Henry Tudor won the English crown at Bosworth and rode to London. A new dynasty reigned in England. For Tudor to hold the crown, a marriage was necessary. Elizabeth of York could transfer her claim to the crown to the man she married. Because there was another who could claim the throne, Elizabeth’s young cousin, the Earl of Warwick. The Earl was the son of Elizabeth’s uncle, the Duke of Clarence and his wife who were both dead, and the nobles could support this boy instead of Henry.
So Henry had to act. He had Elizabeth with the young Earl to be brought south to London. Henry entered the city on September 3, 1485 and proclaimed to the Privy Council “his intention of marrying Elizabeth of York.”
Now, Parliament had to act. They repealed the act that made Elizabeth and her siblings illegitimate and restored her royal status. She was also declared Duchess of York. With that seen to now a dispensation for marriage had to be obtained since Elizabeth and Henry had a “fourth degree of kinship.”
In the meantime, Henry claimed the throne by “right of conquest.” He “declared it was the true judgment of God, expressed in his victory at Bosworth. That gave him the crown by divine right.” No matter what he said, his support from the nobles would only come with the marriage and bring peace between the two house of York and Lancaster.
So, who was this man who brought the two houses together. Alison Weir writes in Elizabeth of York that Spanish ambassador described Henry Tudor as “there is nothing purely English in the English king’s face.”
Yet, noted in the same book, Henry was describe with more detail. “His body was slender but well-built and strong; his height above average. His appearance was remarkably attractive; his eyes were small and blue.” This king stood over six feet tall.
During the wait for the dispensation, Henry courted his royal betrothed with private meetings between the couple. But the courting didn’t stop Henry’s plans for his coronation.
On October 30, 1485, the coronation ceremony took place at Westminster Abbey. This displeased some nobles who believed that Henry should have only been king through his marriage to Elizabeth. The crown could be trasmit through the female line but would not wield sovereign power. This had happened since the royal houses of Plantagenet, York and now Tudor all possessed a claim through the female line.
No matter, this political marriage became a love match. Nobles spoke of the love between the couple and in December of 1485, the marriage date was set for January 18, 1486. It was reported that Henry held a “singular love” for Elizabeth.
From December 10 onward, Elizabeth was treated as the Queen of England as the royal preparations began.
With the wedding only four days away, Henry and Elizabeth presented a petition to the legate in chapel of Westiminster Abbey since the papal dispensation hadn’t reached the shores of England and a marriage was being demanded by the people. With their ordinary dispensation was granted to the couple.
The wedding day arrived and the royal couple were married at Westminster. Henry was 29 and Elizabeth 19.
The bride wore “a gown of silk damask and crimson satin.” It had a “kirtle of white cloth of gold damask and a mantle of the same suit, furred with ermine.” Her blonde hair hung loose and was “threaded with jewels, not the color of her clothes, that proclaimed her virginity.”
The groom was “attired in cloth of gold. Henry gave the queen a wedding ring of gold, that he purchased in December.
Return for the third part of Elizabeth and Henry’s love story and learn more about the marriage that was the only successful union of the Tudor dynasty .
The Cousins’ War started in 1399. We know it as The War of the Roses. The House of Lancaster battle the House of York—the red rose and the white rose. By the fifteenth century, Edward Plantagenet claimed the throne from Henry VI. Edward became King Edward IV.
Edward IV married Elizabeth Wydeville, Lady Grey, an impoverished Lancastarian widow. The king and queen’s first child was born on 11 February 1466 at Westminster. That child was Elizabeth Plantagenet, Princess of England, or Elizabeth of York. She was the first born princess in more than a century.
She grew up in “the most splendid court that could be found in all Christendom.”
