On this day in 1544 – Princess Elizabeth wrote to Catherine Parr.

On 31st July 1544 Princess Elizabeth wrote a letter to Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was aged just ten years old but the letter was written beautifully in Italian to the current Queen who was acting regent whilst Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII, was in France.

It is the earliest surviving letter in existence that Elizabeth wrote to her step mother. Translated it read;

Inimical fortune, envious of all good and ever revolving human affairs, has deprived me for a whole year of your most illustrious presence, and, not thus content, has yet again robbed me of the same good; which thing would be intolerable to me, did I not hope to enjoy it very soon. And in this my exile I well know that the clemency of your highness has had as much care and solicitude for my health as the king’s majesty himself. By which thing I am not only bound to serve you, but also to revere you with filial love, since I understand that your most illustrious highness has not forgotten me every time you requested from you. For heretofore I have not dared to write to him. Wherefore I now humbly pray your most excellent highness, that, when you write to his majesty, you will condescend to recommend me to him, praying ever for his sweet benediction, and similarly entreating our Lord God to send him best success, and the obtaining of victory over his enemies, so that your highness and I may, as soon as possible, rejoice together with him on his happy return. No less pray I God, that He would preserve your most illustrious highness; to Whose grace, humbly kissing your hands, I offer and recommend myself.

From St James’s this 31st July.

Your most obedient daughter, and most faithful servant, Elizabeth.”

Elizabeths letterA fragment of the letter Elizabeth sent to Catherine Parr

On this day in 1550 – Thomas Wriothesley died

Thomas Wriothesley was born 21st December 1505 in London to William Wriothesley and Agnes Drayton. Thomas was the eldest of four and had two younger sisters, Elizabeth and Anne and a younger brother, Edward.

Wriothesley received his education at St Paul’s School, London before going to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1522 to study civil law although he did not complete his degree instead at the age of 19 he entered into the service of Thomas Cromwell and began a life at court. Within a few short years Wriothesley was appointed joint clerk of the signet, a position under Henry’s VIII’s secretary, Stephen Gardiner. A position he would hold for the next decade whilst also working for Cromwell.

Wriothesley married Jane Cheney, niece of Stephen Gardiner. They would go on to have eight children in total, three sons and five daughters. Two of their sons died at a young age leaving Henry Wriothesley as the heir to family estates.

His loyalty to Cromwell was rewarded during the dissolution of the monasteries when he was granted land between Southampton and Winchester. Henry also appointed Wriothesley as his ambassador in Brussels until 1540 when he was made one of the King’s principal secretaries alongside Sir Ralph Sadler. Also in 1540 Wriothesley was knighted and despite the fact his patron and master, Thomas Cromwell, had been arrested and later executed he continued to grow in the King’s favour and was created Baron Wriothesley in 1544.

In 1544 after having acted as Lord Privy Seal for a few months he was appointed as Lord Chancellor in 1544 and within his first two years took part in the torture of Anne Askew, who had been accused of heresy. Kingston, who was originally operating the rack refused to take part any further and Wriothesley, stepped in and operated the rack in the hope that Anne would talk; instead he turned the rack so much that her shoulders and hips were pulled from their sockets.

When King Henry VIII died on 28th January 1547 Wriothesley was one of the executors of the King’s will and on 16th February 1547 was created the Earl of Southampton at the wishes of the late King. After the King’s death and the creation of a new council for the young King Wriothesley appointed four people to help him in his duties and the new Lord Protector, Edward Seymour, used this to his advantage and Wriothesley was relieved of his duty in March 1547 as well as being excluded from the Privy Council.

In Wriothesley’s will that was created just days before his death he left his collar of garters to King Edward VI and a cup each to Mary and Elizabeth. He also provided for his wife and children before remembering his friends and family.

Wriothesley died on 30th July 1550 at Lincoln House in Holborn and was buried in St Andrew’s Church, Holborn before he was later moved to Titchfield. His funeral was presided over by Bishop Hooper of Gloucester.

