Bright and Dark Tudor Times

In May 1499, months after the birth of the Tudor’s sixth child, Prince Arthur married by proxy Katherine of Aragon, Infanta to King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella. Henry, now, had his connection to the powerful Spanish nation. Katherine would arrive in England when she reached fourteen in December along with ladies who were beautiful in order to make “English” connections.

Those connections were endangered with the arrival of another pretender appeared on the scene and though, Henry took care of him quickly, the Spanish King and Queen’s faith on Henry’s hold on the English throne. Especially since there was a very true threat to Henry’s crown, that threat was the Earl of Warwick.

Henry had to rid himself of the claimant to the throne, one who had a better claim than Henry since he was the son of the Duke of Clarence (brother to Edward IV and uncle to Elizabeth of York). Alison Weir writes in Elizabeth of York, “the likelihood is that Ferdinand warned Henry VII that while Warwick lived, the Infanta would not be coming to England.”

How was Henry to accomplish this when Warwick committed no crime and was locked up in the Tower of London? But Henry needed the Spanish alliance and wasn’t the king the law? He just had to find a way.

Robert Cleymound met with Lord Warwick in his cell and plotted to “fire and seize the Tower, thus facilitating his escape to Flanders, whence he would make war upon Henry VII.” Then contact was made with Warbeck who was locked in the Tower and just below Warwick’s own cell. The plot was that Warbeck and Warwick would escape from the tower and Warbeck was told that Warwick would make him king whereas Warwick was told he would be king. But Cleymound claimed Warbeck informed the king of the plot.

Warwick was tried on November 19 in Westminster Hall. He plead guilty perhaps because he did not understand since he was considered simple-minded (as his contemporaries called him). He was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

On November 29, Warwick was beheaded on Tower Hill. He was twenty-four years old. He was buried in Bisham Priory beside his grandfather, Warwick the Kingmaker. Years later, Katherine was said to say, that her marriage to Prince Arthur had been made in blood.

After the executions, Henry fell ill and recovered by the middle of December. That same year, the plague so to over the pandemic the King and Queen traveled to Calais. This was the first and last time Elizabeth had traveled abroad. While in English-held territory in France, Elizabeth and Henry met with the Archduke Phillip and his Archduchess Juana of Castile, sister to Katherine of Aragon. Forty days after departing England, Elizabeth and Henry returned to the realm.

Upon the arrival at Greenwich, they received distressing news. Prince Andrew’s health was a concern yet the worse was the death of their infant son Prince Edmund at fifteen months. The baby prince was given a state funeral, provisions which Henry VII had laid down.

During this time, Katherine departed Spain. She arrived in England on October 2, 1501. Prince Arthur and the King traveled to with the future Queen of England.

Preparations for the marriage began. On November 9, Katherine met Prince Henry. Then on the 12th, Katherine entered the city of London to bells ringing, banners fluttering about and crowded streets where music played and wine ran free. The next day, Elizabeth met her future daughter-in-law. “During her audience, she and Elizabeth both spoke in Latin, and they enjoyed ‘pleasant and goodly communication, dancing, and disports. Thus, with honor and mirth, this Saturday was expired and done,’ and it was late when Katherine departed for Lambeth Palace to make ready for her wedding day.”

On November 14, 1501, Arthur and Katherine were married in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Their wedding night would play an importance years later when Henry VIII sought a divorce.

The young royal couple departed for Ludlow Castle on December 21, 1501. That royal marriage wasn’t the only one being arranged. In January 1502, Henry arranged a treaty of marriage with James IV of Scotland. His daughter, Margaret would become Queen of Scots but would not travel across the border until September 1503.

The good cheer of the wedding wouldn’t last. In February, Prince Arthur sickened. And another threat reared up. Henry dealt with the menace but the King’s power meant nothing with his son’s health. Prayers were said, pilgrimage was made by two priests Elizabeth hired, and offers were given to the church.

Arthur’s health improved enough that he was well enough to wash the feet of fifteen men on Maundy Thursday on March 24.

