Tag Archives: Henry VIII

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.
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.

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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.

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.

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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.

Meet Amber Lynn, a Tudor Queen’s Body Double.

Anneboleyn2

Anne Boleyn is always a controversial topic. Questions about her love life have long been debated studied by scholars in their ivory towers but along with her reputed “lovers,” she took many of her secrets to the grave. However, it appears that she may have taken a startlingly pragmatic approach to keeping her royal suitor satisfied during the years of abstinence, from 1527 to 1532. Apparently Anne Boleyn employed a body double. She was of “myddle height… well formyd and fayre” and her name was Amber Lynn.

Amber Lynn’s real name is not known. That which she used in her professional life was clearly chosen to mirror the name of Henry’s love, when Amber first appeared in a brothel in Cokke Lane, an alleyway leading from Cheapside down to the Thames. She was the most famous prostitute in London from around 1528 and there are suggestions that she visited court on several occasions, and that Henry’s courtiers wore disguises when they sailed down river to Cokke Lane. Did Anne turn a blind eye when Henry indulged? A poem found scrawled on the back of some of her household receipts implies she did far more. She may even have paid Amber’s expenses. The verse reads:

Sche dwellys in Cheapside in the nighte

Well formyd and fayre, of myddle height

And even yf you loathe thys dittye

You’ll find Mistress Amber Lynn is prettye.

A winsome smile, two dazzling eyes

Her pretty foote ys a surprise.

Most royally entertained and seen

She takes the place of Kyngis’ Quene.

After some satire levelled at various bishops of the era, the verse continues. There is also the interesting use of the description “crowe,” suggesting that Amber was dark haired, but echoing some of the more guttural and anamorphic insults directed at the future queen.

To Whitehall makes this crowe her waye

And tarries there with Kynges to playe

While Quenes look on with fires cooled

To see their lovers hotly schooled.

And in the end they pay and frown.

A costly way to win a crown.

The author of these verses has yet to be identified. It was clearly the work of some court insider, clearly a literate individual, although it is not great literature: perhaps a gentleman of the court who was privately critical of the King. If Anne was willing to allow Henry to have his fun with a woman who resembled her so closely, it would imply quite a different reading of her character. She would seem more cynical, more ambitious and focussed on gaining the crown at all costs. Perhaps she was simply being pragmatic, employing a woman who would not pose a threat to her, just as some have suggested she later encouraged her cousin Madge Shelton to submit to Henry’s advances. Maybe it was a question of better the devil you know. It also takes something of the romance out of her story. Alternatively, this inept ditty might all be lies, one more example of the force of contemporary feeling against Anne. Perhaps someone in the household of Princess Mary scribbled it down for their amusement, or it was an attempt to discredit Anne in popular eyes. In any case, it failed.

Amber Lynn disappears from history in 1532. She may have married, as there are a John and Amber Breakwynde listed as taking on the tenancy of an Inn in Southwark that August. Perhaps the loss of her body double encouraged Anne to finally take the plunge and submit to the King. Perhaps this just lifts the lid on the Tudor underworld; perhaps it just lifts the lid of a box of frogs.

Sources

Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Hodge, John Records of the Deep: Life under Water

Munn, Llewellyn How to Live on £5 a week

Watson, Dr Eating People May Not be so Wrong After All.

Jeff R Vescent is sparkling away in the sunshine, drinking yam juice and knitting a stocking.

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?

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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?

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

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

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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)

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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.

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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’?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Photos taken from Wikipedia

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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.

10 Ways to Identify a Saint or a Sinner in the 15th Century

Religion was very important to people of the 15th Century. In many ways, it controlled their lives; told them what to eat and when they could eat it, who they could marry and when, who could get into heaven and who couldn’t.

Okay, perhaps religion should have a big say on that last one, at least.

Religious piety was given great prominence as a way of deciding who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’, especially on the stage that was the Wars of the Roses. So here are 10 ways to identify which is which.

220px-Cecily_neville1. You may have been involved in the highest level of politics in your younger years; such as being married to the country’s Lord Protector, being mother of 2 kings, and related to most of the protagonists in the Wars of the Roses, but following strict religious observance in your later years, will make you saintly. Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, springs to mind.

2. Being a Yorkist, of course, makes it easier to be saintly.  You could be mistaken for thinking that this is because, for the majority of the Wars of the Roses, they were on the winning side. However they were, eventually, the losers and yet still are considered highly pious, which highlights how incredibly remarkable a family they must have been.

