Tag Archives: Anne Boleyn

On this day in 1536 – Lady Mary writes to Thomas Cromwell

With the execution of Anne Boleyn a week earlier on the 26th May 1536 the Lady Mary wrote to her father in order to repair their relationship. Mary had always blamed Anne for the breakdown of her parent’s marriage and the treatment of her mother and herself after the divorce. Mary wrote to Thomas Cromwell asking for him to intercede on her behalf. The letter is badly damaged and only fragments of it now survive but some of it reads as follows;

“Master Secretary,

I would have been a suitor to you before this time to have been a mean for me to the King’s Grace to have obtained his Grace’s blessing and favor; but I perceived that nobody durst speak for me as long as that woman lived, which is now gone; whom I pray our Lord of His great mercy to forgive.” Is now the bolder to write, desiring him for the love of God to be a suitor for her to the King, to have his blessing and leave to write to his Grace. Apologises for her evil writing; “for I have not done so much this two year and more, nor could not have found the means to do it at this time but by my lady Kingston’s being here.

Hunsdon, 26 May.”

The letter to Cromwell did not work as Mary planned and Henry VIII continued to be hostile to Mary until she the oath that declared Henry the Supreme Head of the Church and that the marriage between Henry and Katherine of Aragon was never valid.

Mary

On this day in 1533 – Archbishop Cranmer ruled that Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon marriage was annulled.

On 23rd May 1533 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer declared that the marriage between King Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon was annulled and they were never lawfully married. With convocation already ruling on the matter in March and the King already married to Anne Boleyn it feels that this was just a formality in proceedings.

Archbishop Cranmer issued the following statement after his trial into the annulment at Dunstable Priory, Bedfordshire;

“Notification of the sentence of divorce between Hen. VIII and Katherine of Arragon pronounced by archbishop Cranmer. Dated in the monastery of Dunstable, 23 May 1533. Present, Gervase prior of the said monastery, Simon Haynes, S.T.P., John Newman, M.A., and others.

The matrimony between the King and the lady Katherine being dissolved by sufficient authority, all pactions made for the same marriage are also dissolved and of none effect. That is, the jointure shall return again to the King’s use, and the money paid to him by her friends shall be repaid to her. The matrimony being dissolved, the lady Katherine shall return to the commodity and profits of the first matrimony, and the pactions of the same, made with prince Arthur, and shall enjoy the jointure assigned to her thereby, notwithstandingany quittance or renunciation made in the second pact. For as these renunciations were agreed unto for a sure trust and hope to enjoy the commodities and pactions of the second marriage, which now she cannot enjoy, unless without fault she should be deprived of both, equity and right restore her to the first. This, we think, by our poor learning, to be according both to canon and civil law, unless there are any other treaties and pactions which we have not seen.

For the more clear declaration hereof, we think that when a matrimony is dissolved, if there is no paction of a further bond, then by law the money paid by the woman or her friends shall be restored to her, and the jointure return to the man and his heirs. In this case there is an especial pact that she shall enjoy her jointure durante vita, so that the said jointure is due to her by the pact, and the money paid by her and her friends by the law.”

Henry VIIIKatherine of Aragon

On this day in 1536 – Henry VIII and Jane Seymour formally betrothed.

On 20th May 1536 King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour became formally betrothed. The Imperial Ambassador Eustace Chapuys wrote in a letter to the Seigneur de Granvelle;

Has just been informed, the bearer of this having already mounted, that Mrs.Semel came secretly by river this morning to the King’s lodging, and that the promise and betrothal was made at 9 o’clock. The King means it to be kept secret till Whitsuntide; but everybody begins already to murmur by suspicion, and several affirm that long before the death of the other there was some arrangement which sounds ill in the ears of the people; who will certainly be displeased at what has been told me, if it be true, viz., that yesterday the King, immediately on receiving news of the decapitation of the putain entered his barge and went to the said Semel, whom he had lodged a mile from him, in a house by the river.”

With Henry receiving the news of his former wife’s execution he headed straight to Jane Seymour’s lodging to officially propose marriage. By waiting until Anne Boleyn was dead there would be no question of the legitimacy of the marriage or any children that would be born as a result of the marriage.

The rumours of the King’s involvement with Jane Seymour had been spoken around court for some time before the betrothal took place so it probably came as no surprise to the court.

