Tag Archives: Tudors

The Much-Maligned King

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

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

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

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

And mud sticks.

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

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

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

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

Does responsibility lay at the king’s door?

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

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

What was her motivation?

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

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

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

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

Anneboleyn2Let’s look at Anne Boleyn first.

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

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

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

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

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

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

thomas moreAnd then there’s Thomas More…

Well, I have a theory…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jeff R Sun

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

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Photos: Wiki

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Howard and the Fall of the Monarchy

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

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

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

The ceremony is an amazing spectacle, but I digress.

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

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

III
King Richard III

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

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

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

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

henry7bust
Henry VII

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

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

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

Henry started panicking.

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

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

200px-Henry_Howard_Earl_of_Surrey_1546
Henry Howard Earl of Surrey

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

But then there was the Pilgrimage of Grace…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perplexed, I asked “what do you mean”

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

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

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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.