Meanwhile, Margaret Beaufort was born in 1443 to John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, a descendent from King Edward III through the illegitimate blood line. Though the four Beaufort children were legitimated by Richard II, there was an added provision to act that stated the Beauforts could not inherit the crown. At twelve, Margaret who was a very desired heiress was married to Edmund Tudor—a man with royal blood as well. His mother was Queen Katherine of Valois, the widowed French wife of Henry V of England (and Agincourt fame), and a lowly Welsh squire Owen Tudor. Though, Edmund Tudor was fourteen years older than his wife. Such marriages were not uncommon among the nobility. Most bridegrooms waited until the young bride had reached an appropriate age. Not Edmund Tudor.
Margaret became pregnant and bore her son, Henry, on January 28, 1457. She had a traumatic birth and never bore any more children. As for Edmund Tudor, he died of plague before the birth of this future king. Now, Margaret was thirteen, a mother and a widow for twelve weeks. And a Lancastrian in a Yorkist time.
While Elizabeth grew up in “the most splendid court that could be found in all Christendom”, Henry, the Earl of Richmond, and his mother, a mother and son on the wrong side, were placed under the guardianship of William Herbert, an equally staunch Yorkist, after their home, Pembroke Castle fell.
In time to come, Margaret married her second husband, Sir Henry Strafford, a Yorkist, in order to have her son’s earldom returned to him especially since Edward IV didn’t like Margaret.
But in these turmoil times peace never last long. The Earl of Warwick—known as the Kingmaker and the man who helped Edward win the crown—along with the king’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, rebelled against Edward and set the feeble Henry VI back on the throne. With the Yorkist fleeing, Jasper Tudor, Henry’s uncle, claimed custody of his nephew while, Elizabeth, her mother, and siblings sought out sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.
But the tender peace shatters when Edward VI returns and reclaims his throne. Jasper and Henry flee England and become fugitives. Henry Tudor is fourteen. His life would be one of penury and danger, meanwhile, Elizabeth was reared a Princess. She received an education of a princess, which was lacking, and by our modern eyes not much of an education. Her granddaughter and namesake would receive a better one.
Elizabeth loved books so she possessed the capability of reading and writing. Yet, the princess struggled to speak French, knew no Latin (that was a male’s subject) and as was schooled to run a household—even a royal household—and entertain. She was raised to be a Queen, wife, and mother.
During this time, it might appear as if this royal couple would never find their way to each other. Elizabeth’s father saw Henry Tudor as a threat to his throne and wanted Henry to be returned to England, offering a grand amount of gold to Francis II, Duke of Brittany, where Henry was living. Yet, Edward didn’t plan to kill Henry but marry him to his daughter, Elizabeth in order to unite the two rival houses.
Henry though, not trusting the king, feigned illness and received sanctuary in a church in St. Malo.
In 1482, the king made one more offer to Henry. He granted the lands of his maternal grandmother, heiress to manors in three English counties, as long as he returned from “exile to be in the grace and favor of the King’s highness.” Henry didn’t sail to England.
With his life as a fugitive, Henry trusted a scant number of people. His mother and his uncle and no more beyond those two. This way of life would increase during his lifetime.
On April 9, 1483, both Henry and Elizabeth’s lives changed. Edward IV died at forty-one with his oldest child aged seventeen and his heir, Edward, a mere boy. Now, Richard III, Elizabeth’s uncle, would claim the throne for himself and take control of Edward (the rightful king— Edward V) and his brother Richard. Elizabeth and her mother and siblings would once again seek sanctuary in Westminster again.
During this time, Richard III through machinations was able to prove (more like scheme) that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville invalid and his nephews and nieces, including Elizabeth, bastards and legally unable to inherit the throne.
This acts upset powerful Englishmen who sailed to Henry Tudor’s side. Henry’s opportunity was drawing nearer thanks to Richard’s action and his mother. By this time, she had married Thomas Stanley. Stanley was a rich and powerful man and Richard couldn’t alienate him. So, Margaret waited and plotted with Elizabeth Wydeville to marry their children. Henry Tudor would be king and Elizabeth would be queen. Then the Princes in the Tower disappeared and all accused Richard III of killing the young brothers. Whether Richard killed them or not, I cannot say. That truth is lost to history.
