Tuesday, 18 October 2016

18 October 1541: The Death of Queen Margaret

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On 18 October 1541, Margaret Tudor, Queen Dowager of Scotland, died at Methven Castle. She was six weeks shy of her fifty-second birthday. Margaret was the elder sister of King Henry VIII of England, and was the eldest daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. In 1503, at the age of thirteen, Margaret married James IV of Scotland at Holyrood Abbey. Only one of their six children survived infancy: the future James V of Scotland. Margaret's husband was slain at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. She married twice after his death. Her second husband was Archibald Douglas, sixth earl of Angus; by him, she gave birth to a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas, in 1515. Her third husband was Henry Stewart, Lord Methven.

Above: Methven Castle. Margaret died here in 1541.

Margaret's last years were not necessarily happy ones. Her son, who became king in 1513, differed with her over foreign policy, for Margaret favoured close ties with England, her home country, whereas James elected to renew the French alliance. Margaret seems to have hoped that England and Scotland would unite in marriage, as she had done by marrying James IV. It was anticipated that her son would marry Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, and Margaret's niece. This was fated never to take place, and James V went on to marry Madeleine of France in 1537.

Margaret was particularly unhappy in her third marriage, to Lord Methven. She regularly wrote to Henry VIII complaining of Methven's love affairs and her debts. Margaret wished to divorce her husband, but she was blocked in doing so by her son. In late 1537, she attempted to escape to Berwick, but was intercepted. Madeleine of France had died earlier that summer, and James went on to marry Mary of Guise, by whom he had a daughter, Mary Queen of Scots.

It is clear that Margaret was lonely during her final years. She had little influence with her son, and her relationship with her husband was acrimonious. Henry VIII refused to invite her to England and was content to ignore her. At Methven Castle, the dowager queen suffered a stroke. She asked that her valuables should go to her daughter Margaret Douglas, but James ignored his mother's wish and her goods reverted to the crown. She was buried in St. John's Abbey in Perth. 

Although Margaret's marriage to James IV, ultimately, failed to secure peace between the warring kingdoms of England and Scotland, her great-grandson James VI of Scotland's accession to the throne of England in 1603 brought the conflict between the two kingdoms to a close.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Almost A King: Lord Guildford Dudley

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Lord Guildford Dudley, son of the duke of Northumberland, is not usually depicted positively either in fiction or non-fiction. Often, Guildford is presented as a weak-willed, snivelling adolescent who sobbed on the scaffold, or as an abusive sociopath capable of bullying his gentle wife, Lady Jane Grey. In her study of the so-called nine days queen, Hester Chapman described Guildford as 'a spoilt, conceited and disagreeable young man', while in her novel Innocent Traitor, Alison Weir portrayed Guildford as a vicious abuser who mistreated Jane on their wedding night.

Guildford, who married Jane in 1553, could have become king of England, had events turned out differently. Little is known of him, but it is likely that he was well educated and was brought up to favour the reformist faith. It is possible that he was younger than his wife Jane, who was probably born in the spring of 1537. The Dudleys had a newborn son in March 1537, while one of Guildford's godfathers, Diego de Mendoza, visited England between the spring of 1537 and the summer of 1538. Thus making it likely that Guildford was born in 1537 or 1538 and inherently probable that he was younger than his wife. According to Grafton, Guildford was 'a comely, virtuous and godly gentleman'.

In the spring of 1553, Guildford married Jane Grey, the cousin of Edward VI. For the Dudleys, the Grey marriage was a notable triumph, for it allied them with the ducal house of Suffolk as well as to the Tudor dynasty. There is no evidence that John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, schemed to marry his son to Jane as part of his plan to have Jane made queen in the wake of Edward VI's death. Traditionally, it has been reported that Jane was bullied into marrying Guildford by her scheming family; some alleged that she had been physically beaten until she had submitted to the will of her parents. These stories are questionable. Certainly there is no evidence that she objected to Guildford on personal terms, although it could be said that the duke and duchess of Suffolk, Jane's parents, might have hoped for a more noble bridegroom for their daughter. After all, rumours had circulated in some quarters that Edward VI himself hoped to marry Jane. Once it became apparent that the king's demise was imminent, the Dudleys surely realised that Guildford might very well become king of England as the husband of Queen Jane, if the coup against Mary Tudor succeeded.

