The First Step-Mother to Elizabeth, Jane Seymour

The First Step-Mother to Elizabeth, Jane Seymour

Bound to obey and serve.  That was the motto selected by Jane when she became queen.  Was it true or did she know that would be what Henry VIII would want?

Jane had been a lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn and her persona does not come to us very clearly via contemporary sources.  History has given her to be modest, virtuous, obedient, and accepting. She is seen as solid, pleasant, dignified and calm.  She is most often judged neither good nor bad.  Sadly, perhaps her character is viewed so positively because of the fact that she produced the longed-for heir and died before Henry became tired of her.

It is not the place here to go into details about Jane Seymour, her courtship with Henry and her death.  Nor enter the debate of whether she was spotted by Henry or was selected (fascinating discussion but one not necessary to this blog entry)

Physically we have paintings by Hans Holbein, in her lifetime, and several artists’ work, posthumously, plus the verbal description by the Spanish Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys who determined that “She is of no great beauty, so fair that one would call her pale.  The said Seymoure is not a woman of great wit, but she may have good understanding” (Lindsey 119).  Historians have given weight to Chapuys’ account since he was not a champion of Anne Boleyn and would have welcomed her fall.

jane holbien to use                   jane unkown

Famous Hans Holbein portrait       Unknown painter

That lack of wit but understanding does lead to the supposition that Jane could figure out how to deal with Henry.  But how could she not be worried about marring a man who had discarded one wife and killed another?  Her understanding had to extend to realizing the possible risk she was taking.

jane english
Jane attributed to The English School

Agnes Strickland does not perpetuate the image of the meek and docile bride as “we have so little that is favorable to relate of this queen” (Strickland 408).  Although Strickland will give Jane credit for being a discrete, beautiful young woman she does wonder if she was as heartless as her bridegroom.  Jane had to know what was happening in the Tower of London to Anne Boleyn while she was planning her marriage to Henry.  “The giddiness of youth cannot be pleaded as apology for Jane Seymour’s indecency, for she was no child when she permitted herself to be courted by the royal Bluebeard, and must have been entirely conscious of the enormity of her actions” (Strickland 403).  Jane’s actions led to her engagement to Henry the day after Anne’s execution and their marriage 10 days later.

We do know that as a step-mother, Jane treated Mary well and granted her special privileges while Elizabeth “was placed out of sight” (Erickson 31). Her motivation for championing Mary could have been kindness or as some believe social snobbery.

She wanted to have someone of her status at Court.  “Now that it hath pleased Your Grace to make me your wife, there are none but my inferiors to make merry withal, Your Grace excepted—unless it would please you that we might enjoy the company of the Lady Mary at court.  I could make merry with her” (Lindsey 132, Hume The Wives of Henry VIII 303).  Although this does not mesh with Polydore Vergil’s view that Jane was “a woman of the utmost charm both in appearance and character,” it is understood that Mary’s situation improved under Jane (Fraser 235). What of Elizabeth?

Martin Hume reported that, after Queen Jane had brought about the reconciliation between Henry and Mary, she fell to her knees and said, “Your Majesty knows how bad Queen Anne was, and it is not fit that her daughter should be Princess.  So the King ordered it to be proclaimed that in future none should dare to call her Princess, but madam Elizabeth” (Hume 72 -73).  This was only done after Henry implied that all the harm that had come to Mary, the humiliations and banishments had been from Anne Boleyn.  “My daughter, she who did you so much harm, and prevented me from seeing you for so long, has paid the penalty” (Hume 72). Therefore, several days after the wedding, The Lord Chancellor made a speech in Parliament about extolling the King’s virtues but ended “with the information that Anne Boleyn’s daughter was not heir to the throne of England” (Strickland 407).  This story appears to come from a Spanish merchant, Antonio de Guaras writing to King Philip II.  Many speculate that this was just wishful thinking on the part of the loyal Spaniard.

Elizabeth was not completely banished from Court. She was brought to Court along with Mary when Henry, faced with rebellion, felt it necessary to show a united front.   This public relations move was reported by Le Cardinal du Bellay Ambassador to the French Court.  He observed that rather than “soften the temper of the people” the peoples’ opinions were so fixed “they think of nothing but liberty. Madam Marie is now the first after the Queen, and sits at table opposite her, a little lower down, after having first given the napkin for washing to the King and Queen.  Madame Isabeau (Elizabeth) is not at that table, though the King is very affectionate to her.  It is said he loves her much” (Gairdner 346).

When Elizabeth was four, Jane gave birth to Edward.  At his baptism at Hampton Court, Mary was a godmother and Elizabeth held the chrisom cloth although she, in turn, was carried by Edward Seymour.  As known, Jane died shortly after the birth due to puerperal fever.  Mary was chief mourner at Jane’s funeral.  Elizabeth did not take part but that was probably due to her age.

jane h e
Posthumous rendering of Jane with Edward and Henry

References

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

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

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

Gairdner, James, ed. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII. Vol. 11. London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1888. Google Books. Web. 4 May 2013.

Hume, Martin A. Sharp. Chronicle of King Henry the Eighth of England: Being a Contemporary Record of Some of the Principal Events of the Reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, Written in Spanish by an Unknown Hand ; Translated, with Notes and Introduction, by Martin A. Sharp Hume. London: George Belland Sons, 1889. Internet Archive. Web. 4 May 2013.

Hume, Martin. The Wives of Henry the Eighth and the Parts They Played in History. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1905. Google Books, n.d. Web. 06 May 2013.

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

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Perry, Maria.  The Word of a Prince: A Life of Elizabeth from Contemporary Documents.  Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1990.  Print.

Ridgeway, Claire.  The Fall of Anne Boleyn.  UK:  MadeGlobal Publishing, 2012.  Print.

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

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

Strickland, Agnes, Elisabeth Strickland, and Rosalie Kaufman. The Queens of England, Abridged and Adapted from Strickland’s “Queens of England” Chicago: Werner, 1895. Internet Archive. Web. 4 May 2013.

Warnicke, Retha.  The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press. 1998.  Print.

Weir, Alison.  The Six Wives of Henry VIII.  New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991. Print.

Advertisements

The Lion’s Grandcub: Conclusion

The Lion’s Grandcub: Conclusion:

Personalities
This blog has discussed in several entries the initial proposal that Henry VII and Elizabeth I were the Tudors who most closely resembled each other.  Discussions included many aspects: their physical appearance, their internships, their manner of rule and their basic accomplishments.

Similarities between Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina are easiest at the superficial level of their appearance.  Obviously, they were described at various times of their lives by numerous people (some perhaps being less subjective than others).  Their physiques were tall, slender, and strong.  Their features were narrow, high-browed, with prominent cheek bones and pale complexions.  For detailed descriptions of both Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina, based on primary sources, consult https://elizregina.com/2013/01/ the blog entry “Eat, Drink and Be Moderate”.

henry 7                 e1 like h7

Character sketches also invoke parallels.  Polydore Vergil’s description of Henry VII could easily be applied to his granddaughter.  Using words such as distinguished, wise, prudent, brave, shrewd, intelligent, and gracious along with praising a “pertinacious memory” (Vergilus 143-147).

Alison Weir’s description of Elizabeth could easily be applied to her grandfather.  Using words such as tenacity, cautious, realism, dissemble, parsimonious, dithering, and devious along with describing a “subtle brain” (Weir 17).

We know that like Henry VII whose speech was “gracious in diverse languages,” his “counseyelles fortunate and taken by wyse delyberacyon” and his “wytte always quycke and redy,” Elizabeth was also praised for her skill at languages, her wise counsel and quick wit (Fisher 269).

Lovers of Peace Not War
Throughout each of their reigns the negotiations undertaken by Henry and Elizabeth on the international level proved what lengths they would go to preserve peace.  Henry VII nor his granddaughter relished the cost of war in lives and money.  Gairdner declared that Henry made overtures to war only when it was “really forced upon him by the necessities of his position” (Gairdner 214).

Bacon was a bit more cynical and believed that Henry VII used “a noise of war” to gain funding from Parliament and so that a peace “might coffer up” (Bacon The Major Works 45).  It was the reality, “by refraining from war he ended solvent…”  (Loades 8).

francis bacon 
Sir Francis Bacon

He knew that “the way to peace was not to seem to be desirous to avoid wars: therefore would he make offers and fames of wars, till he had mended the conditions of peace” (Bacon and Lumby 212).  Henry called Parliament together to approve war with France, yet “in his secret intentions he had no purpose to go through with any war” (Bacon and Lumby 91).  For this he was praised at the end of his life for spending “many a day in pease and tranquyllyte” (Fisher 269).

Elizabeth is treated a bit more harshly by the historian James Anthony Froude.  He theorized that during the Scottish Rebellion if Elizabeth I had committed troops and money earlier thousands of lives and pounds would have been saved.  Rather than formulate an aggressive foreign policy to handle the international elements of this issue “she gravitated towards … peace” (Froude 409). “It was like dancing a tight rope.  Her movements may have been extremely clever, but they were also extremely dangerous” (Froude 443-444).

When peace negotiations did not work, both rulers turned to marriage alliances.  As a way to establish the legitimacy of their rule there was no faster way than to have a powerful, established foreign power seriously consider such a match with the Tudor Dynasty.  Weddings were far cheaper than wars.

Their preference for peace could have been their natural dispositions or political clemency. As seen in their handling of insurgents (Perkin Warbeck and Mary, Queen of Scots) both Henry VII and Elizabeth I were reluctant to execute.  Unless the security of the realm dictated otherwise, punishments were imprisonment, loss of lands and fines.

Perkin warbeck       mary scots
Perkin Warbeck                                      Mary, Queen of Scots

Renaissance Princes
Henry had reason to bolster the legitimacy of his claim to the English throne and Elizabeth had reason to bolster her right to the throne being declared an illegitimate child and as an unmarried woman.  Surprisingly one way these two rulers intended to establish the Tudor Dynastic legitimacy was through patronage of the arts.

“Henry assembled an impressive array of scholars and notables at his court, favouring the foreign-born rather than the native English” (Tucker 327).

