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.

A Crown, A Mother, And Rumors

Elizabeth of York

With the heir born, time had come for Elizabeth to be crowned Queen of England, Wales, and Ireland. However, the royal couple’s joy diminished during the Christmas season when rumors rang about Elizabeth’s cousin, the Earl of Warwick, the York heir to the English throne who was locked away in the Tower of London. The English whispered and roared that the young earl had escaped while others professed that he met the same fate as the young York Princes.

In January 1487, the first pretender to the throne appeared on the scene. Lambert Simnel was in Ireland, claiming to be the escaped Earl of Warwick. The next month, Henry displayed the twelve-year-old Earl in a procession through London to St. Paul’s Cathedral then brought Warwick to the Queen at Sheen Palace. Warwick was a threat to Henry but he had the mental capacity of a one-year-old yet Henry couldn’t kill the child.  

With that rumor squashed, other threats continued to haunt the royal couple. The Earl of Lincoln, nephew to Richard III and the Queen’s cousin, fled to Flanders where his aunt, Margaret of York, Duchess if Burgundy resided. She hated Henry since he killed her brother Richard at Bosworth and did all within her power to undermine Henry. Margaret acknowledged Simnel and the Yorkist sailed to Ireland where the Anglo-Irish lords crowned Simnel. Lincoln was the force behind this plot and was the leader of the Yorkists faction.

Henry VII

All came to a head when on May 5, 1487 when word of the invasion reached Henry. The king set up his headquarters at Kenilworth, “a strongly built, centrally located fortress.” He sent word to Elizabeth and along with Arthur they joined him on May 29. In June, the Earl of Lincoln landed in Lancashire. Henry marched to Conventry to protect England and his reign.

June 16th arrived and the two sides clashed. This was the Battle of Stoke. Henry was victorious. Lincoln was killed and Lambert Simnel was taken prisoner and put in Henry’s household from working in the kitchens, he advanced to become trainer of the King’s hawks and died in 1525. 

“The Battle of Stoke, which Andrè called ‘the second triumph of Henry VII,’ finally brought the Wars of the Roses to an end…” as Alison Weir states in her biography entitled Elizabeth of York. 

The Wars of the Roses came to an end but Elizabeth still hadn’t been crowned. She was the first uncrowned queen to birth an heir since William the Conqueror in 1066. That fact was one of the complaint of the rebels as well as the English people.

In September 1487 summonses were sent out to the nobility to the attend Elizabeth’s coronation in November. On the twenty-third day of the month, Elizabeth departed from Greenwich with her mother-in-law and attended by lords and ladies and rode the royal barge to the Tower of London. The next day, England’s princess made her state entry into London. 

On the 25th, which happened to be St. Katherine’s Day, Elizabeth journeyed to her coronation, decked out in gold, jewels, and ermine. Though, no tradition existed that prohibited kings from attending their wives’ coronation, Henry did not attend instead allowing the Elizabeth to enjoy the ceremony. Henry did watch the ceremony that dated to 1399, hidden behind a screen. 

Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster

On the 25th, which happened to be St. Katherine’s Day, Elizabeth journeyed to her coronation, decked out in gold, jewels, and ermine. Though, no tradition existed that prohibited kings from attending their wives’ coronation, Henry did not attend instead allowing the Elizabeth to enjoy the ceremony. Henry did watch the ceremony that dated to 1399, hidden behind a screen. 

With the crown on the queen’s head, it was time to celebrate. The banquet was in Westminster Hall. “Elizabeth, wearing her crown, sat alone at the high table at the top of a flight of steps.” Once again, the king did not attend. Much like most occasions, there was sumptuous food, dancing and verses composed to honor Elizabeth. The next day, Elizabeth traveled to Greenwich  and received her dower. With her own household and administrators, Elizabeth took up her role as Queen of England, Wales, and Ireland. 

For Elizabeth, family was her center. According to Weir’s Elizabeth of York, “She gave ‘unbounded love’ and support to her children, her sisters, and other relations, and always interested herself in their affairs. She kept her sisters with her at court before they wed, and sometimes after, and they were usually included in the royal celebrations of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsun.” 

That March, Henry reached an agreement that raised the Tudor dynasty to the top echelons of the continent’s monarchies—the agreement of marriage between Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon. Katherine was bringing an estimated 20 million pounds (today’s currency) to the isle nation. 

Margaret Tudor

That same month,  Elizabeth was pregnant with her second child. This was three years after the birth of Arthur. Henry was overjoyed and bestowed lavish gifts upon Elizabeth. On November 29, 1489, Elizabeth gave birth to her first daughter—Margaret Tudor. The next day—the feast day of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, was baptized. Margaret Tudor would go on to marry James IV of Scotland and birth James V, father of Mary, Queen of Scots. 

