Path to St. Peter ad Vincula: Part V–A

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula:  Part V–A

Anne’s path to St. Peter ad Vincula involved political and religious reasons both on domestic and international levels.  This blog entry will deal with an issue that involved political and religious issues that were of a purely personal nature–her inability to provide Henry with a male heir.

Parliamentary members were obliged in 1533 to swear that the marriage between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon was invalid, the marriage of Henry and Anne Boleyn valid and “that Elizabeth was born in lawful wedlock, and heir to the crown” (Sander 110).  Henry was optimistic (and as equally adamant) that this would be a temporary solution.  He would have a legitimate male heir and that would be the responsibility of Anne Boleyn. 

 catherine aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Producing the son Henry required would not prove easy.  Considering the stress she was under, Anne surprisingly conceived soon after Elizabeth’s birth.  In a letter written from his Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, Charles V heard as early as January 28, 1534,  that “Anne Boleyn is now pregnant and in condition to have more children” (Gairdner VII 114).  A month later on 26 February Chapuys reiterated that, while Henry was ironing out the succession between his daughters, he considered that “there was no other princess except his daughter Elizabeth, until he had a son which he thought would happen soon” (Gairdner VII  232).  George Tayllour [Taylor] wrote to Lady Lisle from Greenwich on 27 April 1534, that the “King and Queen are merry and in good health.  The Queen hath a goodly belly, praying our Lord to send us a prince” (Gairdner VII 556). 

Intriguingly, very little fanfare was made of Anne’s pregnancy in 1534. There are scant formal,diplomatic mentions of it—although on 7 July official instructions to George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, concerning the arrangements of a meeting between Anne and Marguerite, Queen of Navarre (while Henry would have been in France meeting King Francis) had to be “deferred, as the time would be very inconvenient to her….”  Anne would not be able to accompany Henry to France her “reasons are, that being so far gone with child, she could not cross the sea with the King, and she would be deprived of his Highness’s presence when it was most necessary” (Gairdner VII 958).  Later that month Chapuys still believed Anne to be pregnant as he mentioned again that meetings between Henry and Francis would have to be postponed because “those here say the reason is that the lady de Boulans (Anne Boleyn) wishes to be present, which is impossible on account of her condition” (Gairdner VII 1013). Were these references all to the same pregnancy?  January to July would encompass close to a full-term pregnancy yet no mention was made of a child being born and dying afterwards nor of any miscarriage.  Regardless, at least a single pregnancy had to have ended which was kept secret. 
marguerite navarre
Marguerite, Queen of Navarre

What emerges is another comment made by Chapuys in September of 1534 that the King did “doubt whether his lady was enceinte or not” (Gairdner VII 1193). Interesting phraseology as Anne was not in a precarious position at this time.  Certainly, she was vulnerable but there were neither hints of her being replaced nor plots to discard her—until nearly a year and a half later.

On January 7, 1536, Katherine of Aragon died at Kimbolton Castle.  Upon the death of Katherine, “Queen Anne did not carry this so decently as became a happy rival” (Burnet 106).  Anne gave the messenger who brought the news of Katherine’s death to her at Greenwich a substantial reward.  Famously, Henry and Anne put on a show of exuberance dressing in yellow instead of mourning for Katherine’s death and parading Elizabeth triumphantly.  Although as Charles V was apprised by his ambassador in late January, “notwithstanding the joy shown by the concubine at the news of the good Queen’s death… she had frequently wept, fearing that they might do with her as with the good Queen” (Gairdner X 199). 

Anne could see that the international situation was now altered and the domestic scene was less idyllic.  Without Katherine to prompt familial ties in Charles V, he could now concentrate on his Italian campaigns and as seen in a previous blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part IV,  the ties of France and England had lessened. At home, Henry had set his sights on Jane Seymour and it would not have taken much for Anne to wonder if she too would be replaced in the king’s affections. What Anne had in her favor was her latest pregnancy.  Unlike the pregnancy of 1534, there is no prior mention of the one in 1536.  Anne would have been aware that the successful delivery of a male heir would certainly secure her position.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.

While participating in a joust, Henry’s horse took a fall in the tiltyard on January 24, 1536, and the king lost consciousness for several hours.  The entire Court feared for his life and, even though Henry made an astounding recovery, more proved at stake than his recuperation.  Shortly thereafter, on 29 January the day of Katherine’s funeral, “Queene Anne was brought a bedd and delivered of a man chield, as it was said, afore  her tyme, for she said that she had reckoned herself at that tyme but fifteen weekes gonne with chield; it was said she tooke a fright, for the King ranne that tyme at the ring and had a fall from his horse, but he had no hurt; and she tooke such a fright withal that it caused her to fall in travaile, and so was delivered afore her full tyme” (Wriothesley 33).  The “excitement of the last few days had told upon her health, which constant anxiety had been steadily undermining” (Friedmann 199). 

King Henry VIII armor
Armour made for King Henry VIII

Ambassador Chapuys wrote the details as known to him in a dispatch to Charles V on 10 February 1536.  Some discrepancy occurred in the interpretations of the cause but readers should not be alarmed at the term abortion, as it is the 16th century translation of the word miscarriage.

“On the day of the interment [the burial of Katherine of Aragon] the Concubine had an abortion which seemed to be a male child which she had not borne 3½ months, at which the King has shown great distress. The said concubine wished to lay the blame on the duke of Norfolk, whom she hates, saying he frightened her by bringing the news of the fall the King had six days before. But it is well known that is not the cause, for it was told her in a way that she should not be alarmed or attach much importance to it. Some think it was owing to her own incapacity to bear children, others to a fear that the King would treat her like the late Queen, especially considering the treatment shown to a lady of the Court, named Mistress Semel, to whom, as many say, he has lately made great presents.” Henry’s attention to Jane Seymour (Mistress Semel) led many people to “fear the King might take another wife” (Gairdner X 282).

Chapuys continued that Henry VIII divulged to “his most trusted servants …Lord and Lady Exeter” (Friedmann 202-203) that “in great confidence, and as it were in confession, that he had made this marriage, seduced by witchcraft, and for this reason he considered it null; and that this was evident because God did not permit them to have any male issue, and that he believed that he might take another wife, which he gave to understand that he had some wish to do” (Gairdner X 199).   

A couple of weeks later Ambassador Chapuys wrote about Anne’s reasoning for the loss of the child to Charles V.  “The said Concubine attributed the misfortune to two causes: first, the King’s fall; and, secondly, that the love she bore him was far greater than that of the late Queen, so that her heart broke when she saw that he loved others” (Gairdner X 351). A later report, much disputed, claimed that Anne could not keep from scolding Henry and exclaimed “See, how well I must be since the day I caught that abandoned woman Jane sitting on your knees” (Sander 132).
charles v older
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

Many at Court, especially the conservative faction considered that with “Queen Catharine being dead, the King might marry another, and be set right again with the Pope and the Emperor: and the issue by any other marriage would never be questioned; whereas, while Queen Anne lived, the ground of the controversy still remained, and her issue would be illegitimated, her marriage being null from the beginning, as they thought” (Burnet 109). Chapuys also believed the “King knew very well that his marriage to Anne could never be held as valid, for many reasons, …from another marriage, more legitimate than his last, the King might possibly have male issue” (de Gayangos V 43).

Continuing the theme of the legitimacy of Henry’s marriage to Anne, Chapuys wrote to Nicholas Granvelle (also known as Grenvelle), Chancellor to Charles V on 25 February 1536: “I am credibly informed that the Concubine, after her abortion, consoled her maids who wept, telling them it was for the best, because she would be the sooner with child again, and that the son she bore would not be doubtful like this one, which had been conceived during the life of the Queen; thereby acknowledging a doubt about the bastardy of her daughter” (Gairdner X 352). 

Would Anne have expressed herself in such a way as to question Elizabeth’s legitimacy?  It is hard to believe. 

One thing is sure, Anne believed she would have another child.  These sentiments were in direct contrast to those Chapuys wrote on 10 February 1536, to Chancellor Granvelle  “there are innumerable persons who consider that the concubine is unable to conceive, and say that the daughter said to be hers and the abortion the other day are supposititious” (Gairdner X 283). Rumors concerning the extremes of Anne’s behavior flew then and were maintained in the 1980s.  While traveling in England my husband and I were regaled with the story that Elizabeth was a changeling.  The story unfolded that the infant daughter that Anne gave birth to had died and fearing Henry’s wrath Anne found a substitute child of comparable age and coloring.  Unfortunately, the infant was a boy—and thus the reason Elizabeth never married.

The absurdity of the above story stands its own test, let alone the cruel irony that Anne desperately wanted a male child.  As Henry’s “new amours” continued toward Jane

“to the intense rage of the concubine” (Gairdner X 495).  ‘Les nouvelles amours de ce roy avec la demoyselle dont ait cydevant escript vont tousiours en avant a la grosse raige de la concubyne’ (Friedmann 202).  Chapuys wrote a fuller description of Jane to Granvelle’s son, Antoine Perronet, that he had no news “except to tell you something of the quality of the King’s new lady, which the Emperor and Granvelle would perhaps like to hear. She is sister of one Edward Semel, of middle stature and no great beauty, so fair that one would call her rather pale than otherwise” (Gairdner X 901).
Antonie Perrenot
Antoine Perronet, son of Chancellor Nicholas Granvelle

Apparently, Henry overlooked that Jane was not “a woman of great wit” and that “she inclines to be proud and haughty” (Gairdner X 901).  He seemed delighted that her temperament was “between the gravity of Queen Catharine, and the pleasantness of Queen Anne” (Burnet 109).  As for Jane’s virtue, it was opinioned by Perrenot that “although Henry necessarily affected to believe in her virtue, she was no better than the other young women of a coarse and dissolute court” (Friedmann 201). Ambassador Chapuys gave the opinion that Henry would make it a condition of the marriage that Jane be a virgin so “when he has a mind to divorce her he will find enough of witnesses” (Gairdner X 901).  Despite the contemporary beliefs of Jane’s uprightness, the King “was as well pleased with a decent appearance of virtue as with virtue itself” (Friedmann 201 – 202). 

Jane’s influence, therefore, increased, and the “whole party of Anne became seriously alarmed” (Friedmann 201 – 202). A gloating Sander reported that Anne faced a serious rival, “for the king began to grow weary of Anne” (Sander 132).  “The poor Queen used all possible arts to reinflame a dying affection; but the King was changed” (Burnet 109).

Not only was Henry growing weary of Anne, his “old conscience began to work again” (Pollard 343).  Contemporaries mentioned that Anne’s “miscarriage was thought to have made an ill impression on the King’s mind, who from thence concluded that this marriage was displeasing to God” (Wriorthesley 33).

Henry’s marked coldness to Anne was remarked upon by many contemporary sources; what varied was the degree of his ill-favor.  Chapuys learned “from several persons of Court” that Henry had “not spoken ten times to the Concubine, and that when she miscarried he scarcely said anything to her, except that he saw clearly that God did not wish to give him male children” (Gairdner X 351).  Henry went to her bedside “bewailing and complaining unto her the loss of his boy,”(Cavendish 208-209) and “gruffly told her that he now saw that God would not give him a son; then, rising to leave, he said harshly that when she recovered he would speak to her” (Friedmann 199).  From the time of the miscarriage “henceforth the harm still more increased, and he was then heard to say to her:  he would have no more boys by her” (Cavendish 209).

It is obvious to see that reports shifted from Henry declaring that God denied him male children to the conviction that he would have no sons by Anne.  These could be the result of translations committed after the fact, as history showed what eventually were Henry’s actions even if, at the end of January 1536, he was not set on the course of repudiating Anne.  Nicholas Sander claims Anne had an inkling as Henry greeted her after her miscarriage “by saying, ‘Be of good cheer, sweetheart, you will have no reason to complain of me again’and went away sorrowing” (Sander 132). The altered demeanor of the king towards Anne was generally remarked upon, and “held to bode no good to her” (Friedmann 203) and “was a great discompfort to all in this realm” (Wriothesley 33).
Anne Boleyn B necklace
Queen Anne Boleyn

The king was frustrated at Anne’s miscarriage and was maddened at her reprimands over his association with Jane Seymour.  That Anne was indiscrete and flirtatious with members of Court could be believed but her biggest mistake was not understanding the strength of Henry’s passion for Jane Seymour.  Years earlier it had been commented about Henry that “rather than miss or want any part of his will or appetite he would put the loss of one half of his kingdom in danger, and that he had often knelled before him the space of an hour or two to persuade him from his will and appetite, but could never bring to pass to dissuade him therefrom” (Cavendish 45).  Henry was used to getting his own way and not encountering much resistance.  Yet, thwarted he was in the incidence with the greatest meaning to him, the birth of a son.  