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Above: Lady Jane Grey. After her marriage, Jane referred to herself as 'Lady Jane Dudley'. There is no evidence that she objected to the marriage with Guildford on personal grounds.

Unfortunately for both the Greys and the Dudleys, Mary Tudor was highly popular in the country at large, and following Edward VI's death on 6 July, the displaced Mary immediately acted to ensure that she was accepted, and then crowned, as England's queen. Jane had arrived at the Tower of London shortly after the king's death, and she was presented with the crown jewels by the Marquess of Winchester. Reportedly, Jane explained that she did not wish her husband to be presented with a crown, because she wished to make him a duke, rather than honour him with the title of king consort. This was not because of personal feelings on her behalf, given that she was 'loving of my husband'. Indeed, after her marriage Jane consistently referred to herself as 'Lady Jane Dudley'. On 19 July, the last day of her 'reign', Jane acted as godmother to a son born to one of the Tower guards. The child was named Guildford.

Mary Tudor took the throne with triumph. Eric Ives and Leanda de Lisle have explained, in detail, how Mary seized the throne from Jane; whether or not she should be viewed as the rightful queen and Jane the usurper, or vice versa, continues to be disputed. On 22 August, Guildford's father, the duke of Northumberland, was executed. Three months later, both Jane and Guildford were tried and found guilty of treason, but the queen made known her wish that the two prisoners should be spared death. 

However, Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion in early 1554, which involved Jane's father, sealed the fates of both Jane and Guildford. Both wrote letters to the duke; Guildford signed himself 'youre lovyng and obedynent son', while Jane described herself as 'youre gracys humble daughter Jane Duddley'. On the day of their execution, 12 February 1554, it is reported that Guildford wished to see Jane one last time, 'desiring to give her the last kisses, and the last embrace'. Jane refused, however, because 'their sight would increase the misery in both, and bring much more suffering'. After their deaths, Jane believed, they would 'live perpetually joined in an indissoluble bond'.

Evidence suggests that Guildford, at  the age of only fifteen or sixteen, went to his death with dignity. He made a short, unrecorded speech on the scaffold and prayed without losing control of his emotions. No mention, in this contemporary account, of Guildford's supposed sobbing in the moments before his execution. 

Lord Guildford Dudley has traditionally been viewed as a weak-willed, vicious adolescent, who was loathed by his gentle, victimised wife Lady Jane Grey. There is no evidence of this, and the couple's closeness and loyalty to one another emerges from the sources even during the last hours of their lives. Had the events of the summer of 1553 gone differently, had Jane been blessed by fortune, Guildford could have become king of England as the husband of Jane I. It was not to be, and history has not been kind to him in the centuries since his passing. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

24 September 2016: An Evening with the Authors

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An exciting event will be taking place in London on Saturday 24 September 2016. Made Global Publishing are hosting "An Evening with the Authors" at the Venue in Malet Street. Not only can you meet a wide range of authors who will be discussing their latest research and projects, but you can discuss publishing your work with Made Global Publishing. This event, therefore, is perfect for aspiring authors, particularly those writing history or historical fiction. Made Global Publishing, however, are also branching out and authors writing modern fiction are welcome to get involved.

There will be a professional photographer, breakout question and answer panels, and a bar available. For those unable to attend the event, it will be live streamed, with an opportunity to ask questions. However, if you live in the UK then definitely consider coming down for the day, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

In all, nineteen authors will be involved. They are: myself, Adrienne Dillard, Alan Wybrow, Amy Licence, Beth von Staats, Clare Cherry, Claire Ridgway, Derek Wilson, Gareth Russell, Heather Darsie, Hunter S. Jones, Jane Moulder, Kirsteen Thomson, Kyra Kramer, Melanie V. Taylor, Philip Roberts, Sandra Vasoli, Sarah Bryson, Samantha Morris, and Toni Mount; as well as Made Global's CEO, Tim Ridgway. The authors have, between them, covered a wide range of topics relating to the medieval and Tudor era, including Henry VIII and his court; George Boleyn; Katherine Howard; the Borgias; Anne Boleyn; Thomas Cranmer; Edward VI; and Katherine Carey. Moreover, topics will also include Tudor art; palace architecture; historical fiction; and a live performance of Tudor music. There really is something for everyone.