“The King’s passion for music, court revels, sport, foreign scholarship, and more lowly amusements, reveals a keen interest in life and in the new intellectual currents which were transforming the Continent” (Tucker 331).  Consequently, many Continental elements “evolved to a distinct English form” and were manifested in the marriage celebrations of Arthur, Prince of Wales and Katherine of Aragon in 1501 (White 141).

Arthur_Prince_of_Wales            Katherine-of-aragon
Arthur, Prince of Wales                              Katherine of Aragon

Gordon Kipling persuades us that Henry VII felt compelled to display the “magnificence of his royal household and regime through calculated patronage of literature, drama, painting, music, glasswork, tapestry, and every aspect of cultural life…. Henry’s patronage …has been consistently undervalued” (White 141).

Henry employed humanistic tutors for his children.  The men at Oxford that Erasmus praised “were in the vanguard of the English humanists who were reforming education at both the secondary and university level” (Tucker 329).

erasmus1         oxforduniversity
Erasmus                                         Modern view of Oxford University

Royal daughters as well as royal sons were educated and we saw that carried through to Elizabeth’s own education. Here we must give her father, Henry VIII, and her mother, Anne Boleyn, credit for continuing Henry VII’s interests in classics, foreign languages, religion, art, music, dance and deportment.

H8 AB
Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

While Henry can be credited with adding the secular classical themes of the Franco-Burgundian Court to England which encouraged alternative cultural elements, Elizabeth added national days, such as Accession Day, rather than religious days to the calendar which encouraged the Renaissance to take firm hold during her reign (Loades 71).

Jan van Dorsten argues that in Elizabethan England “patronage had declined to a very low ebb by the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign” which was certainly reversed by the end of her rule as “the use of patronage to secure political ends by Elizabeth’s courtiers was still intense in a political context”  (White 140).  Elizabeth’s Court is famous for patronizing troupes of actors, yet recognition as the first sovereign to sponsor troupes of dramatic players goes to Henry VII.

henry7manuscript2
Henry VII being presented with a manuscript on astrology

Lord Chamerlain's Men
The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, sponsored by the Lords Hunsdon until King James I took over patronage.

Elizabeth became the subject of many artists’ work from portraits, sonnets and famously, The Faerie Queene.  Decades earlier, Henry was compared to the legendary Hercules by Bernard Andre in the poem, Les Douze Triomphes de Henry VII (Tucker 328).

Andre became a tutor for Prince Arthur making true Gordon Kipling’s observation that “Artists in his [Henry VII’s] service became servants in his household…his artists were expected to enhance his estate through their poetry, pageantry, and paintings” (White 140).

Circumstances of Childhoods
Without getting into the ‘nature v. nurture’ debate, one must acknowledge that hereditary traits, physiological and psychological, are present in family members even when the people are not in close proximity (or one has died before the birth of descendants).  Also circumstances of a childhood can greatly effect a person.

The upbringings of Henry VII and Elizabeth I (discussed in earlier blogs, “Fate is Remarkable’ and “Persona Non Grata” at www.elizregina.com) taught them to be cautious.  “Always guarded in his dealings with others” (Jones 75), Henry’s caution came via military experience and living as a prisoner and political exile for most of his early life.  Elizabeth learned early to “keep her own counsel, control her emotions, and to behave circumspectly in public… ” (Weir 17).

Neither Henry nor Elizabeth was kept in the English public’s eye, so to speak, yet both managed to gain widespread support.  Henry, living away from England, lost familiarity with English politics.  Why so popular?  Was it his appeal or were people tired of war?

Elizabeth could have been seen as the calming answer to the religious upheaval from Queen Mary’s reign.  Regardless of why, somehow Henry and Elizabeth managed to convey a belief that they had the good of the people at heart.  It worked.  Years later Elizabeth would exclaim “I care not for myself; my life is not dear to me.  My care is for my people” (Elizabeth I).

While Henry learned his statecraft through the observations of Louis XI, The Spider, Elizabeth learned from William Cecil.  Henry’s policies of taxation and financial extractions, plus his use of men from the mercantile class as advisors and intelligence agents throughout his reign, came straight from ‘The Spider’ (Wilson 15).  Elizabeth adopted most of these ideas in a broad sense.  When she learned from William Lambarde, The Keeper of the Records at the Tower of London, about money lent to subjects for bond repayment, she exclaimed, “So did my good grandfather King Henry VII, sparing to dissipate his treasure or lands” (Rowse 56).

Louis Spider King            William Lambarde
Louis XI, The Spider               William Lambarde

Quotation of Psalms
Their religious and Latin studies emerged in a simplistic way as both quoted psalms at the crucial time of their rise to power.  When Henry landed on English soil he reportedly quoted Psalm 43:1, Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me. Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight against an unholy people, rescue me from the wicked and deceitful man (Temperley 16).

Elizabeth is said to have whispered from Psalm 118:23 what she truly must have felt, “A Domino factum est istud et est mirabile in oculis nostris.” This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

e1 at prayer
Elizabeth Regina at prayer

Big Picture, Small Details
Having a strong general background on the lives of Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth this blogger decided on the topic series, The Lion’s Grandcub.  Comparing the two opened up avenues of study previously unexplored.  So many things were learned, so many more questions raised, so many hours diverted from other topics—what bliss for an amateur historian.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was the discovery of so many sources available digitally and in translation.  Of course, many primary sources are not objective and history tends to revise its opinion on past figures.  Regardless, research eventually taps all available resources and the historian, left to the mercy of said sources, is stopped.  That was not the case here. Instead this blogger had to restrain herself and resist continued inquiry into these fascinating characters of Henry VII and Elizabeth I.

Both sovereigns were intelligent, tenacious, independent, and dedicated. They strengthened the country through their appointment of capable advisors, promotion of the arts, fiscal policies and adherence to peace at home and abroad.  How easy to admire them as exceptional rulers in exceptional times.

Although this series is completed, this blogger is eagerly anticipating dealing with other topics concerning Elizabeth Regina.

References

Bacon, Francis.  The Major Works.  Ed. Brian Vickers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.  Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Bacon, Francis, and J. Rawson Lumby. Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII,. Cambridge: University, 1902. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Carpenter, Christine. The Wars of the Roses: Politics and the Constitution in England, C. 1437-1509. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Google Books. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.

Elizabeth I. ed. Chamberlain, Frederick.  The Sayings of Queen Elizabeth I.  Londo:  Dodd, Mead & Company: New York, 1923.  Google Books.  Web.  11 Mar. 2013

Fisher, John, and John E. B. Mayor. “Sermon Sayd in the Cathderall Chyrche of Saynt Poule within the Cyte of London the Body Being Present of the Moost Famous Prynce Kyng Henry the VIII, 10 May MCCCCCIX. Enprinted by Wynkyn De Worde 1 H. VIII.”The English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. London: N. Trübner for the Early English Text Society, 1876. 268-88. Google Books. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

Froude, James Anthony. History of England from the Fall of Wolsey to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada. London: Longman, Green, 1908. Google Books. Web. 10 Mar. 2013. 

Frye, Susan.  Elizabeth I:  The Competition for Representation. Oxford:  Oxford Univseity Press. 1993. Print.

Gairdner, James. Henry the Seventh,. London: Macmillan, 1889. Google Books. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

The History of the Life and Reign of That Excellent Princess Queen Elizabeth from Her Birth to Her Death: As Also the Trial, Sufferings, and Death of Mary Queen of Scots. With the Whole Proceedings of the Divorce of King Henry VIII. from Queen Catherine; His Marriage with the Lady Anne Bullen, and the Cause of Her Unfortunate Death on the Scaffold. London: Printed, and Sold by the sellers in Town and Country, 1739. Google Books. Web. 9 Mar. 2013.

Jones, Michael K. and Malcolm G. Underwood.  The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret

Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1992. Print.

Loades, David, ed. The Tudor Chronicles: The Kings.  New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990.  Print.

Rowse, A. L. The England of Elizabeth; the Structure of Society. New York: Macmillan, 1951. Google Books. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Temperley, Gladys. Henry 7. London: Constable, 1917. Google Books. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Thornton, Tim. Prophecy, Politics and the People in Early Modern England. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006. Google Books. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.

Thomas, Heather, M.Phil. “Elizabeth R.” Elizabeth I’s Pastimes. Self-Published, 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 21 Apr. 2013.

Tucker, M. J. “Life at Henry VII’s Court.” History Today. History Today.com, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.

Vergilius, Polydorus, and Denys Hay. The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil: A.D. 1485-1537. Google Books.  Web. 2 Jan. 2013.

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

White, Paul Whitfield., and Suzanne R. Westfall. Shakespeare and Theatrical Patronage in Early Modern England. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002. Google Books. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

Wilson, Derek. “Web of Intrigue.” History Today 63.4 (2013): 10-16. Print.

Words to the Wise

Words to the Wise

What is wisdom?  If we followed Aristotle’s idea of the practicality of wisdom not only would a person choose the best means to the ends or goals they may have, but also the ‘correct’ ends.  Now the discussion takes on another dimension involving ethical choices.  And where do we insert experiences, knowledge, perceptions, logic?  Regardless of the definition of wisdom, is it applied differently depending on the person and their role in life, such as a ruler?  If a head of state is expected to make decisions wisely, how do we judge the wisdom of the decisions?  Is it simply because we agree with her or his choices?

We have much evidence that Henry VII and Elizabeth Regina were wise given the profuse use of the word to describe them both.  With Henry we are assured that this “King, to speak of him in terms equal to his deserving, was one of the best sort of wonders, a wonder for wise men” (Bacon and Lumby 211).  Praise indeed.

henry 7          elizagheer2

Henry VII                                      Elizabeth Regina

Both Polydore Vergil, an Italian priest who arrived in Britain in the year 1502 and was commissioned by King Henry VII to write a history of Britain, and Edward Hall, a Henrican contemporary, commented on Henry’s wisdom, shrewdness, prudence and resoluteness especially in moments of danger.  “Kyng Henry being made wyse and expert with troubles and myschiefes before” in the time of his exile (Hall 435).  Vergil and Hall also observed how the people respected his abilities and “no one dared to get the better of him through deceit or guile” (Vergil 144).

polydore vergil  Edward Hall

Polydore Vergil                                                  Edward Hall

John Fisher, the Bishop of Rochester spoke glowingly of Henry.  Below are the text and the modern script of his oratory about Henry:

Fisher sermon   john fisher

 

John Fisher

All be it he had as much of them                                             
as was possible in manner for any king to have, his
politic wisdom in governance it was singular, his
wit always quick and ready, his reason pithy and
substantial, his memory fresh and holding, his
experience notable, his counsels fortunate and taken
by wise deliberation, his speech gracious in divers
languages … his dealing in time
of perils and dangers was cold and sober with great
hardiness.

