Tag Archives: Tudor conspiracy

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Brothers

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Two loving brothers

A little while ago I wrote an article about how badly middle children were treated in the Middle Ages. I got to musing on this point again this week, mainly because my baby sister was being her usual grandparent-cum-babysitter-hogging self.

I was, of course, being unfair to my baby sister; I know this because my mum-cum-grandparent-cum-can’t-babysit-because-your-sister-might-need-me told me so.

This got me running for the history books – my own form of escapism – and I decided to look into younger siblings throughout history. I was amazed at how loyal, loving and unspoilt baby brothers were in Medieval times (does the sarcasm come across ok? IT SHOULD!).

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Helpful Henry I

Baby brothers were always very helpful, loyal and supportive. Look at Henry I. On his death  William the Conqueror left Normandy to his eldest son Robert Curthose, and he left England to his second son, William II Rufus.

Henry, who was son no. 3, was supportive of this and in no way resentful. Staying in England, he followed his older brother, William, everywhere. It must have been some sort of hero-worship, as Henry was always close by. In fact, he was so close to William that he was with him when William was ‘accidentally’ struck by an arrow in the New Forest.

Henry was so distraught by his brother’s death that he forgot his duty to look after his brother’s body. Not knowing what he was doing, he rode wildly away and somehow managed to find himself in Winchester.

Luckily this was where the Royal Treasury was held.

Henry came to his senses in Winchester and decided the sensible thing was to take control of the Treasury and get himself crowned at Westminster Abbey as soon as possible. He knew this what was William would have wanted. After all he’d spent most of his reign arguing with their older brother, Robert, so he wouldn’t have wanted him to be king.

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Robert Curthose, Henry I’s ‘guest’

And then there was Robert…..

Having taken on the onerous duties of kingship, Henry realised what a hard and difficult life it was. He didn’t want any one else to have to go through the hardships he was enduring, not even his brother the Duke of Normandy. After an hour-long battle – oops, I meant ‘discussion’ – at Tinchebray Henry very kindly took over the running of Normandy and sent Robert to Devizes Castle – and Spa – for the next 20 years, and then onto a hotel called the Cardiff Castle.

Of course, one of the better younger brothers was John, brother of Richard I. When Richard went on crusade to the holy Land, John did his best to look after Richard’s kingdom, even though he hadn’t been asked. He kept Richard’s enemies quiet by plotting with them – although he was never going to go through with the plots. He looked after some castles – such as Nottingham – so that Richard’s civil servants had their hands free to do other tasks.

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Durnstein Castle, Richard I’s holiday home in Germany

Even more helpfully John, knowing how onerous it was to run a country, tried his best to use his own money – and that of the king of France – in order to extend Richard’s holiday in Germany. Richard was having such a good time that John felt it a shame his holiday would ever have to finish.

There were, of course, younger brothers who took advantage of their older sibling’s generosity. Edward Bruce, for example, liked the idea of having a crown of his own and asked his older brother, Robert, to help him claim one by giving him an army to invade Ireland. Unfortunately, Edward got carried away and lost his head.

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Distracted Duke Humphrey

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, also asked older brothers, Henry V and John Duke of Bedford, to help him carve out a little country for himself after he married Jacqueline de Hainault. Jacqueline had been chased out of her own country by her husband (her other husband, not Duke Humphrey) and her uncle.

Humphrey tried his best to win the country back for Jacqueline, until he got distracted by Jacqueline’s lady-in-waiting, Eleanor de Cobham.  Humphrey lost interest in his wife’s Dutch lands and legged it back to Ol’ Blighty and, on finding out he wasn’t actually married to Jacqueline as she already had a husband, married Eleanor.

And now we come to the best little brother of all……

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Edward IV making the most of his leisure-time

He was loyal and faithful throughout his brother’s two kingships. Richard of Gloucester did everything for his bog brother Edward. He hero-worshipped him; followed him into exiled; ran the North of England for Edward so that Edward had more leisure-time.

He was a model baby brother and that didn’t end with Edward’s premature death at the age of 40 (probably because he didn’t have enough leisure-time).

Richard obviously thought that Edward had died from over-work. He blamed all those around Edward who had not told the king to ‘take a rest’ regularly. When he came to London to commiserate with his beloved sister-in-law, Richard punished those he blamed for his brother’s early death.

Edward’s mistress, Jane Shore, who obviously had failed to make sure Edward was in bed nice and early, was made to do penance and walk through the city barefoot. Richard was so mad at Edward’s best friend – for not making sure the king took his ease after a hard day’s work – that he relieved the man of his head.