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Above (from left): Edward VI; the Borgias; Whitehall Palace; Nicholas Hilliard; the Wars of the Roses; and Henry VIII and his wives are some of the topics that will be discussed.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased here. The event will begin at 7.30pm and is expected to finish around 10.30pm. You won't regret buying a ticket!

Friday, 2 September 2016

Anne Boleyn's Hair Colour in Portraiture

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Mystery surrounds Anne Boleyn's appearance. Contemporaries were ambiguous in their descriptions of the appearance of Henry VIII's second queen: either she was a slim and very beautiful, small-breasted Venus, or a grotesque, deformed creature who had lured Henry VIII into breaking from the Roman Catholic Church and marrying her. Controversy centres, in particular, on the colour of Anne Boleyn's hair. 

It is worth noting that no surviving portraits of Anne Boleyn date from her own lifetime. At the very earliest, they were painted in the reign of her daughter, Elizabeth I, and may have been based on lost originals; thus dating, at the earliest, fifty to sixty years after her execution in 1536. The standard portrait of Anne Boleyn, a copy of which is now housed in the National Portrait Gallery in London, depicts the queen wearing a French hood, black gown and pearls with a 'B' choker. In most of these portraits, Anne is portrayed with very dark brown or black hair. 

When examining these portraits, it is worthwhile to bear in mind the now infamous description of Anne Boleyn put forward by the Elizabethan Jesuit, Nicholas Sander, in his Rise and Growth of the Anglican Schism, published in 1585. Sander described Anne thus:

Anne Boleyn was rather tall of stature, with black hair and an oval face of sallow complexion, as if troubled with jaundice. She had a projecting tooth under the upper lip, and on her right hand, six fingers. There was a large wen under her chin, and therefore to hide its ugliness, she wore a high dress covering her throat. In this she was followed by the ladies of the court, who also wore high dresses, having before been in the habit of leaving their necks and upper portion of their persons uncovered. She was handsome to look at, with a pretty mouth.

Sander presented the queen as a witchlike figure who had cunningly seduced Henry VIII into abandoning his virtuous wife, Katherine of Aragon, and breaking with the true Church to marry her. Leaving aside the suggestion that Anne favoured high dresses - for which there is no other extant evidence - Sanders' description of Anne corresponds strikingly with the representation of the queen in the NPG pattern of portraits, two of which are provided at the top of the page. We can observe the queen's 'black hair', her 'oval face of sallow complexion' and 'pretty mouth'. His description of her raven hair, in particular, corresponded closely to contemporary notions of a witch's appearance. 

No other contemporary author described Anne Boleyn's hair colour as black. The Venetian ambassador, whose description of Anne's appearance has been viewed as largely accurate, stated that she had 'a swarthy complexion'. Simon Grynee, a professor of Greek at Basle, similarly noted that Anne was of a 'rather dark' complexion. It is possible that she had black hair, of course, but as Susan Bordo suggests, the notion that Anne Boleyn had raven tresses belongs largely to the work of Nicholas Sander, an author unquestionably hostile to the queen and her daughter, Elizabeth. 

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Above: Often Anne Boleyn is portrayed in modern films and TV with black hair. Natalie Dormer (left) in The Tudors and Claire Foy (right) in Wolf Hall.

Anne Boleyn's hair was almost certainly dark. Cardinal Wolsey allegedly referred to her as 'the night crow', probably alluding to her appearance, and as we have seen, at least two other individuals described her as possessing a dark complexion. But it does not necessarily follow that her hair colour was black, and it is possible that it was the influence of Nicholas Sander's hostile description that meant that she was portrayed in portraiture as having black hair. It is important not to underestimate how influential Sanders' work was at the time. As Retha Warnicke explains, it formed the basis for every subsequent Catholic history of the Reformation, and by 1628 it had appeared in six Latin editions and was translated into six other languages. 

