Henry FitzRoy was the illegitimate son of King Henry VIII and his mistress Elizabeth Blount and was born on 15th June 1519. With his legitimate wife, Katherine of Aragon, pregnant Henry would take up with a mistress and on this occasion it resulted in the birth of a son. Henry had loved wanted a son and heir, something that Katherine had yet given him. As a result Henry formally recognised his illegitimate child as his own. With Bessie Blount’s pregnancy becoming noticeable she was taken from the royal court and housed in the Augustinian priory of St Lawrence at Blackmore, Essex where she would go into confinement and give birth.
The significance of this new born son whose birth was kept secret at the time meant that Henry now had an heir to the throne and appointed Cardinal Wolsey as his godfather. The other godparents are unknown.
Henry named his son after himself and chose the surname of FitzRoy, which stood for ‘son of the King’ Henry, wanted everyone to know that this child was his. Henry even showed his son off to the court although the exact location is unknown but Henry was certainly proud of his new son.
Not much is known about the young Henry until he entered Bridewell Palace in June 1525, it is believed that he was raised in the royal nursery and was regularly at court. It is also believed that Lady Bryan cared for the infant, at the fall of Anne Boleyn in 1536 wrote a letter that stated that she had looked after Henry’s firstborn, Mary as well as the children that followed. This would have included Elizabeth and most likely Henry FitzRoy.
In 1525 Henry FitzRoy was granted his own home, Durham House on the Strand by the King. Further still the King honoured his son. On the 18th June 1525 the young Henry travelled from Wolsey’s mansion of Durham Place, Charing Cross by barge down the Thames to Bridewell Palace. At 9am the barge arrived and the party made their way to the King’s lodgings. They were greeted by a room full of nobility and bishops including, Charles Brandon and Thomas Howard.
In the first ceremony Henry FitzRoy was created the Earl of Nottingham, in this service he was attended by Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland who carried the sword of state. Also present was William FitzAlan, 18th Earl of Arundel and John de Vere, 14th Earl of Oxford. Sir Thomas More read out the patents of nobility and for the first time in four centuries an illegitimate son was raised into the peerage. Henry left the ceremony but returned instantly in his new robes with the Earl of Arundel carrying the cap of estate with a circlet, the Marquess of Dorset carrying the sword, the Earl of Northumberland carrying his robes and the Earl of Oxford with a rod of gold. As another patent was read out Henry FitzRoy was declared the Duke of Richmond and Somerset and now referred to as the ‘right high and noble prince Henry, Duke of Richmond and Somerset’.
Henry was also granted many lands, many of which came from the estate of Margaret Beaufort, the young Duke’s great-grandmother. He was also granted an annuity of £4845 per year.
Later in the year the Duke of Richmond and Somerset was granted further honours which included; Lord High Admiral of England, Lord President of the Council of the North and the Warden of the Marches towards Scotland. The Duke was also raised at Sheriff Hutton in Yorkshire, the former home of King Richard III. Henry was later made Lord-Leiutenant of Ireland.
On 28th November 1533 aged 14, Henry FitzRoy was married to Lady Mary Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk.
After the execution of Anne Boleyn in 1536 and Act was beginning to go through Parliament that disinherited not only Mary Tudor but now also Elizabeth as well. It also gave the King the power to choose his successor, regardless of legitimacy. Although there is no evidence that Henry was planning on making his illegitimate son the new heir to the throne, this bill would have allowed this to have happened.
On 22rd July 1536, Henry FitzRoy died, he reportedly suffered from consumption and died at St James’s Palace, London. His father in law, the Duke of Norfolk, arranged for his body to be buried in Thetford Priory, Norfolk where only two attendants were present at the burial. His body was later reinterred at St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk due to the dissolution of the monasteries.
With that the King was again without a son, until the birth of his legitimate son a short time after.