Francis Bacon also reported that Henry’s “wit increased upon the occasion; and so much the more, if the occasion were sharpened by danger.  Again, whether it were the shortness of his foresight, or the strength of his will, or the dazzling of his suspicions…” (Bacon and Lumby 219).

Henry’s suspicions made him guarded in his dealings with others, in his plans and his strategies.  Perhaps it was this guarded behavior that led to the many chroniclers referring to him as shrewd.  He was “undoubtedly shrewd, calculating, and long-headed; he seems never to have been overcome by passion” (Elton 16).

He was so shrewd he could make good use of what little advantages he had and in turn he was not a man of whom people could take advantage.  Henry was very prudent in his selection of advisors.  He “cogregated together the sage councelers of his realme, in which coiisail like a prince of just faith and true of promes… (Hall 423).

Men wanted to serve him but they could not tell what was on Henry’s mind.  As a “wise Prince, it was but keeping of distance, which indeed he did towards all; not admitting any near or full approach, either to his power, or to his secrets: for he was governed by none” (Bacon and Lumby 215).

“Few indeed were the councillors that shared his confidence, but the wise men, competent to form an estimate of his statesmanship, had but one opinion of his consummate wisdom” (Gairdner 209).

Henry could not be called a learned man yet he was a lover of learning and gave his children an excellent education (Gairdner 217).  Famously in 1498-99 Erasmus met with the then future Henry VIII when he was eight in 1498-1499 and still in the royal nursery at Eltham in Kent.  Henry appreciated the humanist movement and ensured his sons were grounded in a classical education. Henry VII supported universities as well as his wife’s and mother’s patronage of colleges.  He purchased books and acquired a library.  “He was rather studious than learned; read most books that were of any worth, in the French tongue, yet he understood the Latin, as appeareth in that cardinal Adrian and Others, who could very well have written French, did use to write to him in Latin” (Bacon and Lumby 218). John Fisher spoke of Henry knowing many languages, the “fruit of his long exile” (Fisher).  Perhaps the best ‘education’ he had was the exposure to various governmental methods while in exile and visiting other Courts in Brittany and France.

eltham exterior                 Eltham_palace_GreatHall

Exterior and Interior of Eltham Palace

Henry brought with him the experiences and knowledge of the cultures of France, Burgundy and Brittany with the secular classical themes. “This trend had already been apparent at Edward IV’s court, but Henry was an important influence in encouraging trends which were to lead to the flowering of Renaissance culture at the Tudor court in the 16th century” (Loades 71). He made “princely use of his wealth, encouraged scholarship and music as well as architecture, and dazzled the eyes of foreign ambassadors with the spendour of his receptions” (Gairdner 9).

Ambassadors were astonished not only with his Court but with the depth of knowledge he displayed of the situations in their own countries and “that they did write ever to their superiors in high terms, considering his wisdom and art of rule:  nay, when they were returned, they did commonly maintain intelligence with him” (Bacon and Lumby 216)

Henry’s prudent policies, circumspect behaviors and political wisdom earned him high praise from contemporaries and historians.  “He was of an high mind and loved his own will and his own way, as one that revered himself and would reign…” with triumph as he excelled at so many things (Bacon 793).  He was successful.  He was prudent.  He was wise. He was emulated by his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina.

Events in Elizabeth’s childhood taught her not to speak or act unwisely; her very life depended upon deliberate, cautious actions. These early lessons contributed to her wisdom and, along with her characteristics of intelligence, tenacity, compromise, and subtlety, she became well-respected.  Even after centuries, most historians and chroniclers explain “even her errors of taste and judgment as superlative examples of political skill” (Elton 262).

Author Jasper Ridley is one of the few dissenters.  He proposed that the truth was that “Elizabeth was an emotional woman, and often acted on impulse, and not from cunning political calculation” (Ridley 41).  Her successes were not by good policy and planning, “but by luck, by muddling through…” (Ridley 335).

As much as one respects the interpretation of Ridley, overwhelming examples, even if disregarding sycophantic inclinations of contemporaries, show her intelligence and wisdom.

Maximilien de Bethune, Baron de Rosny, ambassador from France, exclaimed “this great Queen merited the whole of that great reputation she had throughout Europe” concerning her grasp for the political situation in Europe (Hibbert 115).  Even as she aged, diplomats were still astounded at her grasp of affairs of state.  Andre de Maisse, the French ambassador, thought her shrewd, calculating, statesmanlike and well-informed.

baron de rosny                             demassie

Baron de Rosny                                Andre de Maisse

Her Clerk of the Council, Robert Beale, believed that she was a “princess of great wisdom, learning and experience” and Sir John Harington wrote how Elizabeth would pass her judgment on matters and knew how to “cunningly commit the good issue to her own honour and understanding…” (Sitwell 87). Harington also observed that he “never did find greater show of understanding and learning than she was blessed with” (Hibbert 114).

johnharington

Sir John Harington

The success of Elizabeth’s education is well-known and documented.  Her preference for Roger Ascham as her tutor showed early on her judgment in men.  He was an excellent choice and provided her not only a thorough education but a life-time love of learning. Even as queen, Elizabeth continued her studies as it was well-known she spent a part of her day reading and at study “by a wise distribution of her time” (Bohun 346).  Ascham had nothing but praise for the quick mind and abilities of his pupil.  Below, reproduced in its entirety is a letter Ascham wrote to his friend, Johannes Sturm, German scholar concerning Elizabeth:

“It is difficult to say, whether the gifts of nature or of fortune are most to be admired in my distinguished mistress.  The praise which Aristotle gives, wholly centres in her; beauty, stature, prudence, and industry.  She has just passed her sixteenth birthday and shows such dignity and gentleness as are wonderful at her age and in her rank.  Her study of true religion and learning is most eager.  Her mind has no womanly weakness, her perseverance is equal to that of a man, and her memory long keeps what it quickly picks up.  She talks French and Italian as well as she does English, and has often talked to me readily and well in Latin, moderately in Greek.  When she writes Greek and Latin, nothing is more beautiful than her handwriting” (Neale 14 – 15).

      aschamengraving2                                           roger asham

Princess Elizabeth and                                     Sketch of Roger Ascham
Roger Ascham

Like her grandfather Henry VII, her skill in many languages allowed her to take a prominent role in the diplomacy of her country as she could meet with ambassadors herself.  Her intellect allowed her to match the professional diplomats in subtlety and the language of diplomacy itself.

Elizabeth’s skills in government did not come from specific training as an apprentice but from her formal, classical and humanist education and her practical, political education of survival during her brother’s and sister’s reigns.

Without going into great detail, the young Elizabeth’s handling of the Thomas Seymour issue shows the intelligence, courage and composure she displayed while detained and questioned by Sir Robert Tyrwhitt.  Tyrwhitt wrote the Lord Protector “I do assure your grace, she hath a very good wit, and nothing is gotten of her, but by great policy” (Erickson 88).

Another early example comes during her sister Mary’s reign.  While under suspicion as part of the Wyatt Rebellion, Elizabeth negotiated with the councilors sent to arrest her to write a letter to Mary. Using her talents and education, Elizabeth not only composed a brilliant note, she also managed to utilize enough time that the tide had altered deflecting her move to the Tower for one more day.  On the letter itself, she made diagonal marks at the end of the second page to ensure no one would tamper with the document.

diagonal letters 001

Letter to Mary with diagonal lines across second page

As a mature and seasoned sovereign, Elizabeth continually dealt with complicated and life-threatening situations.  Would all decisions be exact?  Of course they would not.  Yet, most historians agree with her contemporary John Hayward’s exclamation concerning her character that she was “in purpose, just; of spirit, above credit … as well for depth of judgment…” (Hayward 8).  Maybe her wisdom came from knowing that her success came from serving England and her peoples and from making decisions that rested on the good of the kingdom.  Or maybe it was simply she had a brain in her head and she used it:

There is small disproportion betwixt a fool who
useth not wit because he hath it not and him
that useth it not when it should avail him
Queen Elizabeth

References 

Bacon, Francis.  The Works of Lord Bacon:  Philosophical Works.  Longman and Co. 1858-1859.  Google Books. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

Bacon, Francis, and J. Rawson Lumby. Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII,. Cambridge: University, 1902. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Bohun, Edmund. The Character of Queen Elizabeth, Or, A Full and Clear Account of Her Policies and the Methods of Her Government Both in Church and State, Her Virtues and Defects Together with the Characters of Her Principal Ministers of State … London: Printed for Ric. Chiswell at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Church-Yard(IS), 1693. Google Books. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Commynes, Philippe de.  The memoirs of Philip de Commines, Lord of Argenton: containing the histories of Louis XI and Charles VIII. Kings of France and of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. To which is added, The scandalous chronicle, or Secret history of Louis XI  London:  H. G. Bohn, 1855.  Internet Archive. Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

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

Fisher, John, and John E. B. Mayor. The English Works of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester. London: N. Trübner for the Early English Text Society, 1876. Google Books. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

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

Griffiths, Ralph A. and Roger S. Thomas.  The Making of the Tudor Dynasty.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Print.

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. Archive.org. Web. 2 Jan. 2013.

Hayward, John, and John Bruce. Annals of the First Four Years of the Reign of Queen Elizabeth. London: Printed for the Camden Society by J.B. Nichols and Son, 1840. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Jones, Michael K. and Malcolm G. Underwood.  The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret

Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

Loades, David, ed. The Tudor Chronicles: The Kings.  New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990.  Print.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Norton, Elizabeth.  Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty.  Stroud: Amberley, 2010. Print.

Okerlund, Arlene Naylor.  Elizabeth of York.  New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

Pollard, Albert Frederick, ed. The Reign of Henry VII: From Contemporary Sources.[S.l.]: Longmans Green and, Co. 1913. Google Books. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. 

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Ross, Josephine.  The Tudors, England’s Golden Age.  London: Artus, 1994.  Print. 