But the accusatory talk ate away at more of Richard’s support. The proposed marriage had much support and brought more people to Henry’s side though his claim was dubious even according to the act impossible. Then Richard’s trust man, the Duke of Buckingham, switched sides. The duke informed Henry that on “St. Luke’s Day, October 18, and that he himself would raise the men of Wales. A proclamation was then made to the confederacies that Buckingham ‘had repented of his former conduct and would be the chief mover’ in the planned risings.”
Henry Tudor joined in with Buckingham’s rebellion. But Richard had already learned of the conspiracy. So when Henry sailed on October 31, the rebellion had failed yet Henry was unaware. Bad weather had blown Henry off course and he was just off Plymouth’s coast when he learned of Buckingham’s death and the army roused by the dead duke had fled. Henry sailed back to Brittany—crownless.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth stepped out of sanctuary and went to her uncle Richard and joined the Queen Anne’s household. In January, Parliament labeled Henry Tudor a traitor and if he returned to England, he would executed.
Much happened around Elizabeth and Henry. Politics and intrigue that affected this young couple. Both just had to wait for their moment. Richard had control of Elizabeth and hunted for Henry. There is talk about Richard wanting to marry his niece. But two problems stood in his way. She was a bastard as he had declared and was his reason for claiming the English throne. The second was that she was his niece which was a close blood relation and would need a dispensation for a marriage. Richard denied that he wished to marry Elizabeth. And with the reputation that the Tudor concocted of him, it is easy to believe that’s denial was a lie.
But this was the year were much changed. Charles VIII of France recognized Henry Tudor as King of England “and gave him money, ships and French troops for an invasion, with the aim—as Henry put it—of ‘the just depriving of that homicide and unnatural tyrant.’”
This recognition brought more Englishmen to Henry’s side and Henry had to act soon.
On August 1, Henry Tudor sail from Harfleur in Normandy. Six days later, he landed at Milford Haven near Pembroke. The Welshman set his foot on Welsh soil and fell to his knees and said, “’Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an unworthy nation’”—and kissed the ground. Then, calling on the aid of God and St. George, he urged his men onward, marching under a white and green banner proudly displaying the red dragon traditionally attributed to Cadwaladr. He came, as he was at pains to make clear, to reconcile the warring factions.”
Henry and his army marched eastward and on August 15, he crossed into England. Richard rode to confront him. On August 22, 1485, the two armies met. The Battle of Bosworth raged and at the end of the bloody meeting, the Tudor dynasty was born.
In the next installment the young couple meet.
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Now in the Royal Castle, Mary gathered her loyal supporters. Days laters, those men invovled in Rizzio’s death fled. By now, Mary’s army numbered 8000 men, she rode at the head of army into Edinburgh. She regained control of her realm. She pardoned some conspirators who were not directly involved with Rizzio’s murder. Her plan was simple, drive a wedge between these group of men.
Darnley signed a declaration that he was not a part of the murder. This fit Mary’s needs because she couldn’t have doubts about her unborn child’s legitimacy. In April of 1566, the Earl of Moray (Lord James Stewart, bastard half-brother to Mary and Protestant) arrived at Edinburgh Castle, where Mary was residing.
She gave Moray permission to stay at the imposing castle to keep a close watch on him. She knew that Moray held the support of Protestant lords as well as England and had to play it this way to keep support for her. This time Mary wouldn’t trust her half-brother but she knew that she needed him. The Protestants of Scotland looked to him as their leader. And Scottish lords had no problem rebelling against or killing their monarch. They had done so before.
Before the Scottish court, Mary gave the appearance of marital happiness but Darnley had been shut out from her graces and the seat of power. On 19 June 1566, Mary gave birth to James, the Duke of Rothesay (future James VI of Scotland and James I of England). Scotland had an heir to the throne and they rejoiced. Mary soared to great heights.
Darnley, though, was leading “a very disorderly life. Every night, he left the castle and went out vagabonding and drinking heavily with his young male friends in the streets of Edinburgh. He would return at all hours of the night, so that the castle gates had to be unlocked for him, which left Mary feeling ‘there was no safety, either for herself or her son.'”