Other portraits depicted the queen's hair as lighter, whether medium brown or even reddish. It is possible that these portraits 'beautified' Anne, so to speak, giving that queens were customarily depicted in artistic mediums with fair hair, because it was associated with fertility, virginity and goodness. But it is also possible that these portraits more accurately represented the queen's true hair colour. 

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Above: Just how dark was Anne? Two reputed portraits of her that show her with lighter hair.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Uncrowned Consorts 1066-1558

After the Norman Conquest of 1066, it became customary for the king's consort to be crowned, either alongside him or at a later date. In Anglo-Saxon England, it had not been usual for the queen to be crowned. However, William the Conqueror signalled a break with the past when he assented to the coronation of his wife, Matilda of Flanders, alongside him on Christmas Day 1066. Thereafter, the wife of the king was usually honoured with a coronation. 

As J. L. Laynesmith notes, the medieval coronation enhanced the quasi-religious nature of the royal dynasty and manifested a 'dynasty-bound divine right'. It conveyed divine favour while promising prosperity for the dynasty, provided that the king and his consort obey God's laws and govern their people equitably and justly. For the queen consort, the coronation was concerned with her role as an integral part of her husband's public body. Thus the coronation, as Laynesmith suggests, offered the consort 'a richer sense of her divinely ordained role'. 

Given that the majority of English queens in the period 1066-1558 were foreign-born, it was customary for the consort to be crowned after her arrival in England and subsequent marriage to the king. Indeed, no Englishwoman was crowned queen until Elizabeth Wydeville in 1465. The coronation, from the consort's perspective, functioned as a celebration of the ruling king's dynasty and more broadly demonstrated the wealth and magnificence of the realm which she had arrived in. 

However, not all consorts in the five hundred years after the Conquest were crowned, for a variety of reasons. These were complex in nature and included political troubles, financial difficulties, and domestic insurrection or rebellion that prevented the king from dedicating the time and expenses required to furnish his consort with a coronation. Whether or not a lack of coronation affected the consort's claim to legitimacy is a significant question that cannot always be answered straightforwardly, but it will be seen that at least in some cases, the consort felt slighted by the absence of this ceremony.

Isabelle of France, second consort of Richard II
(1389-1409), consort 1396-1399

Traditionally, Richard II's second consort is said to have been crowned on or about 8 January 1397, but unusually, there is no extant evidence of the coronation festivities. If her coronation did take place, it must have been very low-key and this may partly be because of the hostility generated by Richard's choice of bride. The new queen was only seven years old and would be unable to bear children for some years to come. Given the uneasy political climate, it could be said that Richard had not chosen particularly wisely, although the marriage was designed to cement peaceful relations between England and France. If the coronation took place, it was apparently unworthy of being recorded for posterity; some historians doubt whether it actually took place. If it did not, Isabelle was the first consort in over three hundred years not to be honoured with a coronation. 

Henry VIII's consorts (1536-1547)

After his failed marriages to Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII elected not to honour any of his subsequent four wives with a coronation. In two cases, evidence suggests that coronation festivities were planned but did not take place. Jane Seymour, his third consort, most likely would have been crowned had she lived after giving birth to her only son, the future Edward VI. Court observers reported that the king wished for Jane to be crowned in October 1536, six months after her marriage, but rumours of plague alongside insurrection in the north of England prevented the ceremony from taking place. The coronation could, and did, celebrate the queen's fertility, thus legitimising the king's dynasty. Had Jane survived the birth of Edward in October 1537, it seems reasonable to suppose that her grateful husband would have arranged for her coronation, but her unexpected death prevented this from coming to fruition. 

Henry's belief that Anne of Cleves was not his wife prevented her from receiving a coronation, while his final consort, Katherine Parr, was not favoured with a coronation for reasons that remain unclear. However, it is possible that Henry did consider crowning his fifth wife, Katherine Howard. The royal couple departed on a northern progress in the summer of 1541, partly because Henry was determined to ensure the north's obedience to him following recent rebellion in the area, and partly because he hoped to meet his nephew, James of Scotland, at York. One ambassador reported that Henry intended to have Katherine crowned at York, which would have marked a break with the past given that both Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, not to mention the medieval consorts, had been crowned in London. The coronation did not take place, perhaps because Henry was waiting for his consort to provide him with an heir. She did not, of course, and her execution the following year prevented her from being crowned.