For References please refer to the blog entry Path to St. Peter ad Vincula–Part I


Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part IV

Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part IV

Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer were more pliable to Anne’s ideas and cause than Cardinal Wolsey.  Cromwell as Chief Minister pushed through Parliament several reform measures including the creation of the King as Head of the Church of England. Cranmer, appointed Archbishop of Canterbury after the death of William Warham, declared the end to Henry and Katherine’s marriage. The age of Wolsey was over.

thomas cromwell
Thomas Cromwell

Anne Boleyn owed a great deal to Thomas Cromwell. He put into effect his plan to frighten the clergy into submission and sever the English Church from Rome– but it was quite a time before it could be implemented. His plan he felt sure “could not of course fail to please Anne, to whom it held out a sure way of obtaining what she desired” (Friedmann 135-136).  At the Convocation of Canterbury in January 1531, under threat the clergy acknowledged Henry as “singular protector, supreme lord and even, so far as the law of Christ allows, supreme head of the English Church and clergy” (Haigh 108).  Added to the brilliance of the plan was the fact that the members of the Privy Council who “generally opposed the measures brought forward by Anne’s friends, willingly assented to a scheme which would weaken the influence of the bishops” (Friedmann 135-136).

Despite the capitulation of the Clergy, all was not smooth sailing for Henry and Anne.  By May 22, 1531, Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, reported to Charles V that “the clergy of York and Durham sent to the King a strong protestation against the supremacy which he pretends to have over them.  The King is greatly displeased, still more because one of his couriers coming from Rome has brought him news that his Ambassadors there are afraid that the Pope will definitively quash the process” (Gairdner 251).  This was “a serious defeat for Anne’s party.”  Legislation to force the clergy and Parliament to submit had to be abandoned as priests protested “against any encroachments on the liberty of the Church or any act derogatory to the authority of the Holy See” (Friedmann 142).  Resistance did not last and in 1534 Henry passed the Acts of Supremacy and of Succession.  Legally he was Head of the Church of England and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was annulled and that of Anne legitimized along with any children from their union. All seemed to be going well;  Anne was Queen and the Protestant reform movement was gaining momentum.  What happened?

Anne encountered forces stronger than her influence on Henry.  She disagreed with the King over the dissolution of the monasteries, she clashed with Thomas Cromwell over international politics and Anne underestimated Henry’s frustration at not having a male heir, his attraction for Jane Seymour and the Court’s ability to use those domestic issues against her and the evangelical faction.

Henry VIII committed to improving the religious houses in England.  He sent agents out to track adherence to monastic orders’ rules and to account for the wealth of each. He ordered the Commission for the Valuation of Ecclesiastical Benefices stressing his right as Supreme Head of the Church, “Henricus Octavus, Dei gratia Agnlie et Francie Rex, Fidei Defensor, Dominus Hibernie et in terra Supremum Capud Anglicane Ecclesie, Reverendo in Christo patri J[ohanni] Episcopo Exoniensi ac dilectis et fidelbus suis Salutem” (Hall A Formula Book of English Official Historical Documents 63).

Henry VIII
Henry VIII –attributed to the circle of Holbein 1535-1541

Commissioners appointed by King Henry were to “examyn, serche and enquire, by all the ways and meanes that they can by their dyscrections, of and for the true and just hole and entire yerely values of all the manours, londes, tenements, hereditamentes, rentes, tythes, offerings, emoluments and all other profittes, as well spitrituall as temporall, apperteyninge or belonging to any Archebusshopriche, Busshoprich, Abbacye, Monasterie, Priorie, Archdeaconry, Deanry, Hospitall, College, Howse Collegyate … or any other benefice or promocion sprituall within the lymyttes of their Commyssion” (Hall A Formula Book of English Official Historical Documents 62).  Henry also wanted to know “in what manner the revenewes and profitts” were used (Leach ii).

Once the Valor Ecclesiasticus had been presented to Parliament on February 5, 1536, creating the dismay that Henry and Cromwell hoped it would, the Legislature quickly formulated and implemented new policy by mid-March. It certainly was easy to see what Henry’s main purpose was.  He needed money, a lot of it, having gone through the vast fortune his father had left him.  Confiscating the property of religious houses would provide that wealth.

The Act of the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries of 1536 (also known as The Suppression of Religious Houses Act), deemed the lesser monastic houses sinful and wasteful.  All the occupants were ordered to transfer to larger monasteries where they would be reformed to live more religiously.  It was proclaimed that Parliament finally revolved “that it is and shall be much more to the pleasure of Almighty God, and for the honour of this his realm, that the possessions of such religious houses, now being spent, spoiled, and wasted for increase maintenance of sin, should be used and converted to better uses.”  Parliament authorized “that his majesty shall have and enjoy to him and to his heirs for ever, all and singular such monasteries, priories, and other religious houses” the land, rent, chapels and all their property “with all their rights, profits, jurisdictions, and commodities, unto the King’s majesty, and to his heirs and assigns for ever, to do and use therewith his and their own wills, to the pleasure of Almighty God, and to honour and profit this realm….”  Not daring to leave anything behind, the Act of Suppression gave the rights for the “…King’s highness shall have and enjoy to his own proper use, all the ornaments, jewels, goods, chattels and debts, which appertained to any of the chief governors of the said monasteries” (“Act for the Dissolution of the Lesser Monasteries”).

Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador to Charles V wrote “The King and Council are busy setting officers for the provision and exaction of the revenues of the churches which are to be suppressed; which, it is said, will be in number above 300, and are expected to bring in a revenue of 120,000 ducats. The silver plate, chalices, and reliquaries, the church ornaments, bells, lead from the roofs, cattle, and furniture belonging to them, which will come to the King, will be of inestimable amount. All these lords are intent on having farms of the goods of the said churches, and already the dukes of Norfolk and Suffolk are largely provided with them. I am told that although Cromwell promoted in the first instance the demolition of the said churches, that nevertheless, seeing the dangers that might arise from it, he was anxious to prevent them, for which reason the King had been somewhat angry with him” (Gairdner X 601).

Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador to England

The busy Ambassador wrote that same day, March 18, 1536, to his fellow Hapsburg statesman, Cardinal Antoine Perrenot de Granvelle (sometimes referred to as Granville or Grenville): “You will see by the letters I write to his Majesty, the gentle device of this King to extract money on pretext of charity by means of the offerings. If it succeeds, as no doubt it will, he will gain an immense sum of money, for he will impose a tax according to his will which everyone will have to offer, and not engage to do so for once but for all the other innumerable inventions that this King daily puts forward in order to get money, at which the people is terribly grieved and almost desperate, but no man dare complain ” (Gairdner X 495).  Contemporaries discussed Cranmer’s sermon which assured the people that the king would now gain so much treasure “that from that time he should have no need, nor put the people to … any charge for his or the realm’s affairs” (Heal 145).

The monasteries did need some reform. It was not unique to England and it was not so much against the religion as to the laxity that befell many religious houses.  Henry’s and Cromwell’s greed were not the sole motivators.  Local landed gentry also eagerly eyed the wealth of the lands of their neighbors.  Already indebted to each other, the monasteries and noble estates had been intertwined for years. Abbots had long been “giving up part of their revenues, in the form of pensions …to courtiers, in the hope of being allowed to retain the remainder” (Pollard 340).  But Henry had hit upon an enormous source of wealth in his position as Supreme Head of the Church of England. And perhaps, not beyond the one time infusion as Chapuys further opinioned that “the King will greatly increase his revenue” (Gairdner X 494).

Statute 575
 Transcription of the above Statute

“An Acte whereby all Relygeous Houses of Monks, Chanons, and Nonnes whiche may not dyspend Manors Lands  Tenants & Heredytaments above the clere yerly Value of ij C E are geven to the Kings Highness his heirs and Successours for ever.  The Byll for the suppressing of dy__ Places of Relygion” (“The Statutes of the Realm”)

Oddly enough Henry was not made astronomically wealthy–he needed to cover debts and he distributed much of the wealth to his nobles. Thus, the view must be that the dissolution’s intention was not to make Henry wealthy but to bribe the gentry to support Henry’s policies. Chapuys reported to Charles V that “the King will distribute among the gentlemen of the kingdom the greater part of the ecclesiastical revenues to gain their goodwill” (Gairdner VII 1141).  “The dissolution of the monasteries harmonised well with the secular principles of the predominant classes” (Pollard 342).

Whom it did not harmonize well with was Queen Anne Bolyen.

On Passion Sunday, April 2, 1536, John Skip, chaplain to Anne Boleyn, preached a sermon to the entire Court with his target “scarcely disguised” as Thomas Cromwell (Heal 142).  Taking his theme from Biblical text, he asked, Quis ex vobis arguet me de peccato? Which of you convinceth me of sin? (Newcombe).  The message of this incendiary sermon was to encourage Henry’s advisors to cease their greed and do what was right for the people, especially the poor. Skip altered the Esther Biblical story to stress “to courtiers and counselors alike to change the advice they were giving the king and to reject the lure of personal gain” (Ives 309).

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther by Rembrandt

Eric Ives in the text, The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn, supported by other historians, has analyzed Skip’s symbolism-laden sermon and has pointed out the correlation between this sermon and Anne’s disagreement with Cromwell over how the proceeds from the dissolution of the lesser monasteries should be used. Cranmer even ran afoul of Henry later by not consenting “that the king should have all the revenues of the monasteries which were suppressed, to his own sole use” (Dodd 21).  Many understood that Henry could have the lands to do with as he wished but that the wealth should be “bestowed on hospitals, schools, and other pious and charitable foundations” (Dodd 21).  It appeared to be common knowledge that Anne too wanted the money to be “devoted to furthering the cause of reform rather than filling the king’s coffers” (Newcombe).

It must be clarified that Anne was not against the monasteries being suppressed.  She disagreed with the King and Cromwell on how the funds should be distributed. She wanted to follow her inclinations by having the revenues assist the poor and help scholars, causes she was known to patronize.

George Wyatt praised Anne for making shirts and smocks for the poor, and remarking that her charity “passed through the whole land” and she gave “fifteen hundred pounds* at the least, yearly, to be bestowed on the poor” with another fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds** being given in alms and to support scholars (Cavendish II 207).
John Foxe commended Anne for “how bountiful she was to the poor, passing not only the common example of other queens, but also the revenues almost of her estate; insomuch that the alms which she gave in three quarters of a year, in distribution, …to the behalf of poor artificers and occupiers” (Foxe 232-234).
John Foxe

The Scottish cleric, Alexander Alesius, referred to Anne Boleyn as ‘your most holy mother’ when writing to Elizabeth.  He clearly believed that Elizabeth’s “very pious mother” formed many enemies at Court for “her desire to promote the pure doctrine of the Gospel and her kindness to the poor” (Stevenson 1303-15).

Anne more than likely could not imagine that her preferences would be gainsaid. Her influence over Henry was well-known.  Even in the Privy-Council her impact could be felt.  Jean du Bellay, Bishop of Bayonne, the French Ambassador relayed a story that council member, Thomas Boleyn, “allowed everything to be said, and then came and suggested the complete opposite, defending his position without budging, as though he wanted to show me that he was not pleased that anyone should have failed to pay court to the lady [Anne], and also to make me accept that what he had said before is true, that is, that all the rest have no influence except what it pleases the lady to allow them, and that is gospel truth.  And because of this he wanted with words and deeds to beat down their opinions before my eyes” (Ives 126).

Yet, Anne was going to see more and more of her influence slip away. Not only was she not seeing eye-to-eye with Cromwell over the use of the monies gained from the dissolution of the monasteries, international politics also added a level of tension and discord.  Charles V now needed an alliance with England against France.

A long-time ally of Anne’s, Francis, King of France, was being replaced in Henry’s diplomatic play book with Charles V.  What emerged was the famously orchestrated meeting between Chapuys and Anne. On April 18, 1536, George Boleyn greeted the Ambassador who was invited by Henry via message to meet Anne and kiss her hand as she made her way to chapel.  Chapuys excused himself from that honor, as this was a bit much even though he knew that Henry’s move from favoring the French to the Imperial side was vital. Chapuys was in a difficult position as he was personally loyal to the late Queen Katherine and Princess Mary—more so than to the woman he referred to as “the concubine.”

The play unfolded as Anne acknowledged the Ambassador at chapel and he had to bow in return.  She asked after him specifically and made some anti-French remarks.  Henry swung the other way as he wanted his feigned pro-French stance to force the Imperial hand.  It was Cromwell’s turn to be in a bind.  If the Imperial acceptance of her was what negotiations hinged on, he needed to do something.  Cromwell cultivated his relationship with Chapuys.  Knowing that the Ambassador greatly disliked the Queen and would probably believe the words, Cromwell told the Ambassador that Anne “would like to see his [Cromwell’s] head cut off” and Chapuys could not forget this “for the love I bore him; and I could not but wish him a more gracious mistress, and one more grateful for the inestimable services he had done the King, and that he must beware of enraging her” and warned that Cromwell deserved better treatment “than did the Cardinal.” This illusion to Wolsey accompanied Chapuys’ veiled warning that he hoped that Cromwell’s greater “dexterity and prudence” would stand him well in his dealings with Anne (Gairdner X 601).
Anne Boleyn 

It appeared as if Cromwell was working closely with Chapuys to further the relations between their two countries.  Chapuys wrote in April of 1536 to the Emperor that Cromwell had assured him that he was “very desirous of the preservation and increase of friendship of his master’s with Your Majesty, and is daily doing good offices in that respect—not only pointing out those measures which he considers most fit under the circumstances, but advising also of his own accord, and working for the accomplishment of our mutual wishes” (de Gayangos V 43).  At their meeting, Cromwell “replied five or six times, with great fervour, that it was a good beginning for the matter of the preservation of the amity of which we had so often talked, to which the King was more inclined than ever, and likewise those of his Council … and Cromwell assured me, on his life and honor, that the King had never treated anything in France, Germany, or elsewhere, to the prejudice of the friendship he has with your Majesty” (Gairdner X 601).