Henry VIII and Jane Seymour

On this day in 1536 – The execution of Queen Anne Boleyn

Queen Anne Boleyn was sentenced to death at her trial but it was left up to the King to decide how she would die. The normal death for a female traitor was to be burned at the stake; however King Henry VIII had decided to change this to beheading but at the hands of a French swordsman instead of the typical axe. With the manner of her death decided the date of her execution was set for the 18th May 1536.

Anne was prepared to die at 9am on the 18th May. John Skip, the Queen’s almoner arrived at 2am to pray with the Queen, they were still praying when Archbishop Thomas Cranmer arrived to perform mass and hear the Queen’s final confession. Anne also took the sacrament and swore twice in front of the Constable of the Tower, Sir William Kingston that she was innocent of all charges.

Eustace Chapuys reported to the Holy Roman Emperor that;

“The lady who had charge of her has sent to tell me in great secrecy that the Concubine, before and after receiving the sacrament, affirmed to her, on the damnation of her soul, that she had never been unfaithful to the King.”

When 9am passed and no one came to collect the Queen to deliver her to her fate she called for Sir William Kingston again to try to learn what the cause of the delay was. However, Kingston had already been told not to inform the Queen that the execution had been delayed until the following day until the Tower was emptied of any diplomats. Instead he tried to comfort Anne about her upcoming execution and that it would not be painful. It was reported that Anne responded that; “I heard say the executioner was very good, and I have a little neck.”

Anne was informed after midday that her execution had been put off until the following day.

John Skip arrived at Anne’s room once again to perform mass and to offer the sacrament and at 8am Kingston informed the Queen to prepare herself as the time was approaching for Anne to climb the scaffolding to her death. Anne was already ready having dress herself in a ermine trimmed grey damask robe and a crimson kirtle, instead of her usual French style hood she wore an English style gable hood. Her outfit was planned to show her status as Queen as well as that of being a martyr.

Anne took the long walk to the scaffold where she climbed up to address the crowd that awaited her. Instead of protesting her innocence she simply followed what was expected of her in order to protect her daughter. She said to the crowd;

“Good Christian people, I have not come here to preach a sermon; I have come here to die. For according to the law and by the law I am judged to die, and therefore I will speak nothing against it. I am come hither to accuse no man, nor to speak of that whereof I am accused and condemned to die, but I pray God save the King and send him long to reign over you, for a gentler nor a more merciful prince was there never, and to me he was ever a good, a gentle, and sovereign lord. And if any person will meddle of my cause, I require them to judge the best. And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all, and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.”

Anne-Boleyn-Execution-German-Engraving

With her final words Anne paid the executioner his fee and her ladies approached to remove Anne’s hood and placed her hair within a linen cap. She knelt down in front of the executioner and one of her ladies covered her eyes. As Anne waited for her fate she began to pray by saying;

“O Lord have mercy on me, to God I commend my soul. To Jesus Christ I commend my soul; Lord Jesu receive my soul.”

The swordsman approached Anne and with some misdirection from an assistant he struck the Queen’s neck and Anne died.

With the execution over Anne’s ladies wrapped her body and head in white cloth and transported her body to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula for burial. As no coffin had been provided a guard found an empty chest that once stored arrows. With this the Queen was committed to the ground and buried. Henry was now free to move on to his next wife and Anne was free to be at peace.

Grave Marker of Anne BolelynDSC_0076Above – A German engraving of Anne Boleyn’s execution

Middle – The plaque to mark Anne Boleyn’s body in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London

Below – The monument to commemorate those who were executed within the Tower of London’s walls

On this day in 1536 – George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were executed

On the morning of 17th May 1536 a scaffold had appeared at Tower Hill and five men were led from the Tower of London to their fate. George Boleyn, Lord Rochford, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton were all found guilty of high treason and although originally sentenced to being hung, drawn and quartered the King had altered this to beheading.