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Edward V being saved from working himself to death

The grieving Duke then turned to his little nephews.

Richard couldn’t bear the thought of little Edward V having to go through the life his father had endured.

One afternoon, when taking tea with Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Richard came up with a plan for helping Edward. Elizabeth was reminiscing on her wedding day, and how the sun was shining, how no one knew about it – she even mused on how much fun it was, keeping the secret. Richard jokingly said ‘it’s a wonder Edward hadn’t done that before’ and giggled.

Then he turned pensive and ….. well, you know the rest.

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Jeff R Sun still has no babysitter

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Sources: Cairo in Spring by JAH; Cairo in Summer by A Carson; The Best Spa Resorts in Germany by Richard T Lionheart; The best Spa Resorts in the UK by Robert C Hose; How to Invade a Country Without Success by Edward Bruce and Humphrey Gloucester

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Elizabeth’s Secret Marriage (Part 2)

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

 

 

The Bald Truth Behind the Execution of Clarence

George, Duke of Clarence, trying a bit too hard to compensate
George, Duke of Clarence, still alive at this point.

I have spent several years, now, musing on the reasons for the execution of George, Duke of Clarence. What that final act made Edward IV take the drastic, permanent action of executing his own brother?

He was convicted of treason.

Yes.

What did he do? What was the piece of straw that finally broke the camel’s back? What was that final, totally unforgivable crime that George committed? What was that one step too far?

  • Was it the fact George took the law into his own hands with the execution of Ankarette Twynho?
  • Was it the murder and witchcraft accusations that he levelled against Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Wydevile, following the death of his wife, Isabel?
  • Was it the rumours of Edward’s illegitimacy?
  • Was it George’s discovery of Edward’s previous secret marriages – to Eleanor Butler and Eleanor Talbot?

Or was it a deeper, more dangerous secret? Something that, if discovered, could have toppled the monarchy itself – nay England, even?

Sitting in a cafe this morning, quietly drinking my cappuccino, eating a toasted tea cake and playing an addictive, well-known game (involving sweets) on my phone, I overheard a little boy having a joke with his dad.

candle
15th Century light bulb

And I had a light bulb moment.

Once the waitress had changed the bulb – and I was no longer in the dark – I started writing, fleshing out my theory.

And I now know – beyond any unreasonable doubt – why George, Duke of Clarence, brother of the king and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (perfection personified), was executed.

We all know Edward was the golden child of the York family. He was the most courageous and dashing personification of manhood that ever walked the earth. He was the most glorious of the ‘3 Sons of York’ (forget Edmund, for the moment – otherwise the argument doesn’t work and Mortimer’s Cross was fought for all the wrong reasons).

And Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Wydevile, was the most beautiful woman in the realm – nay, Europe – nay, the known world.

4550226
The Perfect Princes

Their family was full of golden children; blonde-haired, blue-eyed angels who would not have looked out of place among the Gods of Olympus.

In short, the family was perfect.

Except.

As Edward grew older, one fatal, irreversible flaw appeared. No, it wasn’t his weight – that could have been easily solved with a sensible diet and exercise. And besides, kings had been overweight in the past – take Louis the Fat, for instance.

No, this was something that had never happened to a king – to God’s anointed – ever before.

It was at this point, on Facebook (the fount of all knowledge) that I saw a picture which totally convinced me of my theory.

11059657_1554665671470436_4651097333560421926_n
Richard, the true Golden Son of York

It was a sign that I was on the right track.

Edward wasn’t York’s Golden Boy.

He didn’t have the luscious locks.

And this is what Clarence had discovered.

One morning, walking in on Edward early and surprising him at his toilette, George was taken aback by what he saw.

A reflection of the sun shining from Edward’s head.

And George couldn’t resist the same joke I had heard the child say to his father this very morning:

‘Oh look! There’s a hair on your head. Fooled you!’

Edward’s Groom of the Stool was combing over the bald spot – and George’s fate was sealed.

Edward called the guard and George’s feet didn’t touch the ground – until he was safely locked in his prison cell.

This also explains an obscure comment I once found whilst perusing ‘The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle’. This stated that Edward’s residences were ‘sparsely thatched’. I have spent many a year trying to decipher the exact meaning of this phrase, but now I know.

comb
Edward’s comb-over would have looked something like this.

Edward was going bald and George discovering that truth was the final straw.

What else could Edward do? No king in history had ever gone bald.

Think on it. Name one – you can’t can you?

That’s because it has NEVER happened. It’s unheard of – and Edward had to protect his secret at all costs.

For England!

 

.