Guildford Dudley, consort of Jane 
(c. 1537/8-1554), consort 1553

Whether Lady Jane Grey should in truth be referred to as Queen Jane I of England continues to be disputed by modern historians, but if she was rightful queen, as Eric Ives argues, then her husband Guildford Dudley should be viewed as her consort. Guildford, who was probably younger than his wife, most likely would have been crowned alongside his wife had Mary Tudor not successfully seized the crown from Jane and had the young couple imprisoned in the Tower of London. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence of animosity or dislike between Jane and Guildford and the young noblewoman continued to refer to herself as Lady Jane Dudley even while imprisoned. When Guildford requested to see Jane before their executions on 12 February 1554, Jane refused because the sight of one another would 'increase the misery in both, and bring much more suffering'. Fifteen or sixteen when he was beheaded, Guildford Dudley was the first male consort since Geoffrey of Anjou, husband of the Empress Matilda.

Philip II of Spain, consort of Mary
(1527-1598), consort 1554-1558

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Mary I's husband, Philip II of Spain, was never crowned. It is clear that he personally resented his wife's decision not to arrange for his coronation, because it confirmed that his wife took precedence at least in governing England. This absence of a coronation was part of a broader curtailing of Philip's powers and influence in Mary's realm. Philip was made king by an Act of Parliament stipulating that he 'shall aid her Highness... in the happy administration of her Grace's realms and dominions'. It is possible that the decision not to crown Philip was at least partly a result of the widespread antipathy to Mary's choice of a husband who was both Catholic and Spanish. 

In the period 1066-1558, the consort expected to be crowned alongside her husband (or more rarely, his wife). It was unusual for the consort not to be honoured with a coronation and usually, if the ceremony did not take place, it was due to extraordinary circumstances. These circumstances included political troubles, as in the case of Philip II; domestic insurrection and rebellion, as Jane Seymour and Guildford Dudley discovered, the latter being deposed alongside his wife; and the king's decision to wait for his consort to prove her fertility, as occurred with Henry VIII's later consorts. Whether the consort accepted the absence of a crowning or not depended on their personality. No evidence survives for how Henry's later consorts felt, or perhaps Isabelle of France. Nor do we know whether Guildford Dudley minded, but given that his wife was also not crowned before she was deposed, it is unlikely that he had much say in the matter. But evidence suggests that Philip resented what he perceived as the curtailing of his rights in England; the absence of a coronation confirmed his supplication to Mary, at least in her own realm.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Expulsion of the Jews from England

A man in half figure with short, curly hair and a hint of beard is facing left. He wears a coronet and holds a sceptre in his right hand. He has a blue robe over a red tunic, and his hands are covered by white, embroidered gloves. His left hand seems to be pointing left, to something outside the picture.

On 18 July 1290, a cataclysmic event took place that was to have far-reaching consequences. King Edward I ordered the expulsion of the Jews from England. Only in 1657, a total of 367 years later, were the Jews permitted to return to England. The Edict of Expulsion has usually been interpreted as the inevitable culmination of worsening persecution against the Jews. 

By 1290, the Jews were an accepted presence in English society, although Christians viewed them with ambivalence. Economically, Jews could enjoy great influence. Loans with interest were permitted between Jews and non-Jews, contrary to English practice which expressly forbade usury, which was regarded by the Church as a heinous sin. While Jews could benefit from lending money at high rates of interest, they were also vulnerable to the whims of the king, who could levy heavy taxes on them without summoning Parliament. Their reputation as extortionate moneylenders, whether deserved or not, could make them unpopular among their Christian fellows. 