Domestically, Cromwell managed to upset both pro-French and pro-Imperial factions in England.  Internationally, events took a more favorable turn.  Charles V continued his overtures of friendship, the Pope became more inclined to treat with England, and Francis I became sidelined—all international events which weakened Anne’s position and nudged Cromwell to act.

Oddly enough, Cromwell’s station, his continued political position and his economic gains were because of Anne’s support.  Her influence over Henry could have swung the king’s favor to another councilor. Perhaps it was this precariousness or the rise of the more evangelical faction led by such young men as George Boleyn and Henry Norris or his own interest in intrigue or, most likely, a combination of reasons which led Cromwell to move against Anne.

George Boleyn’s signature

Cromwell assessed the situation and determined that it would be better if he “took the side of the conservative churchmen against those who had been hitherto considered Anne’s principal supporters” (Friedmann II 226). Cromwell knew that having “identified himself so closely with the measures against the Roman Church, he could not but fear that, if its authority were re-established, he would fare very badly at its hands”  (Friedmann II 55-56).

By March of 1536, Cromwell tried a more moderate approach with success as, surprisingly, those in opposition to Anne, by March of 1536, included fellow Protestants.  The more radical groups believed reform was not moving fast enough and the more moderate thought enough changes had been made.  Cromwell felt his position strengthened and the Secretary most likely saw the way Henry was treating Anne and his interest in Jane Seymour. Chapuys gleefully reported that “the Concubine and Cromwell were on bad terms, and that some new marriage for the King was spoken of” (Gairdner X 601).

In early 1536 Henry was certainly paying attention to Jane Seymour.  Chapuys remarked to his king that the “new amours of this King with the young lady…still go on, to the intense rage of the concubine” (Gairdner X 495).  It was suspected that the King “believed that he might take another wife, which he gave to understand that he had some wish to do” (Gairdner X 199).

jane holbien to use
Jane Seymour by Holbein 

At first it appeared to Chapuys that Henry was going to negotiate with France to obtain a French Princess and “was now thinking of a fresh marriage, that would, no doubt, be the way of preserving him (Cromwell) from many inconveniences, and likewise the best thing for the King to do” (de Gayangos V 43).  Chapuys certainly hoped that a new marriage for Henry would bring “peace, honour, and prosperity to England” and would provide Cromwell “another royal mistress, not out of hatred of Anne Boleyn, for she had never done me any harm, but for his own sake” (de Gayangos V 43).  Regardless of the rumors of a French alliance, Chapuys was assured by Cromwell shortly after he had written about his speculation of a French marriage, “that the King had already fixed on a wife, to wit Jane Semel” (Gairdner X 1069).  Anne Boleyn had less than a month to live.

Cromwell knowing many men of the Privy Chamber such as Nicholas Carew “never accepted the new Queen with any more grace than was needed to avoid their own ruin,” headed the move against Anne (MacCulloch 154). The Spanish Ambassador “monitored these events with increasing excitement, and probably acted as a go-between for the union of Cromwell’s plans and those of the conservatives” (MacCulloch 154). 

n carew
Nicholas Carew

Taking the religious issue to the domestic sphere, the conservatives and Cromwell exploited the King’s interest in Jane Seymour.  Chapuys wrote to the Imperial Court on 1 April 1536, that “certainly it appears to me that if it succeeds, it will be a great thing … to remedy the heresies here, of which the Concubine is the cause and principal nurse, and also to pluck the King from such an abominable and more than incestuous marriage” (Gairdner X 601).  By the middle of April when John Skip gave his sermon on Passion Sunday, it became obvious that rumors of intrigues “were beginning to fly around the Court” (MacCulloch 154). Skip showed great nerve by attacking Henry VIII and Jane Seymour using the analogy of King Solomon who blemished his own reputation by his “sensual and carnal aptitude in taking many wives and concubines” (MacCulloch 154).

Jane protected her own reputation evidenced by the famous story that Chapuys relayed.  Supposedly “some days ago, the King being here in London, and, the young Miss Seymour, to whom he is paying court at Greenwich, he sent her a purse full of sovereigns, together with a letter, and that the young damsel, after respectfully kissing the letter, returned it to the messenger without opening it, and then falling on her knees, begged the royal messenger to entreat the King in her name to consider that she was a well-born damsel, the daughter of good and honourable parents without blame or reproach of any kind; there was no treasure in this world that she valued as much as her honour, and on no account would she lose it, even if she were to die a thousand deaths. That if the King wished to make her a present of money, she requested him to reserve it for such a time as God would be pleased to send her some advantageous marriage” (de Gayangos V 43). 

Evidently, this episode, well-orchestrated by Jane and her advisors, had the following reaction by Henry.  The “King’s love and desire towards the said lady was wonderfully increased, and that he had said she had behaved most virtuously, and to show her that he only loved her honorably, he did not intend henceforth to speak with her except in presence of some of her kin; for which reason the King has caused Cromwell to remove from a chamber to which the King can go by certain galleries without being perceived, and has lodged there the eldest brother of the said lady [Edward Seymour] with his wife, in order to bring thither the same young lady, who has been well taught for the most part by those intimate with the King, who hate the concubine, that she must by no means comply with the King’s wishes except by way of marriage; in which she is quite firm” (Gairdner X 601).

Seymour Edward
Edward Seymour

Intentions of a third marriage were already firmly believed by many at Court as early as January 1536.  A gleeful Chapuys imagined that Henry knew “how much his subjects abominate the marriage contracted with the concubine, and that not one considers it legitimate” (de Gayangos V 43).  Henry stated “in great confidence, and as it were in confession, that he had made this marriage, seduced by witchcraft, and for this reason he considered it null; and that this was evident because God did not permit them to have any male issue, and that he believed that he might take another wife, which he gave to understand that he had some wish to do” (Gairdner X 199).

Henry was very taken with Jane Seymour but realized he could not have a repeat scenario of a living divorced wife.  How actively involved was Henry in eliminating Anne and many of the leading evangelicals?  That is a difficult question to answer although Cromwell, according to Chapuys, took full credit as the person “who had discovered and followed up the affair of the Concubine, in which he had taken a great deal of trouble, and that, … he had set himself to arrange the plot (a fantasier et conspirer led affaire)” to protect the king (Gairdner 1069).  To protect and to please the king?

Surprisingly, Cromwell himself will be put to death by Henry.  Frustrated over the machinations that forced him to marry Anne of Cleeves, Henry was persuaded by Cromwell’s enemies to charge him with treason.  Years later, the Scottish cleric, Alexander Alesius wrote to Elizabeth Regina that Cromwell “was punished by the just judgment of God, because he had loved the King more than God; and that out of deference to his Sovereign he had caused many innocent persons to be put to death, not sparing your most holy mother, nor had he obeyed her directions in promoting the doctrine of the Gospel” (Stevenson I 51).  

Cromwell’s contemporary, Nicholas Shaxton, appointed Bishop of Salisbury at Anne’s urging–one of the clerics “who favoured the purer doctrine of the Gospel, and to whom she [Anne] had intrusted the care of it” (Stevenson I 15), wrote to Cromwell on May 23rd shortly after her death, “I beseech you, Sir, in vis[ceribus] Jesu Christi, that ye will now be no less diligent [in setting] forth the honour of God and his Holy Word, than [when] the late Queen was alive, and often incit[ed you thereto]” (Gairdner X 942). Interesting that a known evangelical saw the need to prod Cromwell to maintain the strides made in the name of reform.  It appears to this blogger that the reformers realized that Henry was too much a conservative at heart to continue the cause of evangelical dogma without the advocacy of Anne.  Cromwell was likely to be swayed in the direction of his king. 
Salisbury Cathedral 

Anne, identified as a “zealous defender of Christ’s gospel” would use her influence so that “her acts… will declare to the world’s end” her theological ideals (Foxe V 232-234).  At the time of her death, it was inconceivable that Anne’s most lasting influence on the Protestant faith would be in the form of her three-year old daughter, Elizabeth. 

Upon her acquisition of the throne, Alesius urged her to “guard herself from the snares of the devil, who were the cause of her mother’s death in consequence of her love for the doctrine of the Gospel while it was in its infancy, and afterwards persecuted those persons whom she appointed to watch over the Church” (Stevenson I 1303).

For References, please refer to the blog entry, Path to St. Peter ad Vincula-Part I

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part V

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd:  Part V

Already in December of 1558 Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Count de Feria was plotting how to approach Elizabeth on marrying King Philip.  He knew that she was convinced that a foreigner was too divisive for the realm.  Added to this he had to persuade her not to marry an Englishman by pointing out that she would not want to “hold herself less than her sister, who would never marry a subject” (Hume Simancas: December 1558 4). His strategy included telling her it would look bad for her to marry a subject where there are so many worthy princes.  “After that we can take those whom she might marry here and pick them to pieces one by one, which will not require much rhetoric, for there is not a man amongst them worth anything” (Hume Simancas: December 1558 4).  The Count would stress the need for an alliance with Spain against the French threat and add the argument of maintaining the Catholic faith to secure her throne.  Okay, he had the strategy, now to implement it.

Philip’s Decision to Propose Marriage

Philip’s instructions to his ever-faithful ambassador, de Feria, on 10 January 1559 were to propose marriage to Elizabeth Regina when de Feria could obtain a private audience with Elizabeth.  The ever-cautious king did stipulate that Count Feria was not to propose any conditions until he ascertained “how the Queen is disposed towards the matter itself” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).  Philip did struggle with his conscience and “many great difficulties” but he “decided to place on one side all other considerations which might be urged against it” and was “resolved to render this service to God, and offer to marry the queen of England”  (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).  He wrote to his Ambassador in England that he believed as a faithful Catholic he had “to sacrifice my private inclination” and if “it was not to serve God, believe me, I would not have got into this… Nothing would make me do this except the clear knowledge that it would gain the kingdom [of England] for his service and faith” (Somerset 107).

The difficulties Philip envisioned with the marriage included his obligation to be in his other dominions and therefore could not be in England; Elizabeth’s lack of sincere commitment to the Catholic faith; the French perceived threat to their interests; and, Spain’s exhausted treasury.  Despite these and “many other difficulties no less grave,” Philip admits that he “cannot lose sight of the enormous importance of such a match to Christianity and the preservation of religion” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).   Philip did not think he could, in all conscience, risk the loss of England, and put neighboring countries in danger, to the Protestant faith.  

Ip2 for part V
Philip II by Anthonis Mor Van Dashorst, 1549-1555

Philip figured that as Elizabeth would have to be Catholic to marry him, it would “be evident and manifest” that he was “serving the Lord in marrying her and that she has been converted by his act” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).   Not so astonishingly, Philip wanted to portray himself with having the upper hand, being seen as the benefactor of as many things as possible and to once again force a sense of obligation on Elizabeth.

Count de Feria, so loyal to his country and king, could not contemplate that Elizabeth would not readily marry Philip.  Imagine his surprise when she thanked him for the compliments but requested time to think it over—which she did for several months. 

Perhaps de Feria would have done well to have remembered Elizabeth’s comments in November 1558 when she referred to the loss of the peoples’ affections that her sister Mary experienced upon marriage to a foreigner.  This topic was discussed more thoroughly in the blog entry, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part IV” at

Elizabeth told de Feria that she would lay the question before her Privy Council and Parliament.  The Ambassador certainly had an ear to the ground.  He heard the rumblings that Elizabeth’s First Parliament was going to push forward the issue of her marriage (this topic has been discussed in the blog entry “Heir Unapparent” at  He advised his king on 31 January 1559 “to wait for Parliament to press the Queen to marry” which she did not want to have happen.  If she did declare her choice while Parliament was sitting, “if the person chosen is not to their liking they could use the national voice to stop the affair” (Hume Simancas January 1559 13).

Elizabeth assured Count de Feria that if she were to marry anyone it would be Philip. Of course, the councilors were against it, just as she probably suspected they would be.  Elizabeth understood the diplomatic responses she had to make.  She was holding out on giving a true answer as she waited for the international scene to unfold and she did not think it was politic to turn Philip down outright, as she needed Spain and his good will.

One objection Elizabeth raised to the marriage was the consanguinity of her relationship with Philip. As the widow of her sister, she walked the fine line as her father had married his brother’s widow.  Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon based on the violation of the Book of Leviticus.  A dispensation from the Pope would tactically admit her illegitimacy by saying that she and Philip could marry; there could be no way to apply the objection of consanguinity to Henry and Catherine’s marriage because if they were legally married, Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn would have been bigamous.

Elizabeth Regina, Coronation Portrait

By the time of his letter to his King on February 12th, de Feria was clued to Elizabeth’s responses and her delays.  He reported that at his audience with her the day before she “began to answer me by keeping to her old argument for not wishing to marry” but when he “cut short the reply” and pressed for an answer his exasperation could be felt.  “I soon understood what the answer would be, namely, that she did not think of marrying, and so to shelve the business with fair words” (Hume Simancas February 1559 14). So ended this conversation, yet, the Count’s optimism could not be curtailed.  He believed that even though he “would have no answer that was not a very good one” he “left the matter open” (Hume Simancas February 1559 14).