George Boleyn was first to face the executioners’ axe as he was the highest rank between the five men. He made a speech before the crowds that had come to see the death of the men who had fallen from grace. There are many versions of George’s speech but the Chronicles of Calais wrote;

“Christen men, I am borne undar the lawe, and judged undar the lawe, and dye undar the lawe, and the lawe hathe condemned me. Masters all, I am not come hether for to preche, but for to dye, for I have deserved for to dye yf I had xx.lyves, more shamefully than can be devised, for I am a wreched synnar, and I have synned shamefully, I have knowne no man so evell, and to reherse my synnes openly it were no pleaswre to you to here them, nor yet for me to reherse them, for God knowethe all; therefore, mastars all, I pray yow take hede by me, and especially my lords and gentlemen of the cowrte, the whiche I have bene amonge, take hede by me, and beware of suche a fall, and I pray to God the Fathar, the Sonne, and the Holy Ghoste, thre persons and one God, that my deathe may be an example unto yow all, and beware, trust not in the vanitie of the worlde, and especially in the flateringe of the cowrte. And I cry God mercy, and askeall he worlde forgevenes, as willingly as I wowld have forgevenes of God; and yf I have offendyd any man that is not here now, eythar in thowght, worde, or dede, and yf ye here any suche, I pray yow hertely in my behalf, pray them to forgyve me for God’s sake. And yet, my mastars all, I have one thinge for to say to yow, men do common and saye that I bene a settar forthe of the worde of God, and one that have favoured the Ghospell of Christ; and bycawse I would not that God’s word shuld be slaundered by me, I say unto yow all, that yf I had followecl God’s worde in dede as I dyd rede it and set it forthe to my power, I had not come to this. I dyd red the Ghospell of Christe, but I dyd not follow it; yf I had, I had bene a lyves man amonge yow: therefore I pray yow, mastars all, for God’s sake sticke to the trwthe and folowe it, for one good followere is worthe thre redars, as God knowethe.”

Sir Henry Norris was next to step up to the scaffold; his speech was short as he did not want to risk offending the King any further. Following Norris was Sir Francis Weston. Weston’s family had fought to secure his release but nothing could stop the King from ensuring the end of his marriage to the Queen and this meant the co-accused had to die as well. Weston said to the crowd in his final speech;

“I had thought to have lyved in abhominacion yet this twenty or thrittie yeres and then to have made amendes. I thought little it wold have come to this.”

Weston had spent the night before his execution writing out a list of people he was in debt to this included the King, his family, the Boleyns and it is an insight into how well favoured he was. His list was included into a letter that he wrote to his parents asking for their forgiveness.

Sir William Brereton was the fourth man to face the axe, his speech was very short, and according to The Spanish Chronicle he simply said; ‘I have offended God and the King: pray for me.’ However according to George Constantine, Norris’s servant, who was present at the executions documented that Brereton kept repeating ‘But if ye judge, judge the best.’

Finally as a man of no rank Mark Smeaton took to the scaffold after watching the four men in front before him lose their heads. Smeaton had a chance to retract his confession during his final speech; however, he simply chose to say;

“Masters, I pray you all pray for me, for I have deserved the death.”

With that Mark Smeaton stepped up to the mark and placed his head on the blood soaked block ready for his fate to be delivered.

George Boleyn’s head and body were buried within the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula whereas the other four were buried in the churchyard as they were deemed commoners. This left just Anne Boleyn to face her death alone.

Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula

On this day in 1536 – The trial of Anne Boleyn and George Boleyn

On 15th May 1536 Queen Anne Boleyn and her brother, George, were taken to the King’s Hall in the Tower of London to stand trial. They were accused of treason and Anne was accused of adultery with the four men who were condemned to death just a couple of days previously.

As the Queen and her brother were aristocracy their trials would take place in front of a grand jury made up of their peers instead of a commission of oyer and terminer. The trial attracted 2,000 spectators that came to see the verdict that would be passed on the Queen and her brother.

At the head of the jury stood The Lord High Steward, the Duke of Norfolk, uncle to the Boleyn children. On either side of him sat Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk and Sir Thomas Audley, Lord Chancellor. The rest of the jury were made up of men who wished to see the end of the Boleyn influence at court as well as men that were indebted to either Thomas Cromwell or King Henry VIII these included; Henry Courtenay Marquis of Exeter, Henry Parker Lord Morley, Lord Sandys, Edward Clinton Lord Clinton, John de Vere Earl of Oxford, Ralph Neville Earl of Westmoreland, Lord Wentworth, Lord Windsor, Thomas Fiennes Lord Dacre, George Brooke Lord Cobham, Edward Grey Baron Grey of Powys, Thomas Stanley Lord Monteagle, Robert Radcliffe Earl of Sussex, Thomas Manners Earl of Rutland, Henry Somerset Earl of Worcester and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland and Anne Boleyn’s former love interest. These men would be responsible for passing judgement on the accusations put towards the Queen and Lord Rochford. The verdict was reached way before the Anne and George stepped in front of the jury.

