July 1, 1543 – Treaty of Greenwich Signed

Anonymous Painting of Greenwich Palace During the Reign of ing Henry VIII (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today was a big day: the signing of the Treaty of Greenwich that was designed to eventually unite England and Scotland under one crown. The Treaty actually consisted of two sub-treaties (the first established peace between the two kingdoms, the second agreed a marriage between the six-year old Prince Edward of England and the infant Mary, Queen of Scots) and was accompanied by the ceremonial release of a number of Scottish noblemen who had been imprisoned by the English. Although the Treaty was eventually rejected by the Scottish Parliament (leading to eight years of war known as the Rough Wooing…), everything looked perfect today.

The funny part is, amid all this celebration of Scotland, so many of the formalities of the day were centered around the Irish. The same day as he signed the Treaty of Greenwich, Henry also created two earls and a baron of Ireland (Moraghe O’Brien became Earl of Tomond, William Burgh became Earl of Clanrychard, and Donoghue O’Brien became Baron of Ybrakan) and then held a feast for them. Was this a nod to the historical alliance between Ireland and Scotland or another example of Henry’s tone-deaf attitude towards Scotland? Either way, the description in L&P is too wonderful not to share:

The Queen’s closet being richly hanged with arras and strewed with rushes, and the King come to his closet to hear high mass, the [three men to be ennobled] went to the Queen’s closet, and there, after sacring of high mass, put on their robes of estate. The King was under the cloth of estate with all his Council and many other nobles and the ambassadors of Scotland, viz. the Earl of Glencerne, Sir George Douglas, Sir William Hamelton, Sir James Leyrmonthe and the Secretary of Scotland. The Earl of Tomond was led in by the Earls of Derby and Ormond, Viscount Lisle bearing the sword, and Garter the letters patent, which were delivered by the Lord Chamberlain to the Great Chamberlain, who delivered them to the King, who took them to Mr. Wriothesley, Secretary, to read. At the words cincturam gladii the King took the sword from Viscount Lisle and girt it “bawdrick wise” about the Earl, who was kneeling, “and so the patent was read out.” The other Earl was created with like ceremony. Then the Baron, in his kirtle, was led in by Lords Cobham and Clinton, Lord Montjoye bearing the sword and Garter the letters patent, which were read by Mr. Pagett, Secretary, and at the word investimus he put on his robe. The King put chains of gold with crosses about each of their necks, and made five of the men that came with them knights. They then went, with their patents in their hands, to the Council chamber, underneath the King’s chamber, to dine, led by the trumpets and officers of arms and accompanied by the English earls and lords above named. After the second course Garter proclaimed their styles (given). The King gave them robes of estate and paid all duties.

 

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June 21, 1529 – Catherine of Aragon’s Epic Speech at Blackfriars

The Trial of Queen Catherine of Aragon, by Henry Nelson O’Neil (Public Domain via the Birmingham Museums and Wikimedia Commons)

This was a phenomenal speech, Catherine’s chance to plead her case before the world. And she did. Masterfully.

Some context: the “King’s Great Matter” started in 1527 or so. Henry was pursuing annulment the only way possible – through the Church. Annulment should have been a foregone conclusion – other monarchs had gotten them easily, and on much less legitimate grounds. The problem in this case was that Catherine’s nephew Charles V had just sacked Rome and therefore held the Pope essentially prisoner.

The Pope dickered for a long time, hoping the King would tire of Anne Boleyn and the issue would die, but that didn’t happen. Finally he made what looked like a concession – he agreed that a Legatine Court could hear the case in England and sent Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio to hear the case with Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. The first day, they called the King of England to the court – he gave the proper answer (“Here, my lords”). Then they called the Queen. Rather than answering (which would have acknowledged the court and its legitimacy), she rose, walked over to her husband, and threw herself on her knees to speak directly to him. George Cavendish (Wolsey’s gentleman-usher and then biographer) recorded the speech she gave:

Sir, I beseech you for all the loves there hath been between us, and for the love of God, let me have justice and right, take of me some pity and compassion, for I am a poor woman and a stranger born out of your dominions. I have here no assured friend, and much less indifferent counsel. I flee to you as to the head of justice within your realm. Alas! Sir, wherein have I offended you, or what occasion of displeasure have I designed against your will and pleasure? Intending (as I perceive) to put me from you, I take God and all the world to witness that I have been to you a true, humble, and obedient wife, ever conformable to your will and pleasure, that never said or did anything to the contrary thereof, being always well pleased and contented with all things wherein ye had any delight or dalliance, whether it were in little or much. I never grudged in word or countenance nor showed a visage or spark of discontentment. I loved all those whom ye loved only for your sake, whether I had cause or no and whether they were my friends or my enemies. This twenty years have I been your true wife, or more, and by me ye have had divers children, although it hath pleased God to call them out of the world, which has been no fault of mine.