By February 12, Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador to King Philip’s Court was conceding that “the discussion about the Queen’s marriage to this King has in great measure ceased, and it seems that the whole of this negotiation will depend on the resolve of Parliament about religion” (Brown Venice February 1559 21).

Some flippancy could not be held back from a London writer in correspondence with Paulo Tiepolo. Tiepolo related that the Londoner revealed that “Parliament also sent a deputation to pray the Queen that she will be pleased to marry within the Realm” and although no particular candidate was mentioned “her Majesty, after having first made some verbal resistance to the first point, as becoming a maiden, replied that to oblige them she would marry; adding with regard to the second point, that she had well seen how many inconveniences her sister was subjected to, from having married a foreigner. Obviously, knowing Elizabeth fairly well, the correspondent continued “some persons are of the opinion that she will marry to please herself (as it seems to me that I also should do the like), and perhaps a person of not much lineage. Amongst those most frequently mentioned is a gentleman who is now in Flanders, and who is said to be ill there. Guess who he is!” (Brown Venice February 1559 19).  Robert Dudley never was out of peoples’ thoughts as Elizabeth’s possible consort.

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 

One thing that discomposed the Ambassador was the suspicion he had over the integrity of his correspondence with Spain.  He wrote to his fellow ministers in a debriefing at the end of February 1559 that sometimes it seemed as if Elizabeth could read his thoughts.  He speculated that Elizabeth was “so well informed about this that it looks as if she had seen His Majesty’s letters.  This should be taken good note of” (Hume Simancas February 1559 17).

The Rejection

On 19 March, de Feria shared with Philip that during his audience with Elizabeth she told him “she could not marry your Majesty as she was a heretic. I was much surprised to hear her use such words and begged her to tell me the cause of so great a change since I last discussed the subject with her, but she did not enlighten me” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

By this time the international situation had shifted as she was in sounder diplomatic standing with France and she could not keep up the pretext that she would be a Catholic.  She and Parliament were pressing forward with religious changes as de Feria wrote to Philip on March 18th that she was “resolved about what was yesterday passed in Parliament, and which Cecil and Chamberlain Knollys and their followers have managed to bring about for their own ends” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

Feria was quite astounded by her response which he could only contribute to those heretics who “leave no stone unturned to compass their ends that no doubt they have persuaded her that your Majesty wishes to marry her for religious objects alone, and so she kept repeating to me that she was heretical and consequently could not marry your Majesty” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  Fearful of losing the objective Feria told his King that he assured her that he “did not consider she was heretical and could not believe that she would sanction the things which were being discussed in Parliament, because if she changed the religion she would be ruined” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

Now we see the blend of religious policy, marriage policy and foreign policy. In Spanish eyes to balance all three was virtually impossible. Those Spanish eyes were not viewing Elizabeth Regina in all her determined glory.  Elizabeth was determined to return her country to the Church of Henry VIII if not Edward VI; she was determined not to marry; and she was equally determined to pacify French and Spanish demands.  Paulo Tiepolo wrote from Brussels on 19 March 1559 to the Doge that the Bishop of Aquila told him that Elizabeth risked “alienating herself entirely from the Catholic religion” but he also “bestowed on her as much praise for talent and ability as was ever given to any other woman” (Brown Venice March 1559 44).  High praise indeed.

Lorenzo Priuli, Doge of Venice

Philip wrote to his Ambassador, Count de Feria, on 23 March after the negotiations for marriage to Elizabeth had failed expressing lukewarm regret.  “By your letters and by the bishop of Aquila I am informed of the Queen’s decision about the marriage, and, although I cannot help being sorry that the affair has not been arranged, as I greatly desired and the public weal demanded, yet as the Queen thinks it was not necessary and that with good friendship we shall attain the same object, I am content that it should be so” (Hume Simancas March 1559 19).

Elizabeth was to rely on Philip’s “friendship implicitly so that no opportunity shall be presented for the French to be appealed to in case of necessity.…”  The Hapsburg interests emerged in the direct mission for de Feria: “The main end and aim that you must have in view in all things is to obstruct and impede, by every way, form and means, any rupture between the Catholics and heretics in England, this being the best course for the pacification of the country, and for the welfare of our interests, as it will deprive the French of any excuse for putting their foot in the country, which is the thing principally to be avoided” (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).  Quite an assignment.

As always Philip needed to cover all his bases.  Worried that “the Queen might perhaps think I was offended at her rejection of the marriage,” he wrote a separate letter to de Feria that was to be presented to Elizabeth. For a man who approached the proposal feeling “like a condemned man awaiting his fate” (Somerset 107), he wanted to maintain the idea of friendship between them.  The letter Feria was commissioned to give to Elizabeth stressed to her that Philip was “quite satisfied with what pleases her.”  Feria was given a bit of leeway by his boss to give the necessary “complimentary words and offers of service…in accord with the contents of the letter” and Spanish interests (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).

It is good to see Philip acknowledge the diligence of his hard-working Ambassador by including in the letter praise for “the prudence, moderation and zeal” Count de Feria had shown in all his dealings with the Queen.  The King thanked his servant but could not help but send a not-so-subtle message that he expected Feria “to continue the same care, diligence and good will in the guidance of affairs touching my interests” (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).

The King wanted his ambassador to ensure the Queen understood that he would always be ready to assist her and cooperate with her government.  Philip did want to assure her that he would “preserve the good friendship and brotherhood that I have hitherto maintained.” Elizabeth was also to be advised that Philip would “render her any service in the matter of her marriage …with all the goodwill …ever shown in matters that concern her” (Hume Simancas March 1559 19).

Elizabeth took the chance to tease de Feria on his master’s inconstancy saying that if Philip would not change religions for “all the kingdoms of the earth” then “much less would he do it for a woman.”  Feria’s romantically diplomatic answer was that “men did more for a woman than for anything else” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  According to his report, Elizabeth shifted the line of the interview by discussing the large sums of money taken out of the country every year for the Pope and that she knew it must be ended.

Interestingly, Feria revealed a maneuver on the part of Sir Francis Knollys.  He said that about a half hour after they were talking, Knollys came to announce supper was ready.  Feria clearly thought this was “arranged by those who are working this wickedness, for there is nothing that annoys them more than that I should speak to her.”  He took his leave and informed Philip that he told her “that she was not the Queen Elizabeth that I knew and that I was very dissatisfied with what I had heard, and if she did what she said she would be ruined” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  Pretty courageous fellow.

 Sir Francis Knollys

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part II

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part II

To understand the relationship between Elizabeth Regina and Philip II, a study must be made of the events of their association and the outcomes.  These include two attempts to place Elizabeth on the throne during Mary’s reign; the role Philip played in how Elizabeth was treated in the aftermath of each rebellion; and Mary’s view of her sister’s place in the succession.

Wyatt Rebellion, 1554
Sir Thomas Wyatt was the leader of a rebellion instigated in early 1554 by Mary’s proposed marriage to Philip of Spain.  Once she became queen, Mary repealed the act which declared her parents’ marriage invalid and herself illegitimate.  She was, as queen, a highly eligible match even though she was 37, certainly middle-aged in that era.  She assured Charles V she would be guided by him in her selection of husband, and low and behold his son, Philip, a widower at 26, was the most eligible prince in Catholic Europe.  Mary was determined to marry him.

thomas wyatt
Sir Thomas Wyatt

The Wyatt Rebellion caused her to take decisive action.  She went to the Guildhall and gave a speech to the populace assuring them that she married Philip only with the consent of her councilors and that she was firstly married to her kingdom.

Wyatt did enter London; Mary sent her troops after him.  She did not flee and, while she was praying for her country’s safety, Wyatt was captured.  The rebel said he took action being “persuaded, that by the marriage of the Prince of Spain, the second person of this realm, and next heir to the crown, should have been in danger; and I, being a free-born man, should, with my country, have been brought into bondage and servitude of aliens and strangers” (Strype 132).  Rebellion was saving England from the Catholic scourge by ‘the second person of this realm.’  Thus, Elizabeth was implicated although Wyatt never named her during his interrogations or on the scaffold.  Elizabeth was sent to the Tower for two months where she was held prisoner, questioned and intimidated.     

bloody mary     elizabeth 1 by scrouts
  Mary I                                           Princess Elizabeth 

Simon Renard, Ambassador to Spain, wrote to his sovereign, Charles V, 22 March 1554 that there was disagreement in the Council when “it was proposed to throw the Lady Elizabeth into the Tower, the Council expressed a wish to know exactly the reason, and the upshot was that the heretics combined against the Chancellor, and stuck to it that the law of England would not allow of such a measure because there was not sufficient evidence against her, that her rank must be considered and that she might perfectly well be confined elsewhere than in the Tower.”  Renard relayed that no one would “accept the responsibility of taking custody of her.”  Because of the councilors shying away from taking charge of Elizabeth, they “decided to conduct her to the Tower last Saturday, by river and not through the streets; but it did not happen that day, because when the tide was rising Elizabeth prayed to be allowed to speak to the Queen, saying the order could not have been given with her knowledge, but merely proceeded from the Chancellor’s hatred of her. If she could not speak to the Queen, she begged to be allowed to write to her. This was granted, and while she was writing the tide rose so high that it was no longer possible to pass under London bridge, and they had to wait till the morrow” (Tyler XII March).

Simon_Renard    charles v
  Simon Renard                                    A Youthful Charles V

Elizabeth had achieved her purposes: she had postponed her imprisonment in the Tower and had written to her sister.  This letter of March 16, 1554, one of Elizabeth’s most famous, was a marvel how she handled her sister and logically argued her innocence while writing under distressing circumstances. 

Elizabeth beseeched Mary to remember her agreement to Elizabeth’s request “That I be not condemned without answer and due proof.” Elizabeth wanted her sister to know that “I am by your Council from you commanded to go unto the Tower, a place more wonted for a false traitor than a true subject.”  Although she bravely declared that she will go and be proved innocent, she pledged to her sister “I protest afore God that I never practiced, counseled, nor consented to anything that might be prejudicial to your person any way or dangerous to the state by any mean.”  Elizabeth appealed for an opportunity to meet with the Queen to tell her in person of her innocence and asked her sister to pardon her boldness, excusing her actions “which innocency procures me to do, together with the hope of your natural kindness.…”  The evidence of a letter written by Wyatt is addressed by logically stating “he might peradventure write me a letter, but on my faith I never received any from him.”  Elizabeth completed the letter by making diagonal lines across the bottom so that nothing could be inserted and signed herself “Your highness’ most faithful subject that hath been from the beginning and will be to my end, Elizabeth”   (Marcus 41-42). 

diagonal letters 001
   The letter Elizabeth wrote to Mary in March of 1554

Her collaboration in the rebellion was never proven.  Renard suggests that Gardiner “held documentary evidence of her [Elizabeth’s] active interest in the plot, but that he destroyed this because it also involved young Courtenay” (Queen Elizabeth 110).  Not having direct proof of her sister’s guilt, Mary was reluctant to condemn Elizabeth and so  released her to house arrest.  John Foxe informed “The xix daye of Maye, the Ladye Elizabeth, Sister to the Queene, was brought oute of the Tower, and committed to the kepyng of Syr Henry Benifielde… shewed himself more harde and strayte unto her, then eyther cause was geven of her parte, or reason of his owne parte.”  Foxe showed the surprise not in Bedingfield’s  bad treatment but in the benevolence shown by Elizabeth once she came to the throne.  Praising her for not taking revenge as other monarchs “oftentimes requited lesse offences with losse of life,” Foxe explained that Elizabeth did not deprive Bedingfield of his liberty “save only that he was restrained  for not comming to the court” (Foxe V 1072).

StephenGardiner    John_Foxe
  Stephen Gardiner                                               John Foxe

When she was released from Woodstock, it was to come to Court to witness the birth of Mary’s heir.  Sources differ on when Mary’s pregnancy was officially announced with some historians, such as Jasper Ridley, claiming it was in the spring of 1555 while we have an official document from January.  The Doge Francesco Venier of Venice did send his Ambassador Giovanni Michiel instructions 5 January 1555 to congratulate the King and Queen on the “certainty now obtained of the Queen giving an heir to the realm” (Brown VI January 5).  Further exclamations were extended for this “auspicious and desired event” concluding this was a “great gift conferred on the whole of Christendom” (Brown VI January  6). 

venier doge
Francesco Venier, Doge of Venice

Regardless of when it was officially announced, the impending event did affect Elizabeth.  On 29 April 1555, Michiel reported to the Doge, “that day or on the morrow Elizabeth Tudor was to arrive at Hampton Court from Woodstock.” Then on the 6th of May he informed the Venetian officials that when Elizabeth “appeared she was neither met nor received by anyone, but was placed in the apartment lately inhabited by the Duke of Alva, where she lives in retirement, not having been seen by any one, save once or twice by their Majesties, by private stairs” (Brown VIPreface 16).  

Elizabeth was housed with a “certain Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor. I am told …they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). No ifs, ands or buts about it, Elizabeth was still under house arrest.   Elizabeth’s release is credited to Philip’s influence on Mary.  Philip realized without an heir born of Mary, Elizabeth would be the successor.  To preserve Hapsburg interests, Philip realized Elizabeth had to be married to a Catholic prince: the intended bridegroom was Emmanuel Philibert, Prince of Piedmont and titular Duke of Savoy. 