Sitwell, Edith.  The Queens and the Hive.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966. Print.

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

Vergil, Polydore, The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, A.D. 1485-1537 (translated by Denys Hay), London: Office of the Royal Historical Society, Camden Series, 1950. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.

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

Persona Non Grata

Persona Non Grata

As a young man, the Earl of Richmond claimed that “from the time he was five years old he had been always a fugitive or a prisoner (Commynes 396-397). When Henry was just over four years old, Pembroke Castle, where he had lived with his mother and paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, was overridden by William Herbert during a stage of the War of the Roses.  Henry’s ward-ship was given to Herbert and he was raised along with the Herbert children at Raglan Castle.  In fact, Anne Devereux , Herbert’s wife, held Henry’s affection throughout her life.

When William Herbert died in battle in 1469, following another stage of the War of the Roses and the return of the Lancastrians, Henry and Pembroke Castle were returned to Jasper Tudor. This time of stability was short-lived. By 1470 the Yorkist king, Edward IV, returned to power.  It is not the purpose here to explain the minutiae of this civil war; let it suffice to say that it was expedient for Jasper and Henry to leave the country.

Intended for France, contrary winds blew them to Brittany (Often referred to as Bretagne) where Henry was to begin his 14-year exile as an enforced guest at the court of Francis II, Duke of Brittany  (Griffiths, Hutchinson, Norton, Penn, Roberts, Vergil).

vannes
City of Vannes with the St.Peter Cathedral where Henry VII sent gifts in acknowledgement of his time there.  He also depicted the city’s patron Saint, St. Vincent in his chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Because of the threats on his life and kidnapping plots, and the logistics of maintaining basically a refugee household, Henry was transferred from place to place.  He was never truly settled.  “Dependent on the whims of others, he learned to think like the fugitive he now was:  to watch and assess loyalties, to sift information from rumour and, caught in the wash of European power politics, to understand how they affected his own fortunes” (Penn 4-5).

Tour dd Elven
Chateau Lagoet’s Tour de Elven where Henry was kept between 1474-1476.

chateau of nantes
Chateau Vannes built by Francis II and visited several times by Henry.

His experiences certainly affected him.  “He developed an exile’s patience, inured to a life in which stretches of empty time were punctuated by sudden alerts, moments of danger in which logical clear-headedness meant the difference between life and death” (Penn 5).  He became resourceful, determined and “unabashed and unafraid when faced with adversity.  He was capable of swift and decisive reactions, and yet he also learned the value of careful and detailed planning in order to avoid needless risks” (Griffiths168), all seemingly positive traits learned while under house arrest and exile.  Some historians believe exile also created in Henry “an almost pathological suspicion” (Jones 61).

Regardless, Henry certainly impressed the French diplomat, Philippe Commynes who met him while he was in Brittany and France.  Commynes marveled that Henry “without power, without money, without right … and without any reputation but what his person and deportment excited; for he had suffered much, been in distress all the days of his life, and particularly a prisoner in Bretagne to Duke Francis from the eighteenth year of his age who treated him as kindly as the necessity of his imprisonment would permit…” would emerge strong and noble (Commynes 560).

Vannes h7 excile
In the fifteenth century this gate in Vannes, Brittany was where Henry VII, as Earl of Richmond, passed into the city which protected other English expats.

In 1483 circumstances galvanized Henry to attempt an invasion of England; a pro-Lancastrian conspiracy, headed by the Duke of Buckingham, gained support in England; and Margaret Beaufort, Henry’s mother, began negotiations with the ex-Queen Elizabeth Woodville to marry their children (Henry to Elizabeth of York) to unite the Houses of York and Lancaster.  After extensive preparations, several ships set sail toward Wales where Henry knew support would be the strongest and he could gain an entry point.  After accompanying ships went astray, Henry “learnt the virtue of caution that day” (Griffiths102).  Wisely, Henry returned to Brittany disappointed but not defeated.

About 10 months later, Henry was informed of a different sort of conspiracy which would have Brittany (under the leadership of Pierre Landais, chief advisor to an incapacitated Francis II) hand him over to Richard III.  Henry organized his flight from the town of Vannes to France dressed as a groom with a small group of expats, he escaped across the border.  Later when a recovering Francis II learned what had happened, he gave safe-conduct passage to the remaining retainers of Henry’s who were still in Brittany. This was a relief to Henry, who had a strong sense of obligation to those who shared his exile.  Once in France, Henry obtained men and equipment from Charles VIII to launch an invasion of England in August of 1485 at the age of 28 (Griffiths, Hutchinson, Norton, Penn, Vergil, Roberts).  The rest they say is history.

The impressions made on him from his years of exile affected more than just his personality.  Henry VII was known for his preference for speaking French, his understanding of European politics and his unfamiliarity with English ways.  Nevertheless, he was able to establish one of the most infamous ruling dynasties in England culminating in the rule of his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina.

Unlike her grandfather, who had his mother and paternal uncle to direct him, Elizabeth had no such guidance and her apprenticeship to the throne was as severe as his had been.  She too spent many years in a form of exile.  She had to learn the art of statecraft and how to assimilate various players’ actions all while in seclusion at country houses with little or no contact with politicians both domestic or foreign.    

She was able to create a strategy and with determination she maintained her course. This is not to say that she was inflexible.  Elizabeth knew when to shift her course of action as her survival demanded it.

A religious book, The Epistles of St. Paul, owned by Elizabeth during the time that she was imprisoned by Queen Mary, has been preserved in the Bodleian Library.  Amongst the passages she had designed was Vincit omnia pertinax virtus.  E. C. In translation, Tenacious virtue conquers all* Elizabeth the Captive (Marshall 158, Nichols 11).  Beyond her perseverance, her courage, cool headedness, self-reliance and self-possession were cemented during her removal from Court. Also forged during this time were several of her least attractive characteristics: her lack of candor, her ability to conceal her true intentions, her inability to trust, her extreme caution and her vacillation. 

Epistles of st paul
The Epistles of St. Paul preserved by the Bodleian Library showing the above mentioned phrase done in needlework by Elizabeth.

While Henry VII as Earl of Richmond spent 14 years in exile, Elizabeth experienced removal from Court several times.  First was her self-imposed banishment to Hatfield after the Seymour troubles.  She was barely 15 and she had the wisdom to rehabilitate her reputation by concentrating on running the estate, biding her time and minding her behavior.  She led an exemplary life of scholarly pursuits in a decorous manner.  She remained there when the Duke of Northumberland, using Lady Jane Grey as his figurehead, and Mary struggled for the throne.  Once Mary was victorious, Elizabeth journeyed from Hatfield to offer congratulations and support (Erickson, Hibbert, MacCaffrey, Neale, Ridley).

Hatfield_House_Old_Palace Hatfield Old Palace

As mentioned above, Elizabeth was detained by Queen Mary at Woodstock after the Wyatt Rebellion.  This captivity, when Elizabeth was 21, was conducted differently from her grandfather’s escape to Brittany.

A letter preserved in the Talbot Papers from Robert Swift, steward to the Earl of Shrewsbury, reported on May 20, 1554,“Of Saterdaye, at one of the cloke at afternone, my Lady Elisabethe was delyv’ed out of Towre by the Lord Tresorer and my Lord Chamb’leyn, and went to Richemonde (on her way to the old Palace of Woodstock, where she remained in confinement till the end of April in the next year,) by water furthewy’er she landyd; wher she shal be attended upon by sundreye of garde, and some officers of ev’y office in the Quen’s howse, but how long she shall co’tinewe there I know not”  (Nichols 8).

woodstock ruins cropped Woodstock Palace drawn in 1714 

Although her custodian, Sir Henry Bedingfield, a Privy Council member under Queen Mary, attempted to spirit her away it was not the case.  People gathered to watch her pass, shouted support, offered her cakes and treats and rang the bells of their churches.  The entire journey saw demonstrations favorable to Elizabeth to such an extent that at one point Bedingfield reminded their hosts along the route that Elizabeth was “a prisoner who had offended against the Queen” (Ridley 62).  Once ensconced in Woodstock, Elizabeth knew her status as in the above reference to herself as ‘captive’ and also in the famous couplet she etched onto a window pane while at Woodstock when she signed herself as prisoner. 

“Much suspected by me,
Nothing proved can be,
Quoth Elizabeth prisoner” (Nichols 9).

After almost a year’s confinement, Elizabeth was summoned to Hampton Court by orders directed to Sir Henry Bedingfeld by Queen Mary: 

Hampton Court, April 17, 1555.

Trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. And forasmuch as we have resolved to have the Lady Elizabeth to repair nearer unto us, we do therefore pray and require you do declare unto her that our pleasure is she shall come to us to Hampton Court in your company with as much speed as you can have things in order for that purpose; wherein you shall not need to make any delay for calling of any other numbers than these, which are yourself and [those that] be now there attendant upon her, And of the time of your setting forward from thence, and by what day you shall think you may be there, we require you to advertise us by your letters with speed. Mary, the Queen (Mumby 187).

bedingfield

Sir Henry Bedingfield

Elizabeth spent time at Hampton Court and other houses from April 1555 until October when she returned to Hatfield.  At Hatfield with her trusted servants, Elizabeth could still not feel safe as Mary had her under continual surveillance (Erickson 153).  Eventually Mary’s suspicions eased, “there was something like a tacit truce between the two sisters.  Elizabeth, withdrawn to country retirement at Hatfield…remained carefully aloof from all political activity. On both sides civility and decorum served to mask underlying unease” (MacCaffrey 25). It was here at Hatfield where Elizabeth learned of her ascension to the throne in November of 1558.

Works Cited

Commynes, Philippe de.  The memoirs of Philip de Commines, Lord of Argenton: containing the histories of Louis XI and Charles VIII. Kings of France and of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. To which is added, The scandalous chronicle, or Secret history of Louis XI  London:  H. G. Bohn, 1855.  Internet Archive, Web. 10 Feb. 2013. http://archive.org/details/historicalmemoi00comigoog

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

Griffiths, Ralph A. and Roger S. Thomas.  The Making of the Tudor Dynasty.  New
York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Print.