And when ye had me at the first, I take God to be my judge, I was a true maid without touch of man; and whether it be true or no, I put it to your conscience. If there by any just cause by the law that ye can allege against me, either of dishonesty or any other impediment to banish and put me from you, I am well content to depart, to my great shame and disparagement; and if there be none, then here I most lowly beseech you let me remain in my former estate and receive justice at your princely hands. The king your father was in the time of his reign of such estimation through the world for his excellent wisdom, that he was accounted and called of all men the second Solomon; and my father Ferdinand, King of Spain, who was esteemed to be one of the wittiest princes that reigned in Spain many years before, were both wise and excellent kings in wisdom and princely behavior. It is not therefore to be doubted but that they elected and gathered as wise counselors about them as to their high discretions were thought meet. Also, as me-seemeth, they had in their days as wise, well-learned men, and men of good judgment as be at this present in both realms, who thought then the marriage between you and me good and lawful. Therefore is it a wonder to me to hear what new inventions are now invented against me, that never intended but honesty. And cause me to stand to the order and judgment of this new court, wherein ye may do me much wrong if ye intend any kind of cruelty; for ye may condemn me for lack of sufficient answer, having no indifferent counsel but such as be assigned me, with whose wisdom and learning I am not acquainted. Ye must consider that they cannot be indifferent counselors for my part which be your subjects, and taken out of your own council before, wherein they be made privy, and dare not for your displeasure, disobey your will and intent, being once made privy thereto. Therefore, I most humbly require you, in the way of charity and for the love of God, who is the just judge, to spare the extremity of this new court until I may be advertised what way and order my friends in Spain will advise me to take. And if ye will not extend to me so much indifferent favor, your pleasure then be fulfilled, and to God I commit my case.”

With that, “she rose up, making low courtesy to the king, and so departed from thence.”

A formidable woman.

[There’s lots more good stuff where this came from. Cavendish’s The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey is just wonderful! – You can access it through Archive.Org here]

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June 5, 1536 – Edward Seymour Created Viscount Beauchamp of Hache

Edward Seymour, by Hans Holbein (though this is disputed). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

More good times for the Seymours…now that Jane was married to the King, the rest of the family had to be ennobled a bit as well. There was precedent: well before he’d married Anne Boleyn, Henry had confirmed Thomas Boleyn’s Earldom of Ormonde and added the Dukedom of Wiltshire. Edward might have secretly been a bit miffed that he hadn’t gotten a better title, but advancement was advancement, especially since it came with money and land!

Specifically, the patent of creation as Viscount Beauchamp carried twenty marks a year. Plus the records show that he also received the following – further evidence of the great benefits derived by the Seymours (and others too) of the dissolution of the monasteries. I’ve left in a lot of the archaic language, I thought it was cool – FYI, a “messuage” is a dwelling house with outbuildings and land assigned to its use:

  • Grant of the manors of Brodeton, Sherston, and Ambresburye, Wilts, and the hundreds of Ambresburye, Wynterbourne, and Alleworthbury, Wilts, and all lands, et cetera in those places belonging to the said manors and hundreds; to hold to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by dame Anne his wife, with remainder.
  • Grant in tail male of the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Holy Trinity, Eston, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera, within the circuit; the manors of Eston, Froxfeld, and Grafton, Wilts, the rectories of the parish churches of Estonne, Froxfeld, Stapleford, and Tydcombe, and the advowsons of the churches and vicarages thereof, the manors, messuages, et cetera in the villages, parishes, and hamlets of Eston, Froxfelde, Stapleford, Tydcombe, and Grafton, Milton, Wyke, and Puttale, and elsewhere in said co., lately belonging to the said priory, as enjoyed by Henry Bryan, late Prior, in right of the said priory on the 4 February last, which came into the King’s hands by virtue of the Act 27 Hen. VIII. Also the manor of Corseley, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Studley, Oxon, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, et cetera thereto belonging in Corseley; in the same manner as Mary Baynbrig, the late Prioress, held the same. Also the manor of Monketon, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Farleygh, Wilts, dissolved by Parliament; and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Monketon, in the same manner as Lewis Breknok alias Millen, Prior, held the same on the 4 February last. Also all messuages, lands, et cetera in Tudworth, Wilts, parcel of the lands of the late priory of Mayden Bardley, Wilts, now dissolved by the said Act, in the same manner as Ric. Jenyns the Prior held the same on the 4 Feb. last; with all court leets, views of frankpledge, &c. in the above possessions.
  • Also grant in tail male to the said Edward and dame Anne his wife, of the manors of Barwyk, Basset, Richardston, Langden, Mydgehall, Studley, and Costowe, Wilts; parcel of the lands late of the abbey of Stanley, Wilts; and all messuages, lands, et cetera in those places, as fully as Thomas Calne alias Morley the Abbot held the same on the 4 Feb. last; the site, ground, et cetera of the late priory of Farlegh, Wilts; the church, bell tower, and churchyard of the same priory; all messuages, et cetera within and without the enclosure and circuit of the said late priory; and the manors of Farlegh, Chippenham, Thornehill, and Brome, Wilts; and the advowson of the parish church of Farlegh, and all messuages, lands, et cetera of the said late priory in Farlegh, Chippenham Thornehill, and Brome, as fully as the said Lewis Breknok enjoyed the same on the 4 February last. Also the manors of Erchefounte and Alcanings, Wilts; parcel of the lands of the late abbey of St. Mary, Winchester, likewise dissolved; the rectory of the parish church of Erchefounte and the advowson of the parish church of Alcanings, and the advowsons of the churches of Erchefount and Alcanings, and all messuages, lands, et cetera, in those places, parcel of the said late abbey, as fully as Eliz. Shelley the Abbess held the same on the 4 February last; with all views of frankpledge, court leets, et cetera in the above possessions.

To hold the possessions in the first paragraph to the said Edward and the heirs male of his body by the said dame Anne; with remainder to the heirs male of his body by future wife, at the rent of 7l. 16s. 2d.; and those in the second paragraph to the said Edward and Anne and heirs male of the body of the said Edward by the said Anne; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs male of the body of the said Edward by any future wife; with remainder in default of such issue to the heirs female of the said Edward, at rent 34l. 16d.

[From Letters & Papers, Grants in June 1536]

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May 9, 1538 – Henry Loses a Potential Bride

Marie de Guise and James V by an unknown artist (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was the day on which Marie de Guise married James V of Scotland by proxy, removing this crown jewel from the European marriage market. Marie was a member of the powerful Guise family, the power behind the throne in France, and at 21 was already a widow with a healthy son. She was said to be tall, beautiful and attractive, and her princess-sized dowry was provided by Francis himself. Could she get any better? Yes. She was also smart and witty.  When she heard that Henry (recently a widower) had explained to the French ambassador that she would be the perfect bride because Henry was “big in person, and needed a big wife,” she responded with a great dig: “I may be a big woman, but I have a very little neck.”

(Still, I have to admit, Christina of Denmark did her one better…When she was told of Henry’s interest, her response was, “If I had two heads, one would be at the disposal of the King of England.” In response, Wriothesley advised Thomas Cromwell that Henry should; “fyxe his most noble stomacke in some such other place.” A bit of great irony here, Christina would go on to marry Anne of Cleves’ former betrothed, Francis Duc de Bar.)

Marie’s marriage to James would be successful: she got pregnant quickly, giving birth first to James, Duke of Rothesay (born May 22, 1540) and Robert, Duke of Albany (born April 12, 1541); however, both died on April 21, 1541 (with the cause blamed mainly on a change of wet nurses and over-feeding). Their third and last child, Mary, was born December 8, 1542 and became Queen of Scots six days later. That’s a whole other story!

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March 21, 1556 – Execution of Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer’s execution, from John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Today is the sad anniversary of the burning of Thomas Cranmer. His execution involved a surprise dramatic twist at the end that sealed him as an important Protestant martyr.