Thomas_Wriothesley,_1st_Earl_of_Southampton_by_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerThomas Wriothesley by Hans Holbein the Younger

On this day in 1588 – the Battle of Gravelines began during the Spanish Armada

July 1588 saw England under threat from the Spanish Armada. King Philip of Spain attempted to invade England by sending 130 ships to join with a large army that were waiting in Flanders led by the Duke of Parma. The Spanish had already made their way past the English navy who were docked in Plymouth and were heading towards London before the English caught up with them and battle commenced. See http://wp.me/p5LWKn-as for more on the first part of the Spanish Armada.

On 27th July the Armada were in Calais waiting for the Duke of Parma whose army had been reduced to 16000 men through disease, Medina Sidonia was expecting the army to be ready and their barges stocked for them to depart instantly. However, because there was no communication between the two armies Parma was not ready and it would take at least six days for the barges to be loaded. Meanwhile, in England a council of war was taking place to decide how to deal with the latest developments and Lord Howard was joined by Lord Seymour and Sir Winter. Without knowing about it England had the upper hand.

In an attempt to panic the Spanish on the 28th July at midnight the English took eight of their ships, stripped them of any fireships2valuables, painted the masts and rigging with tar and packed them with combustible material. A skeleton crew sailed them close to the Spanish who were still docked in Calais before abandoning the ship and boarded small boats that would take them away from what was about to happen. A double shot to the material would set the boats alight and they would travel straight into the waiting Armada. Medina Sidonia had expected the English to make some sort of move and so protected the Armada with smaller ships. Six of the eight ships sailed straight into the heart of the Armada and panic took a hold of the Spanish. In order to move away quickly the Spanish ships cut their anchors, which meant that they would be unable to dock anywhere else.

Although no Spanish ships were burnt they had become scattered and the English closed in further. On 29th July in a small port near Flanders called Gravelines the English were joined by an extra 35 ships that had set sail from Kent with fresh supplies for the navy. Sir Francis Drake was determined to take advantage of the fireships and so began moving the navy to attack the Spanish at 6am with all the intelligence Drake had gathered during the smaller battles England had learnt a lot about the Armada. The canons that the English were using were far superior to the Spanish, they could fire faster and cause more damage at a longer range. After eight hours of fighting the English began to run out of ammunition and were forced to retreat.

However, the English had destroyed five Spanish ships but the Spanish were not able to fight back any more. With no anchors and low ammunition and the English in pursuit the Spanish could only head north and travel around England. Lord Howard eventually called off the English navy as they were approaching the Firth of Forth, Scotland. By this point the Spanish were exhausted and Medina Sidonia decided that the only option left to the Armada was to return back to Spain defeated.

battle of gravelinesThe Battle of Gravelines

The Spanish continued around Scotland and travelled back to Spain via Ireland. Food and water were running short and the men aboard the Armada were tired and becoming ill. Off the coast of Ireland the Armada encountered gales and many ships were wrecked on the coast of Ireland. Less than half the ships that originally set out from Spain made it back.

On this day in 1540 – Henry VIII and Catherine Howard were married

On the 28th July 1540 as his former Lord Privy Seal and Principal Secretary Thomas Cromwell was being executed King Henry VIII was marrying his fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

Catherine Howard was the maid of Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves and was approximately 20 years old when she married the aged King who was fast approaching 50.

The couple were desperate to marry as Henry believed that his new bride to be was pregnant and Henry wanted any new children to be legitimate as although he had Prince Edward as well as the Ladies Mary and Elizabeth Henry still wished for another son. Henry knew all too well how important it was to have a second son, as he himself was not initially the heir to the throne until his elder brother Arthur died at the age of 15.

Henry and Catherine married in a private ceremony at Oatlands Palace, Surrey and it was conducted by Bishop Bonner. The marriage was days after Henry’s annulment to Anne of Cleves and this marriage was kept secret for ten days. Catherine appeared for the first time as Queen Consort on 8th August 1540 at Hampton Court Palace before the newlyweds headed to Windsor for a short honeymoon.

