couple, and just really did a number on them. Where was our dear Mary at the time? You might have guessed it. She was back in France. Calais, actually, the last English possession in France. Which is rather telling in itself, don’t you think? She was not brought back for questioning, nor persecuted in any way. There was still one Boleyn flitting about the queen’s chambers and doing all kinds of secret stuff.  That person was the notorious Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford. But I am all out of Dewars, so that story must wait for another day.

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

 

Sources:

The Other Boleyn Girl ( both the book and unfortunate movies, which I do not recommend)

Dewars (which I highly recommend)

Whoever painted that portrait that is probably Mary Boleyn

Medieval and Renaissance Espionage For Dummies

My Great Aunt Tessie

 

Author’s note- As a daring super spy myself, this story was near and dear to my own heart. So much so that the wife has since removed the portrait of Mary from my study, muttering something about an unhealthy obsession.

Thomas Cromwell’s Bloody Valentine

Thomas Cromwell has been enjoying  popularity lately, due to a series of novels, plays, and televisions series. Dare I name it? “Wolf Hall”. So it seems apt, on this day that celebrates love, that we examine Master Secretary’s secret love life. Did he pine for the company of anyone? Was his heart filled with an ardent desire? Was his love fueled by lust or ambition?

thomas_cromwell (1)

Thomas Cromwell was married to Elizabeth Wykes, and she bore him three children. By all accounts, theirs was a merry household and the marriage was sound if not a love match. Sadly Cromwell lost his wife and two daughters to the sweating sickness in 1528/29. He would never remarry. This does not necessarily mean that Cromwell never fancied another woman. Born the son of a blacksmith,  Cromwell had gained not only a position of high favor, but he had also amassed a great deal of wealth. There were widows and daughters of guildsmen who were available, but Cromwell, a romantic at heart, set his cap at another lady love.

holbein_henry_viii (1)

Cromwell’s position as Master Secretary to Henry VIII allowed and required correspondence with many people. One of these people was the king’s own daughter, the Lady Mary. Mary petitioned Cromwell for help with her situation with her father, which was dire to say the very least. Could the blacksmith’s son have now become a knight errant in service to this damsel in distress? Could a lonely princess whose social calendar was a bit sparse have grown fond of the man in black?

Who1

Apparently so. Rumors began to swirl that Cromwell intended to wed his monarch’s bastard daughter, but first he had to be sure that the maiden would survive until the nuptials. In one of the strangest collaborations of the times, Cromwell paired himself with the Imperial ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, and the old Catholic nobility, men such as Carew, Montague, and Courtenay. Between them, they brought down Anne Boleyn and her faction. But Henry, implacable, continued in his harsh treatment of his daughter, despite overtures by his new queen, Jane Seymour.

Heart-with-Rosary

At this point, Cromwell began to exchange letters with Mary in earnest, through his man, Thomas Wriothesley. Notes of Cromwell’s from this time in his meticulous records refer to Mary as Valentine. He began to send purses of coin to her, along with the occasional Hallmark card, and huge stuffed animal he crafted himself at “Thou Buildest A Bear”. Wriothesley, a rather more handsome man than Cromwell, who carried these trinkets to the forlorn maid said,”For my Lord, who is her Valentine.” Could Wriothesley have been acting as a Cyrano de Bergerac for the less than comely Cromwell?

wriothesley

Now there were men in this time who most certainly would not stand for not only Cromwell’s son Gregory, having married Jane Seymour’s sister, being the king’s brother in law, but now Cromwell was poised to become a prince in all but blood, by becoming the king’s son in law. Norfolk shouted, “It is not to be born!”.  And Cromwell’s former allies such as Carew were not supportive of the Putney boy marrying the princess who was not a princess anymore, but still a princess anyway. Or something like that

. black_rose____broken_heart.gif_480_480_0_64000_0_1_0

Cromwell and Chapuys convinced Mary to submit to her father and Jane Seymour encouraged Henry to welcome her back into the fold. Cromwell’s unrequited love left him a vulnerable man, and shortly thereafter his own meteoric fall from grace left him missing not only his Valentine, but his head as well.