Mary decided to keep James with her. She was fearful her enemies make steal him away and rule in his name. (Spoiler: That would happen) It didn’t help Mary that Darnley was still plotting to become king. The man was far from Mary’s good graces. He knew nothing of the Queen’s actions, daily life and certainly knew nothing of her affection. Mary seeking someone she could trust, she was turning more and more to the Earl of Bothwell.
Sadly for Mary, the men in her life sucked. And Darnley’s intrigue wasn’t the only on occurring. Moray and Bothwell, both had their own separate plans that would lead to death and the loss of the Scottish crown.
In October 1566, Mary gathered her Border lords for a justice eyre (a circuit court to hear legal cases). Darnley requested to accompany her and he was refused. Not pleased, Darnley starts to throw what I call hissy fits. One fit was his threat to sail away from Scotland. Mary could not allow such a thing. That posed a threat to her, her son and realm.
In the lowlands, during the eyre, Lord Bothwell had been attacked and injured. On 15 October, Mary learned on this and rode from Jedburgh to Hermitage Castle (The Earl of Bothwell’s, James Hepburn, holding) then rode back to Jedburgh. A sixty mile round trip that would be come to bite her in the ass.
The rest of 1566, Mary was ill and rested at Craigmillar Castle. During her recovery, Darnley appears again only to disappear to Mary’s relief. Her husband was a necessary nuisance. Her lords were trying to find a way to divorce her from her wastrel of a husband. He was a danger to her yet she couldn’t risk the standing of her son–a divorce would have James declared illegitmate. Yet, Mary knew that her husband wanted her dead. Her death would lead to a regency and Darnley wanted to be appointed Regent. Scotland had had a regency since 1393 and Mary, Queen of Scots (Scotland would have another under Mary’s son).
But many wanted Darnley dead too.
In 1567, (According to testimony made in 1573) a bond was drawn up to kill Darnley. No record exists and no one saw this written bond. But that didn’t stop the English and Cecil and Walingsham from using this testimony)
At the end of 1566, Darnley became ill with pox, syphillis as the Diurnal of Occurents’ stated. The sixteenth century cure wasn’t an easy one. It was mercury baths. He was at his father’s stronghold near Glasgow. That wasn’t necessary a good thing for Mary.
In the beginning in 1567, Mary had proof of two conspiracies: Lords against Darnely with plans to kill him and Darnley against Mary. With no other choice, Mary rode to Glasgow to confront her husband and bring him to Edinburgh to watch him.
Now the queen had her husband and Bothwell had recovered from his injuries and journeyed to the royal burgh. The plan was to lodge Darnely in Craigmillar. But he feared being locked up and killed so he went to Kirk o’ Field. Later many would say that Mary had set up the house in order to kill him. But that choice was Darnley’s.
The house “lay to the south of Edinburgh, on a hill overlooking the Cowgate; it stood just inside the city wall and three-quarters of a mile from Holyrood Palace, in a semi-rural location, ‘environed with pleasant gardens, and removed from the noise of the people.'”
Mary saw that her husband had all the luxuries the husband of the queen could want or need. As he recovered, the queen “visited her husband daily.” According to Alison Weir’s book, Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, she spent two nights at Kirk o’ Field, sleeping in the bedroom below his. They sat up late, sometimes until midnight, talking, playing cards or listening to music, and ‘many nobles’ came with the Queen to divert the convalescent.
Though, Mary might have shown kindess to her husband, she didn’t trust him and continued to learn of all his undermined plans against her.
On 9 February 1567, the last day of Sunday before the beginning of Lent, the queen had a full schedule. She had a wedding of her favorite servants, attended a banquet and around 7, she rode to Kirk o’ Field in the company of Lords Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly. They spent the time playing dice and chatting. The group including the Queen were dressed for the wedding masque that they would be attending later that night.
At midnight, Mary and the lords departed. This night has many stories depending on who you believe and when the story is told. Whatever you believe, Mary returned to Holyrood, attended the masque and took part in the bedding ceremony of the newlyweds then returned to her apartments.