In wider society, as W.D. Rubinstein has noted, anti-Jewish attitudes were prevalent. These stemmed from, and were encouraged by, negative images of the Jew as a diabolical figure that preyed on innocent Christian children. Jews were vulnerable to accusations of ritual murders; most notably, William of Norwich (d. 1144) and Little St. Hugh of Lincoln (d. 1255). Walter Laqueur opined that: 'There have been about 150 recorded cases of blood libel... that resulted in the arrest and killing of Jews throughout history, most of them in the Middle Ages. In almost every case, Jews were murdered, sometimes by a mob, sometimes following torture and a trial'.

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Above: William of Norwich (left) and Little St. Hugh of Lincoln (right).

Hostility to the Jews occasionally erupted in violence and bloodshed. Massacres occurred in 1189 and 1190; in York, over 100 Jews were massacred while hiding in a tower. The situation gradually worsened as, less than thirty years later, in 1218, Jews were required to wear a marking badge. Over the course of the thirteenth-century, Jews were heavily taxed. In 1275, King Edward I issued a statute that placed a number of restrictions on the Jews in England, in which he outlawed the practice of usury. Later, the king charged the Jews with failing to follow the Statute of Jewry, and he ordered their expulsion from the country in July 1290.

Only in the seventeenth-century were Jews officially permitted to return to England. The widely anti-Semitic attitudes that characterised medieval and early modern Europe, as a whole, did not disappear in modern times. The Holocaust, which claimed the lives of roughly 6 million Jews, built on and was encouraged by anti-Jewish propaganda that had existed on the Continent for hundreds of years.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

19 July 1543: The Death of Mary Stafford

We do not know how old Mary Stafford (nee Boleyn) was when she died on 19 July 1543. Mystery surrounds every aspect of Mary's life: we do not know her date of birth, what she looked like, whether she was the oldest or the youngest of the surviving Boleyn children, what her relationship with her siblings was like, or even where she died. Mary's life has been imagined and invented in works of fiction, most notably Philippa Gregory's bestselling novel The Other Boleyn Girl and in Karen Harper's The Last Boleyn. 

Although Mary remains best known as the sister of Anne Boleyn, it seems fitting to refer to her as Mary Stafford given that she died while the wife of William Stafford. In her letter to Thomas Cromwell, written c. 1534, Mary described her second husband as 'honest' and noted that she 'could never have had one that should have loved me so well'. At a distance of almost five hundred years, it is impossible to know whether Mary's controversial marriage to William Stafford was ultimately happy, but certainly theirs appears to have initially been a love match. Like other Tudor noblewomen, such as Frances Brandon, Katherine Willoughby and Anne Stanhope, Mary had selected a second husband who was inferior to her in status because it brought the promise of security, although it enraged her family and compelled her sister to order her dismissal from court.

At her death, Mary held a number of properties, many located in Essex. After the disgrace and deaths of her brother and sister in 1536, she was her father's sole heiress and it was to her that the Boleyn inheritance passed. When Mary died, the properties passed to her son Henry Carey, who was then aged seventeen. He was highly favoured by his cousin Elizabeth following her accession in 1558. Henry's sister Katherine was also a favourite of the queen. 

Above: Anne Boleyn. In the realm of fiction, Mary and Anne have often been presented as jealous rivals. 

The last years of Mary Stafford's life were not necessarily pleasant ones. Her unexpected marriage to William Stafford displeased her family and her sister, who was then queen, banished her from court permanently. Less than two years later, Anne and George Boleyn were both executed, alongside four other men, on scandalous charges of adultery, incest and treason. Less than two years after the shocking events of 1536, Mary's mother died, and a year after that, her father also passed away. In 1542, her sister-in-law Jane Parker was beheaded for treason alongside Mary's cousin, Katherine Howard. Although she was not necessarily close to any of these individuals, it would be surprising if the betrayal, bloodshed and devastation that was inflicted on the Boleyn family between the late 1530s and early 1540s did not have an impact on Mary, by then the only surviving child of Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn.

Two biographies of Mary have been published to date and she regularly features in general histories of Henry VIII's reign. Moreover, she has been the subject of numerous novels. However, much of Mary's life remains unknown. Perhaps it is this mystery, this uncertainty, that makes her so entrancing to modern audiences today. 

Above: Katherine (left) and Henry (right), Mary's children by her first husband William Carey. Both were greatly favoured by their cousin, Elizabeth I.