Anyone interested in the Tudor times knows Cranmer well. He was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533; he established the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England – and pronounced the invalidity of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He stayed close to Henry for the rest of that king’s life, helped steer the country towards further reforms under the Protestant Edward VI – but then was quickly jailed for treason and heresy once Catherine’s daughter, the staunchly Catholic Mary I, ascended to the throne.

He spent two years in prison, and was sentenced to death. This is where it gets tricky. On December 11, Cranmer was placed into the house of the Dean of Christ Church – and treated as an honored guest. A Dominican friar debated issues of papal supremacy and purgatory…and somehow persuaded Cranmer to recant. The recantations (there were four) were not strong enough to stay his sentence: on February 24, his execution was set for March 7. Two days after that writ was issued, Cranmer issued a full recantation – he repudiated all Lutheran theology, fully accepted papal supremacy and transubstantiation, and agreed that there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. He received absolution, and participated in the mass. Under Canon law, he should have been reprieved, but Mary decided she wanted to make an example of him and gave orders that the execution would proceed.

Then the Marian government got greedy. They asked him to recant one last time before his death – and brought him for this purpose to the University Church to make a public speech. He started with a prayer, then deviated from the script… and recanted his recantation (!). Here’s that part of it:

“Every man desireth, good people, at the time of their deaths, to give some good exhortation that others may remember after their deaths, and be the better thereby. So I beseech God grant me grace, that I may speak something at this my departing, whereby God may be glorified and you edified.

First, it is a heavy case to see, that many folks be so much doted upon the love of this false world, and so careful for it, that of the love of God, or the love of the world to come, they seem to care very little or nothing therefore. This shall be my first exhortation: That you set not overmuch by this false glosing world, but upon God and the world to come. And learn to know what this lesson meaneth, which St John teacheth, that the love of this world is hatred against God.

The second exhortation is, that next unto God, you obey your king and queen, willingly and gladly, without murmur and grudging. And not for fear of them only, but much more for the fear of God: Knowing, that they be God’s ministers, appointed by God to rule and govern you. And therefore whoso resisteth them, resisteth God’s ordinance.

The third exhortation is, that you love all together like brethren and sisters. For alas, pity it is to see, what contention and hatred one Christian man hath to another; not taking each other, as sisters and brothers; but rather as strangers and mortal enemies. But I pray you learn and bear well away this one lesson, To do good to all men as much as in you lieth, and to hurt no man, no more than you would hurt your own natural and loving brother or sister. For this you may be sure of, that whosoever hateth any person, and goeth about maliciously to hinder or hurt him, surely, and without all doubt, God is not with that man, although he think himself never so much in God’s favour.

The fourth exhortation shall be to them that have great substance and riches of this world, that they will well consider and weigh those sayings of the Scripture. One is of our Saviour Christ himself, who saith, It is hard for a rich man to enter into heaven; a sore saying, and yet spoke by him, that knew the truth. The second is of St John, whose saying is this, He that hath the substance of this world, and seeth his brother in necessity, and shutteth up his mercy from him, how can he say, he loveth God?  Much more might I speak of every part; but time sufficeth not. I do but put you in remembrance of things. Let all them that be rich, ponder well those sentences; for if ever they had any occasion to shew their charity, they have now at this present, the poor people being so many, and victuals so dear. For though I have been long in prison, yet I have heard of the great penury of the poor. Consider, that that which is given to the poor, is given to God; whom we have not otherwise present corporally with us, but in the poor.

And now forsomuch as I am come to the last end of my life, whereupon hangeth all my life passed, and my life to come, either to live with my Saviour Christ in heaven, in joy, or else to be in pain ever with wicked devils in hell; and I see before mine eyes presently either heaven ready to receive me, or hell ready to swallow me up; I shall therefore declare unto you my very faith, how I believe, without colour or dissimulation. For now is no time to dissemble, whatsoever I have written in times past.

First, I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, &c. and every article of the Catholic faith, every word and sentence taught by our Saviour Christ, his Apostles and Prophets, in the Old and New Testament.

And now I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that ever I said or did in my life: and that is, the setting abroad of writings contrary to the truth. Which here now I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and writ for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be: and that is, all such bills, which I have written or signed with mine own hand, since my degradation; wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand offended in writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished. For if I may come to the fire, it shall be first burned. And as for the Pope, I refuse him, as Christ’s enemy and antichrist, with all his false doctrine.