There she held a meeting with the Captain of her Guards and Bothwell. The captain left Bothwell and the queen alone where they talked in private for some time then Bothwell left and Mary went to bed. Another act that would be used against Mary.
Shortly before 2 a.m. Mary was woken by an explosion. She thought it might be cannon fire and sent messengers to learn what was happening. They returned with the news of an explosion of Kirk o’ Field and the belief that Darnley was dead.
Lord Bothwell was the Sheriff of Edinburgh and the duty to investigate fell to him. His servant had to wake him. He sent his men then returned to bed.
Bodies of servants were discovered in the rubble remains of the house but Darnley had not been find. “At last, at 5 a.m., three hours after the explosion, someone thought to look in the south garden and orchard, beyond Flodden Wall, and it was there that they found the bodies of the twenty-year-old king and his valet.” Both men were dressed in short nightshirts and neither body had a mark on their flesh. “Darnley was stretched out on his back, under a pear tree, with one hand draped modestly over his genitals.”
Near the bodies was a chair, rope, and a dagger. The clothing weren’t burned, scorched or black from powder.
Mary learned of the news. She fell into deep grief and stayed in her chamber all day. Weir writes, “There is no doubt that Darnley’s murder left Mary grief-stricken, emotionally shattered and fearful for her own safety. For several months afterwards, she seems not to have functioned normally, and her judgment, never very good at the best of times, utterly failed her.”
This was the beginning in the end for her as Scotland’s queen and her life.
History remembers him as William the Conqueror, the first Norman King of England and the creator of the Doomsday Book. But before he defeated King Harold of England, he was known as William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy.
In 1051 or 1052, William married Matilda of Flanders. Matilda was the niece and granddaughter of Kings of France. Viewing their status through that lens, Matilda certainly married down.
Matilda was considered beautiful and wealthy. And not as short as we learn. She stood 5 feet tall, the average height for her time and William was 5’10 not the giant proclaimed.
Now the story of their courting. William sent his representative to ask for her hand in marriage and she turned him down. William not satisfied with that. William rode from Normandy to Bruges and found her riding to church. He tackled her in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. He threw her in the street, beat her and then rode off. After that, she agreed to marry him.
Some people say the story is true others say that it is not. I guess it depends on who you read. In 1053, William and Matilda married even though Pope Leo IX banned it on the grounds of consanguinity (being closely related). Luckily for their children, in 1059, the royal couple received a Papal dispensation by Pope Nicholas II.
And William and Matilda would have children–10 to be exact who all would live into adulthood. A great feat at a time when children died.
In 1066, William would transform from the bastard to the conqueror when Edward the Confessor (King of England) died without issue. So, William prepared to invade the isle nation since he was a cousin to Edward and stated that Edward promised his throne. Matilda outfitted a ship named Mora with her own funds. While William went off to England, Matilda was regent of Normandy for her young son, Robert II.
In 1066, William won the Battle of Hastings but not all in England was peaceful. The Danes were fighting in the North for control and there were rebellions from the local nobility and people. Historians put the number of dead at 100,000. That is a large number when one thinks about how much smaller the population was.
Now the King of England, Matilda had to be crowned. On May 11, 1068, she became the Queen of England. But she was still in Normandy. It would take more than a year for her to visit her new nation. Only one child was born in their new realm–Henry I who would become one of the two English kings this union produced.
In the summer of 1083, Matilda became ill and died on the 2 of November 1083. Four years later, William followed on September 9, 1087. Both are buried in France.
England now a great amount of Williams. But history never recorded William having bastards. This couple changed Europe and the world and this is just some of their historical romance.
When I first saw Braveheart, I got hooked on Scotland. Naturally, I had to learn the true history. As I read about the War for Scottish Independence and the time before the death of Alexander III and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway, stories started swirling about my head. That history led me to write my Highlander romance novels, The Marriage Alliance, Claiming the Highlander and The Laird’s Right.