Henry’s marriage to Anne of Cleves was so expensive and expected to last the royal treasury was depleted and so there was no money available for Henry to give Catherine either a marriage feast or a coronation. However, just less than a year later the marriage was over after Henry had been informed that Catherine had been unfaithful and not only that she was not as innocent as believed as she had relationships with men before her marriage to the King.

Henry was devasted that his new bride was not what she seemed and ordered her execution; she was beheaded at the Tower of London on 13th February 1542.

Catherine HowardCatherine Howard, King Henry VIII’s fifth wife

On this day in 1540 – Thomas Cromwell was executed

On 28th July 1540 Thomas Cromwell made his way towards Tower Hill where he was face the fate that had been passed down to him by King Henry VIII. Cromwell had been arrested on 10th June 1540 at a Council meeting accused of treason after his failure to achieve a divorce for Henry VIII and his fourth wife Anne of Cleves. His failure allowed Cromwell to fall from the King’s grace and his enemies led by the Duke of Norfolk were able to rise up against him.

An Act of Attainder was passed against Thomas Cromwell and he was sentenced to death without a trial, however, he was kept alive long enough for the King to obtain his longed for divorce from Anne of Cleves. With the divorce achieved Cromwell met his fate and was executed on Tower Hill.

The chronicler Edward Hall recorded Cromwell’s scaffold speech:

I am come hether to dye, and not to purge my self, as maie happen, some thynke that I will, for if I should do so, I wer a very wretche and miser: I am by the Lawe comdempned to die, and thanke my lorde God that hath appoynted me this deathe, for myne offence: For sithence the tyme that I have had yeres of discrecion, I have lived a synner, and offended my Lorde God, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes. And it is not unknowne to many of you, that I have been a great traveler in this worlde, and beyng but of a base degree, was called to high estate, and sithes the tyme I came thereunto, I have offended my prince, for the whiche I aske hym hartely forgevenes, and beseche you all to praie to God with me, that he will forgeve me. O father forgeve me. O sonne forgeve me, O holy Ghost forgeve me: O thre persons in one God forgeve me. And now I praie you that be here, to beare me record, I die in the Catholicke faithe, not doubtyng in any article of my faith, no nor doubtyng in any Sacrament of the Churche.* Many hath sclaundered me, and reported that I have been a bearer, of suche as hath mainteigned evill opinions, whiche is untrue, but I confesse that like as God by his holy spirite, doth instruct us in the truthe, so the devill is redy to seduce us, and I have been seduced: but beare me witnes that I dye in the Catholicke faithe of the holy Churche. And I hartely desire you to praie for the Kynges grace, that he maie long live with you, maie long reigne over you. And once again I desire you to pray for me, that so long as life remaigneth in this fleshe, I waver nothyng in my faithe.


And then made he his praier, whiche was long, but not so long, as bothe Godly and learned, and after committed his soule, into the handes of God, and so paciently suffered the stroke of the axe, by a ragged and Boocherly miser, whiche very ungoodly perfourmed the Office.”


As Thomas Cromwell was being executed Henry VIII was marrying his fifth wife Catherine Parr. Henry is recorded to have regretted ordering Cromwell’s execution and called him his most faithful servant and later accused his council of engineering Cromwell’s downfall.

Thomas CromwellThomas Cromwell

On this day in 1593 – William Davies was executed

William Davies was born in North Wales and was a practising Roman Catholic. He studied at Reims in France and arrived on 6th April 1585 and jumped straight in by assisting the first mass of Nicholas Garlick. On 23rd September 1583 along with 73 other English students he received his minor orders and tonsure (the ability to cut or shave part of his hair to show religious devotion). Davies was ordained as a priest in April 1585 he returned to Wales as a missionary.

With Davies working in Wales alongside Robert Pugh, who was his patron, produced the book Y Drych Christianogawl, it was produced secretly and believed to be the first book printed in Wales, although the exact location of where the printing press was it is believed that it was located in a cave above the sea at Little Orme which was between Llandudno and Penrhyn Bay.