Anne was tried first and witnesses describe Anne as wearing black velvet gown, scarlet damask petticoat and a cap that had a black and white feather. Anne pleaded not guilty to the accusations put towards them only admitting to giving Sir Francis Weston money, which she did to many of the gentlemen at court.

After the indictment was read out Charles Wriothesley wrote in his chronicles that Anne;

made so wise and discreet aunsweres to all thinges layde against her, excusing herselfe with her wordes so clearlie, as thoughe she had never bene faultie to the same.”

With the evidence read out a guilty verdict was reached despite the Queen’s best attempts to defend herself and prove her innocence. Anne Boleyn was stripped of her titles and crown and the Duke of Norfolk pronounced;

Because thou hast offended against our sovereign the King’s Grace in committing treason against his person, and here attainted of the same, the law of the realm is this, that thou hast deserved death, and thy judgement is tis: that thou shalt be burned here within the Tower of London on the Green, else to have thy head smitten off, as the King’s pleasure shall be further known of the same.”

 

It is believed that Anne addressed the court after the sentencing and Lancelot de Carles recorded the following;

“I do not say that I have been as humble towards the King as he deserved, considering the humanity and kindness he showed me, and the great honour he has always paid me; I know that my fantasies have led me to be jealous…but God knows that I have never done him any other wrong.”

 

Anne was led away from the King’s Hall and escorted back to her rooms where she would await the King’s decision as to the manner of her execution.

With the Queen’s trial now finished it was the turn of her brothers, George, Lord Rochford. In the ‘Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10- January-June 1536’ the trial was recorded as followed;

“The same day, lord Rocheford is brought before the High Steward in the custody of Sir Will. Kingston, and pleads not guilty. The peers are charged, with the exception of the earl of Northumberland, who was suddenly taken ill, and each of them severally saith that he is guilty.

Judgment:- To be taken to the prison in the Tower, and then drawn through the city of London, to the gallows at Tyburn, &c., as usual in high treason.”

George’s defence took a different turn to his sisters, whereas Anne was composed and answered calmly, George was more reckless. At one point in the trial he was handed a note regarding his comments about the King’s impotence with strict instructions not to read it aloud, these instructions were ignored and the note was read out for all to hear. The Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote about this in a letter to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V;

“I must not omit, that among other things charged against him as a crime was, that his sister had told his wife that the King ‘nestoit habile en cas de soy copuler avec femme, et quil navoit ne vertu ne puissance.’ This he was not openly charged with, but it was shown him in writing, with a warning not to repeat it. But he immediately declared the matter, in great contempt of Cromwell and some others, saying he would not in this point arouse any suspicion which might prejudice the King’s issue. He was also charged with having spread reports which called in question whether his sister’s daughter was the King’s child.”

George certainly went to his verdict with a fight but he was still found guilty by the jury of his peers and the Duke of Norfolk declared;

“that he should goe agayne to prison in the Tower from whence he came, and to be drawne from the saide Tower of London thorowe the Cittie of London to the place of execution called Tyburne, and there to be hanged, beinge alyve cut downe, and then his members cutt of and his bowels taken owt of his bodie and brent before him, and then his head cut of and his bodie to be divided into quarter peeces, and his head and bodie to be sett at suche places as the King should assigne.”

George was then taken back to his room to await the date of his execution along with the Queen.

The trial of Queen Anne Boleyn, before the King's Commissioners

On this day in 1536 – Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton all stood trial accused of treason

On 12th May 1536 Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton all stood trial just two days after it was announced that there was sufficient evidence of their alleged guilt. George Boleyn and his sister, Queen Anne Boleyn were to stand trial separately as they were members of the aristocracy and therefore was to be tried at the court of the Lord High Steward of England by a jury of their peers.

The four men were taken by boat to Westminster Hall where they were greeted by a jury that included Sir Thomas Boleyn, Sir William Fitzwilliam, William Askew, Edward Willoughby, William Musgrave, Sir Giles Alington, Anthony Hungerford, Walter Hungerford, William Sidney, Sir John Hampden, Richard Tempest, Robert Dormer and Thomas Palmer. These men were people who held a grudge against the Queen, were in Cromwell’s debt and even relatives of the Boleyn’s including the Queen’s own father.