Four days into April, the worse happened. Arthur, Prince of Wales and future King, died. The fifteen-year-old was buried at Worcester and not Westminster Abbey. According to Weir, it has been suggested that Arthur died of something contagious since his body had to be buried as swiftly as possible.

Alison Weir says of forty-five-year-old Henry’s reaction, “‘When the King understood these sorrowful, heavy tidings, he sent for the Queen, saying that he and his wife would take their powerful sorrow together.’ Thus it was the Elizabeth heard the shattering news every parent dreads to hear, that her child was dead in the flower of his youth.”

Elizabeth reacted as any mother would. She collapsed. Henry rushed to her and comforted her. Her son’s death impacted her health. There are reports of the Queen’s health taking a turn for the worse.

Katherine, widow of Arthur afterward stayed with the King and Queen then went on to reside at Croydon Palace. The young Prince Henry Tudor was now being groomed as the heir to the English and Irish throne. But that’s another story.

Dressed in her mourning attire that Henry set down in his ordinances, the royal couple decided they were still capable of bearing more children. Elizabeth and Henry had always lived together. She accompanied him on his journeys yet on 1502 Elizabeth departed from Windsor and Henry’s side. By the end of September, Henry reunited with his wife.

Royal duties resumed but Elizabeth was with child again. She wasn’t due until February and preparations being made for her confinement.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, celebrated the Christmas season. Meanwhile, Henry was consumed with the construction of the new Lady Chapel. In January 1503, Elizabeth came by river to Westminster to reunite with the King. They, then, traveled onto the Tower.

On February 2, 1503, Elizabeth was still at the Tower (her father’s favorite residence) when the baby arrived ten days early. After the difficult birth, the daughter was christened Katherine on the Saturday after her birth at the parish church of the Tower.

That same time, Elizabeth fell ill. She worsened swiftly. The king sent a man for the physician and paid a boatman to wait for the doctor along with horses and guides to get him to the queen’s side through the dark night.

Elizabeth of York–the Bloom of the House of York–died in the early morning of Saturday, February 11. Her thirty-seventh birthday. Henry was at her side along with priests for last rites and her attendants and servants.

Henry was heartbroken. He traveled to Richmond to mourn his wife alone. For six weeks he was so low with grief that he sickened and was said near death. Tradition decreed that he would not attend her funeral. He ordered a new velvet cloth of estate of blue, the color of royal mourning. Books were bound in this fabric and mourning attire in black and blue. He slowly came out of mourning ten months later. He also abandoned the Tower, which led to the decline as a royal residence. Future royals only stay there for their coronations as tradition had set.

Elizabeth of York Funeral Effigy

In London, six-hundred and six masses were offered by the king and fifty-six pounds of wax candles burned at Walsingham for the monks while they prayed for her.

Henry now the lone king became even more of a miser than he was before along with being suspicious and harsh since Elizabeth’s influence was now absent. He never married again.

Henry VII died on April 21, 1509 at Richmond Palace of tuberculosis.

Yet the blood of Elizabeth flowed through Stuart monarchs, Hanoverians monarch and the House of Windsor and her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, her sixteenth generation descendant.

The Dawn of The Tudor Dynasty

Henry and Elizabeth’s vows have been spoken and now comes time for the celebration, which was a lavish nuptial feast of “roasted peacocks, swans, larks and quails, followed by sugared almonds and fruit tarts.”

Palace of Westminster in the time of Henry VIII

After the celebrations, Elizabeth spent her wedding night in the King’s Bedchamber, which was the Painted Chamber of the Palace of Westminster. The newlyweds went to bed to do their duty to England and untied the two Houses of York and Lancaster so peace would come to the realm. It was this time that the white and red roses of York and Lancaster were combined to the Tudor Rose. Henry VII actively promoted the design. The English people hoped that peace would come to their shores. Meanwhile, the young couple was falling in love.

The first morning as husband and wife, Henry presented Elizabeth with Giovanni de Gigli’s poem, which was her morning gift. Next, there was the traditional ceremony of her uprising as a new wife. Now, Elizabeth was expected to bind up her hair and cover it with a hood. She would only be permitted to wear her hair loose on ceremonial occasions when she donned a crow.