Sources:

Ellison Weird, The Children’s Guide to the Croydon Chronicle; Steve Cole, Cows in Action – the Pirate Mootiny; HP Spicy BBQ Sauce; Ivy Hair Issues, Washing Instructions for Wigs.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Images.

After writing this post, Jeff R Sun has realised how grateful he is for his full head of luscious locks.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Who was Bloody Mary’s Secret Friend.*

Who1

1553 was a year or turbulence: three monarchs, untimely death, executions, religious change and uprising. From the death of the fifteen year old King to the succession of his sister, the summer months proved to be unpredictable and bloody. Yet Mary I may have had some help recovering what she felt was her rightful claim to the throne. And that help might have come from a very unlikely source indeed.

As Edward lay dying at Greenwich Palace, his religious reforms, ushered through by his “Protectors” Somerset and Northumberland, were in danger of being undone. Having taken England further down the path of Reformation, Edward’s changes threatened to prove as fragile as his life, because the next in line to the throne was a devout Catholic. Edward’s elder half-sister, Mary, was determined to return England to the faith of her mother, of her childhood and of the Pope and undo all the council’s recent hard work. As she awaited news of Edward’s decline, his right-hand-man worked hard to ensure his own legacy, as well as that of the new faith.

In an unprecedented move, Northumberland decided to ignore the will of Henry VIII. By this document of 1547, the throne would pass from Edward to Mary and then Elizabeth, although Henry and others had hoped that Edward would father children through whom the claim would pass. With a younger brother on the throne, the two women’s chances seemed fairly slim. With Edward’s blessing, Northumberland married his son, Guildford, to the King’s cousin, Lady Jane Grey, and had her crowned as England’s next Queen. Yet only nine days later, their friends had deserted, she had been deposed and Mary was restored to the succession. How did it all go wrong so quickly? It is almost as if some external force was turning the wheel of fortune so quickly that everyone on board became sea-sick.

who2

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk.

A document kept in the archives at Ely Cathedral contains a strange reference that might hold a clue to the rapid turn-around. Written in the form of an anonymous pamphlet, it describes Mary’s restoration from the standpoint of a witness in Suffolk.  Mary had barricaded herself into Framlingham Castle, perhaps as a convenient point to reach the coast and flee the country, except her fortunes changed. This pamphlet, Against Popery, is the only survivor of five copies made in July 1553, which Mary ordered to be destroyed immediately after she had regained power. Written by an eye-witness, it makes the extraordinary claim that Mary used witchcraft to raise an army in the small Suffolk market town. It claims she acted “with the help of the doctor” to raise a storm that “caste down a grete shadowe upon the erthe… a great rent was torn in the skyes… from whiche fell to erthe the miraculous cupboard.”

What can be made of this odd description, which Mary was so keen to destroy? There may well have been a storm at the time, although this was the middle of summer, and Mary may have enlisted the help of various doctors; perhaps of medicine, perhaps of divinity. What seems strange though, is that the tract clearly refers to the doctor and a “miraculous cupboard,” which is later described as being blue, “painted like a coffyn” and “the size of a riche manne’s bed.” It also “rent” the skies and caused a “howling in the heavens” but later could be found “by no man.” Was this strange apparition linked to Mary’s friend the Doctor? Who could he have been and what should we make of this? In all my years researching the Tudor period, from the dusty annals of the cloisters of my youth, I have never come across a reference like this before. All suggestions and possible interpretations would be gratefully received. Thank you, kind friends, in advance for your help.

who3

Woods outside Framlingham

Sources

Ely Cathedral Archives, with thanks to Jolyon Dalrymple-Smythe

Vile Bodies Evelyn Waugh

Suffolk Haunts Loada Cobblers

Jeff R Vescent loves you. And you. And them. And even those who might be over there.

*No, it doesn’t need a question mark. Geddit?

Henry Tudor’s Forgotten Bride

There have been many debates about the legitimacy of the Beauforts, and their claim to the throne. However slim his claim undoubtedly was, Henry VII took the throne of England through conquest. His marriage to Elizabeth of York added weight to the Tudor’s right to rule, and their children indeed had royal blood. Henry VII repealed Titulus Regius, and all was well,  the Tudor claim upright and solid. However, recent discoveries prove that all of the children of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York were, themselves, illegitimate.

henry7bust

Henry Tudor lived in exile with his uncle Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke from 1471 to 1485. A strong young man, with a young man’s appetites, he was not idle in these years. While his mother, the redoubtable Margaret Beaufort, worked tirelessly to return Henry to England, bargaining and negotiating with Edward IV to guarantee the safety of her son, Henry was pursuing interests of his own.