In March 1592 Davies was arrested at Holyhead when he was caught helping four students travel abroad to an English College in Valladolid. Davies was imprisoned in Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey and was separated from the rest of his inmates after he confessed to being a priest. After a month he was able to rejoin his students for one hour a day and celebrate mass, as the time passed his conditions were relaxed further and Catholics from around Wales came to consult with him and Protestant ministers came to debate with him. Davies and his students were eventually sentenced to death at which point Davies began the Te Deum and the judge suspended the sentence until the Queen had been informed.

Upon his sentence Davies was sent to Ludlow to be examined by the Council of the Marches, here Davies was taken to a Protestant church under the illusion of a disputation but instead he was subjected to a Protestant service. Davies instead of conforming began reciting the Latin Vespers in a loud voice.

From Ludlow he was sent to Bewdley to another prison where he had to share his cell with criminals before being transferred back to Beaumaris and rejoining his students for the next six months where he was allowed to live and study within a small religious community and divided his time between praying and studying.

Eventually the sentence that had been hanging over Davies caught up with him and he was sentenced to death as a traitor, however, he was offered to be spared if he willingly went to a Protestant church once. Davies refused and he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered at Beaumaris Castle on 27th July 1593.

One of Davies students managed to make it to Valladolid where he told Davies story to Bishop Yepes who wrote it down in his Historia particular de la Persecucion en Inglaterra. Davies was later beautified in 1987 by Pope John Paul II.

Beaumaris Aerial North Castles Historic Sites

On this day in 1588 – English forces gathered at Tilbury during the Spanish Armada

King Philip II of Spain, once King of England through his marriage to Queen Mary I, authorised a fleet of 130 Spanish ships to set sail for England in the hope of invading and capturing the country, now ruled by Queen Elizabeth I and returning it back to the Catholic ways.


On 28th May 1588 the Spanish Armada set said from Lisbon and began its journey towards the English Channel, aboard its 130 shops were 8000 sailors, 18000 soldiers and they also carried 1500 brass guns and 1000 iron guns. The sheer size of the Armada meant that it took nearly two days for everyone to leave Lisbon port. The Armada was led by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, a courtier who had little experience at sea. As they headed towards England they would be   delayed by bad weather and would lose five ships.

As the Spanish headed towards England the English navy were docked in Plymouth awaiting further news of the Spanish and their movement. The English navy consisted of 200 ships and therefore slightly outnumbered the Spanish. The English also had advanced weaponry aboard their ships. Lord Howard of Effingham led the English but like the Duke of Medina Sidonia had little experience, this fell to his second in command, Sir Francis Drake.

On 19th July the Spanish were spotted for the first time off the coast of Cornwall near to The Lizard, the news was quickly conveyed back to London through the use of beacons that were lit up across the south coast. The tide was against the English and so they were trapped in port unable to leave and intercept the oncoming Armada. The Spanish contemplated whether to sail into Plymouth Harbour and attack England but Medina Sidonia was adamant to stick to the plan Philip had prepared and they sailed past heading towards the Isle of Wight.

The tide eventually turned and the English set off in pursuit of the Spanish. On the 20th July the English had reached Eddystone Rocks with the Armada slightly further ahead of them but the English had caught up by the 21st using knowledge of the waters and weather to their advantage and the two fleets engaged in their first battle. As night fell and hours of fighting passed neither side had lost any ships however, as the light failed two Spanish ships, the Rosario and the San Salvador collided and were abandoned. Sir Francis Drake in his ship, the Revenge was given the order to guide the fleet by carrying a lantern through the night. However, for Drake the opportunity to turn back and loot the two abandoned ships were too great and Drake ordered his ship was turned around. Upon boarding the Rosario Drake was able to take much needed ammunition and treasure but he was also able to gain intelligence that the English could then use against the Spanish. Drake’s abandonment of his duty meant that with no light to guide them the English navy became scattered and took a full day to regroup and once again catch up to the Spanish.

The Spanish continued heading towards the Isle of Wight in order to make a base in the Solent whilst they awaited news from the Duke of Parma, who had been waiting in the Low Countries until his army could cross the Channel and join the Spanish in an invasion of London. The Spanish waited here for a few days and in that time lost two more ships.