Philip had plans for Elizabeth.  Antoine de Noailles wrote to the Queen-Dowager of Scotland in September 1555 informing her of Elizabeth’s popularity and the fact that “his Grace, the said Lord King, has shown a friendly disposition for her, and he has written several letters to the Queen, his wife, commending the Princess to her care”  (Queen Elizabeth I 200).

Dudley Conspiracy, Late 1555 -1556

Another rebellion against the reign of Queen Mary began in December 1555.  In a letter to Sir William Petre, Secretary of State, dated January 21, 1556, Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury and English Ambassador to France, wrote of information he had gleaned from an informant.  There was a “plot against the Queen which he said was devised by some of the best in England, and so many were agreed thereupon that it was impossible but that it must take effect; that the matter had been in hand about a year ago.”  The conspirators’ intentions were not to kill her Majesty “but to deprive her of her estate…” Wotton “did not think it necessary to write thereof to her Majesty lest she might suddenly be troubled with it, and conceive some greater fear of it than were good for her to do.”  Petre was to inform the Queen when “it shall not disquiet her Majesty” (Turnbull 285-286).  Mary was disquieted though and fearful for her life. 

WilliamPetre       Nicholas_Wotton
    Sir William Petre                            Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury

Called the Dudley Conspiracy for the main instigator, Sir Henry Dudley (a distant relative to John Dudley, the executed Duke of Northumberland and Robert Dudley, the future favorite of Elizabeth), its purpose became clearer as the investigation continued.   Mary and Philip were to be deposed and replaced by Elizabeth with her consort being Edward Courtenay. 

Imprisoned during the time of Henry VIII, Courtenay spent 15 years in confinement.  Released upon Mary’s ascension to the throne, he was created 1st Earl of Devon and sent on several diplomatic missions.  His hopes of marriage to Mary fell flat when she espoused Philip.  Courtenay then turned his attention to Elizabeth obviously seeing marriage as his way to the throne.  After serving more time in the Tower for the Wyatt Rebellion, the Earl of Devon was exiled to Europe until his death in September of 1556.  He found acceptance in Venice where he became the focal point for further conspiracies such as the Dudley Rebellion.

Edward Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon

Several prominent supporters of the rebellion were Lord Thomas Howard, Sir Peter Killigrew, Henry Peckham and several members of the Throckmorton clan.  One cannot underestimate the organization of Dudley and his fellow conspirators.  They raised money, attempted to gain powerful allies such as the King of France and landed gentry, approached Courtenay and saturated England with anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish writings. It was subversive writings such as these that were found in the London residence of Kat Ashley, governess to Princess Elizabeth. 

Giovanni Michiel, Ambassador to England for Venice kept the Doge and the Venetian Senate informed of what was occurring.  Michiel reported on 2 June, “The number of persons imprisoned increases daily… Mistress [Katharine] Ashley was taken thither [to the Tower], she being the chief governess of Miladi Elizabeth, the arrest, together with that of three other domestics, having taken place in the country, 18 [Venetian] miles hence, even in the aforesaid Miladi’s own house [Hatfield], and where she at present resides, which has caused great general vexation.  I am told that they have all already confessed to having known about the conspiracy; so not having revealed it, were there nothing else against them, they may probably not quit the Tower alive, this alone subjecting them to capital punishment. This governess was also found in possession of those writings and scandalous books against the religion and against the King and Queen which were scattered about some months ago, and published all over the kingdom” (Brown VIJune 505).

Kat Ashley

People close to Elizabeth knew about the plot — that has been well established.  How involved was Elizabeth? The only written link between her and the rebels occurred in February 1556 when Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France wrote to the French Ambassador, Antoine de Noailles that “above all restrain Madame Elizabeth from stirring at all in the affair of which you have written to me, for that would be to ruin everything” (Queen Elizabeth I 203).  Can this letter be seen as proof of Elizabeth’s willing cooperation with the Dudley plot?  Although it is damaging, it is not conclusive.  This could be a misinterpretation of information gathered by the Constable or wishful thinking. 

Constable of France
Anne, Duke de Montmorency, Constable of France

Noailles and King Henri II were implicated in the Dudley plot.  Because the international diplomatic scene had changed with the Vaucelles truce, Henri did not want to antagonize Charles and Philip so he “advised the conspirators to defer the execution of their plans” which they ignored (Acton 544).  The success of the plot depended on too many people and too many variables (this blog will not relay the details there are many sources available including contemporary diplomatic dispatches in the Calendar of State Papers-Venice Volume VI).  A conspirator, Thomas White, on staff at the Royal Exchequer was to ensure the robbery of funds to finance the conspiracy (Whitelock Mary Tudor 303).  Ambassador Michiel wondered if White came forward “either from hope of reward, or to exculpate himself… revealed the plot to Cardinal Pole” (Brown VI March 5 434).  White was rewarded as shown in the Originalia Roll (the fine roll sent to the Exchequer) for Mary and Philip because “of good and faithful service by our beloved servant, Thomas White, gentleman, in the late conspiracy against us, our crown and dignity attempted not long since by Henry Dudley and his accomplices” (Thoroton Society 52).  A known conspirator rewarded: what of Elizabeth? 

henri ii
King Henri II of France

Convinced that Elizabeth was aware of the plot, Mary sent her trusted courtier, Francesco Piamontese, to Brussels to consult with Philip on how to handle the situation.  Venetian Ambassador Michiel went further to explain that this issue was very sensitive because of Kat Ashley’s involvement “by reason of her grade with the “Signora,” who is held in universal esteem and consideration” (Brown VI June 505).  So not only is a trusted servant of Elizabeth’s in possession of seditious materials, it appears to be universally acknowledged that Elizabeth is very popular. Would it be wise to move against her too aggressively?  A tricky situation for Mary.

In June Michiel wrote to his superiors in Venice, “Finally, at the very hour when persons were departing, her chamberlain and the courier Francesco Piamontese returned” from Brussels to the Queen’s relief.  “As for many months the Queen has passed from one sorrow to another” (Brown VI June 525). 

So what was to become of Elizabeth?  What guidance had Philip given his wife concerning the suspicions of her sister?  What Mary received was pro-Hapsburgian advice. Despite Michiel’s predicitons, none of Elizabeth’s household members were executed nor was she punished. Although there was strong evidence that those around her were involved in treasonous activities (Kat Ashley being in posession of the seditious materials was enough cause for punishment beyond time in the Tower) and questions concerning what Elizabeth knew, any action against her would threaten her succession.  “There is little doubt that it was the King’s influence which prevented Elizabeth herself from being again arrested on this occasion and sent to the Tower with the four other members of her household.  It is difficult otherwise to account for Mary’s leniency” (Queen Elizabeth I 209).

tower of london
Tower of London

Hapsburg interests demanded that Elizabeth be heir to the throne of England over Mary, Queen of Scots.  Mary had the surest position of inheritance after Elizabeth and as the fiancé of the dauphin of France, could unite Scottish, French and English dominions and interests which would threaten the power of Spain. Hapsburg interests prevailed.  “Piamontese returned to London with an unequivocal message from the king: no further inquiries should be made into Elizabeth’s guilt, nor any suggestion made that her servants had been implicated in the plot with her authority” (Whitlock 307).  Philip was more than willing to be lenient with Elizabeth.  By 1556 few people believed that Mary would produce an heir and looked toward Elizabeth to be the next queen.  It probably was wise on the part of the councilors not to antagonize Elizabeth.  She was considered the preferred heir, and her smooth succession could halt potential civil conflict or French interference to place Mary Stuart on the throne—both good enough reasons to leave well-enough alone.

So, astoundingly, Elizabeth remained free.  Protestations of ignorance about her household’s activities were enough.  Mary probably did not believe her but allowed the stories that Elizabeth’s name had been used without authority to be circulated.  This blogger cannot help but feel for the position in which Mary was placed.  Her motto, ‘Truth, Daughter of Time,’ seemed to be jeopardized as she did her husband’s bidding; although, with most of Mary’s submissiveness it was up to a point. 

According to Michiel, in June of 1556 Mary sent two of her gentlemen, Sir Henry Hastings, and Sir H. Francis Englefield, to Elizabeth with a “message of good will…with a ring worth 400 ducats, and also to give her minute account of the cause of their arrest, to aquaint her with what they had hitherto deposed and confesssed, and to persaude her not to take amiss the removal from about her persons of similar folds, who subjected her to the danger of some evil suspicion; assuring her of the Queen’s good will and disposiiton, provided she continue to live becomingly, to Her Majesty’s liking.  Using in short loving and gracious expressions, to show her that she is neither neglected nor hated, but loved and esteemed by Her Majesty.  This message is considered most gracious by the whole kindom, everybody in general wishing her all ease and honour, and very greatly regretting any trouble she may incure; the proceeding having been not only necessary but profitable, to warn her of the licentious life led, especially in matters of religion, by her household” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

henry hastings
  Henry Hastings 

Ambassador Michiel let on that Elizabeth’s household would be made up of persons the Queen believed to better serve her.  It is assumed Mary thought her sister guilty and urged Elizabeth “to keep so much the more to her duty, and together with her attendants behave the more cautiously” (Queen Elizabeth I 210).

Mary feigned that she believed Elizabeth had been in danger of “being thus clandestinely exposed to the manifest risk of infamy and ruin.” So, the solution was for the Queen to remodel Elizabeth’s household “in another form, and with a different sort of persons to those now in her service, replacing them by such as are entirely dependent on her Majesty; so that as her own proceedings and those of all such persons as enter or quit her abode will be most narrowly scanned” (Brown VIJune 505).

Assigned to Elizabeth’s household was “Sir Thomas Pope, a rich and grave gentleman, of good name, both for conduct and religion; the Queen having appointed him Miladi’s governor, and she having accepted him willingly, although he himself did his utmost to decline such a charge. I am told that besides this person, they also assigned her a widow gentlewoman, as governess, in lieu of her own who is a prisoner, so that at present having none but the Queen’s dependents about her person, she herself likewise may be also said to be in ward and custody, though in such decorous and honourable form as becoming” (Brown VI June 514). 

  Sir Thomas Pope

Pope was commissioned by Mary’s Council in July of 1556 to keep Elizabeth informed of the activities confessed by the Dudley conspirators “how little these men stick, by falsehood, and untruth, to compass their purpose; not letting, for that intent, to abuse the name of her Grace, or any others” (Queen Elizabeth I 213). 

Elizabeth did write to the Queen in careful phraseology about the information she had received from Pope.  “Of this I assure your majesty, though it be my part above the rest to bewail such things though my name had not been in them, yet it vexeth me too much …as to put me in any part of his [the devil] mischievous instigations.  And like as I have been your faithful subject from the beginning of your reign, so shall no wicked persons cause me to change to the end of my life.  And thus I commit your majesty to God’s tuition, whom I beseech long time to preserve … from Hatfield this present Sunday, the second day of August. Your majesty’s obedient subject and humble sister, Elizabeth” (Marcus 43-44).

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I

Many of Elizabeth Regina’s international affairs were intertwined with those of Philip II.  Most students of history understand his connection as King of Spain and the adversary who lost The Spanish Armada.  Many forget his role as ruler of the Netherlands and Elizabeth’s opposition to his sovereignty there.  Even more do not realize his role as her brother-in-law, Philip was married to Elizabeth’s half-sister Mary for several years.  What was the basis of their relationship?  Did Elizabeth feel any allegiance to Philip for the contribution he made to her relationship with her sister and her position at Court? How did this association influence both countries’ foreign policies?  These questions and several others will be addressed in a series of blogs entitled “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd”.

Philip II 

Who was Philip II of Spain?  Born 21 May 1527, his parents were Charles I of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor) and Isabella of Portugal.  Given a classical education, he was also given practical instruction.  Philip spent much time as interim ruler of Spain while his father traveling through his domains and much of Philip’s time was spent in the 17 Provinces of the Spanish Netherlands (territories of modern day Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg) where he became nominal ruler from 1549.

Married four times, he was created King of Naples upon his marriage to his second wife, Mary I of England, in order to share equal rank as a ruling sovereign with his new bride.  Philip arrived in Winchester on July 19, 1554, where he met with Mary for the first time prior to their marriage held in the cathedral on 25 July 1554.

  Philip II

As King of Naples and England, Philip’s main concern at all times was for Hapsburg interests.  Leaving England for Flanders in late August of 1555, he attempted to impose the will of the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe.  He returned to his wife 18 March 1557 to request her support in the war against France.  He left again four months later never to return.  Mary did embroil England in a war with France on behalf of his interests and lost Calais January 7, 1558.

Philip’s royal rank was secured when his father abdicated in 1556 and he became ruler in the Spanish Netherlands, Burgundy and Spain. Besides titles in many European territories that had once been part of the Holy Roman Empire, Philip became King of Portugal in 1580 through his mother’s claims.