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Hutchinson, Robert. Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld &
Nicolson, 2011. Google Books. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

Jones, Michael K. and Malcolm G. Underwood.  The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret
Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

Marshall, Edward. The Early History of Woodstock Manor and Its Environs, in Bladon, Hensington, New Woodstock, Blenheim; with Later Notices:. Oxford: J. Parker and, 1873. Internet Archive. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. London: E. Arnold. 1993. Print.

Mumby, Frank  Arthur, and Elizabeth. The Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth, a Narrative in Contemporary Letters, London: Constable, 1909. Internet  Archive. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Nichols, John. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth. Among Which Are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events during the Reign of That Illustrious Princess. Collected from Original MSS., Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c.: Illustrated with Historical Notes. New York: B. Franklin, 1823. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Norton, Elizabeth.  Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty.  Stroud: Amberley, 2010. Print.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

“Queen Elizabeth, Her Progresses and Processions: Confinement of the Princess Elizabeth in the Tower–Her Removal to Woodstock.” The Saturday Magazine 21 Apr. 1838: 146-47. Google Books. Web. 18 Feb. 2013. <http://books.google.com/books?id=i1YFAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA145&dq=saturday+magazine+372&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yKEiUb_1LfGLyAHc1YCwBA&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=saturday%20magazine%20372&f=false&gt;.

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Roberts, Peter.  “The Welshness of the Tudors.” History Today. History Today.com, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013.

Vergil, Polydore. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 Version). Ed. Dana F. Sutton. Irvine: University of California, 2005. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 Version). The Philological Museum, 04 Aug. 2005. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.

For a reproduction of Queen Mary’s orders to Sir Henry Bedingfeld on his duties and responsibilities as keeper of the then Lady Elizabeth consult the digitized volume of The Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth: A Narrative in Contemporary Letters pages 135 & 135 at the following address: http://books.google.com/books?id=bpkQAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA134&dq=A+Memorial+given+by+the+Queen’s+Highness++unto+her+trusty+and+right+councillor&hl=en&sa=X&ei=p9ooUYOoC8XHrQGnyIGgDw&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=A%20Memorial%20given%20by%20the%20Queen’s%20Highness%20%20unto%20her%20trusty%20and%20right%20councillor&f=false

*Special thanks to Jamie, a Latin instructor, for her help with the translation of the quote by Elizabeth I.

Fate is Remarkable

 Fate is Remarkable:

Henry Tudor as Earl of Richmond and Elizabeth Tudor as Lady Elizabeth were each in their time potential heirs to the English throne.  Remarkably, both believed in their chance and right to rule.  They took their fate into their own hands,  ensuring their options remained open as they forged their paths to the throne.

Henry was a young man of around 15 years of age in September of 1471 when he and his paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, found themselves avoiding the Yorkist threat of Edward IV in England by sailing for France.  As fate would have it, storms blew them off course and they landed in Brittany.  Thus began Henry’s 14-year exile.

 

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle from which Henry, Earl of Richmond and Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke fled in 1471.

Astoundingly, Henry was able to direct much of his destiny while in Brittany despite being removed from England and under close surveillance as a possible political pawn between France, Brittany and England.

During the majority of his years in exile, Henry honed his leadership skills as the focal point of the expatriates who joined him . He kept informed of the events in England so when conditions seemed favorable to an invasion in 1483 Henry attempted it. Philippe de Commynes diplomat and historian for the Dukes of Burgundy and later the Kings of France, who was often in Brittany, reported that, upon King Edward’s death, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, “supplied the Earl of Richmond liberally both with men and ships …and sent him to land his forces in England; but; meeting with foul weather, he was driven into Dieppe, and from thence went back into Bretagne” (Commynes 313).  The Lancastrians wisely abandoned the invasion.

Henry earnestly began preparations at this time for his ascension to the throne and to legitimize his claim.  It was reported, first by Bernard Andreas, an early biographer of Henry VII, that Henry made a formal pledge while in exile in Britanny at Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483 that whenever he obtained the crown he would marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV (Andreas 25).  Negotiations had been on-going and culminated in the marriage agreement which would unite the houses of York and Lancaster and eventually give Henry’s children a strong claim to the throne.

 

 

 

 

Rennes Cath

Rennes Cathderal

Henry realized that it was paramount to secure the support of men in England and Wales.  Having the Yorkist leadership on his side (proof is the marriage agreement between him and Elizabeth) emboldened him to write several letters to supports, especially those in Wales where his base was strongest and from where he planned to march on Richard.  He asked for their aid and promised to remember their good offices.  Not a very hefty guarantee despite his signature as H.R. the regal monogram.  Below is an example of one such correspondence:  (Roberts 403)

H7 Letter Use

Once the invasion was imminent, Henry continued to contact sympathizers promising deliverance from servitude if they marched with him.  In the letter below Henry does not come off as a ‘poor exile’.  Here Henry refers to himself as King and Richard III as a usurper of Henry’s rights.

“By the King
Right trusty and well-beloved, wee greete you well:
And whereas it is soe, that, through the helpe of Almighty
God, the assistance of our loveing and true subjects … in all haste
possible to descend into our realme of England, not only for
the adoption of the Crowne, unto us of right appertaining,
but also for the oppression of the odious tyrant Richard,
late duke of Gloucester, usurper of our said right; and …
moreover to reduce as well our said realme of England into
its ancient estate, honour, and property … and the people of the
same to their dear erst liberties, delivering them of such
miserable servitude as they have piteously long stood in.
We desire and pray you, and upon your allegiance strictly
charge and command you, that immediately upon the sight
hereof with all such power as ye may make, defencibly
arrayed for the warre, ye addresse you towards us, without
any tarrying upon the way, until such time as ye be with
us, … your singular good Lord, and that ye faile not hereof as ye
will avoyd our grievous displeasure, and answere it unto
your peril.  Given under our signet…” (Jones 25).

When Henry learned that Pierre Landais, chief advisor to the Duke of Brittany, was in negotiations with Richard III to extradite Henry to England he knew he had to act.  According to Commynes, there was “some agreement with king Richard, much to his [Henry’s] prejudice and disadvantage… he and his retinue went away privately without taking their leave of the duke” (Commynes 313).  What Henry had done was to orchestrate his own escape to France from the town of Vannes dressed as a groom with a small group of loyal Lancastrians. Once in France, King Charles VIII provided aid in money, men and artillery and after extensive preparations a final and successful invasion was made.   That August of 1485, Henry had to have realized that he was taking his fate into his own hands (Commynes, Griffiths, Hutchinson, Norton, Penn, Roberts and Vergil). 

vannes

Vannes, Brittany

Henry and we will see his granddaughter, Elizabeth, learned patience and persistence as exiles, but also as rulers-in-waiting they recognized the time for decisive action. By taking full advantage of circumstances they achieved their goal—becoming seated on the throne of England as an all-powerful sovereign.

As a young woman of 15, Elizabeth was involved, unwittingly, in the schemes of Thomas Seymour the widower of her last step-mother, Catherine Parr.  His ambition and folly are well-known and to have involved this young person was unconscionable.  It is not the point here to explain the elaborate plan although it must be acknowledged that the affect on Elizabeth was immense. Certainly it took its toll emotionally and physically, and Elizabeth was unwell for some months after. However, as well as affecting her health, it also affected her reputation and this was a great concern to Elizabeth.

  Seymour Thomas       
Thomas Seymour    

Always sensitive about what people thought of her, Elizabeth wanted the rumor that she was pregnant by the Admiral suppressed. She wrote to Edward Seymour, the Lord Protector, demanding a public statement be made disclaiming the rumors and threatening punishment for those who continued spreading the tale.  Here is a remarkable example of Elizabeth taking matters into her own hands when she penned “rumours abroad which be greatly both against my honour and honesty, which, above all other things, I esteem, which be these, that I am in the Tower, and with child by my Lord Admiral.  My lord, these are shameful slanders, for which besides the great desire I have to see the King’s Majesty, I shall most heartily desire your lordship that I may come show myself there as I am.  Written in haste.  Your assured friend to my little power, Elizabeth” (Mumby 45).

Seymour Edward
Edward Seymour

More letters of the same vein were sent, such as this one to the Lord Protector, on February 21, 1549, in which she wrote requesting “unto your lordship and the rest of the Council to send forth a proclamation into the countries that they refrain their tongues, declaring how the tales be but lies, it should make both the people think that you and the Council have great regard that no such rumors should be spread of any of the king’s majesty’s sisters (as I am, though unworthy)” (Marcus 33).

She was successful; a proclamation was eventually issued.  Elizabeth steadfastly professed her innocence to Seymour’s plans to marry her and saying she would never do anything without the Council’s permission.  Elizabeth understood the moral of the experience: she was careful of her lifestyle; she scrupulously avoided any hint of scandal; she became very conservative in her dress—plain, sober colors, little adornment or jewelry–as she presented an image of modesty and decorum; she managed her own bookkeeping; and she applied herself to her studies.  This remarkable young woman knew she needed to gain what she could from this experience and that was to maintain her reputation and secure her servants’ freedom (Erickson, MacCaffrey, Neale, and Ridley).

During the investigation, several members of Elizabeth’s household were detained, most painfully for Elizabeth her governess, Kat Ashley—it would be sometime before they were reunited.  The Lord Protector was subjected to a flurry of letters demanding the return of Kat Ashley to Elizabeth’s service and the dismissal of other ladies appointed to her household.   She continued protestations of innocence that there was ever any intention to marry–Thomas Seymour or anyone– without permission from the King, the Council or the Lord Protector.  “I am not of so simple understanding” (Marcus 33) this 15-year old told seasoned politicians.

Elizabeth was at Hatfield in late November of 1556 when she was summoned by Queen Mary to London.  While there Mary presented to her sister a prospective marriage with Emmanuel Philibert, the Duke of Savoy.  Contemporary Westerners cannot understand the strength of will and purpose it took for Elizabeth to decline.  Society of her time could not fathom a young woman not wanting to marry and even more so, defying the express wishes of her family let alone her sovereign.  Her rationale for declining was that she would not marry anyone.  Having been invited for the Christmas festivities, she abruptly returned to Hatfield on December 3rd after only a short stay in London (Bassnett, Gristwood, Machyn, Plowden, and Somerset).