[Here they interrupted him to remind him of his recantation. He responded:]

“Alas, my lord I have been a man, that all my life loved plainness, and never dissembled till now against the truth; which I am most sorry for. For the sacrament, I believe as I had taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester.”

At this point, he was pushed off the stage (“And here he was suffered to speak no more”) and carried away to the stake…where he doubled down:

And [Cranmer] answered (shewing his hand) ‘This is the hand that wrote it, and therefore it shall suffer first punishment.’ Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burning, crying with a loud voice, ‘This hand hath offended.‘  As soon as the fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while.

Rest in peace.

SOURCE:  Todd, Henry John. The Life of Archbishop Cranmer, Vol II.

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February 17, 1547 – Edward Seymour Becomes Duke of Somerset

Edward Seymour, by an unknown artist (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons).

When Henry died on January 27, his will contemplated sixteen executors who would share power while his son was still a minor. Nice idea in principle, but even Henry found it impossible to impose his will after death. Somerset had been ready for this moment, and sprang into action.

The old King’s death was kept secret – according to the Spanish ambassador’s letters, “not even the slightest signs of such a thing were to be seen at Court, and even the usual ceremony of bearing in the royal dishes to the sound of trumpets was continued without interruption” – and all roads from London were closed until they had the new King with them and safely in the Tower. Meanwhile, Edward Seymour worked behind the scenes to seize power by get himself appointed Lord Protector – largely by figuring out the right bribes for the different Council members. And as long as rich offices were being handed out, why not one for the Lord Protector himself.

As W.K. Jordan puts it in his Edward VI: The Young King (quoting from Hargrave, Stow, and Edward VI himself),

The ceremony at the Tower, for all the haste in preparation, was elaborate and impressive. Before all the assembled nobility, Edward Seymour was first created a duke, being dressed in an ‘inner robe’ of honor, with the heralds preceding him, and the Garter next following. Then came the Earl of Shrewsbury carrying a verge (rod) of gold and Oxford carrying the duke’s cup and coronet of gold, while Arundel bore the sword. Escorted by the Duke of Suffolk and the Marquis of Dorset, Seymour offered his obedience to the child King sitting in the chair of state, and then knelt before him. Paget read the charter, while at the appropriate point Edward placed the duke’s mantle on Seymour, girt him with the sword, put the coronet on his head, gave him the verge of gold and pronounced him Duke of Somerset. Somerset then stood by the King while the others were ennobled.

(In case you were wondering, the Earl of Essex (William Parr) became the Marquis of Northampton, Viscount Lisle (John Dudley) became the Earl of Warwick, Lord Wriothesley became Earl of Southampton, Sir Thomas Seymour became Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Sir Richard Rich became Baron Rich of Leighs, Sir William Willoughby became Baron Willoughby of Parham, and Sir Edmund Sheffield became Baron Sheffield).

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January 18, 1486 – Henry VII Marries Elizabeth of York

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by Sarah Malden (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by Sarah Malden, Countess of Essex (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This is the anniversary of the marriage of Henry VII with Elizabeth of York – the union of the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York to create the Tudor Rose and finally end the Wars of the Roses.

Interestingly, the marriage occurred five months after Henry VII acceded to the throne – and after the man’s coronation. Henry VII needed to make a very important point to the world – that he ruled by his own right, not through his wife’s claim. After all, his claim – beyond the fact that he won the Battle of Bosworth – was somewhat tenuous (through illegitimate heirs etc.). By forcing people to fully recognize his legitimacy before his marriage, the union was transformed into a magnanimous gesture rather than a desperate grab. It was actually the right way to manipulate the optics of the situation.

Agnes Strickland describes the event as follows:

Their wedding day was, in the words of Bernard Andreas, ‘celebrated with all religious and glorious magnificence at court, and by their people with bonfires, dancing, songs and banquets, throughout all London.’ Cardinal Bourchier, who was at the same time a descendant of the royal house of Plantagenet and a prince of the church, was the officiating prelate at the marriage. ‘His hand,’ according to the quaint phraseology of Fuller, who records the circumstance, ‘held that sweet posie, wherein the white and red roses were first tied together.’”

It was said the marriage was a happy one – enough that Henry VII had a reputation for fidelity – a rare attribute for a king. She got pregnant right away, giving birth to Arthur Tudor on September 20, 1486. At that point her husband was thrilled to have her crowned: on November 25, 1487 she was anointed Queen of England. Everything was golden at that point, and it would remain that way for quite some time….