There is no longer any evidence of what occurred in these trials. However, documented in the Letters and Papers was;

Noreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton were brought up in the custody of the constable of the Tower, when Smeton pleaded guilty of violation and carnal knowledge of the Queen, and put himself in the King’s mercy. Noreys, Bryerton, and Weston pleaded Not Guilty, and that they have no lands, goods or chattels.

Judgement against all four as in cases of treason; execution to be at Tyburn.”

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, volume 10 January – June 1536

Alongside the above piece of evidence we also have a letter that the Imperial Ambassador, Eustace Chapuys, wrote to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Chapuys wrote regularly to the emperor to keep him informed of what was occurring in England and regarding the trial he wrote;

“On the 11th were condemned as traitors Master Noris, the King’s chief butler, (sommelier de corps) Master Ubaston (Weston), who used to lie with the King, Master Bruton (Brereton), gentleman of the Chamber, and the groom (varlet de chambre), of whom I wrote to your Majesty by my man. Only the groom confessed that he had been three times with the said putain and Concubine. The others were condemned upon presumption and certain indications, without valid proof or confession.”

The defendants were not entitled to counsel and therefore did not know what evidence would be presented to the jury. This one move meant that the accused were not able to build up a defence to the accusations that were being thrown at them, all they could do is react as the evidence was being read out. All but Mark Smeaton declared that they were not guilty and Smeaton pleaded guilty to one count of adultery, however, it is probable that Smeaton’s confession was extracted through means of torture.

It is likely that the verdict was already reached before the accused even stepped in front of the jury even so all four were declared guilty of high treason and were sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. However, because all four were in service of the King the sentence was commuted to beheading.

Westminster Hall

On this day in 1536 – Giles Heron announced their was sufficient evidence to charge Queen Anne Boleyn

On 10th May 1536 Giles Heron, the foreman of the Grand Jury of Middlesex announced that they believed that there was sufficient evidence that Queen Anne Boleyn, George Boleyn, Sir Henry Norris, Sir Francis Weston, Sir William Brereton and Mark Smeaton could all stand trial on the charges of treason.

Anne Boleyn was accused of adultery with the co-accused, including her own brother, conspiring to have the King killed and marry one of her lovers. Each of the men accused were charged with adultery with the Queen and helping her to plot against the King’s life.

Giles Heron announced that the six should be indicted and sent to trial and wrote down his thoughts and the alleged evidence in his indictment;

“Indictment found at Westminster on Wednesday next after three weeks of Easter, 28 Hen. VIII. before Sir John Baldwin, etc., by the oaths of Giles Heron, Roger More, Ric. Awnsham, Thos. Byllyngton, Gregory Lovell, Jo. Worsop, Will. Goddard, Will. Blakwall, Jo. Wylford, Will. Berd, Hen. Hubbylthorn, Will. Hungyng, Rob. Walys, John England, Hen, Lodysman, and John Averey; who present that whereas queen Anne has been the wife of Henry VIII. for three years and more, she, despising her marriage, and entertaining malice against the King, and following daily her frail and carnal lust, did falsely and traitorously procure by base conversations and kisses, touching, gifts, and other infamous incitations, divers of the King’s daily and familiar servants to be her adulterers and concubines, so that several of the King’s servants yielded to her vile provocations; viz., on 6th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, and divers days before and after, she procured, by sweet words, kisses, touches, and otherwise, Hen. Noreys, of Westminster, gentle man of the privy chamber, to violate her, by reason whereof he did so at Westminster on the 12th Oct. 25 Hen. VIII.; and they had illicit intercourse at various other times, both before and after, sometimes by his procurement, and sometimes by that of the Queen.

Also the Queen, 2 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII. and several times before and after, at Westminster, procured and incited her own natural brother, Geo. Boleyn, lord Rocheford, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, alluring him with her tongue in the said George’s mouth, and the said George’s tongue in hers, and also with kisses, presents, and jewels; whereby he, despising the commands of God, and all human laws, 5 Nov. 27 Hen VIII., violated and carnally knew the said Queen, his own sister, at Westminster; which he also did on divers other days before and after at the same place, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 3 Dec. 25 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and after, at Wesminster, procured one Will. Bryerton, later of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so on 8 Dec. 25 Hen.VIII., at Hampton Court, in the parish of Lytel Hampton, and on several other days before and after, sometimes by his own procurement and sometimes by the Queen’s.