The new King of England was “a man of vast abilities and hidden depths. He knew four languages, was well read, good at economics, and well versed in the arts of the period.” Good characteristics because the king would need this skills to lead. Henry planned to secure his throne, increase the coffers of the realm and the standing of the isle nation in Europe. To accomplish that, he used his cleverness, shrewd mind, hard-working personality and his family to make it happen.

But Henry wasn’t just King. He lavished his wife with gifts and his servants. He enjoyed court ceremony, being witty and cheerful. Elizabeth and Henry enjoyed a full social life at court. They spent much time together, sharing a common piety and sense of humor. Elizabeth and Henry traveled together even. There has never been talk about an affair or a scandal. The only bastard child of Henry VII is Roland de Velville conceived during his time in Brittany before his marriage.

Elizabeth in turn was a helpmate to her husband. She promoted his interests. And never openly complained or interfered in his ruling. Elizabeth was unlike her mother, never aligning with factions at court and did not promote her relatives. However, as they had deep affection and love for each other, she must have voiced her opinion to her husband but her main focus was the household, estates and court.

Not an easy task but Elizabeth was described by her contemporaries as a charming woman who was generous who had many charities she supported that included orphans, “took children under her wing and raised them and liberated debtors from London prisons.” All this, she had her mother-in-law around. Margaret Beaufort has a strong influence at court. Margaret even had her own state of cloth that she sat beneath. Yet, Elizabeth didn’t seem to battle against her for whatever reason and seemed to have a fine relationship with her mother-in-law who lived only for her son.

So, their marriage pressed on. With Elizabeth’s court as magnificent as her father’s (Edward IV) who modeled his on the Burgundy court. Their court would be the scene for lavish feasts, tournaments, and pageants. All the necessary events for a grand court.

This young couple wished for their own private world. It was Henry VII who created “the Privy Chamber, the department of state comprising the influential and often powerful gentlemen who waited personally upon the sovereign and thus able to influence him and bestow patronage. Elizabeth had her own apartments as well.

By Lent of 1486, Elizabeth was expecting her first child. However, there had been no coronation. Nevertheless, many expressed joy for the coming child. In March, Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull confirmed the dispensation issued by Bishop of Imola for their marriage. Then a couple weeks later, Pope also granted a dispensation that recognized Henry VII as King and threatened any who rose against him with excommunication. Henry papered England with the dispensation. The pope also confirmed Henry’s title so if Elizabeth died without issue then Henry’s children could inherit the English throne.

Not all was happy in England even as Rome sent good news. That summer Henry had to ride to the north to stop sedition. Meanwhile, Elizabeth grew increased. By the end of August, Henry and Elizabeth moved into Winchester, “the ancient capital of England, where Henry wanted his heir to be born, for he believed it to be the site of Camelot, King Arthur’s fabled seat, and that being born there would be portentous for the prince who would bring a new golden age to England.

It was during this time that Henry concocted the series of ordinances governing the running of the royal household and set the ceremonials to be observed there “Including ordinances as to what preparation is to be made against deliverances of the Queen and the christening of the children. The Royal Book, as it was known. According to Alison Weir’s book, Elizabeth of York, “These determined the color and quality of the furnishing for her chamber and bed, which was to be made up with pillows of down and a scarlet counterpane bordered with ermine, velvet, or cloth of gold.”

In the early hours of September 20, 1486, also known as St. Eustace’s Day, Arthur Tudor was born. Through born in his eighth month, Arthur was born, as Alison Weir quotes, “vital and vigorous, contrary to the rules of physicians.” It seems that the young couple enjoyed the wedding night before partaking the ceremony.

Elizabeth meanwhile was weak from the birth and she is “recorded as suffering an ague–an acute fever–during her lying-in period. But the queen recovered enough to be churched and now returned to her daily life though, she didn’t recover her full bloom.

Yet, the Tudor Dynasty was born and would grow.

The Making Of The Tudor Rose: Elizabeth and Henry

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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