During my learning spree, I discovered Edward I of England and his wife Eleanor of Castile. History remembers Edward as a king that changed the English government and legislation, conqueror of Wales and as the Hammer of the Scots. There were many facets to this couple that as we look back with modern eyes is not very nice or to be truthful—he was a right bastard—sometimes.
As a husband, history remembers him differently.
On November 1, 1254, Edward married Eleanor of Castile in the monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos, Spain. Their marriage much like others royal ones was a political alliance. Eleanor was better educated than most medieval queens and was considered a keen businesswoman.
But when they first married, they were nothing more than teenagers and Eleanor soon became pregnant. Sadly, her daughter was stillborn. However, she went on to survive sixteen pregnancies.
This royal couple was rarely apart. She even accompanied him on military campaigns. When Edward went on Crusade, Eleanor went with him and gave birth to her daughter known as Joan of Acre. A tale about that time shows their love. Edward was injured they say with a poison dagger and that Eleanor sucked out the poison. Sadly that tale is false but it shows how their contemporaries viewed their relationship. In fact, Edward was not known to have had extramarital affairs and fathered no children out of wedlock.
In November 1290, Eleanor was traveling to Lincoln when she became ill. Seven miles from Lincoln, they halted at Harby, Nottinghamshire and took up residence a house nearby. Word of the Queen’s illness reached Edward. He rushed to her side. Three days later, with Edward at Eleanor’s side, she died. It was the 28th of November and Eleanor was 49. They were married for 36 years.
For most of way back to return to London, Edward accompanied his wife’s body to Westminster Abbey. Edward ordered memorial crosses to be erected at each site that was an overnight stop between Lincoln and Westminster. They were known as Eleanor’s Crosses. Only three survive. The best is located in Geddington, England.
In a letter from Edward, he wrote about his wife, “whom living we dearly cherished and whom dead we cannot cease to love.”
Edward remarried nine years later because his sons were young and could die. The son Edward, the youngest of Eleanor’s children and the first to hold the title Prince of Wales, was about six years old and survived to become Edward II. His second wife gave birth to a daughter who they named Eleanor.
Henry VIII and his wives. Do you remember the saying? Divorce, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.
Well, we are at the Died and Divorced.
Henry VIII’s third wife who he married days after Anne lost hers. Most Tudor experts and historians say that Jane was Henry’s most beloved wife. He is buried with her and Henry, himself, supposedly said so in his life.
However, Henry only loved Jane (in my opinion) because she birthed him a son, Edward. That was all Henry desired and had been denied him. If Jane had survived, Henry would have remained married to her until her death. Can’t risk Edward being a bastard but I certainly do not believe that he loved her as he professed.
Jane though is one of the wives that intrigues me. So much about her is lost. What is thought to be know, to me, is a shallow description. Much like Anne, Jane knew how to play Henry and with son, she could have had great influence over Henry and England. Jane took much with her to her grave.
Anne of Cleeves
A political marriage that ended in divorce and Cromwell losing his head. Henry certainly did not like Anne. She gave him the divorce he wanted and she came out the winner.
She was an independent woman, with lands who was welcome at court and called the king’s sister. She lived a long life. I think Henry treated Anne the best.
Most people know Henry VIII was married six times. Quite a feat for his time period. As the saying goes Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. You might be wondering why am I writing about Henry and his first wife. After all they are not exactly a romantic couple from history. But I believe otherwise (at least for a while) so please read on.
Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. Henry VII needed a powerful alliance since his claim to the throne was from a bastard, servant line. He got Spain’s agree to wed Catherine to Prince Arthur, heir to the English throne.
In 1501, Catherine married Arthur but he died less than after their wedding day. But Henry VII wasn’t willing to send back Catherine so he kept her in England. She developed a bond with the new young heir to the throne—Henry.
In 1509, Prince Henry became the King of England and he married his Spanish bride. From all accounts, he loved his wife though he was not a faithful husband. During their marriage, Catherine had been pregnant seven times. Most she miscarried but in 1511, she gave birth to a son, Henry, Duke of Cornwall. Guns were fired and the city bells rang. Fifty-two days later, the infant duke died.