Also the Queen, 8 May 26 Hen. VIII., and at other times before and since, procured Sir Fras. Weston, of Westminster, gentleman of the privy chamber, etc., whereby he did so on the 20 May, etc. Also the Queen, 12 April 26 Hen. VIII., and divers days before and since, at Westminster, procured Mark Smeton, groom of the privy chamber, to violate her, whereby he did so at Westminster, 26 April 27 Hen. VIII.

Moreover, the said lord Rocheford, Norreys, Bryerton, Weston, and Smeton, being thus inflamed with carnal love of the Queen, and having become very jealous of each other, gave her secret gifts and pledges while carrying on this illicit intercourse; and the Queen, on her part, could not endure any of them to converse with any other women, without showing great displeasure; and on the 27 Nov. 27 Hen. VIII., and other days before and after, at Westminster, she gave them great gifts to encourage them in their crimes. And further the said Queen and these other traitors, 31 Oct. 27 Hen. VIII., at Westminster, conspired the death and destruction of the King, the Queen often saying she would marry one of them as soon as the King died, and affirming that she would never love the King in her heart. And the King having a short time since become aware of the said abominable crimes and treasons against himself, took such inward displeasure and heaviness, especially from his said Queen’s malice and adultery, that certain harms and perils have befallen his royal body.

And thus the said Queen and the other traitors aforesaid have committed their treasons in contempt of the Crown, and of the issue and heirs of the said King and Queen.”

Anne Boleyn

On this day in 1508 – Charles Wriothesley was born

Charles Wriothesley was born on 8th May 1508 to Thomas Wriothesley and his wife Jane. Thomas Wriothesley was a Garter King of Arms at the College of Arms, London. Wriothesley uncle, William, also served here as a York Herald.

Born in London, at the age of three his family moved into Garter House, a self built home by his father to show the family’s rise to power and Wriothesley was sent to Cambridge to study law at Trinity Hall.

In 1524 a junior officer of arms (a pursuivant) was promoted to replace a senior role after the death of a herald. So at just 16 years old Wriothesley was appointed Rouge Croix Pursuivant with the posting being made official with a salary of £10 a year and letters patent being signed on 29th May 1525. In addition to this post Wriothesley was also studying to become a lawyer and in 1529 he became a gentleman of Gray’s Inn.

In 1532 Wriothesley was part of the ceremony that saw Anne Boleyn appointed as Marquess of Pembroke and he also attended her coronation the following year.

Wriothesley’s father, Thomas died on 24th November 1534 and the College of Arms saw a set of promotions to fill the empty position of Garter King of Arms. Wriothesley became Windsor Herald of Arms in Ordinary a position he would hold until 1562. Wriothesley was passed over many times for promotion to the position he sought most, Garter King of Arms, the same position his father and grandfather held.

Wriothesley was the author of the chronicle that is now referred to as Wriothesley’s Chronicle. The only existing copy is a transcript made in the early 17th Century with the original being lost.

Wriothesley died at his London home on 25th January 1562 and his fellow heralds financed his funeral. With no will to bequeath his belongings they were sold off, mostly to Gilbert Dethick. Wriothesley was buried in St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.

the-chronicle-of-charles-wriothesley-e1395165642116

Book review – Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

The paternity of Lady Katherine Knollys and her brother Henry Carey have long been discussed and debated by historians and enthusiasts alike. Were they the children of Mary Boleyn’s husband William Carey or were they in fact the illegitimate children of King Henry VIII?

Lady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII looks at the life of Mary’s daughter and how she grew up in close proximity to the Tudor court and her alleged family.

The book begins with a look at Katherine’s mother, Mary, and her upbringing starting with her time in France in the service of Mary Tudor and her introduction to the Tudor court. It wasn’t long before Mary caught the eye of the King of England and became his mistress at the same time Mary was also married to William Carey. Between being a wife and a mistress to the most powerful man in England any children that were born from her relationship with Henry they would be brought up as her husband’s. Watkins puts forward a strong and easy to understand reason as to why William would be declared their father along with why Katherine would be Henry’s daughter.

If Katherine was Henry’s child then why didn’t he recognise her like he did with his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy? As Watkins so eloquently puts forward Katherine wasn’t a boy and so would have served no purpose for Henry another reason was that it was not long after Katherine’s birth that Henry began pursuing her mother’s sister, Anne. If Katherine was formally recognised as Henry’s daughter then any children he would have with Anne would be illegitimate due to his past relationship so as it is put forward here it was better to not acknowledge her.