Referred to accurately as the “secretary-king” or the “king of paper”, Philip ruled “through the written word rather than through personal contact and debate.” As a young king he was a “shy, passive, sedentary man” resolving perfectly to rule his “far-flung dominions with pen and ink alone” (Boyden 66).  Words to describe Philip would be pious, frugal in dress and at table, hard-working, and conscientious.  This blogger believes his dominate trait was loyalty—to the Hapsburg interests.  Politically, this trait overshadowed his religious scruples; religiously, this trait overshadowed his politics. Regardless, from the time of his father’s abdication until his own death at the age of 71 in 1598, Philip ruled absolutely. On one occasion, he wrote “I don’t know if [people] think I’m made of iron or stone. The truth is, they need to see that I am mortal, like everyone else” — but he seldom had qualms about exercising his absolute power (Parker).  Surprisingly, the cautious almost hesitant Philip of his early reign morphed into a more reckless, imprudent ruler in his later years as he struggled with his country’s relations with the Low Countries and England.

bloody mary
  Mary I

England’s military and financial assistance to the Dutch rebels, the seizure of Spanish bullion ships and lack of cooperation with Spain—as perceived by Philip—led to deteriorating relations between the two countries.  Whereas Elizabeth ruled in a time of change, ironically in the face of her motto Semper eadem, he was seen to hold to tradition.  While she did try to keep things familiar, he had to innovate in response to the needs of his vast empire and the shifting international scene.

Despite four marriages and the births of many children, Philip constantly contended with inadequate heirs who were sickly or mentally unstable.  He exclaimed once in frustration, “God, who has given me so many Kingdoms to govern, has not given me a son fit to govern them” (Philip II of Spain).

Mary I

Upon the death of Edward VI and the proclamation of Jane Grey as Queen, there was confusion and anger from the London masses.  Many landowners favored the ‘old religion’ and thus supported Mary when she came to call on the magnates to rally troops for her cause.  She stunned the foreign ambassadors (most likely thinking she couldn’t succeed without foreign troops and intervention) with a following of thousands at Framlingham in Suffolk.

The rationale included in Jane’s proclamation was set to instill fear in the country.  It was a warning that if Mary were to take over the throne and eventually marry “any stranger born out of this realm…to have the laws and customs of his … country …practiced and put in use within this realm, rather than the laws, statues, and customs here… of long time used, …to the peril of conscience and the utter subversion of the common weal of this realm” (Castor 409).

  The “Streatham” portrait believed to be Lady Jane Grey

Mary’s sex and the traditional role of wife were against her but the people knew her to be the rightful heir.  When she was set to marry Philip of Spain and the people expressed their concern, she gave a rousing speech to ease their fears.  Mary proclaimed, “I am already married to the Common Weal and the faithful members of the same; the spousal ring whereof I have on my finger: which never hitherto was, nor hereafter shall be, left off.  Protesting unto you nothing to be more acceptable to my heart, nor more answerable to my will, than your advancement in wealth and welfare, with the furtherance of God’s glory” (Loades Chronicle of Tudor Queens 36).  This assertion that she was married to her kingdom was a smart political move.

Many people in the country could not fathom that as a woman she did not need a husband to carry out “the offices which do not properly belong to woman’s estate” (Castor 428). Linked to this was the belief that Mary would not hand over the power of England to her husband.  The marriage treaty solved this fear.  Philip would have little to do with the running of the country.  He could assist and that was about it. Mary would do all in her power to appear to include him yet there was no doubt that she, who had been trained as a sovereign Princess of Wales, would be ruler of England.  In the Council Register two days after their marriage it was noted that “At Winchester, 27th July, This daye it was ordered by the boarde that a note of all such matteres of state as should passe from hence should be pute into Latten and Spanyche from henceforth.  It was also ordered that all matteres of estate passynge in the kinge and quenes names should be signed with both their handes” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 135). So he could read documents in Spanish, he could sign them, but he would be greatly restricted in his formal influence.

Philip mary
Mary and Philip 

Did Mary need a husband to help rule England.  No.  She needed one for an heir though. She had misread her people.  They opposed the foreign match with Philip.  Yes, he was Catholic, the choice of the advisor she so admired (Charles V), and he was from her mother’s homeland.  These emotional elements were also supported by the more practical and political merits of his being a good choice from a limited selection.  It is well-known that Mary fell head-over-heels in love with Philip.  With a restricted formal influence, his informal influence was close to boundless. Giovanni Michiel, Ambassador to England for Venice reported to the Doge and the Venetian Senate that Queen Mary’s representative, Francesco Piamontese, was sent in June 1556 to Brussels because “it being credible that nothing is done, nor does anything take place, without having the King’s opinion about it, and hearing his will” (Brown VI June 1-15 505).

Charles V

Simon Renard, Ambassador to Spain in England was instructed to feel Mary out about the union.   Charles also inquired about his son’s view.  Dutifully, he responded “I very well see the advantages that might accrue from the successful conclusion of this affair.”  Philip assured his father, “ If you wish to arrange the match for me, you know that I am so obedient a son that I have no will other than yours” (Patterson 42-43).  Mary, showing as much filial loyalty as Philip assured Renard that she wanted to please Charles “in the same way she would wish to please her father” (Patterson 43).  The marriage was inevitable despite Mary’s need to have the Privy Council’s approval.  Charles V was aware of this and worked hard behind the scenes to get members on his side.  The importance of this marriage, uniting England and Hapsburg territories, was discussed in many contemporary writings; all agree that the purpose was for “temporal and spiritual peace and unity among Europeans” (Hunt 152).  Quite a mission.

 Simon Renard, Spanish Ambassador to England

John Elder shared many details about the ceremonies which marked the marriage between Mary and Philip in the summer of 1554.  Philip had “landed  at Southampton in Hamshire, within ten mile of the citie of Winchester, on Friday the xx day of July at iii of the clocke at afternone” and was met by “the lords of the counsel and diverse other noble men” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 137-138).  Philip rode through Winchester “on a faire white horse, in a riche coate embroidered with gold, his doublet, hosen, and hat suite-like” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).

Mary stayed at Wolvesey Palace (the Old Bishop’s Palace) and Philip was housed in the Dean’s house. They met on July 23rd for the first time at Wolvesey Palace and while some reports say Mary spoke French, most sources agree they conversed “in the Spanishe tongue” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 140).

Ruins of Wolvesey Palace, where Mary and Philip met for the first time

The wedding, held on 25 July 1554 the feast day of St. James, patron saint of Spain, was very sumptuous with many sources describing decorations of the churches and palaces and the splendor of the clothes and jewelry of the participants.  We know Philip was attired “in brocade, covered with white velvet, rich in gold and pearls, with a very rich brocade collar, a ruby robe, richly decorated with gold and pearls  and diamond buttons” (Hunt 148).  Mary was dressed “in silver cloth with a cloak …a very rich collar and hair decoration…a belt in the richest gold, with jewellery on the breast with a diamond in the center” (Hunt 148).

At the Cathedral Philip was met by the Bishop of Winchester, Stephen Gardiner Lord Chancellor and five other bishops all “mitred, coped, and staved” where he knelt, kissed the crucifix, prayed and then entered “upon a skafholde which was made for the solomnizacion of his marriage” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).  Remarkably, throughout the ceremony Mary was placed on the right and Philip on the left, the opposite of the conventional set-up.  Perhaps to placate her English subjects or her own feelings of triumph, Mary showed herself as the ruling sovereign with Philip as consort.

Stephen Gardiner, Lord Chancellor and Bishop of Winchester

Regardless of who was seen as sovereign and consort, the royal titles are impressive.  John Elder, with relish, gives the list in the “stile in Latin” and the “stile in Englishe” which will be recreated below:

"Philip and Marie, by the grace of God king and quene of England, 
Fraunce, Naples, Hierusalem, and Irelande, defenders of the faith, 
princes of Spain and Secy, archdukes of Austria, dukes of Millan,
Burgundy, and Brabant, counties of Haspurge, Flaunders, and Tiro” 
(Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 142).

After the ceremony Philip “addressed the Spanish lords who were about him, and told them they must at once forget all the customs of Spain, and live in all respects after the English fashion” (Nichols The Chronicle of Queen Jane 139).  Post wedding celebrations were then held at Wolvesey Palace where there was much “triumphing, bankating, singing, masking, and daunsing, as was never seen in Englande heretofore” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 136).

Winchester Cathedral

Two days later, in the Council Register it was noted that “At Winchester, 27th July, This daye it was ordered by the boarde that a note of all such matteres of state as should passe from hence should be pute into Latten and Spanyche from henceforth, and the same to be delyvered to such as it should please the kinges highnes to appointe to recave it.  It was also ordered that all matteres of estate passynge in the kinge and quenes names should be signed with both their handes” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 135).

Elder was beside himself exclaiming the joy after “this moste noble mariage” of seeing dual sovereignty with “the kinges magestie and the queen sitting under the cloth of estate” (Nichols Chronicle of Queen Jane 143).  We know this did not come to pass without problems.  In January of 1554, after hearing the rumors of a possible match between Mary and Philip, a group of gentlemen organized an uprising known as the Wyatt Rebellion.  This will be further discussed in the blog entry, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part II.”


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Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: June 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 394-402. British History Online. Web. 24 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor).  “Spain: July 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13:  1554-1558 (1954): 402-405.  British History Online.  Web. 14 July 2013. 

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: May 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 378-393. British History Online. Web. 17 July 2013.

Tyler, Royall (editor). “Spain: November 1558.” Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 13: 1554-1558 (1954): 435-442. British History Online. Web. 24 July 2013.

Waller, Maureen. Sovereign Ladies: Sex, Sacrifice, and Power : The Six Reigning Queens of England. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2008. Google Books. Web. 24 July 2013.

Wart, Thomas. The Life of Sir Thomas Pope, Founder of Trinity College Oxford, Chiefly Compiled from the Original Evidences, with an Appendix of Papers, Never Before Printed. 2nd ed. London: Thomas Cadell, n.d. Internet Archive. Web. 30 July 2013.

Weir, Alison.  The Life of Elizabeth I.  New York: Ballatine Books, 1998. Print.

Whitelock, Anna.  Mary Tudor:  Princess, Bastard, Queen. New York:  Random House, 2009. Print.

Announcing Elizabeth’s Birth

Elizabeth’s Birth Announcement:

In the summer of 1533, as the birth of the child of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn drew nearer, a courtier, John Russell, wrote in a letter to Lord Lisle, Captain of Calais, that he “never saw the King merrier” (Nichols 443). The royal couple were at Windsor until 21 August when they traveled to Whitehall.  From there on 26 August, they moved to Greenwich where Anne was to take to her chamber. This required a formal ceremony to be performed.  Anne went in procession to the Chapel Royal to hear mass, then to her Great Chamber.  She and her guests dined and then ate ceremoniously from a “goodly spice plate…of spice and comfettes.” The Lord Mayor of London provided “a cuppe of assaie of gold, and after that she had dronke, she gave the Maior the cuppe.” Once the refreshments were partaken of, Anne “under her Canapie, departed to her Chamber” and at the entry of her chamber, she gave her Canopy of State to the barons “accordyng to their clayme” (Hall 805). Anne’s Lord Chamberlain called for all to pray for the safe delivery of her child and then Anne and her women entered her chamber” (Hall 805).    Henry 8      anneboleyn
            King Henry VIII                           Queen Anne Boleyn

Anne’s chambers would have been altered tremendously to create the lying-in chamber to provide enough storage for multiple weeks of supplies and baby items.  Included would have been furniture: beds for the birth, recovery and ceremonies, and the baby cot; plus blankets, pillows and bedding.  An altar for religious services would have been included along with candlesticks, crucifixes and religious images.  Tapestries would have covered the walls, ceiling and all windows except for one.  Alison Weir stated that the tapestries showed St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins (Weir Six Wives 257).  David Starkey, on the other hand, informed that the tapestries would not have depicted animals or humans as that could trigger fantasies in the mother-to-be and lead to a deformed child (Starkey Elizabeth 2). Regardless of the decoration themes, one can envision the chamber as being a “cross between a chapel and a luxuriously padded cell” (Starkey Elizabeth 2).

greenwich 1533
 Greenwich 1533

William Blount, 4th Baron Mountjoy, Chamberlain to Catherine of Aragon sent to his counterpart in Anne’s household, George Brooke, 9th Baron Cobham, advice on the correct method for the confinement and ensuing ceremonies.  A general procedure had been followed for generations, and it was unlikely that Henry VIII would jeopardize the successful birth of his male heir by altering the steps in any way.  That is why the speculation that Henry kept Anne from her confinement in order to dupe the general population about the date of conception does not make sense.
george brooke
George Brooke, 9th Baron of Cobham and Queen Anne’s Lord Chamberlain

Once a woman entered her lying-in chamber, it was a signal that she did not expect to have her child for about a month. Anne gave birth within two weeks. How and why could there be such a miscalculation? Retha Warnicke speculates that Henry took advantage of Anne’s good health in the summer of 1533 and delayed her entry to her chamber.  He wanted to confuse people over the delivery date to convince them that the child had been conceived during the time of their marriage (Warnicke 164).  Would Henry do that?  Would he risk the health of his male child in such a way?  I do not think so.  Would he encourage people to assume the date of their wedding was earlier than it was?  Probably.

Chronicler Edward Hall insisted that Henry and Anne married on 14 November 1532 on “sainct Erkenwalds daie” and managed it to be “kept so secrete, that very fewe knewe it, til Builyne she was greate with child, at Easter after” (Hall 794).  Other sources state the wedding was on 25 January 1533.  Eric Ives speculates that the earlier date was used much afterwards to protect Elizabeth’s reputation against being born out of wedlock.  If a compromise theory is believed, a commitment ceremony could have been held in November that would “stand up in canon law– espousals de praesenti before witnesses which, if sealed by intercourse, would have been canonically valid …” (Ives 170).  Henry would have then held another ceremony, before a priest, in January once it was obvious Anne was pregnant: or could the mid-wives and physicians have underestimated the delivery date?  We will never know.  What we do know is that on “vii day of September being Sondaie, between thre and foure of the Clocke after noone, the Quene was delivred of a faire lady” (Hall 805).