Thomas-Cromwell-300x168

Jeff “the wiz” Berlin

Sources: Build-a-Bear workshop- a history

Hallmark- they really DO have a card for everything

Reviews of a Cromwell Biography

“The Tudors” -James Frain, you rock Dude!

“Thomas Cromwell- the untold story of Henry VIII most faithful servant” by Tracy Borman. – If you have not read this, you should, seriously.

“Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantel

Author’s notes: Hello dear reader! I hope you are enjoying this special day, and showering those you love with baubles and trinkets galore! If not, feel free to shower me, as I have not a trinket nor a bauble on this day. I blame the Friday the 13th preceding this Valentine’s Day. Still it is nice to think of Bloody Mary receiving little gifts. Maybe I will just go have a drink or two in her name. Happy Valentine’s Day!

The inadequacies of Tudor picture tagging – new research using Adobe Photoshop filters

The shortest of Henry VIII’s marriages was to the unfortunate Anne of Cleves, a German princess reputedly chosen as a match for diplomatic reasons. Popular legend has it that Henry sent his German court painter, Hans Holbein, to Kleve-Burg to capture a likeness of Anne for his approval – the sixteenth century equivalent of ‘photo appreciated’ on a dating ad. Popular legend would have us believe that Holbein – an artist so accurate that his paintings have recently led to a whole slew of disguised historical figures being belatedly recognised – managed to paint Anne looking decidedly hot, but that Henry VIII then found her markedly unattractive and failed to consummate the union. Like many men, I have always regarded the story with considerable scepticism, since the Anne of Holbein’s portrait is not someone you would ever kick out of bed.

What if, however, the ‘Anne’ portrait was of someone else entirely? Had Holbein got mixed up? Was he attempting to deceive the king? Or had Anne or one of her family arranged for a ‘ringer’ to site for the portrait?

Double Historry for Tim.

My research has focussed on two pictures – one long attributed to the Flemish artist Quentin Massys but which I have now proved was the work of Holbein due to similarities in the handwriting of the hidden messages, and the other the ‘hot’ portrait long believed to be the real Anne. It seems from the revealed secret messages that Holbein was moonlighting on his German trip by working on portraits for a glamour calendar (whether this project was ever completed or not is unclear; no copies have survived).

Holbein – poignantly – seems to have known how much Henry would dislike Anne, as the secret text reads – in sixteenth century German – “HnRch [ie Heinrich, ie Henry] is going to kill me”. It seems that the two paintings were to be sent back in the same shipment, since the painting everyone assumes is Anne is marked “Miss August – HnRch must not see this painting!” Holbein, who must have known the king very well, seems to have been aware which of the two paintings would appeal to his master, and taken pains in his invisible secret messages to have avoided getting the two mixed up (we can infer that the ‘Anne’ painting was required by an English copyist or customer, hence Holbein saving on postage charges by sending the two works together).Double Historry for Tim 2

Tragically, the courier must have been either illiterate or unable to speak German (or both), leading to his failure to act on the invisible secret messages and thus mixing up the works. (This scenario may also explain why the calendar project was cancelled and remained unfinished!)

The rest, as they say, is history – Henry picked ‘Miss August’ as his prospective bride and was horrified when the real Anne turned up. Another historical mystery solved by photoshop!

Sources:
The complete works of Holbein (magazine collection in weekly instalments, missing issues 3,7, 11, 27-92 and the free binder)
That leaflet showing the way round the National Gallery
Hot German Historical Babes, June 1542 (slightly foxed)
The Pirelli Calendar, various years (for secondary research, honest)

Jeff de Cuisine is currently researching the fifteenth-century Swiss Chronicles of Diebold Schilling, in weekly instalments from Patel’s newsagents on the corner; missing issues 2, 5, 12, 31-33 and the free binder)

© Jeff de Cuisine February 8th 2015.