Em Phil savoy
Emmanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy

Perhaps she had displeased the Queen over her refusal despite having through her “amiable condescension, obliging address, and agreeable conversation, procured her new interests and attachments, and even engaged the best part of the Lords of the Council in her favor” (Nichols 25).

Leaving London
This is an eye witness account of Elizabeth’s entry and then exit from London on 28 November and 3 December 1556.

During the spring of 1558 when approached by the King of Sweden as a possible bride for his son, Elizabeth would tell Mary’s representative Thomas Pope that what she believed in 1556 was still true: “I assure you upon my truthe and fidelitie, and as God be mercifull unto me, I am not at this tyme otherways mynded, than I have declared unto you; no, though I were offered the greatest Prince in all Europe” (Nichols 24).  This was the response Pope declared “the Ladye Elizabeth hir Graces aunswere made at Hattfield, the xxvi of April 1558, to Sir T. Pope, Knt. Being sent from the Queenes Majestie to understand how hir Grace lyked of the mocyon of marryage made by the Kynge elect of Swethelandes Messenger” (Nichols 25).  Elizabeth had chartered her course of remaining unmarried, and was determined to control that element of her life.

Legend has it that Elizabeth was in the parkland at Hatfield seated beneath an oak tree on November 17, 1558, when news reached her of Mary’s death. She is said to have whispered in Latin what she truly must have felt: “A Domino factum est istud et est mirabile in oculis nostris” –This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Hatfield_House_Old_Palace
Hatfield Old Palace 

Even if Elizabeth did give Divine credit for this awe-inspiring event, she did much to keep herself safe and established in a position for inheriting.  Elizabeth was at twenty-five years old Queen of England. For the first time in her life, her destiny lay completely in her own hands.  Fate is remarkable.

Works Cited

Andreas, Bernardus, and James Gairdner. Historia Regis Henrici Septimi Necnon AliaQuaedam Ad Eundem Regem Spectantia. London: Longman, Brown, Green, Langmans, and Roberts, 1858. Google Books. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

 Bassnett, Susan.  Elizabeth I: a Feminist Perspective.  Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1997. Print.

Commynes, Philippe de.  The memoirs of Philip de Commines, Lord of Argenton: containing the histories of Louis XI and Charles VIII. Kings of France and of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. To which is added, The scandalous chronicle, or Secret history of Louis XI  London:  H. G. Bohn, 1855.  Internet Archive, Web. 10 Feb. 2013.

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

Griffiths, Ralph A. and Roger S. Thomas.  The Making of the Tudor Dynasty.  New
York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985. Print.

Gristwood, Sarah.  Elizabeth & Leicester:  Power, Passion, Politics. New York: Viking Press, 2007.  Print.

Hutchinson, Robert. Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011. Google Books. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

Jones, W. Garmon. Welsh Nationalism and Henry Tudor. London: Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1918. Internet Archive. Web. 2 Mar. 2013.

MacCaffrey, Wallace. Elizabeth I. London: E. Arnold. 1993. Print.

Machyn, Henry. The Diary of Henry Machyn, Citizen and Merchant-taylor of London From 1550 to 1563. Ed. John Gough Nichols. London: Camden Society, 1848. Google Books. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

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

Mumby, Frank  Arthur, and Elizabeth. The Girlhood of Queen Elizabeth, a Narrative in Contemporary Letters, London: Constable, 1909. Internet  Archive. Web. 18 Feb. 2013.

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Nichols, John. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth. Among Which Are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events during the Reign of That Illustrious Princess. Collected from Original MSS., Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c.: Illustrated with Historical Notes. New York: B. Franklin, 1823. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Norton, Elizabeth.  Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty.  Stroud: Amberley, 2010. Print.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

Plowden, Allison.  Marriage with My Kingdom.  New York: Stein and Day, 1977. Print.

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International
Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Roberts, Emma. Memoirs of the Rival Houses of York and Lancaster: Historical and Biographical, Embracing a Period of Engl. History from the Accession of Richard II. to the Death of Henry VII. ; in Two Volumes. London: Harding & Lepard, 1827. Google Books. Web. 9 Feb. 2013.

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

Vergil, Polydore. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 Version). Ed. Dana F. Sutton. Irvine: University of California, 2005. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 Version). The Philological Museum, 04 Aug. 2005. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.

Tight Purse Strings

Tight Purse Strings

Henry VII was well-known for his miserliness. “The popular tradition respecting his avarice, which has descended to us, seems only too well founded. It is quite the characteristic of a usurer to have a fondness for gold. We are informed that whenever a gold coin entered the chest of Henry it never found its way out again” ( Bergenroth 69).

Don Pedro de Ayala, envoy to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, revealed that although Henry had many qualities that would have rendered him great, “he had but one characteristic which spoilt all the rest, his love of money” (Bergenroth 53).

It was claimed that when he was not with his council or in public he was “writing accounts of his expenses with his own hand” (Tremlett 95). “He also handled the cash himself. In his own handwriting, he itemised the moneys delivered in one day to … the treasurer of his chamber…all amounting to several thousands of pounds” (Hutchinson 41).

Ledger initialed by Henry VII from 1492       Accounts written in Henry’s handwriting

 ledger         account

The king collected money from taxation, plus the obligations and fines he placed on his subjects (rich and poor). Out of the “sixty-two families in the English peerage that survived the butchery of the War of the Roses, forty-seven were at the king’s mercy, either by living under attainder or forfeiting substantial sums to the crown to guarantee their good behavior” (Hutchinson 42). These recognisances were imposed and collected by the able administrators, Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. The activities of these two men were known throughout the Court as Don Pedro de Ayala reported to Ferdinand and Isabella that Henry’s servants had “a wonderful dexterity in getting hold of other people’s money” (Bergenroth 207).

Henry VII’s priorities were revealed in the power and prestige granted to these two trusted advisors. The policies they implemented, in the king’s name, generated as much hatred and distrust as they did revenue. Although not everyone felt that way, courtiers who profited from Henry VII’s fiscal policies did worry when Henry VIII came to the throne that he would reverse “his father’s tight-fistedness…” (Jones 222), most resented Henry VII and his administration. In fact, one of Henry VIII’s first acts as king was the arrest of these two men, “greate counsaylers to the late kyng, were attached and brought to the Tower, not to the litle rejoysyng of many persones, whiche by them wer greved, whiche, attachement was thought to bee procured by malice of theim, that with their aucthoritie, in the late kynges daies wer offended, or els to shifte the noyse, of the straight execucion of penall statutes in the late kynges daies, by punishement of those persones, and other promoters, for to satisfie and appeace the people” (Hall).

For a discussion of the land revenues and prerogative feudal rights which Henry VII took advantage of to generate income, see Stanley Bertram Chrimes’ Henry VII. It is enough here to understand that Henry VII found a source of revenue which he pursued “with a zeal and relentless application which earned him and his agents an unpopularity and a measure of odium which became marked towards the end of the reign…” (Chrimes 209). Although other sovereigns had used these methods, none had “taken such a close personal part in wielding the whips and scorpions of financial pressures to attain their ends” (Chrimes 214). No wonder Henry VII emerges in the pages of history as miserly and avaricious. A study of the Calendar of Close Rolls for 1500-1509 by K. B. McFarlane led him to declare that by the end of his reign Henry VII “governed by recognizance” (Chrimes 214). It has been estimated that Henry extorted (hard to use any other word) close to £495 million in present-day monetary values from his subjects (Hutchinson 43).

Henry “made rebellions, like wars, pay their own expenses, and even yield him a mine of treasure, which was a source, in its turn, of stability to the country, giving him more ample power to put down future outbreaks. For the great majority of insurgents he had no other punishment than fines…. Violation, even of laws which were antiquated, was visited with fines which went to the king’s coffers” (Gairdner 215).

Despite the general belief that Henry had amassed a large surplus early in his reign (Chrimes 217), the Spanish envoy, Don Pedro de Ayala, remarked, “The King of England is less rich than generally said. He likes to be thought very rich because such a belief is advantageous to him in many respects. The King himself said to me that it is his intention to keep his subjects low, because riches would only make them haughty…” (Hutchinson 41). The viewpoint that Henry’s miserliness was a political rather than an avaricious motive is taken up further by Polydore Vergil. Writing under the patronage of the Tudors, Vergil did not ignore the fact that Henry VII gained money in dubious ways although he does offer explanations.

…id quod argumentum non dubium erat eum, sicut ipse aiebat, studio coercendi ferocem populi inter factiones nutriti animum, non item cupiditate cogendae pecuniae, ea coepisse uti severitate, quemadmodum supra demonstravimus, quanquam saucii ista non tam severitatis quam avaritiae tela esse clamabant. Sane modestus princeps non emungebat suos fortunis immodice qui regnum rebus omnibus longe locupletissimum reddidit reliquitque, quod planum praeter caetera fecit immanis auri pariter atque argenti copia quae in annos singulos in insulam importata est a mercatoribus ultro citroque commeantibus, quos ille saepenumero pecunia ad tempus data gratuito iuvabat, ut mercatura ars una omnium cunctis aeque mortalibus cum commoda, tum necessaria, in suo regno copiosior esset.

This was a sure sign that, just as he himself said, he resorted to this severity for the sake of curbing the fierce spirits of a people brought up amidst factionalism, not out of a lust for money-making, as I have shown above, although those who were wounded in this way exclaimed these were the darts of greed, not severity. Indeed, this modest sovereign did not despoil his subjects of their fortunes immoderately, for he left behind him a kingdom most wealthy in all respects. This is made plain, among other things, by the immense amount of gold and silver annually brought into the island by merchants plying to and fro, whom he very frequently helped with interest-free loans, so that the flow of commerce, both useful and necessary for all men, would be more abundant in his realm.

Thomas Penn brings forth the idea that Henry VII’s obsession with money was not the actions “of a miser, but of a sophisticated financial mind…” (Penn 156). This is an interesting point of view and one that was not held by many others, although Josephine Ross does admire Henry and his policies. She commented that Henry “…was a born accountant, who loved to spend hours closeted with lists of figures signing every entry with his own hand, those accounts revealed some attractive aspects of his personality” (Ross 22). His financial records do show expenditures to charitable causes, music, a variety of entertainments, architecture, sporting events, and gambling (Ross, Penn, and Chrimes). According to Ross, “There was nothing miserly about Henry VII; he was intensely careful with money, but he recognized the importance of spending freely to keep up a regal image” (Ross 22). This incongruity between miserliness and extravagance is something which was held in common between Henry VII and his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina.