Still, I always wonder how Elizabeth felt about marrying Henry. I mean, she was raised as a princess, so she would have expected a marriage based on politics. But how did she really feel about her overbearing mother-in-law? And there were several instances of men claiming to be her long-lost brothers…did she ever question -even for a moment – whether they were? What must that have feel like? I need to go lose myself in some good books…feel free to suggest your favorites!

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November 25, 1487 – Elizabeth of York Crowned

Elizabeth of York by an unknown artist, scanned from The National Portrait Gallery History of the Kings and Queens of England by David Williamson (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Elizabeth of York was crowned a little more than two years after her husband, Henry VII. Although she was widely regarded as the Yorkist heir to the throne, Henry did not want to condition his legitimacy on her claim so he insisted on being crowned himself before their marriage – and then Elizabeth’s coronation had to wait  because she  was pregnant with their first child (Prince Arthur was born on September 20, 1486).

On the 24th, she rode through London to Westminster. The crowd was immense as it was her first public appearance since her marriage, and everyone was anxious to behold her. Apparently, she did not disappoint. As Agnes Strickland puts it in her wonderful Lives of the Queens of England,

[S]he had not completed her twenty-second year, her figure was, like that of her majestic father, tall and elegant, her complexion brilliantly fair and her serene eyes and perfect features were now lighted up with the lovely expression maternity ever gives to a young woman whose disposition is truly estimable. The royal apparel, in which her loving subjects were so anxious to see her arrayed, consisted of a kirtle of white cloth of gold, damasked and a mantle of the same, furred with ermine, fastened on the breast with a great lace or cordon, curiously wrought of gold and silk, finished with rich knobs of gold and tassels. ‘On her fair yellow hair, hanging at length down her back, she wore a caul of pipes and a circle of gold, richly adorned with gems.’”

Then, on the day itself, she was even more majestic – and provoked a near-riot:

“The next day she was attired in a kirtle of purple velvet, furred with ermine bands in front. On her  hair she wore a circlet of gold, set with large pearls and colored gems. She entered Westminster Hall with her attendants, and waited under a canopy of state till she proceeded to the abbey. The way thither was carpeted with striped cloth, which sort of covering had been, from time immemorial, the perquisite of the common people. But the multitude in this case crowded so eagerly to cut off pieces of the cloth, ere the queen had well passed, that before she entered the abbey several of them were trampled to death, and the procession of the queen’s ladies “broken and distroubled.”

Elizabeth’s mom, Elizabeth Woodville, was not present – she was suspected of having been involved in the 1487 Yorkist rebellion that claimed that Lambert Simnel was the true king of England and was sent to remote Bermondsey Abbey where she took up a quiet, contemplative life. Elizabeth’s step-brother Thomas Grey, Earl of Huntingdon and Marquess of Dorset, had been caught up in that same rebellion and sent to the Tower, but was liberated and allowed to assist the coronation. Part of the reconciliation, after all!

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November 2, 1541…Henry Learns of Catherine’s “Dissolute Living”

Catherine Howard - Portrait Miniature by Hans Holbein

Catherine Howard – Portrait Miniature by Hans Holbein (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

This was the beginning of the end for Catherine Howard. All Souls’ Day, the day that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer left a letter on Henry’s seat in Hampton Court’s Chapel Royal detailing information he “had not the heart” to tell him directly.

Let’s back up. About two weeks ago, a man named John Lascelles came to Cranmer with explosive information. John had a sister, Mary Lascelles Hall, who was in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk at the same time as Catherine. John had decided that Mary should use her old connection to secure a post at court as so many others seemed to be doing. Mary refused. John pushed the matter – after all, this was quite an opportunity, not one to pass up. Mary explained that Catherine was “light, both in living and conditions” and gave some of the details. Lascelles, coincidentally, was a noted reformer – one who had formerly worked in Thomas Cromwell’s household. Lascelles understood that this could crush the more conservative faction at court, and went right to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer, aided by Edward Seymour, interviewed Mary Hall and confirmed that Catherine had sexual relations with two men before her marriage: her music teacher Henry Mannox and the Dowager Duchess’ secretary Francis Dereham. The affair with Dereham was the more serious –it was a clear precontract that invalidated her marriage to the King (indeed, it was more of a precontract than existed to support any of the King’s three previous annulments).