Catherine had two more stillbirths until a young princess was born and survived—Mary. More stillbirths followed until she entered menopause. And Anne Boleyn saw her opportunity because the Tudor had a weak claim to the throne and Henry needed a son to rule England.
But if history had been different…if Henry, Duke of Cornwall had survived England and the world would be different.
In my opinion, Henry VIII would have never set aside both Catherine and the Roman Catholic church is his son had survived. He would have had his heir. Also, I believe that Henry loved Catherine (at least as much as the man possessed the ability to love). He had since childhood. They were married for twenty-two years.
Besides, that Henry entrusted her to rule England while he was away, making her Regent while he battled in France. During that time, the Battle of Flodden was fought where the Scottish king James IV died. Catherine was saddened—according to the letter she sent Henry—that she wanted to send him his body so he had to make due with the Scottish king’s banner. Catherine was the one wife he had that was a true partner to him and if their son had lived…
Anne would have only been a mistress. There would have been no Elizabeth or the age that bears her name. Perhaps, Jane Seymour would have married Henry and Edward would have been born himself. And the rest…
But Anne, she saw her chance and took it. I do not fault her that. She was a smart woman who knew how to play at court politics. I think Anne was lust, a sharp infatuation that had to be satiated. And when Anne couldn’t give him the son she promised and he desired, he rid himself of her.
In the next segment of Henry VIII and his wives, I deal with Jane, Anne and the rest.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote those most famous words that are still whispered when our own words of love fail to be spoken.
I had read those words when I was a young girl who had never been in love and who was more of a tomboy than a young lady. But that one question had me wanting to feel a love like that and to one day have someone love me with such emotion that one simple question poured with that sentiment. Of course, I read the rest of the poem then I read it again. Then I had to learn more about the author named Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Elizabeth Barrett and I shared only two things in life but her story and poems have always stayed with me. Elizabeth was the eldest of twelve children. She was a smart child who read at four and started writing poetry at six years old. At 15, she fell seriously ill and the laudanum prescribe had adverse effects on her health.
In 1838, Elizabeth published her first collection of poems. Her most prolific years were between 1841 and 1844. These poems would change her life.
Her 1844 volume of poems were read by another writer named Robert Browning. Her words stirred him so that he had to write to Elizabeth. Robert wrote, “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.”
Robert Browning was six years younger than Elizabeth and a poet in his own right as well a playwright. Though he did not have the success Elizabeth had, he had some promise.
For nearly two years, they communicated through letters, falling in love in the pages until they finally met in May 1845. Elizabeth couldn’t believe that this strong, worldly man loved her— a woman of frail health and older than himself. Their courtship was carried out in secret since Elizabeth knew her father would disapprove. During the two years of their courtship, Elizabeth wrote the most famous question though they were not yet published.
However, in 1846, Robert and Elizabeth married in a private ceremony at St. Maryleborne. And in September 1846, Robert spirited his wife away to the warmer climate of Italy and many believe that benefitted his bride and prolonged her life. Mr. Barrett disinherited her as he did all his children who married without his consent. However, Elizabeth kept the Barrett surname as was required of all the children.
Now in Italy, Elizabeth suffered numerous miscarriages but in 1849 she gave birth to a son named Robert Barrett Browning or Pen Browning as he was known. Besides, their child, Elizabeth published Sonnets from the Portuguese. This book republished her earlier poems and also included the poetry from their courtship. Elizabeth thought them too personal but Robert convinced her to include them and she included Sonnet 43. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old’s griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breadth,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
In that same year, Elizabeth was a candidate for poet laureate after Wordsworth’s death and was a rival for the position with Tennyson, who would claim it in the end.
On June 29, 1861, the love story ended with Elizabeth’s death in Florence. Robert continued to write but most believe his best years of his writings were years he shared with his wife. Robert died on 12 December 1889.
*Once a month I will be telling the love story of a true historical couple.