Thought to have fathered at least one illegitimate child in Brittany, Roland De Veleville, it has been long accepted that Henry Tudor was of loose morals while living in exile, taking pleasure where he found it, and moving on.  One young woman, Louise Boulonga , captured Henry’s heart. From a letter recently discovered from Jasper Tudor to Margaret Beaufort, we now know that Henry was married to Louise in February, 1483.

When Edward IV died unexpectedly in April, 1483, things changed dramatically. The young prince Edward was declared illegitimate by his uncle, the morally upright Richard III. Many Yorkists fled to Brittany to join Jasper Tudor and his wayward nephew, while Elizabeth Woodville took her daughters, and the royal treasury, to sanctuary. One who joined the Tudor camp was Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset. Dorset was Elizabeth Woodville’s son, and carried with him a plan that had been schemed up between his mother and Margaret Beaufort. The women decided, in a hag’s agreement, that Henry Tudor would invade Richard’s peaceful England, and steal the throne. A marriage between Henry and Elizabeth of York was plotted, to ensure support from Yorkists who could be bought with promises of reward. But Henry was married already. What to do?

EoY portrait

As Jasper and Margaret plotted, schemed, bribed, and possibly even killed to ensure this plan would succeed, Dorset was finding out about Mrs. Tudor. Despite Jasper forcing Henry to announce a betrothal to Elizabeth of York  at Rennes Cathedral on Christmas morning, 1483, Dorset could not help but learn that Louise and Henry were man and wife. Horrified at the duplicity and lax morals of the man, Dorset notified his mother. Elizabeth Woodville came to an agreement with Richard, whom she knew was far too honest a man to have ever killed her son, and exited sanctuary. Her daughters became beautiful white roses to adorn Richard’s court, and Dorset attempted to leave Tudor’s camp. Jasper intercepted him before he could return to England and go running off at the mouth about all he had learned.

Margaret Beaufort was not to be deterred. Convinced that her son was destined by God to be king of the world, she continued nonplussed, as if all was still as had been agreed upon. No letters between Margaret and Elizabeth Woodville have ever been found, so it can be assumed that they simply did not discuss it. Her son was forced by Jasper to leave his beloved Louise, who was heavy with child, and  invaded England on Margaret’s orders in 1485. Despite a lackluster performance on the field of battle, Henry defied all odds, and emerged victorious at Bosworth Field, August 22, 1485. Treachery prearranged by Margaret, and Richard’s unflinching valor, led to the end of the true Plantagenet kings of England. It also sealed the fate of poor Louise.

margaret-beaufort-hever-castle

Margaret Beaufort knew that a foreign  queen would never do. The memory of Margaret of Anjou was still too fresh in the mind of England, and grief for their righteous king too strong.  She knew Elizabeth Woodville to be a grasping and greedy woman, and Dorset was still held in exile. So the hags once again struck a deal. Elizabeth of York would indeed marry Henry VII. Neither party was happy about it, and a more miserable match is hard to imagine. Although Henry Tudor applied for papal dispensation twice, careful examination of these papers shows no process for the annulment of Henry’s first marriage! On January 18, 1486 Elizabeth of York entered into a bigamous and invalid marriage, much as her mother had done years before, and Louise Tudor drifted into historical obscurity.

We do not know what happened to Louise, nor the child she carried. Although Professor S.B. Chrimes of Cardiff University asserted in a 1967 article that De Veleville was not Henry Tudor’s natural child, he and other biographers are silent about Louise and the child she carried. Dorset eventually returned to England, but Henry Tudor was too distrustful of his mother in law to believe she would keep the secret. She was imprisoned in Bermondsey Abbey in March of 1487, pronounced dead, and was never seen again. Margaret Beaufort accomplished her goal to be one of the most maligned women in history, and Henry Tudor’s son, Henry VIII, was a bastard.

henry portrait

Sources:

Chrimes S.B

Weir, Alison “Elizabeth of York”

Gregory, Phillipa “The Red Queen”, “The White Princess”

Some guy named Jeff

Wikipedia

2 historians who prefer not to have their names attached to this article

Thomas More, who came to me in a dream.

About the Author- My name is Jeff “the wiz” Berlin. I am an active agent in an international spy agency , and a pinball enthusiast. My family is directly descended from Anne Boleyn, and has had to change our name several times to avoid Tudor vengeance. We have long worked behind the scenes to dispel Tudor propaganda, but the program “The Tudors” has undone all of our good work. My cousin Jeff failed to kidnap Jonathan Rhys Meyers and force him into exile in 2006, so that is pretty much all his fault.