Sarah-Beth Watkins talks through the relationship between Henry and Anne but places the Carey children at the centre of it. With Anne providing for Henry Carey and Katherine at home with her mother where she stayed until she was placed in the new household of Princess Elizabeth. This would be the start of a close relationship that would survive until Katherine’s death.

Watkins has done a great job including many letters and diary entries regarding events that were close to Katherine’s life these add great insight into the type of life Katherine would have had.

Watkins continues through Katherine’s adolescence as a companion to Elizabeth, her mother’s marriage to her new husband William Stafford that caused outrage within her own family and the breakdown of Anne’s marriage with Henry that led to Anne’s execution.

Henry declared Elizabeth illegitimate after Anne’s execution and Katherine was sent to court to serve as maid of honour to Anne of Cleves, a position that was highly sought after and an honour to serve the new Queen. Watkins puts forward the suggestion that Henry was always looking after Katherine and placed her in prestigious roles that would allow him to provide for her.

Watkins navigates the reader and Katherine through the ups and downs of Henry’s court until Katherine marries Francis Knollys and begins her family away from court. Upon her marriage her new husband was well rewarded as well, was this again Henry quietly looking after his family?

Watkins also talks about Katherine’s brother Henry as well and his paternity. Anne provided an education for her nephew at the prestigious Syon Abbey, where the young Henry Carey’s paternity was called into question where his likeness to the King was a talking point. Again Watkins reinforces that Henry was potentially the father to both Carey children but also points out that those that spoke about Carey’s resemblance to the King as words from the anti Boleyn faction who were always out to discredit Henry’s second wife.

The last half of Watkins book covers Katherine’s adult life after the death of her mother, Mary. Katherine and Francis had 14 children and mostly lived away from court until Henry’s death in 1547. With Edward VI on the throne Francis Knollys was knighted and Katherine was now able to go by Lady Knollys.

Life was great for Katherine and the Knollys family. That is until Mary took the throne, with Watkins showing how Katherine was brought up in a detailed and easy to follow manner it is easy to see how her later life was influenced by her upbringing as a Protestant. Being a Protestant meant that they were a target for Mary and the persecution that followed. Watkins shows how the Knollys were forced the flee England for the continent. Katherine and Elizabeth remained in constant communication with Elizabeth writing to Katherine before she left the country. By including the letters it gives an insight into the unique relationship the potential sisters had. With that the Knollys left England and fled to Frankfurt.

Watkins really shows how close the future Queen and Katherine were and with that the book moves into Queen Elizabeth’s reign and how she bought the exiled Protestants home including her closest friend, Katherine. Watkins goes on to show just how much Elizabeth relied on Katherine and how valued Katherine was. Watkins goes to explain how Elizabeth surrounded herself with family but that she could still not acknowledge Katherine as her sister as she would be illegitimate so instead Katherine and Henry were cousins and richly rewarded for it.

As Katherine was moving towards the end of her life Watkins talks about a significant event that happened, Sir Francis was asked to be a custodian of Mary Queen of Scots but Elizabeth would not allow Katherine to go with him. Watkins again includes letters from Francis to Lord Cecil asking to visit his wife time and again. These letters that have been included show how much Katherine meant to her husband.

With the death of Katherine Watkins shows how not only Francis dealt with her death but also Elizabeth who had lost possibly her cousin and companion, if not sister.

Watkins could have easily have left the book with Katherine’s death but she talks about Katherine’s children and their life’s particularly focusing on Lettice Knollys and her marriage to Sir Robert Dudley to the anger of the Queen. Each of the Knollys children are talked about even if there is little to know, this is a great inclusion as it shows the legacy of the Carey and Knollys name.

Watkins has put together a clear and concise account of Lady Katherine Knollys and how she fitted into the court around her with her uncertain parentage. If she was the daughter of Henry VIII then she had a life that was a step away from her siblings who were in and out of the succession and legitimacy. Katherine’s life is an interesting one that often gets overlooked so it is great to see a book dedicated to her in an easy to follow way that includes the key events of her lifetime.

Lady Katherine KnollysLady Katherine Knollys: The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII by Sarah-Beth Watkins is available now and is published by Chronos Books