Elizabeth had inherited “…the financial prudence of her grandfather” (Neale 294) and the depleted coffers of her father. “A sense of economy was inbred as well as inborn in Elizabeth” (Neale 296). Prior to her accession her income had been small even after she received her inheritance from her father and acquired Hatfield.  Elizabeth had learned to be careful with her monies. “Her financial affairs, which had been in a precarious state since her father’s death, assumed a more healthy aspect when she took over the book-keeping herself, maintaining meticulous records of her expenditure and personally signing each page of the accounts” (Somerset 28).

Even as Queen she was watchful and her “stringent economies effected soon after her accession…” plus her “prudent financial management” allowed her to escape true money worries while maintaining her Court (Somerset 281).  What she managed to achieve with the limited resources available is astounding.  It is “that financial sense of Elizabeth’s, her resolute, irritating parsimony that the secret of greatness lay” (Neale 101).

She was a penny-pincher, but she knew, like her grandfather, where and when to spend money for political reasons. “Balancing the books was to be her life-long preoccupation as Queen” and she understood there had to be revenue (Starkey 221).  Elizabeth realized that, as money got tighter, she had to extract money at any possible source beyond the ordinary income from taxes, rates, etc.

It is well-known that privateering brought in some revenue for the Crown but never as much as hoped. Elizabeth had exclaimed that “she had known from the very first that everyone would make a fortune out of the business except herself” (Strachey 112).

One revenue source came from the requirement that Bishops give 10% of their revenue to the Crown and at their appointment the equivalent of a year’s income.  Although it was claimed she did not exploit this, it was common knowledge that later in her reign, Elizabeth was able to tap into this income by moving her Bishops between dioceses (Somerset 86).  She believed, by using “this judicious redistribution of the national wealth she was preserving her kingdom’s stability” (Somerset 88).

When the economy started to slip, she responded by selling some property, appropriating new funds and further reducing government expenditure. Yet, like her grandfather, Elizabeth had virtuous reasons for her miserliness.  When England was at war late in her reign, she “practiced eternal vigilance over her own expenses, to the disgust of the greedy cormorants about her, everlastingly grumbling and gibing at her parsimony…” (Neale 346).

“Parsimony is not a popular virtue” (Neale 296).  Elizabeth instituted “stringent economies that were often unpopular, but these measures kept England solvent at a time when most European countries were virtually bankrupt” (Weir 225).  Keeping her debt to a minimum and balancing her expenditures with her ordinary income required her to never relax the tight purse strings. She performed wonders in keeping her creditors satisfied and shouldering most of the burden without “impairing the efficiency of government or casting the gloom of poverty over the Court, the splendor of which was the nation’s pride and the monarch’s dignity” (Neale 296).

To further complicate money issues was this paradox: Elizabeth was miserly for reasons of political capital and she was extravagant for the same purpose.  Although careful with her money, Elizabeth never stinted on outward show.  She knew that to attract the upper classes to her Court she had to impress the whole country with the visual aspects of power. Perception is reality. The queen wore costly gowns (she had over three thousand –a topic for a future blog) and owned a magnificent collection of jewelry knowing full-well the role she played. “Princes, you know, stand upon stages so that their actions are viewed and beheld of all men…” (Marcus, 189).

Therefore, clothing, court ceremonial, entertainments, even furnishings were extravagant with the intent to show majesty and impress all who came to the Court.
Many costs of these items could be defrayed by what would become a large, unavoidable expense for the noblemen–a lavish gift for the queen.  She enjoyed receiving costly gifts throughout her reign.  A contemporary explained that “She was very rich in jewels, which had been given her by her subjects; for in times of progress there was no person that entertained her in his house but (besides his extraordinary charge in feasting her and her train) he bestowed a jewel upon her; a custom in former times begun by some of her especial favorites that (having in great measure tasted of her bounty) did give her only of her own; though otherwise that kind of giving was not so pleasing to gentlemen of meaner quality” (Robinson 192).  The Spanish envoy Count de Feria commented soon after her coronation that Elizabeth “is very fond of having things given to her” (Erickson 174).

Ship Pendant given to Elizabeth                Gloves given to Elizabeth
by Sir Francis Drake                                     by the University of Oxford
  ship pendant 001                                     gloves1

Elizabeth’s yearly progresses were another way to subsidize the living costs of Court. Being housed at others’ expense during her lengthy progresses was a sure way for her to be seen by her people, in all her majesty, and allow her to graciously accept the hospitality of many and not cost the Exchequer any money (Ridley 180).

As the decades progressed and expenses mounted, Elizabeth was less apt to reward her courtiers as in earlier days as she was led to “tightening up in the distribution of patronage” (Somerset 547).  She reduced government expenditure, rewarding her administrators so sparingly with titles, lands and monopolies, especially monopolies, that corruption was inevitable as nobles tried to find ways to generate funds.

Corruption became rampant and she scolded Parliamentary members by exclaiming “…if these fellows were well answered and paid with lawful coin, there would be fewer counterfeits among them” (Perry Word of a Prince 199).  She was genuinely surprised when courtiers seemed less than satisfied with the patronage that was handed out. She had learned “that neither gifts nor pensions were the foundation of loyalty” (Neale 101).

Through it all, the welfare of her people and her duty to them, was foremost in her mind.  Addressing her people late in her reign, the Queen said that “though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my crown: that I have reigned with your loves” (Marcus 337).

Works Cited

Bergenroth, G. A., and, Pascual De. Gayangos. Calendar of Letters,
Dispatches and State Papers, Relating to the Negotiations between England and Spain, Preserved in the Archives at Simancas and Elsewhere: Published by the Authority of the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty’s Treasury under theDirection of the Master of the Rolls. Henry VII 1485 – 1509. ed. Vol. 1. London:

Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1862. Google Books. Web. 26 Nov.
2012.

Chrimes, S. B. Henry VII. Berkeley: University of California, 1972. Google Books. Web. 31 Dec. 2012.

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

Gairdner, James. Henry the Seventh,. London: Macmillan, 1889. Google Books. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

Hall, Edward, and Charles Whibley. Henry VIII,. Vol. I. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1904. Google Books. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.

Hutchinson, Robert. Young Henry: The Rise of Henry VIII. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011. Google Books. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.

Jones, Michael K. and Malcolm G. Underwood.  The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret
Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Print.

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

Neale, J. E. Queen Elizabeth I. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1957. Print.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

Perry, Maria.  The Word of a Prince: A Life of Elizabeth from Contemporary
Documents.  Woodbridge, Suffolk: The Boydell Press, 1990.  Print.

Ridley, Jasper. Elizabeth I: The Shrewdness of Virtue.  New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1989.  Print.

Robinson, James Harvey. Readings in European History: A Collection of Extracts from the Sources Chosen with the Purpose of Illustrating the Progress of Culture in Western Europe since the German Invasions,. Vol. II. Boston: Ginn &, 1904. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Ross, Josephine.  The Tudors, England’s Golden Age.  London: Artus, 1994.  Print. 

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

Starkey, David, ed. Rivals in Power. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990. Print.

Strachey, Lytton.  Elizabeth and Essex: A Tragic History.  New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1969. Print.

Tremlett, Giles.  Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen.  London: Faber and Faber, 2010. Print.

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

Vergil, Polydore. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555 Version). Ed. Dana F. Sutton.

Irvine: University of California, 2005. Polydore Vergil, Anglica Historia (1555             Version). The Philological Museum, 04 Aug. 2005. Web. 02 Jan. 2013.

In the Stars

In the Stars

Many believed Henry VII’s well-known interest in prophesy could have stemmed from his Welsh background as the Welsh “follow prophecies, affirming that they are true” (Tremlett 100) and have a “prophetic tradition” (Thornton 15). As discussed in a previous blog, King Henry VI, upon meeting the young Henry, Earl of Richmond, gave a prophecy that he would become king (Bacon, Vergil).

Henry VII did not have a formal Royal Astrologer but Gulielmus Parronus Placentinus, an Italian known in England as William Parron, came close.  Parron is credited, according to an expert at the British Library, with bringing to England the practice of creating astrological almanacs for the nation (Pickup).  Astrology almanacs were compilations of astrological data that was considered useful for physicians and other medical professionals as well as for the general public (Parker).  Evidence shows that Parron received payments from the king, possibly for an early almanac, as seen in the king’s account books from 6 March 1499: “To Master William Paromis an astronymyre £1” (Macalister 301). After making several successful prognostications, Parron presented to Henry, De astrorum succincte vi fatali, (The Fateful Meaning of the Stars) completed on 15 October 1499. In this work Parron ingratiated himself by giving justifications for Henry’s actions on many fronts especially his treatment of Perkin Warbeck and the Earl of Warwick saying that people born under bad stars must die before infecting the country.  A “satisfyingly closed logic, and it satisfied Henry’s conscience” (Penn 38).

Parron’s last known compilation for the Tudor family was a horoscope in late 1502 titled, Liber de Optimo fato Henrici Eboraci ducis et optimorum ipsius parentum, (The Book of the Excellent Fortunes of Henry Duke of York and his Parents). This was less than successful and perhaps why he disappears from official sources.  It is supposed he left England in disgrace after predicting that Queen Elizabeth, Henry VII’s wife, would live until she was 80.  She died shortly thereafter at the age of 37.  As an aside, he also foretold that Prince Henry, the future Henry VIII would have a happy marriage and many sons (Carlin, Penn, Tucker).

The following illustrations are from Parron’s 1502 horoscope and almanac including the cover page, his dedication page and the illustration of Henry VII –note the Tudor roses in the border.