On the 26th July 1588 4000 men assembled at Tilbury Fort on the Thames estuary in an attempt to prepare in case the Spanish made it to land. They would guard the eastern approach towards London and the Queen. Whilst troops were gathering at Tilbury Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and Lieutenant and Captain General of the Queen’s Armies and Companies also created a blockade of boats across the Thames therefore blocking the way for the Spanish to travel up the Thames to reach London.

Meanwhile, the Spanish on the 26th July had managed to leave the Solent and reached Calais and anchored whilst a messenger was sent to the Duke of Parma who was further up the coast line calling him into action.

Both countries were preparing for the next stage of the battle.

Spanish ArmadaThe English surrounding the Spanish during the Spanish Armada

On this day in 1554 – Queen Mary I married Prince Philip of Spain

On 25th July 1554 Queen Mary I married Philip of Spain, the son of her cousin, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Philip was the heir apparent to many countries across Europe and the New World so was an appealing match, as part of the marriage negotiations 37 year old Mary was sena portrait of her new husband to be.

The marriage proposal was unpopular in England and led to many of Mary’s advisors urging her to marry an Englishman. A rebellion also broke out led by Thomas Wyatt the younger led a small army from Kent in an attempt to place Elizabeth on the throne. The biggest fear that many of the rebels held was that whoever Mary married would instantly become King of England and assume all the powers of the monarchy. This led to Mary introducing Queen Mary’s Marriage Act.

Under the terms of the Marriage Act Philip would be called King of England and enjoy the honours that are associated with the title, also all official documents including any Acts of Parliament would be signed by both Mary and Philip and Philip was to co-rule England alongside Mary but the majority of the royal authority still fell to Mary. The Act did prohibit Philip from appointing foreigners to any English office and was unable to take Mary or any child they may have outside of England. The Act also stopped the crown automatically passing to Mary if she died before him. Philip was unhappy with the terms of the Act but nonetheless agreed in order to go ahead with the marriage.

Philip did not view the marriage as one made for romance but instead as political and strategic. Philip’s aide wrote, “it will take a great God to drink this cup the king realises that the marriage was concluded for no fleshy consideration, but in order to remedy the disorders of this kingdom and to preserve the Low Countries.”

The marriage took place at Winchester Cathedral, just two days after they had met for the first time. Philip did not speak any English and so the couple conversed using a mixture of Spanish, French and Latin.

The wedding ceremony was presided over by Bishop Gardiner with Philip arriving at 10am wearing ‘His breeches and doublet were white, the collar of the doublet exceeding rich, and over all a mantle or rich cloth of gold, a present from the Queen…this robe was ornamented with pearl and precious stones; and wearing the collar of the Garter”

Mary wore a gown in the French style of ‘rich tissue with a border and wide sleeves, embroidered upon purple satin, set with pearls of our store, lined with purple taffeta’. Mary’s gown also had a high collar, a kirtle of white satin, a train and was embroidered with silver.

Mary arrived at Winchester Cathedral at 10.30 and was preceded by the Earl of Derby who was carrying the sword of state. Mary was given away by the Marquess of Winchester and the Earls of Derby, Pembroke and Bedford, who took on the role on England’s behalf. Bishop Gardiner began the service by announcing that Charles V had given his son and his new bride the kingdom of Naples as well as a short speech regarding the Marriage Act. The service was conducted in both Latin and English in order for both countries to understand the proceedings. During the service a small band of gold was placed upon the bible along with the traditional three handfuls of gold from both the bride and groom before the ring was placed upon Mary’s hand.

As the marriage was completed heralds took to the street to declare;

Philip and Mary, by the grace of God king and queen of England, France, Naples, Jerusalem and Ireland, defenders of the faith, princes of Spain and Sicily, archdukes of Austria, dukes of Milan, Burgundy and Brabant, counts of Habsburg, Flanders and Tyrol.”

With the ceremony completed the wedding party returned to Bishop Gardiner’s palace for a feast and an evening of entertainment and dancing before the couple were taken for the consummation of their marriage.