The fact that the child was a girl was a shock to her parents so sure they were that they would have a son.  Tradition tells us that Henry responded appropriately to Anne by saying that all was well since they were both young “by God’s grace, boys will follow” (Weir, pg. 258).  Immediately following the birth, a Te Deum was sung and “great preparacion was made for the christening” with the Mayor of London, Stephen Peacock, and chief citizens “commaunded to bee at the Christenyng, the Wednesdaie folowyng” in all of their finery went by barge to Greenwich.  “All the walles betwene the Kynges place and the Friers, were hanged with Arras, and all the waie strawcd with grene” the Observant Friars Church was also hung in tapestries.  The font was “of siluer, and stoode in the midles of the Churche, three steppes high, whiche was couered with a line clothe … oner it hong a square Canape of crimosin Satten, fringed with golde” and in an area close by was a brazier with a fire in it to keep the child warm.  When “al these thynges wer ordered, the child was brought to the hall,” followed by members of Court with “the Erie of Essex, bearyng the couered Basins gilte, after hym the Marques of Excester with taper of virgin waxe, next hym the Marques Dorset, bearyng the salt, behynd-hym the lady Mary of Norffolk, bearyng the cesom whiche was very riche of perle & stone, the old Duches of Norffolk bare the childe” (Hall 805).   The child wore, in addition to a christening robe heavy and stiff with gold embroidery…a royal mantle of purple velvet and miniver, with a train so long that it was borne up by a lady and two gentlemen (Tytler 2).

Portrait identified as Frances Brandon Grey, Marchioness of Dorset, Duchess of Suffolk

An enthusiastic Hall continues to describe the scene as the Duke of Norfolk walked to the right of the baby, the Duke of Suffolk to the left and the Countess of Kent bore the train along with other noble ladies.  The baby’s uncle, Lord Rochford and three others carried a canopy over her.  When “the child was come to the churche dore, the bishop of London met it with diverse bishoppes and Abbottes mitred, and began the observances of the Sacrament” (Hall 806).

One godmother was the baby’s cousin, Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset; the other, who carried the child, was her great-grandmother, Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, the godfather was Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.  The Bishop of London John Stokesley, assisted by other clergy performed the ceremony (Tytler 2). The “childe was named Elizabeth: and after that al thyng was done, at the churche dore the child was brought to the Fount, and christened” (Hall 806).

agnes norfolk3
Agnes, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk

We are told that the Garter Chief King of Arms then proclaimed “God of His infinite goodness, send a prosperous life and long, to the high and mighty princess of England Elizabeth” (Strickland 4). Next Elizabeth was confirmed as part of the extended ceremony. Afterwards servants brought in “wafers, comfits and hypocras in such plenty that every man had as much as he would desire” (Somerset 4). “Then they set forwardes, the trumpettes goyng before in thesame ordre, towarde the kynges place, as they did when they came thether warde, … and in this ordre thei brought the princes, to the Quenes chamber (Hall 806).  With Henry VIII in attendance, Queen Anne received her child back while Londoners rejoiced with Court supplied wine and bonfires in the streets but no jousts or fireworks—this was a princess not a prince.  Publically Henry continued to reassure that the princess was not a disappointment.  Privately, as reported by a gleeful Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador, the birth was a “great regret both of him and the lady, and to the great reproach of the physicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and sorceresses, who affirmed that it would be a male child. But the people are doubly glad that it is a daughter rather than a son, and delight to mock those who put faith in such divinations, and to see them so full of shame” (Gairdner VI 1112).

How could the predictions go so wrong? 

Besides soliciting physicians’ opinions on the sex of the child, astrologers and soothsayers were also consulted.  Only one did not predict a son.  William Glover wrote to Queen Anne of a vision he had in which she gave birth to a “woman child” and he instructed she “should be delivered of your burden at Greenwich” (Gardiner VI 1599).

Physicians “studied astronomy, astrology, geometry, mathematics, music and philosophy” in the 16th century.  “The Tudors believed strongly in the divine plan ….  Fate, fortune and goodwill might cure” (Hurren). Included in the studies of sciences, astrology was certainly compatible with religion at this time.  Astrology was considered a way to understand God’s plan.  Henry VIII received predictions that the child Anne was carrying was a boy—there was no reason to doubt that.  God had punished Henry for co-habitating with his brother’s wife, Catherine of Aragon, against the teachings of Leviticus, by not granting living male children to that union.  Surely, he could not have misinterpreted the signs of the divine will to divorce Catherine.  Sons would come from his union with Anne.

AN00247557_001_l  AN00247559_001_hhl
Henry VIII’s astrolabe made for him by Bastien le Seney, royal clockmaker

References to prophecies and predictions were accepted at the time as were the “astrological superstitions of the generation” (Tytler 2). In one of his love letters to Anne, Henry showed a “personal interest in astrology: in attempting to dispel her fears about their forced separation” (Warnicke 165).

“I and my heart put ourselves in your hands. Let not absence lessen your affection; for it causes us more pain than I should ever have thought, reminding us of a point of astronomy that the longer the days are, the further off is the sun, and yet the heat is all the greater. So it is with our love, which keeps its fervour in absence, at least on our side. Prolonged absence would be intolerable, but for my firm hope in your indissoluble affection. As I cannot be with you in person, I send you my picture set in bracelets” (Brewer).

As Lutheran theologian Philipp Melancthon later said in his dedication to the text, Theological Commonplaces, “Henry is ‘the most learned of kings not only in theology, but also in other philosophy, and especially in the study of the movement of the heavens’. Since the king and his contemporaries held ‘a complex view of conception in which both the physical and spiritual’ were intertwined, he may have been persuaded of the validity of the prophecies about the child’s sex because he had personally done all that was necessary for him to earn and to merit a divine blessing in the form of a son” (Warnicke 165).

Theologian, Philipp Melancthon
Theological Commonplace, 1535 which had the dedication to Henry VIII.

“Anne’s skeptical attitude toward the most superstitious of them must have been well-known” as John Foxe later discussed it (Warnicke 165).  Foxe recounted a story that implied Anne’s “true faith …for when king Henry was with her at Woodstock, and there, being afraid of an old blind prophecy, for which neither he nor other kings before him durst hunt in the said park of Woodstock, nor enter into the town of Oxford, at last, through the Christian and faithful counsel of that queen, he was so armed against all infidelity, that both he hunted in the aforesaid park, and also entered into the town of Oxford, and had no harm”  (Foxe 136). Popular belief maintained that Henry did abide by the use of prophecies.
John Foxe

Certain the child would be a boy, Henry and Anne had selected the names of Edward and Henry and had asked Francis I, King of France to be godfather.  In a dispatch to Francis, his Ambassador, Jean de Dinteville, The Bailly of Troyes*, explains how he had been asked to “hold at the font the child of which the Queen is pregnant, if it is a boy” (Gairdner VI 1070).

As an aside, de Dinteville (also as known as d’Intevile Polizy) “chevalier Sieur de Polizy, near Bar-sur-Seyne, Bailly of Troyes who was Ambassador in England for King Francis I in the years 1532-1533” was identified in the late 19th century as one of the sitters in the Ambassadors painting by Hans Holbein (Hervey 12).  Without going into extreme detail, the clues in the painting confirmed what Hervey discovered on a fragment of manuscript.  An example would be the seigneurie, an area of manorial influence that de Dinteville held, was Polizy in Burgundy shown on the globe in the painting  (Hervey 8).
Jean de Dinteville, French Ambassador 
The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein, 1533
Jean de Dinteiville and Georges de Selve

There is no record of whether or not Francis I felt any sympathy for Henry’s disappointment but it was clear he would not be asked as godfather for a princess’s baptism. While de Dinteville showed his “complete allegiance to the Crown of France” (Hervey 41), being ready to fill whatever office would be required even for a princess, his Spanish counterpart, Eustace Chapuys, was interpreting the birth of a daughter to Henry as the divine will that “Misfortune manages well; and God has forgotten him entirely, hardening him in his obstinacy to punish and ruin him” (Gairdner VI 1112).

King Francis I of France   

After the ceremony de Dinteville exclaimed “the whole occasion was so perfect that nothing was lacking” (Hibbert 14).  Chapuys concluded “the christening has been like her mother’s coronation, very cold and disagreeable both to the Court and to the city, and there has been no thought of having the bonfires and rejoicings usual in such cases. After the child was baptised, a herald in front of the church-door proclaimed her princess of England (Gairdner VI 1125).
Eustace Chapuys, Spanish Ambassador

Prior to the christening, Chapuys claimed that the child would “be called Mary, like the Princess; which title, I hear in many quarters, will be taken from the true princess and given to her” (Gairdner 1112).  He had to retract saying “the daughter of the lady has been named Elizabeth, and not Mary” (Gairdner 1125).  Obviously, the child was named for her two grandmothers, Elizabeth of York and Elizabeth Howard.

So sure were the parents that the child would be a boy, official announcements, which were to be sent throughout the realm and to the Courts of Europe from the Queen listed the child as a prince.  One such letter is preserved written to Lord Cobham, Anne’s Chancellor informing him of the birth at Greenwich on 7 September during the 25th year of the reign of Henry (Gairdner VI 1089).   An ‘s’ was added to the word prince (see the facsimile below—the first is in the third line, center also shown in an enlargement—and secondly in the final sentence) which would have altered it enough in the 16th century to signify the word princess.
Letter of Lord Cobham– the area with the ‘s’ insertion is enlarged below.  A transcription is also included.

By the Quene
Right trustie and welbiloved, we grete you well. And where as it hath pleased the goodnes of Almightie God, of his infynite marcie and grace, to sende unto us, at this tyme, good spede, in the delyveraunce and bringing furthe of a Princes, to the great joye, rejoyce, and inward comforte of my Lorde, us, and all his good and loving subjectes of this his realme; for the whiche his inestymable benevolence, soo shewed unto us, we have noo litle cause to give high thankes, laude, and praising unto oure said Maker, like as we doo mooste lowly, humbly, and with all the inwarde desire of our harte. And inasmuche as we undoubtidly truste, that this oure good spede is to your great pleasure, comforte, and consolation, We, therefore, by thies our letters, advertise you thereof, desiring and hartely praying you to give, with us, unto Almightie God, high thankes, glorie, laude, and praising; and to praye for the good helth, prosperitie, and contynuall preservation of the said Princes accordingly. Yeven under our Signet, at my Lordis Manour of Grenewiche, the 7 day of September, in the 25th yere of my said Lordis reigne.
To oure right trustie and welbiloved, the Lorde Cobham.

During a lecture at the Newberry Library in Chicago on November 22, 2003, David Starkey stated that the most important document in Elizabeth’s life was the letter announcing her birth.  The Tudor Court needed a male heir.  Society held the  attitude that a woman would not be able to hold public office and have influence.

Anne Boleyn had disappointed Henry and the kingdom.  Everyone was yet to see the significance of the life of this child that began with such an unpleasant shock yet would produce a ruler with “the body of a weak and feeble woman …but the heart and stomach of a king, and a king of England too” (Marcus 326).

*The bailly was a French “Crown officer in whose name justice was administered throughout a certain district” (Hervey 38),


Brewer, J.S. (editor).  “Henry VIII: July 1527, 1-10.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 4: 1524-1530 (1875): 1465-1477. British History Online. Web. 02 June 2013.

Denny, Joanna. Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England’s Tragic Queen. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2006. Google Books. Web. 7 June 2013.

Doran, Susan.  Henry VIII:  Man & Monarch. London:  British Library, 2009. Print.

Eakins, Laura. “Elizabeth Birth Announcement.” TudorHistory. Google+Page, n.d. Web. 2 June 2013.

Elton, G. R. England Under the Tudors. Third ed. London:  Routledge, 1991.

Erickson, Carolly. The First Elizabeth. New York: Summit Books. 1983. Print.

Foxe, John. The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe: A New and Complete Edition. Ed. Stephen Reed Cattley, M. A., Rev. Vol. V. London: R.B. Seeley and W. Burnside, 1837. Google Books. Web. 4 June 2013.

Fraser, Antonia.  The Wives of Henry VIII.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1992. Print.

Gairdner, James (editor). “Henry VIII: Miscellaneous, 1533.” Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6: 1533 (1882): 449-466; 653-680. British History Online. Web. 02 June 2013.

Hall, Edward, Henry Ellis, and Richard Grafton. Hall’s Chronicle; Containing the History of England, during the Reign of Henry the Fourth, and the Succeeding Monarchs, to the End of the Reign of Henry the Eighth, in Which Are Particularly Described the Manners and Customs of Those Periods. London: Printed for J. Johnson and J. Rivington; T. Payne; WIlkie and Robinson; Longman, Hurst, Rees and Orme; Cadell and Davies; and J. Mawman, 1809. Internet Web. 2 Jan. 2013.