Had the matter stopped there, it would have ended Catherine Howard’s reign – but would not have killed her (as the Dowager Duchess put it when she heard what had happened while Catherine had been in her charge, “If there be no offence since the marriage, she cannot die for what was done before”). Unfortunately for Catherine, she had appointed Dereham as her personal secretary, which led to the suspicion that she was planning to resume the affair. This prompted Cranmer to look for signs of adultery – which he found all too quickly. Rumors of an affair between Catherine and one of the King’s favorite gentlemen, Thomas Culpeper, were supported by a letter in Catherine’s own hand. Two quotes sealed her fate: “Come to me when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment” and “Yours as long as life endures.”

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October 2, 1536 – The Lincolnshire Rising

Pilgrimage of Grace, by an unknown 19th Century illustrator (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Pilgrimage of Grace, by an unknown 19th Century illustrator (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Lincolnshire Rising was a sudden protest of the suppression of the monasteries. Shortly after the closure of Louth Abbey, the local villagers were at evensong at St. James Church in Louth and…well… next thing you know they were revolting and the unrest quickly spread to neighboring towns. Their numbers and organization grew until some 40,000 protesters marched on Lincoln and occupied Lincoln Cathedral.  The King quickly sent threatening orders for the rebels to disperse, which they by and large did. By October 14 the leaders had been captured and hung. It all seemed over…

Until it wasn’t.

While the Lincolnshire Uprising was failing, the rest of the North was mobilizing into the Pilgrimage of Grace, which has been called the “most serious of all Tudor rebellions.”  The Pilgrims wanted the breach with Rome to be repaired, they wanted the abbeys to be restored – and they wanted Thomas Cromwell gone (Cromwell was blamed for the changes). This kind of questioning of policies drove Henry into a rage. On October 19, he would send off two letters. First, to the Duke of Suffolk detailing the lesson he wanted them to be taught:

After this, if it appear to you by due proof that the rebels have since their retires from Lincoln attempted any new rebellion, you shall, with your forces run upon them and with all extremity “destroy, burn, and kill man, woman, and child the terrible example of all others, and specially the town of Louth because to this rebellion took his beginning in the same.”

Second, to the rebels themselves:

I have never heard that princes’ counsellors and prelates should be appointed by ignorant common people nor that they were meet persons to choose them. “How presumptuous then are ye, the rude commons of one shire, and that one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm and of least experience, to find fault with your prince for the electing of his counsellors and prelates?” Thus you take upon yourself to rule your prince.

As to the suppression of religious houses we would have you know it is granted to us by Parliament and not set forth by the mere will of any counsellor. It has not diminished the service of God, for none were suppressed but where most abominable living was used, as appears by their own confessions signed by their own hands in the time of our visitations. Yet many were allowed to stand, more than we by the act needed; and if they amend not their living we fear we have much to answer for.

As to the relief of poor people, we wonder you are not ashamed to affirm that they have been a great relief, when many or most have not more than four or five religious persons in them and divers but one; who spent the goods of their house in nourishing vice.

As to the Act of Uses we wonder at your madness in trying to make us break the laws agreed to by the nobles, knights, and gentlemen of this realm, whom the same chiefly toucheth. Also the grounds of those uses were false and usurped upon the prince.

As to the fifteenth, do you think us so faint hearted that ye of one shire, were ye a great many more, could compel us to remit the same, when the payments yet to come will not meet a tenth of the charges we must sustain for your protection?

As to First Fruits, it is a thing granted by Parliament also. We know also that ye our commons have much complained in time past that most of the goods and lands of the realm were in the spiritual men’s hands; yet, now pretending to be loyal subjects, you cannot endure that your prince should have part thereof.

We charge you to withdraw to your houses and make no more assemblies, but deliver up the provokers of this mischief to our lieutenant’s hands and submit yourselves to condign punishment, else we will not suffer this injury unavenged. We pray God give you grace to do your duties and rather deliver to our lieutenant 100 persons than by your obstinacy endanger yourselves, your wives, children, lands, goods, and chattels, besides the indignation of God.

I kept the full text of this second letter in – even some five hundred years later you can feel yourself being cowed by his anger and threats. I can only imagine what the Pilgrims must have felt on reading this (even without knowing about the letter to Suffolk)!

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