Mary was clearly in love with her new husband and soon wrote to her cousin, Charles V of her happiness;

I will only offer to your majesty all that my small powers enable me to give, always praying God so as to inspire my subjects that they may realise the affection you bear this kingdom and the honour and advantages you have conferred upon it by this marriage and alliance, which renders me happier than I can say, as I daily discover in the king, my husband and your son, so many virtues and perfections that I constantly pray God to grant me grace to please him and behave in all things as befits one who is so deeply embounden to him…”

Mary and PhilipMary I and Philip of Spain

On this day in 1567 – Mary Queen of Scots is forced to abdicate the Scottish throne

Mary, Queen of Scots inherited the throne of Scotland when she was just six days old. As an infant Regents ruled in place of Mary until she come of age and was able to rule on her own. Mary spent most of her childhood in France where she was betrothed and later married to the Dauphin of France. Mary returned to Scotland in 1561 despite warnings that the country was now Protestant following the Scottish Reformation led by John Knox.

Mary’s return was successful and in 1565 she married her second cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Mary was soon with child but the relationship between Mary and Darnley broke down and Darnley became the figurehead for Mary’s enemies who on 9th March 1566 burst into her chamber and threatened the heavily pregnant Queen and also murdered her secretary, David Riccio.

Mary gave birth on 19th June 1566 to the future King James VI of Scotland, but just eight months later two explosions ripped through Kirk o’Field in Edinburgh where Lord Darnley had been staying, somehow Darnley escaped with his valet but was found dead in the grounds not from injuries from the explosion but most likely strangulation.

Suspicion fell on the Earl of Bothwell as well as Mary herself, as it was believed they were having an intimate affair especially as Mary and Bothwell were married just three months after Darnley’s suspicious death.

The marriage between Mary and Bothwell caused the Protestant Lords to rise against Mary and on 15th June 1567 the rebel army and the Queen’s army clashed at Carberry Hill, Edinburgh. Mary was taken from Carberry Hill and imprisoned at Lochleven Castle and had fallen ill after miscarrying twins that she had conceived with Bothwell.

It was at Lochleven that Lord Lyndsay and Ruthven brought Mary the deeds of abdication and informed her that she would be put to death if she did not abdicate and pass the throne to her infant son. There were three terms to the deed of abdication; the first was that Mary handed the throne to the infant, Prince James, the second, which the Earl of Murray was appointed as Regent and the third, that a council was appointed to administer the Government until Murray could take up his post.

Without reading the details Mary signed the deed and with that Mary had hoped that the document would be dismissed as she had signed it under duress, however, this was not the case and it was accepted. The one year old Prince James was crowned King James VI of Scotland just five days later at the Church of Holy Rude, Stirling.

Gavin Hamilton painting of Mary signing deed of abdicationA painting of Mary Queen of Scots signing the Deed of Abdication

by Gavin Hamilton

On this day in 1543 – Mary of Guise and Mary Queen of Scots fled Linlithgow Palace

Mary, Queen of Scots was just six days old when she inherited the Scottish throne after the death of her father, King James V.

Upon the King’s death Cardinal Beaton claimed custody of the infant Queen, claiming that the King had written in his will thatMary of Guise the Cardinal becomes Regent, however the Cardinal’s opponents dismissed this claim as a forgery and even accused Mary of Guise and the Cardinal of having undue intimacy. The Cardinal was arrested and the Regency passed to the Earl of Arran.

The Earl of Arran kept the new Queen and her mother at Linlithgow Palace where they were being kept under a watchful eye and the Earl of Arran even negotiated the Treaty of Greenwich with King Henry VIII and agreed that Mary, Queen of Scots would marry the future King Edward VI . On the 23rd July 1543 with the aid of Cardinal Beaton, Mary of Guise fled the castle with her daughter to Stirling Castle. The Earl of Arran initially resisted allowing the move but was overruled when the Cardinal’s supporters gathered around Linlithgow and the Earl of Lennox eventually escorted the pair from the Palace with the help of 3500 men.

It was at Stirling Castle where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland on 9th September 1543.

Infant Mary Queen of ScotAbove – Mary of Guise

Left – An infant Mary Queen of Scots