That Christmas was a solemn affair as a measles epidemic spread through Elizabeth’s court and had taken the lives of some ladies. And Elizabeth hadn’t been churched and the hard recovery Elizabeth experience with Arthur caused the queen to flee to Greenwich. 

Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales

That Christmas was a solemn affair as a measles epidemic spread through Elizabeth’s court and had taken the lives of some ladies. And Elizabeth hadn’t been churched and the hard recovery Elizabeth experience with Arthur caused the queen to flee to Greenwich. 

The new year rang in with running of the realm and on 27 February 1490, Arthur was conveyed to Westminster where he was endowed with the titles of Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. The boy prince had he had his own celebrations. 

Henry Tudor, Future King

The two Tudor children were joined by a third child on June 28, 1491. The child was named Henry. His household was established at Eltham Palace in Kent. “Although, Prince Arthur was brought up away from the court, Elizabeth’s younger children were largely reared in close proximity to their parents, at Eltham, or at Sheen (where she herself had spent part of her early childhood), Greenwich, or the Archbishop of Canterbury’s palace at Croydon, Surrey—all well away from the unhealthy air of London.” 

Even though, the Tudor family were happy, they were still dogged by the rumors that one of the princes survived. And in the autumn of 1491, those rumors centered around a “handsome stranger” who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger son, who would have been sixteen in August of 1491 and this boy was around that age. Margaret of Burgundy recognized him as her nephew. This boy was Perkin Warbeck.

First, the nation had to mourning. On June 8, 1492, Elizabeth Wydeville (mother to Elizabeth of York and Queen of England) died. Elizabeth couldn’t be with her mother at the time since she was once again pregnant and near to birth. 

Less than a month later, July 2 to be exact, Elizabeth birth her second daughter—Elizabeth—named for her mother and grandmother. 

By this time, Henry had tried to rid himself of this pretender who he called the “feigned lad” and made a protest to the rulers of Flanders but the diplomatic route failed and so did relations between England and Flanders. 

To dismiss the claims of the new pretender, Henry created his three-year-old Henry the Duke of York. Edward VI bestowed the title onto his second son, Richard, so until the eighteenth century the second sons would bear the title. 

Time passed and in October 1495, Elizabeth was pregnant again. The joyous occasion was marred by the death of her three-year daughter Elizabeth. 

Then the next month Perkin Warbeck was in Scotland where he was received at Stirling Castle. James IV liked him, clothing the boy in finery, granting him a pension and took him on a progress through Scotland. The Scottish king held a tournament for him and even married him to a distant relation—Katherine, daughter of George Gordon, Earl of Huntly. 

Mary Tudor

The time passed and Elizabeth birthed her third daughter—Mary Tudor on March 18, 1496 at Sheen Palace. Mary would marry the King of France who was an old man who then died and she went on to marry Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon.

Less than six months later, James IV invaded England with Warbeck who promised to return Berwick, a dispute area in the north of England that had once belong to Scotland. But the Scots looted so James had to retreat back to Scotland when Henry’s army appeared. 

Henry was dealing with rebels and trying to raise money to fight against Warbeck and the Scots and soon, 1497 arrived and was half way through when a new treaty was agreed with Spain. It stated for Katherine to come to England when she was fourteen, which she would reach in 1499. And a month later, Arthur and Katherine were formally betrothed. 

The joy of the agreement didn’t last long since Warbeck landed in Cornwall on September 7, 1497. About a fortnight later, Warbeck fled south to Southampton and took sanctuary in Beaulieu Abbey. Henry surrounded the abbey and promised “the pretender a pardon if he surrendered to the King and threw himself on his ‘grace and pity.’  Warbeck took up the offer. 

Warbeck was paraded through London then imprisoned in the Tower. That same year (1497), Henry brought the young pretender to court where he was followed by two guards and confined to the palace. It was reported that Henry treated them well but did not allow Katherine and Warbeck to sleep together. 

A year later on June 9, 1498 Perkin escaped from the Palace of Westminster. Henry didn’t execute him but he did put him in stocks and made him read aloud his confession then returned to the Tower. 

Henry and Elizabeth now focused on the wedding of Arthur and Katherine. And Henry was also negotiated a marriage between Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland so to bring peace to the nations and his put his bloodline on the Scottish throne. Elizabeth, though, demanded that her daughter not marry before September 1503 when Margaret would be fourteen. 

But the royal couple had another reason to celebrate. Elizabeth bore a third son and her sixth child on February 21, 1499 at Greenwich. The young prince was named Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond. It was a difficult pregnancy for the queen. 

For Henry and Elizabeth much was changing. Those changes would bring happiness and grief.  

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.

Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon and the B.

young henry 8

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.

Katherine of aragon

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…

Anne Boleyn

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.