3. You would have thought that being young and ‘disappeared’ may automatically make you saintly. However, Edward V and Richard Duke of York have a lot to overcome in order to make the saintly list. Yes, they were only children, imprisoned in the Tower of London and declared bastards by their uncle. However, they were a threat to that wonderful Uncle, who they would have had killed as soon as they reached adulthood. I have also heard say that they were ‘snivelling brprincessats’. And the fact we don’t actually know, for certain, that they are, as yet, in fact, well, DEAD makes it difficult to conclusively declare them saints. Plus, they were part of the despicable Woodville – or Wydeville – clan, which, unfortunately, is an instant disbarment from sainthood.

4. A way to become saintly is to die young in battle. Edmund Earl of Rutland was only 17 and killed by Clifford at – or after – the Battle of Wakefield and his head put on a spike above Micklegate Bar in York. Apparently Clifford justified this ‘murder’ as Edmund’s father – the Duke of York – had, apparently, killed Clifford’s father at the 1st Battle of St Albans. Of course it helps if you’re also a member of the York family as

5. Dying young is no defence against you being a sinner. Edward, Prince of Wales was only 17 when he was killed in battle at Tewkesbury. Of course, it doesn’t help that he was a Lancastrian, that his father was catatonic when he was born, that – at 7 years old – he ordered the beheadings of 2 of Warwick’s men after the 2nd Battle of St Albans, that he was married to Anne Neville first, nor that he fought to reclaim his father’s crown from the Yorkists.

III6. Founding religious houses and colleges almost automatically make you a saint. Richard III funded religious colleges at Middleham, and was in the process of setting one up at York Minster on his death. He was noted for his piety, so much so that his usurping of his nephew’s throne, the execution-without-trial of his brother’s friend, William Hastings, the subsequent disappearance – and possible murder – of his 2 nephews and the summary executions of his brother’s stepson and brother-in-law after a sham trial, doesn’t even put a dent in his piety. Of course, it does help if you are killed in an all-or-nothing battle for your life and crown.

DH17. Founding religious houses and colleges is not nearly enough to make you a saint if you are the Lancastrian mother of Henry VII. Margaret Beaufort had the gall to call herself ‘My Lady the King’s Mother’ when she was in fact – well – the king’s mother. She founded Christ’s College Cambridge and funded the restoration of churches. However, she helped to organise the royal household, supported her daughter-in-law’s sister when she fell out of favour with the king and supported her daughter-in-law, Elizabeth of York, in arguing against sending her granddaughter to a marriage in Scotland whilst still a child. Of course, it doesn’t help that Margaret Beaufort was a woman, a Lancastrian, adored by her son, the miserly Henry VII and loved by her grandson – the monstrous Henry VIII.

8. Of course, being a Lancastrian who married into the Yorkist, or a Yorkist who joined the Lancastrians, automatically prevents you from ever becoming a saint. To betray the Yorkists and fight for the Lancastrians in the last battle makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask the Stanleys. Conversely, having being married to a Lancastrian – who was killed in battle against the Yorkists – and then marrying the Yorkist king, and providing a male heir, automatically makes you the greatest traitor in history and a sinner beyond redemption – just ask Elizabeth Wydeville or Elizabeth Woodville (either should be able to confirm my point).

henry7bust9. Being an adult king murdered by your ‘replacement’ king automatically makes you saintly. Henry VI, alone, defies the rules. He failed at everything except being highly religious. His piety was so impressive that calls for his canonisation were made as soon as he was dead. And yet he was a Lancastrian.

10.  The final, most irredeemable example of a sinner in the 15th Century is, of course, Henry VII. That he was exiled from your home, and separated from his mother, from an early age. That he was Lancastrian heir following the deaths of – well – everyone else. That he was an able king who brought stability to a war-ravaged country. That he was a family man who loved his wife dearly and grieved for her deeply. All this is nothing compared to the fact he defeated Richard III and won the Wars of the Roses for the Lancastrians. What bigger sinner could there be in the 15th Century?

Jeff R Sun is continuously attempting to give clarity to the confusing parts of the Wars of the Roses. If you are still in doubt, please follow this basic premise: York, good; Lancaster, bad. Sticking with this simple rule, you won’t go far wrong, nor get shouted at, or be accused of trolling, on Facebook.

Sources: Wikipedia; Facebook groups galore; the Nile, which I live near; The Sunne in Splendour; The White Queen; The Red Queen; Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; the Queen of Hearts; The Daughter of Time; Kind Hearts and Coronets.

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.