Parron 1503 Almanac  Royal 12 B vi  1v  Royal 12 B vi  2r

Parron was not the only astrologer and scientist to whom Henry offered his patronage.  Dr. Janina Ramirez explained that “Henry VII saw himself as a patron of science and scholarship and in Tudor times astrology was held in high esteem” (Ridgway).  At court was Lewis of Caerleon, physician to Margaret Beaufort, who was valued for his “astronomical and astrological skills, and he received considerable remuneration and generous favours from the monarch” (Pahta 50).  Added to the list of astrologers were John Argentine who “assembled an extensive collection of astrological and astronomical treatises” and was “appointed physician and chaplain” to Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII (Pahta 50); and John Killingworth “perhaps the most important of fifteenth-century English astrologers” (Pahta 51).  Killingworth’s scientific manuscript of planetary data and prophecies was written for Henry VII in 1490.  Another example of Henry’s patronage was the sculptures on the ceilings at Merton College where Bishop Richard Fitzwilliam’s “astrological symbols were next to the royal arms of Henry VII, showing that Henry was ruling not just England but the cosmos. Astrology was the science of the day and was seen as important” (Ridgway).

The strong influence prophecy and astrology held over Henry VII did not diminish throughout the Tudor time-period and was as prominent with his granddaughter, Elizabeth Regina.   Enter John Dee, astrologer, astronomer, mathematician, alchemist, and rumored neocromancer who found time “to dabble in the mysteries of the occult” (Brimacombe 143).  He was a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge; an acquaintance to Continental academics, Abraham Ortelius, Gemma Frisius—Court Astrologer to Charles V— and Geradus Mercator; and, a friend to influential people— Roger Ascham, Robert Dudley and Lord Pembroke.  In fact, Dudley and Pembroke introduced him to the 25-year old Elizabeth when she needed to set the date for her coronation.  This auspicious occasion could not just be any day. It would be the birth date of the Elizabethan Age and had to be considered carefully (Bassnett, Brimacombe, Somerset, Watkins).

John Dee      

                                          johndee

John Dee would become an influential member of Elizabeth’s circle (he was a cousin to Blanche Parry, Elizabeth’s gentlewoman, and had been a member of the Duke of Northumberland’s household when Robert Dudley was a youth). By 1564 when he had returned from the Emperor’s Court, Dee was “appointed Royal Adviser in mystic secrets” (Bassnett 63), another way of saying Court Astrologer.  Elizabeth offered him apartments at Court (something most people vied for their entire lives) and he turned her down fearing it would interfere with his studies. Supposedly he “applied himself to his studies with such diligence that he allowed only four hours for sleep, and two for his meals and recreation”  (Nichols 414). He appreciated Elizabeth’s support and acknowledged it:  “Whereupon her Majestie had a little perusion of the same with me, and then in most heroicall and princely wise did comfort and encourage me in my studies philosophicall and mathematicall” (Dee Autobiographical 19).

“In the sixteenth century, the borderline between science and sorcery was often perilously narrow” (Brimacombe 144). The role of natural magic cannot be ignored in the rise of experimental science .  This reminds me of some experiments that science teachers demonstrated when I was in school.  The exploding volcano bordered on magic!  Some authors suspect “Sir Walter Ralegh and his circle of friends practiced sorcery at this infamous ‘School of the Night’ at his home at Sherborne in Dorset” (Brimacmbe 144) and others that it was a gathering to discuss all topics of learning especially religion (Marlowe Society). Dee was very much aware of the links between religious thoughts and the sciences “which fruite and gaine if I attaine unto, it shall encourage me hereafter, in such like sort to translate, and set abroad some other good authors, both pertaining to religion (as partly I have already done) and also pertaining to the Mathematicall Artes” (Dee Mathmatical iii).

Elizabeth, a highly educated, intelligent woman, frequently consulted Dee be it for explanations for comets, a toothache, diet and medicines, navigation (he is reported to have coined the term British Empire) and the dangers to be apprehended from a waxen image of her with a pin struck through its breast, which had been found in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.  Her faith in his abilities also earned him the role as a foreign spy “reporting, in code, to both the Queen and William Cecil on intrigues abroad.  His coded letters were signed using the numerals 007” (Watkins 39).

When Dee was in England, she visited him at his home in Mortlake, Surrey, where he was reputed to have one of the largest private libraries in Europe along with his famous laboratories (Brimacombe, Hibbert, Lipscomb, Watkins). Although it was suggested in some readings that Dee built an astrolabe for Elizabeth, the only evidence found was one made for her by the Flemish instrument maker Thomas Gemini.

Astrolabe known to belong to Elizabeth with enlargement of the inscription.

astrolobe     Astrolabe closeup

Today we would call the Elizabethans superstitious*, not understanding the seriousness in which they took elements of magic, the occult and alchemy.  In fact, I get the impression that many modern writers try to ‘excuse’ Elizabeth’s reliance on Dee by down-playing her interest or referring to her as impressionable. Elizabeth was in good company as there are letters that William Cecil wrote to Edward Kelley, Dee’s colleague for many years when they lived in Europe conducting experiments, to encourage him to return to England with his “powder that could transform base metals into gold” (Bassnett 63).  Even the Archbishop of Canterbury responded to Elizabeth’s fears of assassination and assured her that no harm would come to her so long as her “birth sign, Virgo, was in the ascendant” (Hibbert 72).

Ironically, despite Elizabeth’s beliefs and interests, when it was predicted in 1572 there would be a series of catastrophes after the appearance of a comet, it was reported that “with a courage answerable to the greatness of her state, she caused the window to be set open and cast out this word, jacta est alea, the dice are thrown” (Malcolm 355). Added to this account was the following when there were prophecies circulating about the countryside.  Elizabeth sent out a proclamation in which she “warns all not to be moved by murmurers and spreaders of rumours, the dissemination of which is to be punished as the spreading of sedition (Pollen 340).

Thus is another paradox of Elizabeth Regina:  her pragmatic response to threats to her realm and her embracing prophecies.  When in January 1603 John Dee cast her horoscope and warned her to “beware of Whitehall” (Sitwell 454) she moved to Richmond.  She did so seeing it as a realistic response.  Ironically, it was at Richmond that she died about two months later. Thus the tradition of the Tudors’ consultation with and acceptance of astrologer’s predictions was maintained.

*A consultation with an astrologer in the time of Queen Elizabeth was reported to last about “15 minutes and cost 2s. 6d” (Emerson 264).

Works Cited

Bacon, Francis, and J. Rawson Lumby. Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII,. Cambridge: University, 1902. Internet Archive. Web. 22 Jan. 2013.

Bassnett, Susan.  Elizabeth I: a Feminist Perspective.  Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1997. Print.

Brimacombe, Peter.  All the Queen’s Men: the World of Elizabeth I.  Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 2000.  Print.

Carlin, Martha. “Parron, William.” Oxford DNB. Oxford University Press, Jan. 2013. Web. 02 Feb. 2013.

Dee, John. Autobiographical Tracts of Dr. John Dee … Ed. James Crossley. [Manchester]: Printed for the Chetham Society, 1851. Google Books. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

Dee, John. Mathematicall Praeface to Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara. [S.l.]: General, 13 Jul 2007. Project Gutenburg. Web. 31 Jan. 2013.

Emerson, Kathy L. The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Renaissance England : from 1485-1649. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 1996. Print.

Hibbert, Christopher.  The Virgin Queen: Elizabeth I, Genius of the Golden Age.  New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., 1991.  Print.

Lipscomb, Suzannah.  A Visitor’s Companion to Tudor England. London : Ebury Press, 2012. Print.

Macalister, J. Y. W., and Alfred W. Pollard, eds. New Series. The Library; a Quarterly Review of Bibliography and Library Lore, Etc. Dec. 1899-Oct. 1909. Vol. IV. London: Alexander Moring, 1913. Third Series. Internet Archive. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.

Malcolm, James Peller. Anecdotes of the Manners and Customs of London from the Roman Invasion to the Year 1700: Including the Origin of British Society, Customs and Manners, with a General Sketch of the State of Religion, Superstition, Dresses, and Amusements of the Citizens of London, during That Period: To Which Are Added, Illustrations of the Changes in Our Language, Literary Customs, and Gradual Improvement in Style and Versification, and Various Particulars concerning Public and Private Libraries. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1811. Google Books. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.

Marlowe Society. “The Free-Thinkers.”: Marlowe & The School of Night. The Marlowe Society, 2012. Web. 01 Feb. 2013.

Nichols, John. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth. Among Which Are Interspersed Other Solemnities, Public Expenditures, and Remarkable Events during the Reign of That Illustrious Princess. Collected from Original MSS., Scarce Pamphlets, Corporation Records, Parochial Registers, &c., &c.: Illustrated with Historical Notes. New York: B. Franklin, 1823. Google Books. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Pahta, Päivi, and Andreas H. Jucker. Communicating Early English Manuscripts. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010. Google Books. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.

Parker, Derek. “Skyscript: The Rise and Fall of the Astrological Almanac by Derek Parker. The Traditional Astrologer Magazine, Dec. 2004. Web. 04 Feb. 2013.

Penn, Thomas.  Winter King; the Dawn of Tudor England.  New York: Penguin Books, 2012. Print.

Pickup, Oliver. “It’s Nostra-dumbass! Astrologer Predicted Henry VIII Would Marry Well and Take Care of the Church.” Mail Online. Daily Mail, 26 Aug. 2011. Web. 03 Feb. 2013.

Pollen, John Hungerford. The English Catholics in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth: A Study of Their Politics, Civil Life, and Government : From the Fall of the Old Church to the Advent of the Counter-Reformation. London: Longmans, Green, 1920. Internet Archive. Web. 30 Jan. 2013.

Ridgway, Claire. “Illuminations: The Private Lives of Kings – Libraries Gave Us Power.” The Anne Boleyn Files RSS. N.p., 24 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Feb. 2013.

Sitwell, Edith.  The Queens and the Hive.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1966. Print.

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

Thornton, Tim. Prophecy, Politics and the People in Early Modern England. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006. Google Books. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.

Tremlett, Giles.  Catherine of Aragon: Henry’s Spanish Queen.  London: Faber and             Faber, 2010. Print.

Tucker, M. J. “Life at Henry VII’s Court.” History Today. History Today.com, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2013.

Vergil, Polydore. “Full Text of “Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History,             Comprising the Reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., and Richard III. from an Early            Translation, Preserved among the Mss. of the Old Royal Library in the British             Museum”” Full Text of “Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History,             Comprising the Reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., and Richard III. from an Early             Translation, Preserved among the Mss. of the Old Royal Library in the British             Museum” Internet Archive, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.

Watkins, Susan, and Mark Fiennes. The Public and Private Worlds of Elizabeth I. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1998. Print.