Hervey, Mary F. S., and Hans D. J. Holbein. Holbein’s ‘Ambassadors’, the Picture and the Men. London: G. Bell & Sons, 1900. Google Books. Web. 13 June 2013.

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New

York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Hurren, Elizabeth T., Dr., Senior Lecturer History of Medicine Oxford Brookes University.  “Henry VIII’s Medical World.” Henry VIII’s Medical World. Wellness Trust at Oxford Brookes University, n.d. Web. 7 June 2013.

Ives, Eric.  The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn: The Most Happy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Print.

Lindsey, Karen.  Divorced, Beheaded, Survived:  A Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII.  Reading, Massachusetts:  Addison-WESLEY Publishing Company, 1995. Print.

Marcus, Leah S. et al., eds. Elizabeth I: The Collected Works. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.

Nichols, Francis Morgan. The Hall of Lawford Hall: Records of an Essex House and of Its Proprietors,. London: Printed for the Author, 1880-1890, and Sold by Ellis and Elvey, 1891. Google Books. Web. 4 June 2013.

Ridgway, Claire.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn:  A Countdown.  UK:  MadeGlobal Publishing, 2012. Print.

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991. Print.

Starkey, David.  Elizabeth:  The Struggle for the Throne. New York:  HarperCollins Publishers. 2001. Print

Starkey, David, Dr. “Queen Elizabeth and Her Court.” Elizabeth I: Ruler and Legend. Newberry Library, Chicago. 22 Nov. 2003. Lecture.

Starkey, David.  Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII.  London:  Chatto & Windus, 2003.  Print.

Strickland, Agnes. The Life of Queen Elizabeth, London: J.M. Dent &, 1906. Google Books. Web. 3 June 2013.

THECREATIONOFANNEBOLEYN. “Anne and Elizabeth: Consulting the Stars for Elizabeth’s Birth.” Web log post. Semper Eadem., 28 Aug. 2011. Web. 2 June 2013.

Tytler, Sarah.  Tudor Queens and Princesses.  New York:  Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Politics at the Court of Henry VIII. Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1989.  Print.

Weir, Alison.  The Lady in the Tower:  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  London:  Jonathan Cape, 2009.  Print.

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Whitelock, Anna.  Mary Tudor:  Princess, Bastard, Queen. New York:  Random House, 2009. Print.

The Third Step-Mother to Elizabeth, Catherine Howard

The Third Step-Mother to Elizabeth, Catherine Howard

Henry was infatuated with Catherine Howard.  At Oatlands the two were married on July 28 a couple of weeks after Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was dissolved. The King kept it a secret for many days because he wanted to enjoy his bride before Court etiquette interfered.

He showered his young bride with gifts, gowns, jewels, anything she wanted and did any act which would show his affection.  Henry granted Catherine all the lands that had been Queen Jane’s and even had a gold half-crown coin minted to commemorate his marriage to this perfection of womanhood with Henricus VIII, Rutilans rosa sine spina; “Henry VIII, the shining rose without a thorn” (Dye 771).  Henry also granted her political protection by passing through parliament the Queen Consort Act of 1540.  This legislation allowed the Queen to “act as a woman sole, without the consent of the King’s Highness” (Weir 436).  Perhaps Henry felt safe in her devotion as Catherine adopted as her device, Non aultre volontè que le sinne; “No other will than his.”

Gold Crown Coin with Henricus VIII, Rutilans rosa sine spina —the reverse the crown shield of the royal coat of arms.  

Many observers did not think he showed such generosity or affection to his other wives.  The French Ambassador, Charles de Marillac reported in early September that the “King is so amourous of her that he cannot treat her well enough and caresses her more than he did the others”  (Gairdner XVI 5).

The new queen was still a teenager.  Most historians calculate that she was about 15 when 49-year-old Henry married her.  Physically, Charles de Marillac described Catherine as “rather graceful than beautiful, of short stature, etc.” (Gairdner XVI 5).

Catherine howared02        catherine howard3
Miniature by Hans Holbein                 After Hans Holbein

Was Catherine, personality-wise, a “frivolous, empty-headed young girl who cared for little else but dancing and pretty clothes” (Weir 434)?  Was she simply captivating, pleasant and kind-hearted enough to want everyone to be happy?  Perhaps she did let things go to her head and recklessness took center-stage but one could not call her scheming, “lewd, sly, pitiable” (Sitwell 53).  It does appear as if Catherine was charming, sensual and obedient–a great combination for Henry.

Catherine Howard / Elizabeth Seymour
Also attributed to Hans Holbein

Not only was Henry delighted with his new bride, Elizabeth, Catherine’s seven-year-old stepdaughter, was too.  When Catherine was publicly acknowledged by Henry as his queen, “she directed that the princess Elizabeth should be placed opposite to her at table, because she was of her own blood and lineage.”  At all the public engagements which continued to celebrate the marriage, Catherine “gave the lady Elizabeth the place of honour nearest to her own person” because, according to Gregorio Leti, “that she [Elizabeth] was her cousin” (Strickland Lives of the Queens of England, from the Norman Conquest 15-16).  Elizabeth Boleyn, Anne’s mother, was a sister to Edmund Howard, Catherine’s father (and to Thomas Howard, Third Duke of Norfolk), so they were first cousins.  Elizabeth Regina would technically have been Catherine’s first cousin once removed.

thomas howard norfolk
Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk

Catherine did not only favor Elizabeth when they were residing in the same palaces, she made a point for the two of them to meet.  Based on account records from the Master of the Barge, it has been shown that on 5 May 1541 Catherine arranged that Elizabeth would be taken from Suffolk Place to Chelsea where she, Catherine joined her on 6 May (Gairdner XVI 391). 

Besides the attention Catherine showed her youngest step-daughter she also gave her presents of jewelry as shown in November of 1541.  Records show that she gave a jewel “to lady Elizabeth, the King’s daughter, being …of little thing worth.”  Regardless of the value, it was a kind gesture as when Catherine had “23 pairs of beads minutely described, with crosses, pillars, and tassels attached. One is marked as given by the Queen to lady Elizabeth, the King’s daughter” (Gairdner XVI 686).

Catherine Howard’s fall came after John Lascelles revealed to Archbishop Cranmer the Queen’s sexual activity during her years at the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk’s estate. The Dowager was Catherine’s step-grandmother.  Like all children of aristocratic families, Catherine and her eleven siblings, were sent to other households at young ages.  Included in the Norfolk household was Lascelles’ sister, Mary Hall, who knew of the goings on in the maid’s dormitory.  Many of the young women ‘entertained’ men after hours and Catherine was one of them.  She was about 13 at the time and had a physical relationship with Francis Dereham–after earlier being involved with her music teacher, Henry Manox.

Cranmer took the information very seriously.  Political, religious and social motivations were all involved here as Catherine was a conservative and Lascelles and Cranmer were Protestants.  Cranmer began a full investigation which led to allegations of Catherine’s being intimate with Thomas Culpeper, a member of the king’s privy chamber, after her marriage to Henry.

Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer

Under interrogation (read that as some type of torture most likely), Culpeper admitted to being in love with Catherine, that she had rebuffed him at first then grew to love him.  Culpeper “persisted in denying his guilt and said it was the Queen who, through lady Rocheford, solicited him to meet her in private in Lincolnshire, when she herself told him that she was dying for his love” (Gairdner XVI 651-652).  The prisoner said that although they spent time alone and in private, they never committed adultery.  This did not matter.  The Council felt there was enough evidence:  Jane Boleyn, Lady Rochford, Catherine’s Lady-in-Waiting, professed to have helped them arrange their meetings and implied she guessed there was a physical relationship between them (Her cooperation did not save her. Rochford was executed as an accomplice.) and, most importantly, a letter from Catherine found in Culpeper’s belongings.  The letter is reproduced below.

jane parkerboylen
Jane Parker Boleyn, Lady Rochford

Master Coulpeper, I hertely recomend me unto youe praying you to 
sende me worde how that you doo. Yt was showed me that you was
sike, the wyche thynge trobled me very muche tell suche tyme that I
here from you praying you to send me worde how that you do.
For I never longed so muche for [a] thynge as I do to se you and
to speke wyth you, the wyche I trust shal be shortely now, the
wyche dothe comforthe me verie much whan I thynk of ett and
wan I thynke agan that you shall departe from me agayne
ytt makes my harte to dye to thynke what fortune I have
that I cannot be always yn your company. Y[e]t my trust ys
allway in you that you wolbe as you have promysed me
and in that hope I truste upon styll, prayng you than that
you wyll com whan my lade Rochforthe ys here, for then
I shalbe beste at leaysoure to be at your commarendmant.
Thaynkyng you for that you have promysed me to be so
good unto that pore felowe my man, whyche is on of the
grefes that I do felle to departe from hym for than I do
know noone that I dare truste to sende to you and therfor
I pray you take hym to be wyth you that I may sumtym
here from you one thynge. I pray you to gyve me a horse
for my man for I hyd muche a do to gat one and
thefer I pray sende me one by hym and yn so doying I
am as I sade afor, and thus I take my leve of you
trusting to se you s[h]orttele agane and I wode you was
wythe me now that yoo maitte se what pane I take
yn wryte[n]g to you.

Yours as long as
lyffe endures

One thyng I had forgotten and that hys to instruct my man to tare here wyt[h] me still, for he sas wat so mever you bed hym he wel do et and […]

When the King was notified of the accusations by a document left for him in his church pew, his anger knew no bounds.  He supposedly called for a sword to slay her himself as she would never have “such delight in her inconstancy as she would have torture in her death” (Hibbert 23).

Catherine was arrested at Hampton Court and moved shortly afterwards to Syon House.  She was there until February 11, 1542, when she was taken by barge to the Tower of London.  On Sunday the 12th she was told to prepare herself for death.  In a dispatch to his king, Chapuys conveyed that “she asked to have the block brought in to her, that she might know how to place herself; which was done, and she made trial of it.”  On February 1542, Marillac reported, she was beheaded on Tower Green by axe “after the manner of the country. The Queen was so weak that she could hardly speak, but confessed in few words that she had merited a hundred deaths for so offending the King who had so graciously treated her” (Gairdner XVI 44).  Chapuys let Charles V know that Catherine was executed “in the same spot where Anne Boleyn had been executed. Her body was then covered [with a black cloak] and her ladies took it away” (Gairdner XVII 51).

syon remnant gothic
Gothic ornamentation remnant from  Syon

No records survive of Elizabeth’s reactions to the sudden loss of any of her step-mothers.  Elizabeth was too young to be greatly affected by the death of Jane Seymour and her only living step-mother, Anne of Cleves, she still had contact with.  What impact would it have had on Elizabeth?  Could we go as far as Anne Somerset working from the text of Larissa J. Taylor-Smither’s article, “Elizabeth I: A Psychological Profile” to say that the “shock of Catherine Howard’s execution (when Elizabeth was at the impressionable age of eight) would have been more immediate, for even if Elizabeth had not been especially close to her young stepmother, Catherine’s sudden extinction must at the very least have had a powerful effect on her subconscious” (Somerset 96).  With no recorded evidence of Elizabeth’s reaction, nor any evidence of altered personality traits or behavior, this blogger thinks it is best to refrain from any such speculation.  

Henry’s reaction to Catherine’s death was made clear. Shortly after her execution, Chapuys wrote that the King has been in better spirits and during the last three days before Lent there has been much feasting (Gairdner XVII 51).  Henry found himself in an unusual position—that of widower.  Anne Boleyn’s death occurred after he had dissolved their marriage so this was the first time he was widowed.

Chapuys, the Spanish Ambassador, reported to his Imperial colleague, Nicolas Granvelle, that Henry “felt the case of the Queen, his wife, and has certainly shown greater sorrow at her loss than at the faults, loss, or divorce of his preceding wives.”  He cites a parable of the widow who cries most bitterly at the death of her tenth husband because she had always been sure of the next.  Chapuys speculates this is the same with Henry as “it does not seem that he has formed any new plan”(Gairdner XVI 653).

Nicholas Granvelle

Henry, most diplomats and contemporaries assumed, would soon enough be taken up with his matrimonial status.  Charles de Marillac did not mince words to Francis I when he observed “It is not yet said who will be Queen; but the common voice is that this King will not be long without a wife, for the great desire he has to have further issue” (Gairdner XVI 44).  While Eustace Chapuys explained to Charles V that “Parliament prays him to take another wife, he will not, I think, be in a hurry to marry; besides, few, if any, ladies now at Court would aspire to such an honour, for a law has just been passed that should any King henceforth wish to marry a subject, the lady will be bound, on pain of death, to declare if any charges of misconduct can be brought against her, and all who know or suspect anything of the kind against her are bound to reveal it within 20 days, on pain of confiscation of goods and imprisonment for life” (Gairdner XVII 50).

The King was ensuring that his next bride would not put him in a position of uncertainty which would give cause for him to receive any other letters such as the sympathetic, comforting one from his fellow sovereign, Francis I of France.  Francis proclaimed to Henry, concerning Catherine’s behavior, that he “feels the grief of the King, his brother, as his own. Still his good brother should consider that the lightness of women cannot bind the honor of men and that the shame is confined to those who commit the crime” (Gairdner XVI 649).

King Francis I of France

Even though his matrimonial record was not smooth, King Henry VIII  was not deterred from acquiring another bride. In a relatively short amount of time, he had provided his children with a new step-mother.


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